Our Faculty

Jose Aguayo

Third Grade Co-Lead Teacher

 

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Jose is a California native and graduated from UCLA with degrees in History and Political Science. As an undergraduate, he worked with preschool students to develop language and literacy skills, which convinced him to enter teaching. Jose came to Chicago with Teach for America to work with third grade students and developed an interest for skills-based learning. Jose believes the learning process should be an empowering experience that is driven by student interest and is excited to support students as they discover their intellectual passions. Prior to Bennett Day, Jose taught high school science at a Chicago charter school, where he still continues to teach summer school. Outside of the classroom Jose enjoys running, cooking, and biking along Lake Michigan.

Sarah Baatile

Upper School Apprentice Teacher

 

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Before coming to Bennett Day, Sarah specialized in K-8 STEM and English-Language Arts instruction at St. Mary of the Angels School and at the high school level with The Noble Network of Charter Schools. Sarah began her career coordinating for the Teach for America Chicago Institute. She received her Bachelor of Arts in Geosciences from Denison University and her Master of Arts in Teaching—ELA Instruction from Relay Graduate School of Education here in Chicago. Having been a student in progressive schools herself, she deeply values its impact on her life and loves bringing her experiences to Bennett Day School.

John Bannon

Pre-Kindergarten Apprentice Teacher

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John is in his second year at Bennett Day after serving last year as a full time substitute in JK. From coaching, to nannying, to camp counseling, John has been working with children for much of his adult life. After an au pair position took him to Hamburg, Germany, he returned to the summer family camp in upstate Vermont where he had worked previously. John then came to Bennett Day where he utilizes his childcare experiences in the unique and rewarding educational approach that the school offers. John also has a special interest in school psychology. He was born and raised in Oak Park, IL and recently moved to the Uptown neighborhood in Chicago. John is a graduate of Beloit College in Beloit, Wisconsin with a Bachelor’s degree in psychology and anthropology.

Allison Bartolozzi

Junior Kindergarten Lead Teacher

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From an early age, Allison knew she had a passion for education and felt a connection with the exploratory world of children’s learning. Her first encounter with the Reggio Emilia approach was during her undergrad years at Ohio University where she worked at the Child Development Center. Nature has been a major part of Allison’s life from her early years and can is often intertwined in her classroom ideals. Moving to Chicago in 2009, she started working one on one with a young girl and then proceeded to work in a budding school sharing the ideas of progressive education. In 2013, Allison began teaching in Bangkok, Thailand where she delved further into Reggio Emilia principles and ideas. Being introduced to music and arts at a young age has influenced her work in and out of the classroom. Throughout her time in Thailand, Allison picked up a few hobbies that attribute to her teaching style. With a love for jazz she joined Bangkok Swing Dancing and has been dancing for the last five years. It has helped her learn about movement, musicality and overall self expression.

Jen Brown

AfterCare Associate

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Coming soon!

Kari Camacho

First Grade Co-Lead Teacher

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Kari received her bachelor’s degree from the University of Wisconsin Platteville in Elementary Education with an Early Childhood minor. She has 8 years of teaching experience in various early childhood settings which have solidified her passion for early childhood education. Before moving to Illinois from central Wisconsin, Kari worked in a Reggio Emilia inspired school; this experience altered her career path from traditional education to progressive.

Josiah Colombo-Espinoza

Learning Specialist

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Josiah Columbo-Espinoza has taught for over a decade in K-12 private, public and charter school settings, including both teaching and administrative positions with The Noble Network and Teach for America as a Director and Facilitator of services for diverse learners. He is excited to help Bennett Day students become lifelong learners by helping them develop their individual strengths towards an effort to become citizens in a global community. He enjoys being part of a learning community that emphasizes educating the whole child; values social-emotional learning; and encourages all teachers to get to know their students and how they learn best. Josiah loves figuring out how different minds work; identifying the best ways to teach them; and then watching young minds develop over time. He finds inspiration in children, families and colleagues he works with, and appreciates the sense of joy and belonging that comes from creating a community together. Josiah holds a Master’s of Education Degree from Loyola University, a Bachelor’s Degree in Science in Elementary Education K-6, and a Learning Behavior Specialist Certificate from National-Louis University. He also has an English Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) endorsement. Josiah is trained in Orton-Gillingham and Wired for Reading methodologies. He also previously served as a Board Member of the Washington State Branch of the International Dyslexia Association (WABIDA). Outside of school, he enjoys sharing time with his family and friends, eating too much chocolate, reading non-fiction, exploring the City and traveling.

Bianca Cuellar

School Nurse

nurse@bennettday.org

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Bianca received a bachelors in the Science of Nursing from Loyola University Chicago. Although she began her early college career with a focus in Child Development, she has always been drawn to the field of medicine. Luckily, she knew that she would have the ability to combine both passions in her future. Prior to Bennett Day, her position as an inpatient Surgical Oncology RN at Northwestern Hospital set the foundation for her nursing knowledge. She was particularly interested in acute/chronic diseases and syndromes of the gastrointestinal system. With this in mind, Bianca took on the position of Interventional Gastroenterology RN at Rush University Medical Center. Now at Bennett, Bianca is finally able to combine her passion for nursing and working with children. She is absolutely thrilled and can’t wait to get to know our community!  

Kasey Dahlberg

Pre-Kindergarten Lead Teacher

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Kasey graduated from Illinois State University with a Bachelor’s degree in Sociology.  She researched teacher satisfaction in special education classrooms. She has always been interested in working with children and knew she was meant to teach in a classroom setting.  Kasey has over ten years of experience working with children.  She first became interested in providing therapy for children with Autism and worked as a therapist for a year.  After graduating from college, Kasey joined a preschool team and fell in love with early childhood education. She has been a preschool teacher for over 6 years now and it has become a great passion of hers to continue working with kids throughout her career. She loves to be silly, creative, loving and patient with all of her students!

Julia DaSilva

Second Grade Lead Teacher

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After graduating from Francis W. Parker School in 2005, she moved to California and earned her B.A. in Psychology from the University of Redlands. When Julia graduated in 2009, she moved back to Chicago and began working in the after-school program at Francis W. Parker. She worked with JK-5th grade students to establish a safe and fun after-school setting. Julia was also a 3rd grade Assistant Teacher for 2.5 years at Francis W. Parker while earning her M. Ed. in Elementary Education from DePaul University. After exploring parochial and public schools, Julia decided to return to a private school setting as the 4th-5th grade Parker PM coordinator. She is happy to have found her her niche at private schools and at Bennett Day.

Ginny Eber

Second Grade Assistant Teacher

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Ever since she was young, Ginny knew she wanted to be a teacher and has always had a strong passion for helping others. Upon graduating from Southeastern Louisiana University with a Bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education, Ginny moved from New Orleans to Chicago to pursue her dreams of becoming an educator. Ginny discovered her love for progressive education and inquiry-based learning through one of her professors while at Southeastern. When she found Bennett Day, she knew that this would be the perfect opportunity for her. She can’t wait to learn so much from her students and get to know each and every one of them! In her spare time, Ginny loves visiting the museums around Chicago, exploring the city, and going back to Louisiana to visit her family and her dogs, Lucy and Millie. She is looking forward to a wonderful school year!

Katie Leviton

First Grade Lead Teacher

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Prior to Bennett, she spent 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. 

Peter Granquist

Music Teacher

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Peter received his Bachelor of Arts degree in musicology from Bates College in Lewiston, Maine. Moving to the vibrant progressive education community of 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.

 

Nathan Gygar

Senior Kindergarten Lead

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Growing up in and around Brisbane, Australia, Nathan had ample access to the great outdoors, making the natural surroundings a formative part of his own learning and lifestyle. After graduating from Griffith University with a Bachelor of Leisure Management in 2003, Nathan went on to spend many years involved in community development organizations, events coordination and service related industries, while pursuing a personal passion for creative arts. During this time, Nathan’s work involved diverse groups of people with a variety of interests, backgrounds and cultures. It was when he moved to Thailand in 2011 that he discovered the rewards of teaching, completing a Graduate Diploma in Teaching & Learning in Early Years through the Association for Early Childhood Educators Singapore (AECES) in 2015.

Nathan has spent the last 6 years working in kindergarten classrooms. Following the creativity and curiosity of his students, he has a strong belief in the incorporation of physical exploration in spaces where children’s thinking can be visible. He continues to support children’s opportunities for inquiry based learning, drawn to the ideas and values fostered in progressive learning environments. Since arriving in Chicago in August of 2016, Nathan has remained engaged with educators moved by similar forces.

Brittney Washington

First Grade Co-Lead Teacher

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Brittney began lead teaching after earning her Master’s Degree in Education from Park University.  She has spent the past three years teaching in an elementary classroom in Kansas City, Missouri where she previously completed the Kansas City Teacher Residency Program. She recently moved to Chicago with her husband and is looking forward to learning more about the city of Chicago and engaging in progressive learning and the Reggio Emilia approach at Bennett Day. Brittney was born and raised in Cleveland, Ohio. She is also a graduate of The University of Toledo where she earned a Dual Bachelor of Arts Degree in Sociology and Women’s Studies. Working with children has always been her passion. Outside of teaching, Brittney enjoys music, arts and crafts, and exploring the city. She is very excited for each yearly journey Bennett Day School brings!

Kennedy Hernandez

Pre-Kindergarten Assistant Teacher

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Kennedy is a certified ESL Teacher who has always been passionate about education and learning new methods/approaches that will help her guide children towards success. After working as an English tutor in Las Vegas, she relocated to Chicago and continued tutoring and also became a swim instructor. After teaching swimming, she realized that she wanted to further her teaching career and searched for a community with the same vision as her own. Finding the Reggio Emilia approach in the Bennett Day School community has inspired her. During her free time, she enjoys volunteering at 826CHI, reading, and writing short stories and poetry. Kennedy is currently studying creative writing at the College of Southern Nevada.

Mary Ann Hidalgo

Pre-Kindergarten Apprentice Teacher

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Mary Ann’s first decade of teaching centered around experiential learning and a self directed approach. After working in the USA ESL/Cross-Cultural Program, she found passion working for children at UNICEF and Compassion International. The dual importance of children and the future grew her passion for teaching children in high-quality, responsive settings. In 2012, she began teaching 0-4 year olds in play-based (Piaget-led and Reggio Emilia-inspired) schools in Chicago. Mary Ann earned her BA in Communication Arts and studied Development Management at the University of the Philippines. She is a lifetime learner who enjoys working with children and preparing learning environments that cultivate exploration and nurture social-emotional learning across children’s multiple intelligences. She is thrilled to be part of Bennett Day School.

Angela Iagaru

Upper School Teacher

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Angela Iagaru is a graduate from the University of Chicago with bachelor’s and master’s degrees in English Language and Literature. Angela is a National Board Certified Teacher and has been teaching high school for 10 years with the last five years spent in Tokyo at The American school in Japan. She is passionate about learning and believes that our experiences in school are deeply important to the way we grow to understand and operate in this world; so the things we most want to see in our world, we must teach our students and model in our classrooms. Angela is a wife and a mother. She loves theatre, dance, and spending time with her family. Angela has had a wonderful journey around the world and is thrilled that it has brought her to Bennett Day’s Upper School.

Morgan Johns

Junior Kindergarten Apprentice Teacher

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Morgan’s experiences teaching kindergarten through second grade in Chicago, Tanzania, Thailand, and Colombia, S.A. have helped shape her understanding of how children are wonderfully capable and innately curious about their world. During her time at Columbia College, her cohort visited Reggio Emilia, Italy to further learning of the Reggio Emilia approach. Over the last five years, Morgan has implemented this child-centered and collaborative philosophy into her teaching. Like her students, she too is curious about the world; Morgan loves traveling and creating art! She brings this enthusiasm to create and think in diverse ways into the classroom. Morgan is inspired by Bennett Day’s commitment to children and their respective, unique learning journeys. She looks forward to being on these journeys and guiding children to fully express themselves, connect with one another, and gain insights into our community and our world! Morgan is a proud Chicagoan and graduate of Columbia College with a degree in Early Childhood Education.

Janessa Juarez

Admissions Associate

janessa.juarez@bennettday.org

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Janessa graduated from the University of Minnesota in 2008 with a Bachelor of Arts in Journalism. She followed her passion for equitable education and was accepted to Teach For America upon graduation. Janessa served in New York City from 2008 to 2010 and taught pre-kindergarten at an elementary school in the Bronx. While in NYC, she received her Master’s of Science of Education in Early Childhood Education from Lehman College. In 2010 she returned to the Midwest and spent six years teaching at several elementary schools in Chicago, most recently at the Latin School of Chicago. Janessa is a certified Reading Recovery teacher and spent a year taking graduate school courses, focused on struggling readers and early literacy intervention, from National Louis University. Janessa is excited to leverage her teaching experience in her role as Admissions Associate at Bennett Day!

Frances Judd

Early Childhood TESLab Teacher/Special Projects Leader

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Frances Judd teaches TESLab classes for early childhood students in PK, JK and SK. As Special Projects Leader 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). Recent Bennett Labs co-design projects include various Story Dealer games for creative thinking, and Osmo Kaleidoscope app with tangible user interface.

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. Frances Judd also served as a freelance designer/consultant with Playskool Toy Company, Arrow Toys, Hasbro Inc., and KBooM! Games (developing the iPad app series “Mrs. Judd’s Games”). Recent research/advisory work in computational literacy includes Osmo CodingOsmo Coding Jam, and new forms of AI swarm-behavior explorations for young learners.

Victoria Katz

Fifth Grade Co-Lead Teacher

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Victoria Katz is delighted to be part of the Bennett Day community as a 5th Grade Co-Lead Teacher. Previously, Ms. Katz taught for thirteen years in both independent and public schools on the West Coast.  She developed her expertise in teaching students through hands-on, Reggio-inspired curriculum at the Helios School for Gifted Children.  Her specialties include peer mentorship, project-based learning, Singapore Math, and differentiated curriculum. During her years teaching, Victoria has developed a deep appreciation for progressive education and the importance of valuing the whole child; creating an enriching classroom environment that instills self-confidence and wonder; and supporting and celebrating each child’s individuality.  This approach leads to wonderful discovery and learning together. She received her Bachelor’s Degree from the University of California at Davis and holds a multiple-subject teaching credential from California State, Northridge.  In her free time, Victoria enjoys spending time with her family, reading, watching movies, yoga, hiking, and volunteering as an instructor with Reading in Motion.

Bridget Lipke

Physical Education Teacher

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Bridget has taught Physical Education and Health in Chicago K-8 schools for the past seven years while coaching and developing a variety of after-school programs. An accomplished athlete, Bridget was the Captain, MVP, and all-time season assist leader of her collegiate basketball team at Saint Mary’s College in Notre Dame, Indiana, where she earned a B.A. in Communications and a Public Relations minor.  Earlier in her career, Bridget worked in advertising but realized she was missing her true passion for health, fitness, and sports, and she felt motivated to share that passion with others. She then earned a B.S. in Physical Education from DePaul University as well. Bridget enjoys being active with her students in class and works together with her students to create a fun, positive, and energetic environment. She is excited to help Bennett Day students use their creativity to explore individually and in a team environment while building confidence to become lifelong movers.

Simon Lockwood-Bean

Senior Kindergarten Lead Teacher

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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. 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. 

Derry MacDermott

Third Grade Assistant Teacher

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Derry first joined Bennett Day three years ago. He first found his passion for education while directing children’s theater companies in Maryland. After earning a degree in Elementary Education and Theater from West Chester University of Pennsylvania, he moved from the east coast to Chicago and began working at Bennett Day School. He has been lucky enough to work with a variety of ages and grades at Bennett Day, exploring the Reggio Emilia model and incorporating fine arts when possible. When not teaching, Derry often can be found directing youth theater around Chicago or (more often) playing with his dog, Bean.

Ally Marsh

Second Grade Lead Teacher

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Ally is a graduate of Indiana University where she earned her Bachelor’s Degree in Elementary Education with a Reading License addition.  After time spent substitute teaching in Ann Arbor, MI she decided to move to Chicago to expand her horizons and continue on a path in the elementary education field.  She feels very lucky to have found Bennett Day along with her coaching position as the Whitney Young HS Girls Lacrosse head coach where she can share her love of lacrosse with high schoolers in the city. 

Jen Marshall

Fifth Grade Co-Lead Teacher

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Prior to joining Bennett Day, Jen spent three years as a Fifth Grade Assistant Teacher at Francis W. Parker School and was part of a math tutoring team with Chicago Public Schools. She has also enjoyed leading after-school activities such as First Lego League Robotics and middle school athletics. Jen’s approach to instruction utilizes project-based learning and appeals to students’ innate curiosity about the world around them. Jen earned her Bachelor of Arts degree in Music Business from Elmhurst College and her Master’s degree in Elementary Education from National Louis University. She is thrilled to be a part of the Bennett Day community!

Marissa McDonald

Junior Kindergarten Co-Lead Teacher

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From an early age, Marissa always knew she wanted to work with children. As she entered college at North Park University, she decided to major in Early Childhood Education. After graduation, Marissa began working at an Early Childhood Center in a two year old room, which is where her passion for Reggio inspired education began. After working with that age group for a year, she moved to a Kindergarten Prep classroom and carried her knowledge of education over to 4 and 5 year olds. As Marissa moves through her career, she has learned so much throughout each passing day. She loves being a part of the Bennett Day School team and appreciates the opportunity to work with faculty that has the same passion for education as she does!

Charle McRoberts

Senior Kindergarten Apprentice Teacher

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Charle grew up in the private education system, where she gained an appreciation for independence and the freedom to explore through her own education. Charle is very passionate about assisting in the success and personal development of children and students, and previously worked as an ABA Therapist for children with Autism. For a brief period of time, she moved to New York City to explore another passion of hers, being a chef, and worked in one of the best restaurants in Manhattan. Once she moved back to Chicago, she continued honing in on her skills as an advocate for children, which led her to Bennett Day School. Originally from St. Louis Missouri, she moved to Chicago for college and attended North Park University, obtaining a B.S. in Psychology. She also has a Master’s degree in Applied Behavior Analysis from Ball State University.

Nate Nearpass

Junior Kindergarten Co-Lead Teacher

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Nate is a Chicago area native who grew up in the south suburbs of Chicago. After completing undergrad at The Moody Bible Institute, he spent 5 years working in Los Angeles in the non-profit sector as a coordinator for a summer day camp and an after-school program. In 2015, Nate moved, with his wife, back to Chicago, and decided to shift his focus to teaching. He worked for three years as an assistant teacher at The Latin School of Chicago. While at Latin, Nate also worked as a volunteer coordinator for the summer day camp. In June, he received a Masters of Arts in Teaching from National Louis University. Nate is very excited to start teaching at Bennett. He is passionate about progressive education and passionate about the Reggio Emilia philosophy. He loves to bring curiosity, creativity, and inquiry to a classroom of young learners.

Jennifer Newberry

Upper School Counselor

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Before joining Bennett Day, Jennifer worked as a school counselor at Loyola Academy in Wilmette, Illinois for 12 years where she was the lead in developing social-emotional curriculum for grades 9-12. She truly has a passion for restorative practices and mindfulness. She strongly believes that empowering students with the tools to develop an authentic sense of self is her primary job as a school counselor. Jennifer received her B.A. in Education from Rollins College and her M.A. in Counseling from Chicago State University. Outside of school, Jennifer loves to travel and be active. She stays busy with three children of her own, but usually finds time to ride her bike, attend a yoga class, or enjoy a farmer’s market on the weekend.

Cheryl Okuda

Junior Kindergarten Lead Teacher

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Cheryl graduated from Columbia College Chicago in May 2014 with a B.A. in Early Childhood Education, Type 04 Teaching License, and a minor in dance. She’s also taught dance classes in various styles to children and adults of all ages for over 10 years all over the Chicagoland area. It was in the dance studio that she realized her true calling was to teach! During her time in a Reggio Emilia Approach-focused program, she was taught to thoughtfully integrate art and nature into all aspects of the classroom. This was further inspired when she traveled to Reggio Emilia, Italy and attended conferences and school tours with Italian Early Childhood Educators. When Cheryl is not teaching, she’s rehearsing and performing with a Chicago-based hip hop dance company and keeping up with her teaching blog/Instagram.

Shay Phee

Third Grade Co-Lead Teacher

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Prior to joining the Bennett Day team, Shay taught PreK, First Grade for six years, assisted in executing summer programs, tutored children of various ages, and ran the Fundamentals of Soccer after school program. Shay has been a part of the Bennett Day community for the past four years and has taught in grades first through second. Shay’s love of social-emotional learning came to fruition when working within a progressive and collaborative school environment. Shay is entering her eleventh year of teaching and is excited to teach Third Grade for the first time. Shay’s biggest accomplishment within the classroom was being recognized with the 2012 Symetra Hero in the Classroom Award for Outstanding Leadership and Instructional Skills, presented in association with the Chicago Bears. Shay graduated from National-Louis University with a Bachelor’s Degree in Elementary Education and a Minor in Psychology. 

Cameron Pilcher

First Grade Apprentice Teacher

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Cameron developed her passion for working with children as a Program Supervisor within the Park District of Oak Park’s Early Childhood/Preschool department. In this role, she discovered the power of using sensory exploration and play-based experimentation to help children develop and make connections to their surrounding environments. After that, she worked for two local Chicago start-up companies and served as a substitute teacher at Francis W. Parker School. She has a love for finding creative ways to tap into the minds of children while also being empathetic to their needs. Cameron is incredibly excited to be a part of Bennett Day School and each amazing school year! Cameron graduated from Lake Forest College with a B.A. in African American Studies and Studio Art.

Amber Powell

Pre-Kindergarten Lead Teacher

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Amber is a dedicated educator with a passion for children’s learning and care.  Amber has 15 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 has a Bachelors in Early Childhood Education from Kendall College. She also attended Lewis University, where she completed 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 be returning Bennett Day School and she looks forward to working with other passionate educators and families as well.

Sam Rud

Senior Marketing Associate

 sam.rud@bennettday.org

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Sam joined Bennett Day after spending two years as a Senior Marketing Coordinator at LaSalle Network, a high-growth staffing and recruiting firm. She studied Public Relations and Marketing at Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa, and moved to Chicago in 2017 after graduation. During her time in college, she gained admissions experience as a student ambassador, and is thrilled to be back in the world of education. As a marketer, she strives to mirror the innovative, adaptive, and thoughtful approach that she grew up watching her mom model as an educator. She believes the mission of Bennett Day is refreshing and so exciting, and she’s so happy to be a part of the team! Outside of work, she loves going to barre class and seeing shows at Chicago’s countless music venues. 

Kim Schofield

Second Grade Apprentice Teacher

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Kim graduated from the University of Illinois in 2009 with a BFA in dance and minor in Spanish. Since then, she has lived and taught in New York City, Madrid, Los Angeles and Chicago. Prior to starting at Bennett Day School, she worked as a collaborating teacher at GEMS World Academy Chicago and an Assistant Teacher at The Mirman School for gifted children in Los Angeles. She is currently pursuing her Masters in Teaching Elementary Education at National Louis University. 

Molly Simmons

Pre-Kindergarten Lead Teacher

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Excited to use her passion for a Reggio Emilia, play-based learning experience, Molly is eager to join the faculty at Bennett Day. Molly found her love for Reggio education at Syracuse University’s child care center, where she received her bachelor’s degree in Communication Sciences and Disorders. While spending a brief time in San Antonio, TX, Molly helped pilot one of the nation’s first city-funded preschool programs in the country. The challenge of working with the underserved community of San Antonio only deepened her love for quality, responsive education. In this time, Molly realized the importance of a social and emotional focus on preschool learning.   Molly is from the Finger Lakes of NY and has been living in Chicago for just over a year, most recently in Lakeview.. Molly can be found out running with her dogs at the lake and picnicking at movies in the park.

Sarah Skvara

Academic Administrative Assistant

sarah.skvara@bennettday.org

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Sarah holds a B.A. in Communications from Marquette University with a major in Theatre Arts. She spent her early time in Chicago performing with Second City along with various other theatre companies and also helped establish a production company. Sarah then followed her passion for education and became a graduate of National-Louis University with a Master of Arts in Teaching. She was in the classroom for seven years teaching grades from Kindergarten through second grade and doubled as a middle school drama teacher before she made the transition to administration. She has always identified with the mission of collaboration and lifelong learning both in her classroom and personal practices. Sarah loves that she can bring her enthusiasm for education and the arts to Bennett!

Copeland Smith

Senior Kindergarten Apprentice Teacher

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Copeland was raised in our nation’s capital, visiting museums and participating in the local theater scene starting as a teenager. She came to Chicago to attend Columbia College Chicago, making the switch from theater to visual arts. Through their Reggio Emilia-inspired program, she graduated with a double major in Illustration and Fine Art as well as a minor in Teaching Artistry. In this program, she developed and taught after-school arts programming in both Chicago Public  and Evanston schools, as well as created arts integrated lessons with teaching artists. Through this experience, Copeland found her love of arts integration and the importance of not teaching subjects in a vacuum. She first came to Bennett Day as an Afterschool Program Coordinator and loves the community she found here. She is beyond thrilled to be a part of the Bennett Day team in this new capacity. When not at school, she can be found biking, gardening, cooking, and painting.

Jamie Stewart

Fourth Grade Apprentice Teacher

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With a Bachelor’s degree in Information Systems Technology and a Master’s degree in Workforce Education, Jamie has a love for STEM and a passion for children and education. She is excited to be a part of Bennett Day and a community focused on progressive education. Jamie is currently attending National Louis University pursuing her Master’s in Elementary Education and will be completing her student teaching at Bennett Day. Some things Jamie enjoys in her spare time are traveling, spending time with her nieces/nephews, watching shows on Netflix, and enjoying the various events of “Summertime Chi” when it is warm out!

Carmen Suarez

Spanish Teacher

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Carmen is passionate about Second Language Acquisition and ways to provide plenty of comprehensible input. She feels it is important to do so during her sessions so students rise steadily in confidence and proficiency. She has taught Spanish to children for 6 years and worked on refining the practice of a Lead Teacher and trainer of other teachers in a private school.

She earned a BA in Literary Studies from Pontificia Universidad Javeriana in Bogotá, in her native Colombia, where she also studied photography, radio and television. In addition, Carmen has a Master of Arts in Teaching Spanish from the University of Illinois at Chicago. 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. Carmen enjoys not only sharing her knowledge of Spanish but the culture perspectives closely linked to it.

Ayesha Sumbal

Fourth Grade Lead Teacher

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Ayesha is thrilled to be entering her third year at Bennett Day as the 4th grade lead teacher. Ayesha is an alumnus of Michigan State University, as well as Northern Arizona University. She has been teaching for 11 years in various teaching contexts, as well as locales. She began her teaching career in Phoenix, Arizona where she spent 5 years teaching primarily 2nd and 5th grades, in addition to some instructional coaching on best teaching practices. Her next teaching position took her to Shanghai, China where she spent 2 years focused on learning the International Baccalaureate Primary Years Programme at an International School. This is where Ayesha’s love for an inquiry-based, student-centered approach was realized. With a desire to repatriate back to the United States, Ayesha decided to return to the Midwest. She spent 3 years working within the Chicago Public School system where she further tinkered with how to make her instruction more student-centered and project-based. So happy to have found Bennett Day, Ayesha is looking forward to another year filled with collaboration, learning, and field tripping with her second set of Bennett Day fourth-graders.

Kyra Termini

Junior Kindergarten Assistant Teacher

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Kyra’s work with Chicago Arts Partnerships in Education, as well as with the Children’s Literacy Initiative, gave her the tools to pursue her career as a teacher while utilizing the arts to encourage literacy, help children better develop their fine motor skills, as well as find their own voices. She has worked with several artists such as Island Press in St. Louis, Joan Hall, and Theaster Gates. She is very excited to be a part of the Bennett Day team, and Kyra is looking forward to creating, playing, reading, and getting to know all of her students. Kyra received her Bachelor’s Degree in Fine Arts: Printmaking, Textiles, and Art History from the Kansas City Art Institute.

Zak Thompson

TESLab Teacher

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Zak Thompson is excited to be spending another year at Bennett Day School in the Tinker and Engineering Sciences Lab. After receiving a degree in political science from Illinois Wesleyan University and a time coaching youth sports and leading a community center for the Park District of Oak Park, Zak pursued a master’s degree in curriculum and instruction from the University of Illinois at Chicago. He was drawn to that program’s focus on urban, constructivist education and emphasis on social justice. Following UIC, Zak accepted a position at an elementary school in Chicago Public Schools. He has been a homeroom teacher for fourth and fifth grade as well as running the school’s technology lab.  Zak is thrilled to be part of Bennett Day School’s commitment to a culture of hands-on making.  There is no learning more powerful than when a child is physically creating something they are passionate about.  Work in the TESLab is all about developing the skills, passions, and mindset for our students to be innovators and creators in school and beyond.

Rachel Trisch

Senior Kindergarten Apprentice Teacher

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Rachel recently graduated from Grand Valley State University with a degree in Elementary Education and English. Her time at Grand Valley allowed her to gain invaluable experience in a variety of classrooms, with ages ranging from kindergarten to 5th grade in both urban and suburban environments. Rachel loves to travel, and last summer, had the opportunity to work in a 1st grade classroom at United World College, an international school in The Netherlands! This experience helped shape her passion for project and play-based learning. Rachel is originally from Grand Rapids, Michigan, but is so excited to have the opportunity to now live in her favorite city in the world! Some of her hobbies include writing, reading, running, and spending time with her family and friends. She also loves music, attending concerts and has gone to some big music festivals in the past two years. She enjoys a pretty wide variety of music, but if she’s being honest, one of her favorite bands is One Direction! She is also a big fan of musical theatre, and can’t wait to check out some shows here in Chicago. Rachel is so excited to join the team at Bennett Day School! The unique approach to learning through progressive education is something that she is deeply passionate about. She is sure that she will learn as much from her students as they will from her. She is eager to meet everyone and for the school year to begin!

Lauren Vander Pluym

Upper School Lead Teacher

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Lauren joins the Upper School faculty after eleven years of progressive classroom teaching and leadership in both Illinois and Colorado schools. She joined Bennett Day as a marketing associate in 2018 and continues to work with our marketing team. She received her BA in Secondary Education, Social Sciences from Millikin University and her MA in Anthropology from The University of Chicago. Lauren is a trained diversity and inclusion facilitator through The National SEED Project (Seeking Educational Equity and Diversity) and has developed SEED groups at two of her previous schools. Prior to her time at Bennett, Lauren served as Technology Coordinator at The Logan School for Creative Learning in Denver, CO—a project-based, PK-8 school. She began her career teaching grades 9-12 history and coaching Model United Nations at Walter Payton College Preparatory High School, then taught grades 6-8 humanities and served as a Team Leader and Technology Leader at Bernard Zell Anshe Emet Day School. Outside of school life, Lauren is a passionate photographer, singer, and writer. 

Yvonne Villafuerte

Lower School Counselor

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Yvonne graduated from Erikson Institute in Chicago with a Masters in Child Development with a Specialization in Infancy and New Language Learning. Yvonne is passionate about working with children and families and specifically worked with bilingual families, children with autism, and other developmental delays. She has experience in various settings such as schools, daycares and parenting education classes, and has created and implemented early childhood curriculum and parenting workshops. Yvonne believes that family relationships play a critical role in a child’s development, and that collaborating with families directly impacts the progress the child makes. She feels that a child’s learning can be enhanced by incorporating therapeutic strategies into daily routines. Yvonne is bilingual in English and Spanish.

 

Sara Violante

Senior Kindergarten Lead Teacher

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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. Sara is a graduate of Santa Clara University in Northern California where she earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Communications. During this time, she worked at the University’s Daycare and Preschool center where she was an assistant teacher and helped provide meaningful experiences while learning alongside with her students. 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 and earned her Master’s in Early Childhood Education with specializations in both ESL and Special Education learning. Sara is looking forward to working with her co-teacher in the SK classroom, collaborating with her students and families and facilitating experiences that spark her students’ natural curiosities and inspire them to be lifelong learners.

Lisa Weber

Art Teacher

 

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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.

Mistey Whaley

Front Office Administrator

mistey.whaley@bennettday.org

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Mistey is the proud mother of a preteen who believes deeply in the power of parents being advocates for their children. She was previously the Office Manager in a high school environment, where she loved interacting with and supporting students and their families. Mistey has a passion for mentoring and believes that every child deserves someone in their corner. As the first point of contact when people visit our school, Mistey understands the importance of cultivating a positive experience for all by being informative and supportive.

Megan Young

HR Coordinator

megan.young@bennettday.org

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Having worked as an Early Childhood Educator and Educational Coordinator at CHALK Preschool for six years in Chicago, Megan joined the Bennett Day School team in 2016 as the Front Office Administrator and AfterCare Director. She has loved every minute of building relationships with the students, families and faculty that walk in the door each day. Since becoming HR Coordinator, Megan strives to internally promote health, happiness, growth and development for each faculty member at Bennett Day School. 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.