Chagrin Valley Learning Collective

Meet Our Team

Meet Our Team

Learning Collective Staff

Staff at Chagrin Valley Learning Collective and other self-directed learning programs serve many different roles and consider themselves to be facilitators rather than teachers. They work with members in areas such as upholding safety, problem solving, administrative duties, and maintaining buildings and grounds.  They communicate with parents, organize field trips, maintain finances and budget, and more.  There are no staff duties that members can’t join in and contribute to if they would like.

Kelly Clark

Our Founder

Kelly grew up spending her free time reading and exploring the woods with the neighborhood kids. She majored in physics at The University of Chicago (BA) and The University of California at Santa Cruz (MA). Kelly taught in several mostly progressive/mainstream educational environments from kindergarten through college undergraduate level. During that time she developed a variety of curriculum in science (physics, chemistry, physical science), math (algebra & statistics), food systems, and engineering/design and was constantly experimenting with approaches to increase students engagement with the material (coaching, team-work, inquiry-based learning, problem-based learning, experiential learning, and so on). After over a quarter of a century she had to acknowledge that she had failed to discover an approach that would result in authentic, deep, and lasting learning for even a fraction of the students. Rather she found that most students (at the high school level) were primarily focused on the evaluation aspect rather than meaningful engagement with the material. And on top of that they had very little free time and were highly stressed.

On the advice of a colleague, she looked into the democratic education model first practiced in the US by Sudbury Valley School in Massachusetts. Peter Gray’s book, Free to Learn, about the fundamental role of free play in learning, inspired Kelly to leave her job at an elite private school to start Chagrin Valley Learning Collective on her permaculture farm.

Erin Rodriguez

Erin Rodriguez is a K-12 licensed Art Educator with over ten years of teaching in diverse settings. She earned a BA in Art Education from Kent State University, completing her student teaching in Quito, Ecuador. After graduation, Erin moved to Washington D.C. for three years, teaching and embracing her love for painting, drawing, sculpture, ceramics, printmaking, and photography. She spent a year teaching English in South Korea before returning to her hometown of Cleveland Heights in 2010. Since then, Erin has been teaching art in charter schools across Cleveland as well as raising her son Franklin while simultaneously earning a Masters in Art Education from Boston University. She is drawn to Chagrin Valley Learning Collective because of its intentional education focus and the opportunity to join a community of like-minded learners.


Karen Shumaker

Karen received her degree in Human Nutrition and worked in various healthcare settings in her early adult life. In her free time she enjoys gardening, raising rabbits, soap making, and spending time outdoors. She also plays the flute and piccolo. With the birth of her third child, she decided to put her career on hold to spend time as a stay-home parent. During this time she began looking into alternative forms of schooling, which ultimately led to her decision to homeschool her children. Her daughter, Madison, has been a part of the Chagrin Valley Learning Collective community since it opened as The School at Kelly’s Working Well Farm, with her son, Russel, joining later on the same year. Karen also spent a year volunteering at the farm, mostly working in the garden. Watching Madison and Russel develop into confident young people while learning lifelong skills fueled Karen’s desire to become involved as a staff member for Chagrin Valley Learning Collective. She is excited for the opportunity to grow alongside the students and staff of CVLC, to share her passions, and to learn from the experiences that others have to share. 

Danny Groth

Danny has been working with young learners since 2004 when he began coaching wrestling for Orange Schools. His experience as a coach led to his desire to work with children as a career. He graduated from Kent State University, taking courses in art education while completing his degree in fine arts. After earning his master’s degree in school counseling from East Carolina University, he worked for Durham School of the Arts in inner city Durham, NC before returning to Cleveland in 2012. Upon his return, he stepped back into his role as wrestling coach at Orange as well as working for the district as a counselor through the past school year. Throughout his career in education, Danny has emphasized the importance of trusting relationships between adults and children. He has seen the benefits of allowing students to play and explore on their own terms without adult-directed instruction or intervention. He is excited to be part of a program that coincides with his philosophy on developing lifelong learners. Danny lives with his wife, Robin, and two daughters, Rosie and Quincy. They enjoy playing & exploring outdoors, listening to music, creating artwork, and spending time together. 

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Jody Richards

Jody has passionately lived her adult life by the principle of learning through living.  From living off the grid, working on farms, and backpacking parts of the Pacific Crest Trail, to living in cities, working with accounting and hospitality, and volunteering at treatment centers and shelters.  She is fascinated with the human body and mind, receiving certifications in massage therapy and teaching yoga, and is inspired by nature and children.  Moved to connect deeper with the community, she is honored to coordinate events, maintain family communications, listen, share space, and grow with the diverse group of self-directed learners at Chagrin Valley Learning Collective.