Our Faculty

Megan Augustyniak

Front Desk Administrator and AfterCare Director

Flagship Campus

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Having worked as an Early Childhood Educator and Educational Coordinator at CHALK Preschool for the past six years in Chicago, Megan is thrilled to be joining the progressive school team at Bennett Day School. She is looking forward to building relationships with each student and families through her position of Front Office Administrator. Megan will also be collaborating with the AfterCare team in developing the Bennett and Beyond classes offered throughout the year, along with the interactive AfterCare curriculum. She is eager to share her love of hands-on learning and exposing students to a healthy active lifestyle.

Before making the move to Chicago, Megan grew up in Bay City, Michigan and is a Michigan State University alumni. Go Green! Her bachelor’s degree is in Elementary Education, with minors in Mathematics and English. She is also a member of the Association for Talent Development (ATD), where she continues to expand upon her knowledge of internal leadership development.

Allison Borys

First Grade Apprentice with Sara Violante

Flagship Campus

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Allison Borys is thrilled to join the Bennett Day School team for the 2016-2017 school year.  Allison is a graduate of Indiana University where she earned her Bachelor’s Degree in Elementary Education with a Reading License addition.  Since graduating, she has spent her time substitute teaching in Ann Arbor, MI before relocating to Chicago where she has spent the last year in classrooms across the city, as well as on the lacrosse field as the Whitney Young HS Girls Lacrosse Head Coach.  Her experiences as a substitute teacher and coach have allowed her to work with students in a variety of classroom settings, ages, and learning styles.

She is looking forward to working with her co-teacher in the 1st grade classroom and to helping provide enriching experiences that will spark learning and joy in her students.

Lauren Bell

SK Apprentice with Katie Gertler and AfterCare teacher

Flagship  Campus

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Lauren was raised in Lincoln Park and attended Francis W. Parker for 14 years. When she graduated from Parker, she started her college experience at American University as a business major and finished undergrad at University of Illinois at Chicago as an English and American Literature major. Still looking to find the right professional path for her, Lauren went on to get her Master’s degree in Teaching from National Louis University.

Lauren has been teaching for the past 4 years at a combination of public, charter and private schools. She learned something new at each school, which she applies to helping each of her students, and looks forward to continued professional learning and growth at Bennett Day School. Lauren has a love of books, learning, Disney and for ocean conservation.

Clare Conniff

PreK Lead with Derry MacDermott

Early Childhood Campus

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Clare is thrilled to be returning to the Bennett Day community as a PreK teacher this fall. After graduating from Saint Mary’s College in Notre Dame, Indiana, she took a lead teacher position in a preschool three-year-old program in Chicago and has loved every minute of teaching for the past six years. The value of exploration deeply influences Clare’s practice, as she truly sees children learn when exploring their environment. Allowing the time for children to deeply invest in explorations allows for a deeper understanding and discovery, and these are the moments when Clare has found it most rewarding to teach young children. After spending time in the classroom, Clare was inspired to continue her education at Erikson Institute, where she recently completed her second year in the M.S. in Child Development program. Clare will also be working with Mr. Reynolds to develop programming in the TinkerLab for the Early Childhood campus.

Peter Granquist

Music

Cross-Campus

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After years of teaching in the vibrant progressive education community of San Francisco, Peter begins his first year at Bennett Day School, bringing his passion for helping students realize their creative potential.

Peter received his Bachelor of Arts degree in musicology from Bates College in Lewiston, Maine. Moving to San Francisco, Peter worked for 5 years as a 3rd grade teaching assistant at The San Francisco School while simultaneously being mentored in the Orff Schulwerk approach to music education.  After teaching music at various Bay Area schools, he spent the last 2 years establishing and growing a music program at The Presidio Knolls School, a mandarin immersion, Reggio Emilia-inspired independent school.  He has completed all three levels of the Orff Certification Course with the world-renowned teachers of the San Francisco International Orff Course.  Peter brings a joyful energy and a firm belief in Orff’s power to develop the mind and uplift the soul.  When not teaching, Peter gigs as a professional drummer and vocalist.

Katie Gertler

SK Lead with Lauren Bell

Flagship Campus

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Katie is excited to have the opportunity to join Bennett Day School as a Senior Kindergarten Teacher this year.  She has always had a passion for children and feels incredibly fortunate to have found her calling as a teacher. Katie spent the past three years as a Second Grade Assistant Teacher at the Latin School of Chicago and has held numerous leadership/director roles at summer camps. While in college, Katie volunteered in several charter schools in New Orleans, furthering her devotion to education.

She graduated from Tulane University in 2013 with a B.A. in Sociology and received her Masters’ in Elementary Education from DePaul University in March 2016. Katie grew up in downtown Chicago and is an alumna of the Latin School of Chicago. She looks forward to working in a school that provides a progressive education and a focus on collaboration with students, their families and the faculty at Bennett Day School.

Stephanie Holdridge

SK Lead with Tristen Scheitle

Flagship Campus

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Having a natural affinity for children and devotion to the field of early childhood education, Stephanie returns to the Bennett Day School team as an SK Teacher.

Stephanie earned a B.A. in Psychology from the University of South Carolina.  While working towards her degree, she interned at the John L. Gildner Regional Institute for Children and Adolescents, a public special education school in Rockville, Maryland.  In addition, Stephanie volunteered in the Dominican Republic working with Dominican and Haitian refugee children.  In 2011, her love for travel and her passion for teaching young children led her to a position as a Kindergarten Assistant Teacher at The British Schools in Montevideo, Uruguay, where she taught in both English and Spanish.  In 2012, she moved to New York City and earned her Master’s in Early Childhood Education and Special Education from Touro College.

Emily Homa

JK Teacher with Naomi Kaplan

Early Childhood Campus

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A native of the Chicagoland area, Emily received her B.A. from DePaul University and most recently, her M.S. in Child Development from Erikson Institute. She previously worked at a cooperative nursery school in Lincoln Park, and has most recently been the Assistant Director of a birth to 5 year old Early Head Start program in Evanston, IL.  Through her work and advanced studies, Emily has developed a passion for supporting and facilitating learning for children and families as well as building and strengthening the foundation for lifelong learners. A lover of both children and adult books, Emily enjoys watching the energy and excitement young children have surrounding books and stories. Watching the stories come to life in dramatic play or through artwork are truly her favorite classroom activities.

Emily still lives in Chicago and if she’s not out of town, you’ll find her spending time with her pup, Cassie or having dinner at a new downtown restaurant. She is thrilled to join the Bennett Day School team and cannot wait to see what this school year has in store.

Nicolette Jackson

Assistant Director of Admissions

Flagship Campus

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Nicolette has earned her Bachelor’s degree in Health Policy and Administration while attending DePaul University. While attaining her degree, she worked as a Birthday Party Host at Lakeshore Sport and Fitness.   This work first sparked her interest in working with children.  Nicolette expanded her engagement with young children when she began working as a summer camp counselor for East Bank Club.  Her success there lead to increased responsibilities at the social club and she became a Child Care Associate, also leading enrichment classes such as Move and Groove and Jr. Gym Time.

Dajana Jakovina

Marketing and Development Associate and Special Assistant to the CEO

Flagship Campus

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Dajana joined Bennett Day School in 2015 as a part-time marketing intern during her senior year at Northwestern University. She decided to join us as a full time employee upon graduating with a degree in Economics.

Marketing and education are Dajana’s two passions. Before coming to Bennett Day, she interned at a non-profit organization in Brazil, a startup incubator in Croatia and worked on a variety of development projects and marketing campaigns. Her international background in both work and education gives her a unique perspective and approach to organizational development and marketing. Her passion for education comes from the transformational experience that she had while studying at an international high school that values diversity, social responsibility, and a global mindset. She is excited to be a part of progressive education movement and to contribute to building our school’s relationships with the community.

Frances Judd

JK Teacher and Special Projects Leader

Cross-Campus

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Frances Judd teaches at the junior kindergarten level with Ms. Waddington. As Special Projects Coordinator of Bennett Day School, her work includes fostering student-inquiry projects, faculty innovation, and unique collaborations between Bennett Day School and other organizations such as Northwestern University’s TIDAL Lab (Tangible Interaction Design and Learning).

Frances Judd’s undergraduate degrees in Elementary Education, Special Education, and Art Education were completed at the University of Texas at Austin. Upon moving to Chicago she pursued training in K-1st literacy instruction at DePaul University, and then attended Erikson Institute for her graduate studies in Early Childhood Education and Child Development. Frances’ connections with Erikson Institute remain strong through her recent collaborations with the TEC Center at Erikson Institute and her founding of the Tangible Tech Collaborative.

Ms. Judd taught for over 25 years at Francis W. Parker School’s JK, and before that her work was primarily in SK, 4th Grade and roles of Curriculum Coordination. Frances Judd also served as a freelance designer/consultant with Playskool Toy Company, Arrow Toys, Hasbro Inc., and KBooM! Games (for the development of the iPad app series “Mrs. Judd’s Games”). Current research/advisory work includes “Osmo Coding” and new forms of computational literacy in the early years.

Naomi Kaplan

JK Lead with Emily Homa

Early Childhood Campus

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Naomi Kaplan is thrilled to join the Bennett Day School team this year as a JK lead teacher. Naomi believes in addressing all children’s needs and interests in the classroom and strives to make learning through exploration fun, exciting, and meaningful. Naomi’s energy and enthusiasm spreads to all children, as well as parents and families, enabling her to establish a loving, safe, and thoughtful classroom environment.

Naomi earned her Bachelor’s Degree in Finance from American University in Washington D.C. After some time in the business and legal world, Naomi went on to pursue a degree that combined her true passions; children and education, obtaining a Master’s in Elementary Education from National Louis University. Previously, Naomi taught third and fourth grade in Chicago charter schools and spent the last five years as a preschool and Junior Kindergarten teacher at Sinai Preschool. Naomi is ready for all adventures ahead at Bennett Day School!

Simon Lockwood-Bean

PreK Lead with Amber Powell

Early Childhood Campus

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Armed with a passion for exploration and discovery, Simon is delighted to be joining the Bennett Day School team as a lead teacher in PreK. With a Bachelor’s degree in Molecular Biology from the University of Illinois and a Masters in Elementary Education from DePaul University, Simon brings a unique and exciting perspective to Bennett Day. After two years working in the Senior Kindergarten Assistant Program at Francis W. Parker, Simon is excited to bring his knowledge and skills to Bennett Day School.

As a native Chicagoan and product of a progressive education, Simon is a staunch proponent of the progressive learning approach. He believes that learning happens in a multitude of ways and that play is vital to children’s growth and development. Simon encourages his students to ask questions, investigate the world around them, and reflect on the process of finding solutions. He is thrilled to be part of a community that values a hands-on method of problem solving and employs the practices of Reggio Emilia.

Derry MacDermott

PreK Apprentice with Clare Conniff

Early Childhood Campus

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Derry MacDermott is thrilled to be joining the Bennett Day School family as a Pre-K and JK Apprentice Teacher. He is a recent graduate from West Chester University of Pennsylvania where he studied Elementary Education and Theatre. Focusing both on the arts and education while in school, Derry developed a passion for introducing creativity through the arts in classrooms. He started working with a theatre company, Columbia Center for Theatrical Arts, in 2011 to help children develop a love for performing.

Derry was fortunate enough to be placed in many different grade levels throughout his college experience, but quickly learned that the early childhood classrooms were where he loved being. He is excited to learn from the families, faculty, and students at Bennett Day School and grow as an educator throughout the school year.

Eddie McClendon

Physical Education

Cross-Campus

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Eddie is excited to be joining Bennett Day School as the PE instructor for the 2016-2017 school year. Eddie earned his B.A in Sports Journalism and Communications from Olivet College.

Passionate about sports and mentoring youth, Eddie decided to join a private school in Ann Arbor, MI after college as a lead instructor and after school mentor. In addition, he coached football and basketball for community leagues. Those positions fueled his interests and he decided to move to Chicago for greater opportunities to work with youth.

Following the move to Chicago, he accepted a position as a coordinator and coach for two CPS elementary schools. Eddie is thrilled about the opportunity to be a part of the Bennett Day School faculty and looks forward to working with the students, staff and parents this fall.

Amanda Meyer

Second Grade Apprentice with Shay Phee

Flagship Campus

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Amanda is thrilled to join the Bennett Day School team as a second grade apprentice teacher. Amanda is a recent graduate of the Early Childhood Education/Special Education Master’s program at The University of Illinois at Chicago.

After working as a nanny in the Chicago area for years, and developing a passion for working with young children in early intervention, Amanda enrolled at UIC to pursue early childhood education as a career. Throughout her time at UIC, Amanda gained hands-on experience in PreK classrooms as well as the Chicago Public School system in all primary grades.  Amanda looks forward to the exciting challenges which take place in second grade, and her role in helping to provide a positive environment which promotes social emotional development and inquiry-based learning.

Celia Neidow

Front Desk Administrator and AfterCare Teacher

Early Childhood Campus

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Celia will be joining the Bennett Day Early Childhood Campus as the Front Office Administrator and AfterCare Teacher.  Celia graduated from the University of Kansas in 2008 with a Bachelor’s Degree in Applied Behavioral Science, with an emphasis in Early Childhood Education and Intervention and a minor in Business Administration.

Prior to joining Bennett Day School, Celia taught at CHALK Preschool and Bright Horizons Lakeview for the past eight years as a teacher and then later on as the Assistant Director and Education Coordinator.   Celia’s experiences with children are relevant, unique, and extensive.  She is extremely passionate about teaching children and places a high standard on helping each child learn and explore at their own pace.  She possess a positive understanding of children’s ideas, needs, and desires and enjoys the special bond she shares with each child.  In addition to administration, Celia will also be collaborating with Amber Powell to implement the AfterCare program and Bennett and Beyond classes at the Early Childhood Campus.  Celia is looking forward to meeting and building relationships with all the new and returning faculty and families of Bennett Day School!

Shay Phee

Second Grade Lead with Amanda Meyer

Flagship Campus

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Shay Savocchi is excited to be returning to the Bennett Day School family, looping with her class to the Second Grade.  Shay graduated from National-Louis University with a Bachelor’s Degree in Elementary Education and a Minor in Psychology.  Prior to joining the Bennett Day School team, Shay taught 1st Grade for six years and co-taught Science and Social Studies in 1st and 2nd  grade at a school with emphasis on ESL students.  Shay has been involved in helping execute summer programs that included, reading, math, science, art, and teaching the fundamentals soccer.  She also participated in school committees such Box Tops, BSF scholarship, and tutoring programs.  Shay’s accomplishments in the classroom were recognized with the 2012 Symetra Hero in the Classroom Award for Outstanding Leadership and Instructional Skills, presented in association with the Chicago Bears.

Shay’s passion for teaching includes instilling lifelong skills through social emotional development as well incorporating hands on activities that involve inquiry-based learning.  She is looking forward to collaborating with students to provide an enriched learning environment in a progressive school, meeting the individual needs of all students, collaborating with faculty, and communicating with families.

Amber Powell

PreK Apprentice with Simon Lockwood-Bean/AfterCare Teacher

Early Childhood Campus

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Amber is a dedicated educator with a passion for children’s learning and care.  Amber has 13 plus years of experience with families and children.  Her experience has been in both educational and home environments, with children aged birth through second grade. Amber fell in love with working with children at a young age as she frequently visited her grandmother at the various schools she worked at as a Special Needs teacher before retiring.

Amber has a Bachelors in Early Childhood Education from Kendall College. She is currently attending Lewis University, completing her Masters in Organizational Leadership. She is creative, enthusiastic and sensitive to children’s individual needs.  She believes that the quality of education and care a person receives in the early stages of life, is essential in bringing out that child’s potential and that all children should have access to quality learning and care. Amber is thrilled to join Bennett Day School and she looks forward to working with other passionate educators and families as well.

Colin Reynolds

TinkerLab Curator

Cross-Campus

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Dedicated to the utility of technology as a tool for harvesting and documenting learning, Colin returns to the Bennett Day School team as the TinkerLab Curator and Director of Accreditation.

Colin is a graduate of Valparaiso University and earned his master’s in educational leadership from Loyola University Chicago.  He is a tenured classroom teacher in Oak Park District 97 where he taught first grade for three years and fourth grade for two years. In 2009, he was named a Golden Apple Teacher of Distinction during his time as a first grade teacher.  Colin also has five years of experience teaching and directing Camp Invention, an inquiry-based science camp sponsored by the United States Patent and Trademark Office.

Tristen Scheitle

SK Apprentice with Stephanie Holdridge

Early Childhood Campus

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Tristen Scheitle joins Bennett Day with an enthusiasm to explore progressive learning approaches. She studied at Radford University in Virginia, earning her B.S. in Psychology, with a focus in school psychology. She followed her passion into the local Virginia foodshed, eventually earning the title of head chef at an organic café and cultivating her own urban farm.

Realizing her path was leading further away from her original intention to work in education, she decided to change gears and moved to South Korea to teach at an elementary school English academy. While living in South Korea, she earned her Master’s in Education with a focus on globalization and education research. She recently moved back to the U.S. and is excited to grow in her profession and with Bennett Day School.

Katie Smulkstys

School Nurse

Flagship Campus

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Katie has been a school nurse for the past two years at The Catherine Cook School and is very excited to be joining Bennett Day School this year. Katie received her Master’s in Nursing from Rush University and has a passion for working with children and families. Her previous nursing experience includes working as a postpartum nurse at Rush University Medical Center and as a pediatric nurse at Northwestern Children’s Practice.

With school nursing, Katie believes she has certainly found her niche. She loves the challenge that is school nursing and the opportunity to make an impact in the lives of children and their families.

Carmen Suarez

Spanish

Cross-Campus

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Carmen is passionate about Second Language Acquisition and ways to provide plenty of comprehensible input. She feels it’s important to do so during her sessions so students rise steadily in confidence and proficiency. She has taught Spanish to children for 4 years and worked on refining the practice as a Lead Teacher and trainer of others teachers in a private school.

She brings a BA in Literary Studies from Pontificia Universidad Javeriana in Bogotá, in her native Colombia, where she also studied photography, radio and television.  She applied her varied background to a multidisciplinary project for the Colombian Ministry of Culture by spending six weeks living with a tribe in the Amazon region. There she worked as a writer-recorder and photographer of the indigenous dietary traditions of that zone. At times she has done freelance text editing of Spanish documents. She is currently pursuing her Master of Teaching Spanish in the University of Illinois at Chicago.

Sara Violante

First Grade Lead with Allison Borys

Flagship Campus

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Through a strong desire to provide children with a loving and caring environment to learn and play in, Sara joined the Bennett Day School team as an SK Teacher in fall of 2015. She is thrilled to be looping with her class this year as their lead First Grade Teacher. Sara is a graduate of Santa Clara University in Northern California where she earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Communications. After graduating, she lived and worked as an Au Pair for a French family in Paris. While there she enjoyed travelling and spending time with the family she worked for. From her experiences, she realized her dream of becoming a teacher and moved back to Chicago in 2011. Soon after she enrolled at Erikson Institute to get her Master’s in Early Childhood Education. While completing her Master’s, Sara worked at the British School of Chicago as a Learner’s Assistant in a PreK and then Kindergarten classroom. She enjoyed getting to spend two years learning and playing alongside the same class of children and formed strong relationships with both the children and their families.

Madeline Wadington

JK Lead Teacher

Early Childhood Campus

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Possessing a passion for working with young children, and having spent two years completing our Apprentice Program, Madeline is thrilled to return to the Bennett Day School team this year as a JK Lead Teacher.

Madeline graduated from Colby College with a B.A. in Psychology and a keen interest in child development. This area of study has allowed Madeline to explore and understand the cognitive, social, and emotional lives of young children. In her experiences working with young children in multiple early childhood settings, she has observed how these factors influence children’s learning processes. Learned from her work at Bennett Day School over the past two years, Madeline also values the importance of the child’s family in this process, and is looking forward to working with both children and their families during the upcoming year.

Lisa Weber

Art

Cross-Campus

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Being raised by two artists that met at the American Academy of Art, Lisa always knew her journey in life would be an artistic one. Lisa attended five years at Columbia College in Chicago, where she studied art of several mediums and earned a Bachelor’s of Fine Art. Her interest in Art History lead her to pursue a minor in the subject while taking courses abroad in Florence, Italy.   Lisa went on to National Louis University and received her Masters of Art in Teaching. While at National Louis, she spent a year-long internship studying and practicing the teaching styles of Baker Demonstration School.

Since her time at National Louis, Lisa has been the art teacher for Holy Family School in Chicago’s Lawndale neighborhood. While teaching Kindergarten through 8th grade Art, she also runs an art based after school program, assists struggling students in a Saturday learning academy, and spends her summer with an Adventures in Learning program. Lisa will be continuing her work with Holy Family on days that she’s not getting messy in the art room with Bennett students.