Our Faculty

Teaching Faculty

Allison Bartolozzi

Pre-Kindergarten Teacher (she/her)

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Allison began her journey working with children during her undergraduate years at Ohio University where she was first introduced to the Reggio Emilia approach. This initial experience working in an early childcare center was so inspiring that she decided to delve further into the practices of progressive education.

After spending a few years in Chicago from 2009 to 2013, Allison moved to Thailand to broaden her experiences and continue her education career in an international setting. There, she taught at a Reggio Emilia school, learning under Mia Cavalca, her mentor and the school’s Atelierista, and also attended Professional Development meetings with pedagogistas from Italy. Upon her return to Chicago in 2017, Allison began working with Bennett Day School as an early childhood educator. She has continued to deepen her understanding of progressive and alternative education models by attending the Reggio Emilia study group in Italy, as well as a multitude of conferences and professional development sessions.

Allison’s passion for learning alongside children and fostering their education is displayed through her many open-ended projects, where children are encouraged to explore the many languages of learning and expression.

Patricia Prieto

Pre-Kindergarten Assistant Teacher (she/her)

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Patricia’s relationship with the Bennett community began as a parent of two upper school students. This year her relationship grew when she joined the teaching team. Patricia graduated with a BA from Columbia College Chicago where she studied Fine Art. During her last year at Columbia, she took interest in early childhood education and started taking early childhood classes to complete her BA. After graduating she started teaching at a Head Start Center in a 3-5-year-old classroom. She co-taught there for twelve years. While working there she continued her early childhood education at her local community college and with ongoing professional development training.

Patricia is also trained to tutor children to read using the Orton-Gillingham approach. She utilized the OG multi-sensory approach in her Head Start classroom preparing the children with a foundation in phonological awareness. Patricia is eager to use her art background to inspire and encourage the children to experience the process of creating art. Along with her education and experience, Patricia is bilingual, in English/Spanish. She hopes to extend and support the learning of Spanish in the classroom.

Molly Simmons

Pre-Kindergarten Teacher (she/her)

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Excited to use her passion for a nature-focused and play-based learning experience, Molly is eager to begin another year at Bennett Day. Originally from the Finger Lakes of NY, Molly found her love for Reggio-inspired education while attending Syracuse University, where she received her bachelor’s degree in Communication Sciences and Disorders. Following graduation, Molly helped pilot one of the nation’s first voter-funded preschool programs in San Antonio, Texas, deepening her love for quality, responsive education. As Molly enters her sixth year at Bennett Day, she will also be pursuing her graduate degree from Erikson Institute in Early Childhood Education with a focus in Leadership and Advocacy. She can be found outside of school in West Town training for the marathon or tracking down the city’s best restaurants.

Marriah Williams

Pre-Kindergarten Assistant Teacher (she/her)

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For as long as Marriah can remember, people have told her about her natural ability to connect with children. As she pursued her psychology degree the desire to be an advocate and positive influence for children grew into the thing she wanted to dedicate her life to. After graduating she took those skills and passions to a therapeutic day school working with children on the autism spectrum. There she learned just how important it is for the students to be the center of all their education. Giving children a way to communicate and showing them the importance of all they have to say is what Marriah is all about! She is excited to be at Bennett where this ideology holds weight and plans to be that beacon of light and support at Bennett!

Marissa McDonald

Junior Kindergarten Teacher (she/her)

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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. Since joining the Bennett team in 2018, Marissa has learned so much throughout each passing day. With a passion for diversity, equity, and inclusion work, Marissa has grown in her career as she advocates to continue this work both in her personal and professional life. She loves being a part of the Early Childhood team and appreciates the opportunity to work with faculty that has the same passion for education as she does!

Erin Hanifin

Junior Kindergarten Assistant Teacher (she/her)

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Originally from Orange County, CA, Erin moved to Chicago this past March to pursue a career in education. Since moving, Erin has worked at The Gardner School in the West Loop and in the fall, she will be pursuing a graduate degree from DePaul University in Early Childhood Education. Prior to teaching, Erin worked at an aircraft leasing company for 8 years, most recently working with the engineers on the configuration of transitioned aircrafts. She has always loved children and knew her path would one day lead to teaching. As someone that thrives on creativity and remains passionate about inclusiveness, Erin is excited to work at Bennett. Outside of school, Erin enjoys exploring the city, hanging out with her family and friends, fashion, and comedy.

Joseph Rosa-Molina

Junior Kindergarten Teacher (he/him)

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Joseph started his Early Childhood education in community college and completed his BA in Early Childhood and Administration at National Louis University. He did all of this while working with toddlers and three to four-year-olds at the Jewish Council for Youth Services (JCYS) on the north side of Chicago for ten years. In his classroom, Joseph works to support children socially and emotionally through play-based education, inclusivity, and problem-solving skills, and his goal is to help mold kind and strong children for today’s world. He is a proud girl dad of an eight-year-old and new baby girl born in May. In his spare time, he enjoys going out for a nice restaurant meal with his wife, watching star wars movies, and building Legos with his eight-year-old.

Lorna Kirkpatrick

Junior Kindergarten Assistant Teacher (she/her)

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Lorna has worked with children of all ages and in a variety of roles including teacher, literacy tutor, and most recently, “Ms. K” in aftercare. Most of her teaching experience has been in preschool, and she knows the firsthand joys and challenges of working with young students. Growing up in Arkansas, Lorna learned to love and appreciate the great outdoors. There she graduated with a BA in Early Childhood Education and is always eager to develop herself as a professional and a teacher. She is also certified in Teaching English as a Foreign Language, Teaching English to Young Learners, and Teaching Business English. With a genuine passion for students and their success, Lorna aims to create a fun and engaging learning environment that is play based and developmentally appropriate where the whole child is considered. Outside of school, you may find Lorna at the beach, riding her bike, at a festival, or not at all, because she’s off traveling! She looks forward to starting her second year at Bennett Day!

Nathan Gygar

Senior Kindergarten Teacher (he/him)

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Growing up on Meanjin country, under the governing present-day colony known as Brisbane, Queensland, Australia, Nathan’s own education has always had a strong connection to environment and community. After graduating from Griffith University with a Bachelor of Leisure Management in 2003, Nathan spent years involved in community development organizations, event coordination, and service-related industries, while pursuing a personal passion for creative arts. During this time, Nathan worked alongside diverse groups of people, sharing and learning from a variety of interests, backgrounds, and cultures. It was when he moved to Thailand in 2011 that he discovered the rewards of teaching. Based in Bangkok, Nathan first trained to support ESL students and quickly understood the importance of incorporating play into learning and building rapport through shared experiences. Transitioning and drawn to instructing within early childhood classrooms, he spent several years as a kindergarten teacher with Singapore International School of Bangkok, completing a Graduate Diploma in Teaching & Learning in the Early Years through the Association for Early Childhood Educators Singapore (AECES). Since Immigrating to Chicago in 2016 to start a family of his own upon Potawatomi land, Nathan has remained engaged with educators and practices responsive to children’s developing sense of identity and informing an evolving understanding of a world filled with experiences outside of their own.

Nathan looks forward to another year of SK learning at Bennett Day School driven by the creativity, curiosity, passions & talents within his team. Built upon strong, smart community partnerships and connections, Nathan aims to help empower his young scholars to pursue inquiry through physical exploration, making the process, co-construction, and languages of our learning a visible foundation for future collaboration.

Alex Brockman

Senior Kindergarten Assistant Teacher (she/her)

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Excited by the joys of play based inquiry and exploration, Alex is excited to begin another year in SK at Bennett! A curiosity for the world around us brought Alex from the Chicago suburbs where she grew up, to the mountains of Washington state where she graduated from Whitman College with a degree in English and Creative Writing. Through her experiences volunteering at local elementary schools in college, nannying, and work at an education non-profit Alex found her love for working collaboratively alongside students and creating supportive classroom environments. In her free time Alex can be found cooking meals with friends, reading a good book by the lake, or learning a new art medium.

Caitlyn Milazzo

Senior Kindergarten Teacher (she/her)

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Caitlyn received her B.A. in Elementary and Special Education from Seton Hall University and was a member of the SHU Women’s Soccer Team. After graduating in 2012, she began working as a Substitute Teacher and fell in love with Early Childhood Education through her time spent in Kindergarten classrooms. In 2014, Caitlyn received an opportunity to be a Preschool Lead Teacher in Boston, MA in a diverse classroom setting working with English Language Learners before making her way out to CA in 2016. During this time, Caitlyn continued her career in ECE as a Preschool Teacher/Co-Lead working with 2.5 to 5-year-olds. It was here where she developed a deeper connection to Reggio Emilia practices teaching a Studio/Outdoor Lab program designed by her director. In 2020, Caitlyn received her Master’s in Early Childhood Inclusive Education & Curriculum and Instruction with a focus on Constructivism. Caitlyn values the opportunity for children to explore a wealth of diverse materials as they give life to what they think and feel through expressive art. She enjoys fostering children’s natural sense of inquiry, wonder, and joy in learning through experimentation, social interaction, and play! She looks forward to her fourth year at BDS where she can continue to learn and grow with children, families, educators, and faculty.

Lakeisha Dockery

Senior Kindergarten Assistant Teacher

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Coming soon!

Kari Camacho

First Grade Teacher (she/her)

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Kari’s 12 years of lead teaching experience in various early childhood settings have solidified her passion for early childhood education. These experiences with children ranging from ages 2 to 7 formed her expansive perspective on the development of children, motivating her to build strong relationships with her students and nurture their social and emotional growth. Before moving to Illinois from central Wisconsin, Kari worked in a Reggio Emilia-inspired school which altered her career path from traditional education to progressive. Kari is thrilled to return to Bennett this year where she enjoys embedding crucial academic content throughout projects inspired by children’s interests to create meaningful learning experiences which instill a lifelong love of learning. Kari received her bachelor’s degree from the University of Wisconsin Platteville in Elementary Education with an Early Childhood minor.

Myka Crenshaw

First Grade Assistant Teacher

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Myka was born and raised in Chicago and has been working at Bennett for over 3 years. In the Fall of 2019 she began working as an Auxiliary Team Member with students in PreK-2nd Grade, leading different Bennett & Beyonds such as Open Art and Clay Making. Myka’s goal is to create a safe, accommodating, and fun project-based learning environment for students. She approaches each relationship with patience and love which helps her creates strong connections with students. Outside of school she spends a lot of time at the beach, traveling, or creating artwork such as pottery and drawings.

Mindy Morse

First Grade Teacher (she/her)

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Mindy joins Bennett Day School with over five years of teaching experience in San Francisco, CA, where she received her B.A. from San Francisco State. She has a passion for keeping up with the most relevant teaching practices, with a special focus on cross-curriculum ways to integrate literacy, math, and science. She is excited to have joined Bennett Day and be able to practice the Reggio approach to learning on a school-wide basis. Mindy believes in the importance of a strong phonics foundation, whole group phonemic awareness through movement, and the use of decodable texts to facilitate the joy of reading in each student. She strives to provide all students with relevant grade-level experiences while meeting the differentiated needs of each student through exploration and tactile learning. Mindy is also dedicated to providing space for students to develop social-emotional and executive function skills that will serve them as members of any community. Outside the classroom setting Mindy finds passion in movement, music, and knitting.

Andrea Rosenfeld

First Grade Assistant Teacher (she/her)

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Andrea has 10+ years of experience working with children. She graduated from the University of Kansas with a Bachelor’s degree in Speech-Language-Hearing: Sciences and Disorders. She also received a Master’s degree in Early Intervention in Deaf Education from Fontbonne University. Andrea has been a Special Education teacher primarily working with Early Childhood age students. She is originally from St. Louis, Missouri, and moved to Chicago in 2021. In her free time, she enjoys going to the theatre, spending time with her dog Oliver and checking out new restaurants in the city. Andrea is so excited to start her first year at Bennett Day School and looks forward to being a part of the school community.

Allison Marsh

Second Grade Teacher (she/her)

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Allison (Ally) is entering her seventh year of teaching at Bennett Day School. Over the past seven years, she has taught 1st and 2nd-grade classrooms working her way from Assistant to Lead Teacher. She is thrilled to be teaching 2nd grade again where she enjoys the rich (and, often, hilarious) conversations and diving deep into content with students. Upon graduating from Indiana University with her bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education with a Reading License addition, she returned home to Ann Arbor, Michigan to begin her teaching career. After some time spent teaching in public schools and more progressive environments, she decided to move to Chicago to expand her horizons and, thankfully, found the warm, energizing, and forward-thinking community of Bennett Day.

Along with being a teacher, Allison spends her time coaching lacrosse and being a mom to her pandemic baby boy, Casey. Each new school year is an adventure and she looks forward to a new year of learning and growing with her students.

Susan Wingerter

Second Grade Assistant Teacher (she/her)

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Susan is very excited to be entering her fourth school year at Bennett Day! She began her journey into Reggio Emilia-inspired education with Bennett’s Early Childhood program and continued on teaching in the Intermediate School with the 3rd Grade as well as an Assistant Teacher in the 1st Grade. Her previous sixteen years of experience in creative instruction include numerous summer and arts camps for local independent schools and as a member of many children’s theatre companies in and around the Chicagoland area. Originally from Atlanta, GA, she relocated to Chicago to attend Roosevelt University for a B.F.A. in Musical Theatre. She also holds a Conservatory Certificate from the American Musical and Dramatic Academy in New York City.

Shay Phee

Second Grade Teacher (she/her)

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Shay has been a part of the Bennett Day community for the past seven years and has taught in grades First through Third, in addition to serving as a Cohort Lead to support her fellow teachers. Shay’s love and passion for social-emotional learning have always been at the forefront of everything she does both in and outside of the classroom. Working in a progressive and collaborative school environment has allowed her to develop strong relationships with her students to instill confident lifelong learners.

Shay is entering her thirteenth year of teaching and is excited to teach second grade again as this is her favorite age. Shay is also looking forward to having her daughter in Jk this school year. 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.

Amanda Konkol

Second Grade Assistant Teacher (she/her)

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Amanda is thrilled to enter her second school year teaching and growing alongside Bennett’s Second Grade team. Informed by her professional background in K-12 museum education, Amanda embraces a multidisciplinary approach aligned with Bennett’s Reggio Emilia-inspired curriculum. Over the past five years, Amanda has collaborated with educators, artists, and students to foster robust visual arts programming.

Amanda finds great joy in encouraging creative problem solving, collaboration, and curiosity across all subjects. She is committed to supporting student growth by fostering an enthusiastic and compassionate classroom environment.

Amanda holds a Bachelors of Fine Arts from The School of the Art Institute of Chicago. She also serves as an Associate Board Member for Teacher Supporting Teachers, a nonprofit which provides mentorship opportunities to Chicago educators.

Kim Schofield

Third Grade Teacher (she/her)

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Kim graduated from National Louis University in 2020 with a Master of Arts in Teaching Elementary Education. She also holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts in dance as well as a minor in Spanish from the University of Illinois. In 2009, Kim began her career in education by teaching English to students of all ages in New York City. She continued teaching English for three years in Madrid, Spain. Upon returning to the United States, Kim spent three years working at The Mirman School for gifted children in Los Angeles before returning home to Chicago. Kim is excited to begin her fifth year at Bennett Day School. She takes great pride and joy in the invigorating work she gets to participate in with students and faculty and is looking forward to another wonderful year.

Sara Violante

Third Grade Teacher (she/her)

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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 the fall of 2015. Sara is a graduate of Erikson Institute where she earned her Master’s in Early Childhood Education with specializations in ESL, Special Education and Leadership & Advocacy. She also holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Communications from Santa Clara University in Northern California. During her time at Bennett, she taught in SK and First Grade for six years while also taking on various leadership roles and professional development opportunities, such as attending the Reggio Emilia study group in Italy. This has allowed her to continue to learn and grow as an educator and leader. Sara is looking forward to collaborating with her students and families and facilitating experiences that spark her students’ natural curiosities and inspire them to be lifelong learners.

Sam McKinney

Third Grade Assistant Teacher (he/him)

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Sam could not be more thrilled about returning to Bennett Day for another school year! Last year, he served as an assistant teacher for both the third and fourth grades. The creativity and drive of both the students and the faculty continue to be a huge inspiration for him in his teaching career. He received undergraduate degrees in Creative Writing and Psychology from Drake University in Des Moines. While there, he worked on the editorial staff of multiple community publications. He returned to Chicago to continue his education, receiving an MA in Writing & Publishing from DePaul University. During this time is when Sam first began to consider teaching as a larger part of his career path. While at DePaul, Sam served as the editor-in-chief of the university’s literary magazine while also working at their writing center, tutoring college students on countless topics and forms of writing and leading several writing camps for visiting local high school students. He is eager to bring this knowledge to Bennett Day and looks forward to another fantastic school year.

Rachel Trisch

Fourth Grade Teacher (she/her)

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Rachel is a graduate of Grand Valley State University, where she earned her Bachelor’s Degree in Elementary Education and English. While completing her degree, Rachel gained invaluable experience in a variety of classrooms, with ages ranging from Kindergarten to 5th grade in both urban and suburban environments. Additionally, she spent time in The Netherlands working in a 1st Grade classroom at United World College. This experience helped shape her passion for project- and play-based learning in an environment that celebrates diversity and child-directed teaching styles. 

Kristen Solis

Fourth Grade Teacher

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Kristen is excited to be joining the Bennett Day School community this year after spending 18 years teaching for Chicago Public Schools. During her tenure in CPS, Kristen taught students from 2nd through 5th grade. She values the importance of collaboration and exploration in the classroom. With a commitment to a student-centered learning environment, Kristen strives to be flexible with each student’s learning style. She embraces an inclusive environment where each member of the classroom community feels safe and welcome in their shared space each day.
Kristen received her Bachelor’s Degree in Elementary Education from DePaul University with a minor in Psychology. She also holds an M.Ed in Curriculum and Instruction.
After spending almost two decades in a traditional classroom setting, Kristen is ready to begin a new chapter in her teaching career by immersing herself in the progressive and collaborative environment that Bennett Day provides for the school community.
Outside of school, Kristen enjoys spending time outdoors with her husband and three children. They also love visiting new destinations in the city and beyond and are always ready for a new adventure!

Aaron Robinson

Middle School Teacher (he/him)

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Aaron is excited to join Bennett Day as a middle school teacher! He has been teaching in Illinois, Michigan, and China for 10 years both as a middle school and high school teacher in the Humanities. He has a BA in History and English from Wayne State University and is currently finishing his MA in Education at Michigan State University. In addition to teaching, Aaron has also been a Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion consultant in the Chicagoland area helping schools enhance their DEI efforts and aspirations. In his free time, Aaron loves to read (he has an uncontrollably growing library), cook (to the delight of his wife), exercise, and play video games.

Andy Rodgers

Middle School Teacher (he/him)

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Andy is thrilled to join the Bennett school community and brings six years of experience teaching science, engineering, and technology to middle school students. He is originally from Singapore but his family moved to Madison, Wisconsin, where he went to high school. For his undergraduate education, Andy attended Carleton College and completed a double major in biology and philosophy. Then, he moved to Baltimore and earned his Master’s in secondary education from Johns Hopkins University while teaching in the local school district. It was during his time teaching in Baltimore that he developed a passion for project-based teaching and learning. Andy has experience using a variety of STEM educational technologies with students such as 3-D printers, virtual reality headsets, drones, 360 cameras, and more. Outside of school, Andy enjoys playing frisbee, long runs, traveling, and spending time with family.

Lauren Sawyer

Middle School Teacher

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Lauren has been in education for over 10 years. In the formal classroom, she has taught as a 3rd through 5th contained classroom teacher and specialized in 3rd through 7th-grade mathematics and science. Outside the formal classroom, Lauren wrote middle school science curriculum for Washington University in St Louis’ Institute for School Partnership, coached teachers in mathematics, and managed the education program for a city park.

Lauren’s perspectives on learning changed when she worked in St. Louis at Tower Grove Park as their Community Engagement Coordinator. As she partnered with schools in the surrounding neighborhoods, she began to wonder how to bring “untraditional” topics like environmental education, conservation, and land/resource management into the classroom. It was the design of diverse programs that focused on urban farming, watershed and stormwater management, and native plants and pollinators, which allowed Lauren to fully realize the impact that experiential- and project-based learning provides to learners.

Once upon a blue moon, Lauren was a nationally ranked swimmer and even qualified to compete at the Olympic Trials in 2008/2012. In addition to spending time with her family – her son will be attending school at Bennett – Lauren enjoys taking care of her indoor plants and concocting new recipes to try in the kitchen.

Steven Slaughter

Middle School Teacher

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Steven began his adult life as a designer and illustrator. After a dozen years, though, he began to feel restless, enjoying the creativity but wondering if there was something more. Then, his daughter entered kindergarten and he began volunteering, helping the seventh-grade tech class work on designing the school website. When the bell rang and he had to leave, he felt depressed to rejoin the Land of Adults. This was his signal. He was accepted into the Golden Apple Foundation’s Accelerator Program for career changers and became a teacher. After all these years, he still loves spending his days with kids and wouldn’t want to do anything else.

For eight years, he taught grades 1 & 5 at Lincoln Elementary, a CPS neighborhood school in Lincoln Park. Despite huge class sizes and bureaucratic challenges, he loved his time there, learning so much about how to teach creatively. During that time, he also completed a Masters from Northwestern University and achieved National Board Certification. Then, at the start of 2012, an opportunity presented itself to teach at Rosslyn Academy, an international school in Nairobi, Kenya. Steven and his family sold or gave away most of their possessions, rented out their house, and flew 8,000 miles away with 23 bins and their three kids, who were starting grades 4, 6, and 9. He taught grades 7 & 8 English and later 11 & 12 English. Along the way, he worked on 20 plays and musicals, which he came to love as much as his day job. They didn’t plan on staying so long, but all really enjoyed living abroad in a school community of over 50 countries, and stayed 9 years, moving back when their youngest graduated from high school.

As he considered what educational environment to pursue next, he reflected on the highlights of his years with kids. What had been the most impactful student learning experiences? He realized that from grades 1 to 12, it was always those hands-on activities, always the project-based experiences, always the work in which children had some measure of autonomy. Yet, his creative inclinations were often met with skepticism from admin… until it was completed and it worked. Coming back to the States, he searched for any schools where this way of learning was nurtured, was the rule, not the exception. He toured unschooling centers on the east coast, interviewing young people about their experiences for a new podcast. He considered opening a learning center in Chicago, though he wasn’t sold on 100% unschooling. Then he found Bennett. It is the only school in the city where he wants to teach. He is thrilled to be here teaching MS English and believes he has a lot to share and so much to learn as he (finally!) is able to plunge into Project Based Learning as the center of the work.

Jessica Young-Eleazar

Middle School Teacher (she/her)

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Born and raised in the Chicago suburbs, Jessica is ecstatic to be joining Middle School Team at Bennett Day School! She received her Bachelor’s Degree in Middle School Education at Saint Louis University and her Master’s degree in Teaching and Learning – Reading Specialist Certified K-12, at Roosevelt University. Clearly, she really loves school because she is currently working on her Doctor of Education in Curriculum, Culture, and Communities at Loyola University. Jessica holds an Illinois teaching license for Middle School (grades 5-8) with endorsements in Mathematics, Language Arts, and Music. Prior to Bennett Day, she was the Founding Middle School Teacher at Intercultural Montessori Language School and spent the past 5 years teaching all content areas. Her love of the arts and connections between various disciplines is what she loves about Bennett Day’s project-based learning. Anytime she can integrate music into her lessons, she will! (Ask her about her song about the Life Cycle of Stars). Jessica is excited to continue to share her love of learning with the students at Bennett Day. When she is not teaching, she loves to take dance classes with DivaDance Chicago and try out new restaurants and baking recipes!

Emily Fields

Upper School Teacher (she/her)

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Emily Fields, a native Evanstonian, is a graduate of New York University with a bachelor’s degree in Mathematics and a master’s in Mathematics Education. Prior to joining Bennett’s Upper School, Emily was the STEAM Creative Director at The Young Women’s Leadership School of Astoria – an all-girls public school in New York City where she taught math and computer science for 9 years. She is a proud National Center for Women & Information Technology Educator Award Winner, and former Processing Foundation Fellow and Math for America Master Teacher. As an educator, Emily is dedicated to finding creative opportunities for students to learn and explore their passions and believes deeply in the power of self-directed learning. As a lifelong learner, she loves integrating her own passions – travel, dance, and food – into her classroom. Emily is thrilled to once again be connecting to her Chicago roots and joining the Bennett community.

Shannon Hurst

Upper School Teacher (she/her)

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Dr. Shannon Hurst has been a science educator for over 20 years. She has taught science from 6th to 12th grade in many educational settings distinguished for their focus on advancement in technology and innovation in science. She is enthusiastic and creative about designing a curriculum that helps foster students’ learning by providing unique real-world experiences that provoke inquiry-based problem solving through engagement. Dr. Hurst is committed to making something in science that may be perceived as uninteresting and ordinary and molding it into something that is extraordinary. 

She received her bachelor’s degree from the University of Illinois at Chicago with a concentration in nursing. She received a master’s degree in education from Dominican University and earned her doctorate from Lewis University with a concentration in science educational research/leadership.

Dr. Hurst is a recipient of numerous STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) awards. Additionally, she has published chapters on teaching science literacy to second-language learners. Recently, she worked in Chicago Public Schools and St. Louis public schools implementing research that works towards fostering social and environmental justice within marginalized populations. She has attended many conferences across the country and spoke on subcultural research that engages youth activism within science education.

She is excited to bring science and community together; building partnerships that provide a sense of  ”fun through learning” and prepare Bennett’s students with 21st-century problem-solving skills as they pertain to local or global issues. 

Angela Jaeger

Upper School Teacher (she/her)

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Angela Jaeger is a National Board Certified Teacher and a graduate from The University of Chicago with bachelor’s and master’s degrees in English Language and Literature. With 13 years of teaching experience in secondary schools, Angela is passionate about learning and believes that school experiences influence how we navigate the world; therefore, the things we want to see in our world, we must model in our classrooms. As an Upper School lead teacher and a Chair of the DEI Advocacy Team at Bennett Day, Angela works to deepen student curiosity and compassion for others. 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.

Hannah Shatinsky Roskin

Upper School Teacher (she/her)

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Hannah has been teaching in Chicago independent schools for over five years, and is excited to start her journey at Bennett Day School! As a native of the Chicago area, Hannah believes in navigating the world through an understanding of the history, culture, and sociology of our city and our world. After graduating from Millikin University with a BFA in Stage Management and navigating the theatre world for a while, Hannah went on to get her Master’s Degree in Secondary Education from DePaul University right here in Chicago. In addition to a deep passion for all of the social sciences, Hannah enjoys cooking, baking, boating, jet skiing, and enjoying Chicago (when it’s warm enough, that is!)

Eric Totheroh

Upper School Teacher (he/him)

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Eric is incredibly excited to be a part of the Bennett team.  After graduating with a degree in Secondary Mathematics Education from Grace College, Eric spent 3 years running the Step One Alternative Program at Warsaw Community High School helping meet the needs of students labeled at risk of not graduating high school.  While working in the Step One program, Eric worked to connect students to their communities in meaningful ways, helping students create a vision for themselves beyond high school and be a home base for students who may not have felt at home in school previously.

After moving to Chicago in 2017 to pursue comedy, Eric continued working in alternative education as a math teacher at Jane Addams High School, consistently ranked as one of the top alternative schools in the city.  Here Eric was able to further pursue his passion for bringing real-world, applicable projects into the math classroom, offering experiential learning opportunities to a student population often neglected by the traditional education system.  Outside of the classroom, Eric continues to pursue his passions of writing and performing comedy, as well as playing basketball, tennis, and any other sport he can convince his friends to play.  He can’t wait to bring these passions and experiences to the classroom at Bennett!

Olenka Bodnarskyj

Lower-Upper School Art Teacher (she/her)

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Olenka Bodnarskyj is Bennett Day School’s Visual Arts Teacher for grades 1-8. Olenka is an artist, arts, and museum educator. She received her BFA in Printmaking from the State University of New York at Buffalo and her MFA in Studio Arts at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. For almost twenty years now, she has been teaching art for not-for-profit organizations, museums, and private schools including The Art Institute of Chicago, Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, Spertus Museum, Bernard Zell Anshe Emet Day School, and Catherine Cook School. She was the Family Coordinator in the Department of Museum Education at the Art Institute of Chicago where she facilitated intergenerational arts experiences for families.

Olenka’s great interest in the Reggio Emilia approach and constructivist educational pedagogy led her to Bennett Day School. Since visiting Reggio Emilia, Italy years ago, she has incorporated elements of the approach into her teaching and learning. Additionally, she has incorporated routines and strategies from various Professional Development opportunities including Project Zero at the Graduate School of Education at Harvard University, Visual Thinking Strategies (VTS), Responsive Classroom, and the National SEED Project.

Ms. Bodnarskyj lived and taught abroad over the past few years in Thailand, Taiwan, and Vietnam, and virtually to her students in Beijing, China. Olenka’s passion for travel comes from a desire to see, observe, and understand how people around the world live, play, and think and to see what we share in common as global citizens and the differences that make us unique and beautiful. During those travels, she often captures special moments through the lens of her camera. She is delighted to return to Bennett and is excited to share her enthusiasm for the arts and learning with her students!

Bridget Lipke

Early Childhood and Lower School PE Teacher (she/her)

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Prior to Bennett Day, Bridget taught Physical Education and Health in Chicago K-8 schools for 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 continue to help Bennett Day students use their creativity to explore individually and in a team environment while building confidence to become lifelong movers.

Renzo Bologna

Middle and Upper School PE Teacher (he/him)

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Renzo was born and raised in Uruguay and then moved to Chicago in 2016 (Go Cubs!) with his wife. He has worked as a Physical Education Teacher for nine years at Santa Elena School (Montevideo, Uruguay). He has fifteen years of coaching experience for both competitive and non-competitive soccer teams. Renzo is the creator of the Soccer College program at Santa Elena School that included a U20 and First Men’s team, which then grew into four soccer teams (Woman’s First team, U20 Men’s Team, Reserve Men’s Team, and First Men’s team), Women’s Handball Team and Men’s Basketball Team. Renzo is excited to join the fantastic Bennett Day School team as a Physical Education Teacher and continue the school tradition of the development of lifelong learners and leaders.

Frances Judd

Early Childhood Art/TESLab Teacher

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Frances Judd teaches TESLab and Art classes for early childhood students in PK, JK, and SK. As a Bennett Labs Fellow, her work includes fostering student-inquiry projects, faculty innovation, and unique collaborations between Bennett Day School and Northwestern University’s TIDAL Lab (Tangible Interaction Design and Learning). Frances Judd’s recent Bennett Labs’ projects include the new Tinkering Around series of children’s books, and the coordination of two projects with student co-designers: 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. 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 Coding Awbie and Osmo Coding Jam.

Zak Thompson

Lower/Middle School TESLab Teacher and PBL Co-Teacher (he/him)

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“I like your class, Mr. Thompson.” “Why?” “Because we get to make stuff!”

Zak Thompson is excited to be spending another year at Bennett Day School in the Tinkering and Engineering Sciences Lab (TESLab). After receiving a B.A. in political science from Illinois Wesleyan University and an M.Ed. in curriculum and instruction from the University of Illinois at Chicago, Zak spent 6 years teaching for Chicago Public Schools, both as a fourth and fifth-grade teacher as well as running the school’s technology lab. Since 2017, Zak has been in the TESLab, helping students navigate these hands-on experiences as they develop the skills, passions, and mindset to be innovators in school and beyond. In the TESLab, we use modern tools to solve authentic problems because there is nothing more powerful than bringing something new into the world.

Carmen Suárez

Early Childhood and Lower School Spanish Teacher (she/her)

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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 over 10 years and worked on refining the practice of a Lead Teacher and trainer of other teachers in a private school. She keeps abreast of best practices for language teaching, attending educational conferences, reading for pleasure on the subject, and collaborating with other teachers in the field of world languages.

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 cultural perspectives closely linked to it.

Carmen finds Bennett Day School a welcoming environment not only for exposure and exploration of the Spanish language but also to connect the cultural competence aspect of it. She finds it well worth diving into to continue inspiring innovative students at the school with eyes on the world around them.

Joel DeFayette

Lower and Middle School Music Teacher (he/him)

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Originally from Dallas, TX, Joel has taught general music and choir for both public and private middle school students for over 23 years and has also served as a school Cantor and Liturgical Music Coordinator. Joel graduated from the University of North Texas with a Bachelor of Music Education with a concentration in Voice in 1998 and completed his Master of Music Education at VanderCook College of Music in 2011. Before moving to Chicago in 2015, Joel performed with the Dallas Symphony Chorus for 5 years and served 2 years as Bass Section Leader. Joel taught 4th – 8th-grade music at Francis Xavier Warde School (FXW) and also served as an Instructional Special Teams Lead, a member of the Steering Committee Accreditation for Fine Arts, and the Equity and Justice Forum. Joel is currently pursuing his Ph.D. in Educational Leadership in Higher Education at DePaul University. Joel received the Dallas Work of Heart for Excellence Teaching in Catholic Education Award in 2007 and was inducted into DePaul’s Chapter Golden Key Honour Society in 2018. Joel is looking forward to another year with the Bennett Day community and can’t wait to continue bringing music to our ears!

Kasey Dahlberg

Bambini & Me Teacher (she/her)

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Kasey has 10+ 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 7 years now and it has become a great passion of hers to continue working with kids throughout her career. Kasey graduated from Illinois State University with a Bachelor’s degree in Sociology, where 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. She loves to be silly, creative, loving, and patient with all of her students!

Tracy Bleier

Full Time Substitute (she/her)

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Since pursuing a Master’s in Education from Teachers College, Columbia University, Tracy has spent over two decades in both traditional and alternative classrooms. In her early career, she taught High School English for grades sixth through twelfth at Blue Ribbon public schools on the East Coast in Connecticut where she is originally from. After five years as an educator, she transitioned to becoming an entrepreneur where she founded celebrated wellness schools in her hometown and taught meditation and yoga, Eastern philosophy, and mythology as well as directed teacher training for hundreds of people across the country. Tracy has studied with the most progressive voices in education, many of whom have become mentors and have inspired her to parlay her passion for teaching, art, and mindfulness practices into what she is doing to this day. Tracy facilitates virtual and in-person writing courses in fiction and non-fiction and works with all ages and levels of writers to connect to their most authentic and creative voices. With a lifelong passion for writing, and teaching Tracy thrives in the classroom where she holds a space for all students to feel safe and heard. She encourages curiosity and supports an engaged and lively environment where students are free to inquire, examine, and develop their gifts such that they can feel confident to share them with the world around them. She is also a mother of three sons, one of who is attending BDS for his first year this Fall.

Student Support Team (SST)

Corey Davis

Early Childhood and Lower School Learning Specialist (he/him)

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Corey graduated with a Master of Arts in Teaching from the University of Southern California with a focus on Special Education after receiving a BFA in Theatre: Design & Production from the University of Michigan. During his time working with students with learning differences, he has focused on integrating creativity, empathy, and fun!

Corey enjoys building connections with students and partnering with them and their families as they work towards light bulb moments of personal success. As a lifelong learner, he knows that the greatest reward comes from the feeling of accomplishing a goal one is fully invested in and he is always ready for these moments with a celebratory dance!

Krystina Roemer

Middle and Upper School Learning Specialist (she/her)

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Krystina is excited to be entering her third year at Bennett Day as Learning Specialist in the Middle and Upper School! Before joining Bennett Day, Krystina worked as the Individualized Learning Program Director at Arete Prep Academy in Los Angeles where she developed the learning support program for grades 7-12. She assisted educators in implementing instructional and behavioral teaching strategies to best meet the needs of each student. Krystina is a graduate of Eastern Illinois University where she earned her Bachelor’s degree in Secondary Education. She also holds a Master of Science degree in Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA). Krystina is passionate about disability advocacy and inclusion work. She is an avid Cubs and Lakers fan, loves to travel, play with her Golden Retriever, and find new places to eat!

Yvonne Gutierrez-Villafuerte

Early Childhood and Lower School Counselor (she/her)

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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. She is currently pursuing an MSW Specializing in Infant and Early Childhood Mental Health.

Kendall Rodheim

Lower and Middle School Counselor (she/her)

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Kendall could not be more excited to join Bennett Day this year! Kendall earned her Bachelor’s degree in Psychology from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 2015 and her Masters’s degree in School Counseling at Roosevelt University in 2018. She is currently working towards clinical counseling licensure. Since 2018, Kendall has worked as a high school counselor and self-contained teaching assistant, as well as an elementary school counselor, where she has gained extensive experience in working with students of varying levels of ability from diverse backgrounds. She has worked with and provided counseling for students from kindergarten to 12th grade and is passionate about teaching emotional regulation and coping skills, empathy and perspective-taking, and inclusion & social justice practices. In her free time, Kendall loves cooking and baking, spending time outdoors, and playing with her cat, Synapse!

Jennifer Newberry

Upper School Counselor (she/her)

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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.

Charle's McRoberts

Learning Services Behavior Support Specialist (she/her)

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Charle’s passion for children began in High School after she completed her community service hours assisting with the Summer Special Olympics at Giant Steps, a school, and camp for children with special needs. From there, she worked at this camp a few summers in a row when she would return home from college. This inspired her to pursue an education tract that led her to being an Occupational Therapist. While obtaining her B.S in Psychology, she began working as an ABA therapist for children with Autism, simultaneously interning at Swedish Covenant Hospital in their inpatient rehab facility. In time, she realized ABA therapy was a passion of the mind, so she continued her education at Ball State University. Moving from a line therapist to a junior supervisor while in school was taxing and after graduation, she decided to take a break, move to New York and work as a chef. Not only is cooking something she’s always done as a child, but it is also therapeutic for her. Quickly learning the kitchen culture wasn’t her jam, after a year she moved back to Chicago and began working as a summer camp teacher at Bennett Day School. Initially, it was supposed to be temporary until she found something more stable. As she formed relationships with children, their families, and within the community, she decided to apply for the assistant teacher position. Those 3 years of experience have led her to now being the Behavior Support Specialist, in what feels like a full circle moment, being able to align her passion with her purpose as she continues to grow professionally.

Administrative Faculty

Kenzie Alonzo

Community Health Coordinator

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Growing up in a small town of Minnesota, Kenzie knew she wanted to live in a bigger city for bigger opportunities. After moving to Chicago four years ago, she started at Bennett as an Aftercare leader full time while attending school at UIC full time. Over the years while still attending UIC, she had opportunities to grow at Bennett assisting where needed and being the General Administrator at the front desk. After recently graduating in December 2021, with a Bachelor of Science in Biological Sciences on the Pre:med track with a minor in psychology, she has decided to continue her experience at Bennett taking over a new position as the Community Health Coordinator. While she loves working here at Bennett and making connections with the community and families, she has recently submitted her medical school application to 20 different schools throughout the state/country in hopes of one day becoming a Pediatric Surgeon. Until then, Bennett was and will continue to be the community she chooses to further her job experiences with.

McKensie Bartz

Event Manager/Family Community Connector (she/her)

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Born and raised in Michigan, McKensie is a graduate of Grand Valley State University where she studied Hospitality and Tourism Management. McKensie’s background in Event Management and passion for the city brought her to Chicago in 2017. Beginning her career, McKensie worked on fundraising and development events with the Adler Planetarium. Her time at the Adler showed McKensie the importance of S.T.E.A.M education as well as the difference a valuable educator can have in a child’s life. McKensie came to Bennett as the Front Office Administrator and is moving into her third year at Bennett as the Family Connector. Her diverse expertise, deep understanding of logistics, and ability to thrive in the fast-paced hospitality world bring a smiling face and positive experience to events of all types for teachers, students, and parents alike.

Moe Carr

Custodial Technician

morris.carr@bennettday.org

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Coming soon!

Janessa Juarez

Enrollment Associate (she/her)

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Janessa is excited to be spending another year at Bennett Day School on the Enrollment Team! After graduating from the University of Minnesota in 2008 with a Bachelor of Arts in Journalism, he followed her passion for equitable education and was accepted to Teach For America. 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 (public and private). In 2017 Janessa joined the Enrollment Team at Bennett Day School and has loved leveraging her teaching experience in her role as Enrollment Associate. She is also a proud parent to twin girls who are in Senior Kindergarten this year at Bennett Day School.

Derry MacDermott

Auxiliary Program Manager (he/him)

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Derry first joined Bennett Day in 2016. 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 and is looking into using this knowledge to expand the Auxiliary Department as the director. When not teaching, Derry often can be found directing youth theater around Chicago or (more often) playing with his dog, Bean.

Abby Schaudt

School Nurse (she/her)

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Abby has been in the medical field for 17 years. Her background is in pediatrics. She was in a clinical setting for nearly 13 years and then made the switch to school nursing. She has always worked with children, since her mother ran a daycare for nearly 35 years. She loves music, dance, and theatre which she studied for many years. She also loves spending time with her 6 nieces and nephews.

Sarah Skvara

Front Office Manager (she/her)

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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!

Mike Walker

School Maintenance Technician (he/him)

mike.walker@bennettday.org

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Mike has had a passion for “tinkering” with things from an early age, a passion that was passed on from his father. This hobby spawned his career as a maintenance engineer. Prior to joining Bennett, Mike resided in South Bend, Indiana where he worked at Notre Dame University in their Maintenance Department.

He formally joined Bennett Day School in 2019 after a 6-month temporary assignment that began in July 2018. As both a father and in his role at Bennett, Mike truly enjoys interacting with children and showing them some of the tricks of his trade. He especially loves sharing his interests and expertise with students in Bennett’s EC TESLab. Mike’s overarching goal is to show the children that it is okay, and even fun, to get your hands dirty sometimes!