Vail Valley Unbound

Guiding Learners Kindergarten through Fifth Grade

Vail Valley Unbound is a new and innovative school for kindergarten through fifth-grade learners. Located in the Edwards Riverwalk, the school founders and teachers seek to guide curious minds by encouraging exploration and allowing space to grow.

Cassie Boca, Vail Valley Unbound co-founder, passionate mother and entrepreneur, believes that kids are not empty vessels to be filled. Rather, they are already full of the skills, curiosity and tenacity needed to succeed; they only need guidance. When she and her husband, Zak Boca, couldn’t find the perfect educational fit for their son, they were inspired to create the change they want to see in the school system.

vail valley unbound

Co-founder Heather McMahon — veteran educator in the Valley, founder of Youth Enrichment School and parent — says, “I was immediately drawn to Cassie and Zak’s commitment to providing our local children (and families) with new opportunities. The first time we met for coffee, I knew right away they wanted the same for their children as I do for my own child. As someone who has developed a social/emotional approach to early childhood education over the past 18 years, the Boca’s vision serendipitously aligned with my views on education.”

Unbound takes the rigidity out of school; although the public school system works for many kids and families, Boca understands that it does not work for everyone. “We have a few big differences,” Boca explains. “The first one is that we’re really shifting the knowledge source away from the teacher in the classroom into a student-led model.

Unbound teachers are referred to as guides, and they’re challenged to not answer questions. Instead, their goal is to create games out of learners’ questions, directing the children to find the answer. This method is rooted in one of their foundational values of empowerment through autonomy and collaboration, and it places the problem-solving and critical thinking on the children.

vail valley unbound classroom

Renderings courtesy of Vail Valley Unbound.

"The school’s goal is to build the skills needed to be successful in a modern, changing world — resiliency, curiosity, confidence and a lifelong love of learning. "

While learnings that fall into what’s known as “Common Core” skills, such as reading and writing, are taught and valued, Unbound emphasizes social-emotional skills and understanding. “My son will go here. I want him to know all those Common Core skills as much as any other mom out there,” Boca explains. “But, what’s more important to me right now, in the elementary phase of life, is that he learns really good social-emotional skills, that he learns how to navigate challenging situations, that he learns how to actively listen, how to hear someone else’s opinion, how to disagree and state his opinion and do that in a way that you can leave that conversation, and you’re still friends.”

“The other big difference with us is community involvement,” Boca shares. Unbound plans to utilize local recourses, such as parks and recreation centers, take trips to bakeries and art studios for play and learning and invite locals to teach their passions (such as music or yoga) to the kids. The school’s goal is to build the skills needed to be successful in a modern, changing world — resiliency, curiosity, confidence and a lifelong love of learning.

To read more and support Vail Valley Unbound’s efforts to inspire learners,

“I am most excited about providing our learners with the guidance to pave their own paths and to help them realize their authentic capabilities,” McMahon emphasizes. When not outside or in the com-munity, learning happens in open, bright, Montessori-inspired studios that foster authenticity and friendship. Alongside Mc-Mahon and their zealous team, the Bocas will lead Unbound into guiding learners beginning fall 2023. Upper-elementary will be introduced next school year.