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 has expanded her career into leading Professional Development sessions at Bennett as well as with a local daycare. She will be co-presenting at the ISACS conference in the fall of 2023. Additionally, the presentation will be shared at the NAEYC conference in late Nov. 2023.

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.

Stella Donati

Pre-Kindergarten Assistant Teacher (she/her)

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Stella began her work in Early Childhood as an undergraduate at the University of Wisconsin-Madison where she double majored in Human Development & Family Studies and Psychology with a certificate in Disability Rights and Services. She put her classroom knowledge into practice in various roles at the Child Development Lab, a lab school located on the university’s campus, eventually becoming a student assistant teacher across classrooms ranging from 2-5 years old. Outside the classroom setting, Stella has committed herself to working with children with a variety of backgrounds, abilities, and disabilities by taking on roles in a pediatric hospital unit, Down Syndrome Achievement Center,  and most recently, an intensive summer treatment program supporting children with ADHD and related behavior challenges. Stella is passionate about child-centered education based upon best practices to encourage success for children in their earliest school experiences. She is proud and excited to be a part of the Bennett Team this year!

Molly Simmons

Pre-Kindergarten Teacher and Division Chair (she/her)

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As a PreKindergarten teacher of over ten years, Molly has taught within an emergent curriculum style for most of her career. With a master’s degree in Early Childhood Education from Erikson Institute, Molly only grows each year in her passion for family connection and Project-Based Learning. Molly was a keynote panelist at the International Design Conference this summer and will be presenting this fall with The Alliance for Early Childhood and at the NAEYC and ISACS annual conferences on using documentation and family engagement in early childhood education. This winter Molly will have an article published in NAEYC’s journal on using literacy practices with preschoolers. In her free time, Molly finds a balance between eating the best food in Chicago and running the marathon each fall. 

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. Last 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 an 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.

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 Southern California, Erin moved to Chicago in 2022 to pursue a career in education. She is currently working on a graduate degree from DePaul University in Early Childhood Education. 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 loves working 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.

Brenna Glaeser

Junior Kindergarten Assistant Teacher (she/her)

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Brenna is so excited to join the early childhood team at Bennett Day this school year. She discovered her passion for working with children over the past two years while working at Blue Bird Day School providing therapeutic services to young children with autism and developmental disabilities as a behavior technician. Here she learned to integrate play, sensory regulation, adaptive skills, and a child-centered approach to education. She moved to Chicago in 2015 after completing her BA in Women’s Studies at Cornell College and plans to pursue a graduate degree in social work. She looks forward to learning from her colleagues and expanding her passion for social-emotional and play-based learning alongside her students. Outside of the classroom, Brenna enjoys exploring our beautiful city, reading, and spending time with friends.

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.

Andrea Rosenfeld

Senior Kindergarten 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 spending time with her dog Oliver, playing pickleball and checking out new restaurants in the city. Andrea is so excited to be teaching at Bennett Day School and looks forward to being a part of the school community!

Lorna Kirkpatrick

Senior Kindergarten Teacher (she/her)

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Lorna has worked with children of all ages and in a variety of roles. Most of her teaching experience has been in early childhood, 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. She is always eager to develop herself as a professional and a teacher and is 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 working on her house, riding her bike, at a festival, or not at all, because she’s off traveling! She looks forward to starting her third year at Bennett Day!

Peggy Rios

Senior Kindergarten Teacher (she/her)

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Peggy began working with children in a remote village outside of Mombasa, Kenya. After graduating with a degree in elementary education from North Central University in Minnesota, she moved to Saipan to teach kindergarten for several years. Upon returning home, she obtained a master’s degree in curriculum and instruction with an ESL certification from National Louis University. Peggy spent more than two decades teaching in Evanston, Chicago, and Lombard and recently obtained certification to teach diverse learners. She has also worked for Northwestern University’s Center for Talent Development. It was there that she discovered her love for experiential and project-based learning. She is excited to join Bennett this year and explore all the possibilities of progressive education. When she is not teaching, she enjoys cross-country cycling, swing dancing, and spending time with her family.

Kari Camacho

First Grade Teacher & Division Chair (she/her)

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Kari’s 13 years of lead teaching experience in various early childhood settings 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. Kari received her bachelor’s degree from the University of Wisconsin Platteville in Elementary Education with an Early Childhood minor. Before moving to Chicago 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 enter her 7th year at Bennett 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. Additionally, Kari demonstrates her passion for Bennett Day’s mission, vision, and values by supporting the school in myriad ways such as speaking on teacher panels, leading professional development, and supporting her colleagues’ continued growth through goals coaching and her role as Lower School Division Chair.

Myka Crenshaw

First Grade Assistant Teacher (she/her)

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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 has a passion for keeping up with the most relevant teaching practices, with a special focus on cross-curriculum integration of literacy, math, and science. She is excited to further develop project-based learning alongside students and collaborate 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.

Susan Wingerter

First Grade Assistant Teacher (she/her)

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Susan is very excited to be entering her fifth school year at Bennett Day! She began her journey into Reggio Emilia-inspired education with Bennett’s Early Childhood program and had continued on assisting teachers for the Lower School in grades 1st through 3rd. Her previous seventeen 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. Currently, she is enrolled in National Louis University’s Elementary Education degree program for grades K-6.

Allison Marsh

Second Grade Teacher (she/her)

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Allison (Ally) is entering her eighth year of teaching at Bennett Day School. Over the past eight 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 of two. Each new school year is an adventure and she looks forward to a new year of learning and growing with her students.

Amanda Konkol

Second Grade Assistant Teacher (she/her)

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Amanda is thrilled to enter her third 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. In joining Bennett in 2020, Amanda discovered her passion for working within the classroom environment. Amanda is committed to supporting student growth by fostering an enthusiastic and compassionate community. She finds great joy in encouraging creative problem solving, collaboration, and curiosity across all subjects. 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.

Shay Phee

Second Grade Teacher (she/her)

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Shay will be entering her ninth year at Bennett Day and has taught in grades First through Third, in addition to serving as a Cohort Lead and Growth and Renewal Mentor 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 fifteenth year of teaching and is excited to teach second grade again as this is her favorite age. 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.

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 sixth 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.

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! 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.

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.

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. 

Tracy Levy

Fourth Grade Assistant Teacher (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.

Kristen Solis

Fourth Grade Teacher (she/her)

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Kristen is excited to begin her second year at Bennett Day School 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 excited to continue 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!

Marcella Bonnan

Middle/Upper School World Languages Teacher (she/her)

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Marcella Bonnan comes from a multilingual immigrant family as well as a family of language teachers, both of which greatly shape her as a language educator. After studying literature and French at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Marcella taught English in the south of France, where she discovered that she wanted to teach languages. After a year at three elementary schools in France, she pursued her Master’s degree in Education, specifically for teaching Spanish and French, at Northern Arizona University. Through her studies there, she developed her current inquiry-based approach to language education. Through the use of authentic texts and other cultural products, students make observations about linguistic structures and their uses, as well as about the cultures who speak the target language. Unit and lesson plans are created in relation to student inquiries in relation to their linguistic and cultural studies with the goal of having students participate in everyday and research tasks in the target language, including ordering food in the target language at a restaurant, exploring and explaining the importance of learning the target language in their city and communities, regularly engaging in meaningful conversation, and carrying out tasks for their project learning topics in the target language, amongst other applications.

Marcella Bonnan comes to Bennett Day with fourteen years of language teaching and in the past several years, she has worked with, created field experiences for, and studied at the Art Institute of Chicago as well as the National Museum of Mexican Art. Marcella learned about the Reggio approach to education while participating in Harvard’s Project Zero summer program as well as the summer institute for educators at the National Gallery of Art. Through these programs, Marcella has focused her professional development on learning through observation and using art to teach language and culture. This past school year, Marcella started her Ph.D. at the University of Illinois at Chicago in Literacy, Language, and Culture, where she plans to research the cultivation of student sense of belonging in language education. It is in relation to all of these passions and interests that Marcella is excited to become a part of the Bennett Day community, where student belonging, well-being and curiosity are centered and empowered.

Andy Rodgers

Middle School Science Teacher (he/him)

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Andy is thrilled to return to Bennett for another school year. He loves the creativity, joy, and friendships that Bennett students display. This is now his seventh year teaching science and technology. For his undergraduate education, Andy attended Carleton College and completed a double major in biology and philosophy. Then, he earned his Master’s in secondary education from Johns Hopkins University while teaching in the Baltimore 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 Math Teacher (she/her)

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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. It is this shared philosophy at Bennett that brings Lauren so much joy as a teacher. 

Steven Slaughter

Middle School ELA Teacher (he/him)

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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 Humanities/Math/PBL Teacher & Division Chair (she/her)

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Born and raised in the Chicago suburbs, Jessica is excited for another year 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 STEM/Humanities 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.

Julia Hodges

Upper School STEM Teacher (she/her)

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Julia Hodges is excited to be joining the Bennett community as both an Upper School teacher and a parent. As an engineer turned STEM teacher, Julia is passionate about helping young people see themselves in STEM. She is a deep believer in the power of project-based learning to help students learn to problem solve, navigate ambiguity, and harness failure in a productive way. Julia holds a bachelor’s degree in Aerospace Engineering from the University of Notre Dame and a master’s degree in Teaching from Dominican University. She has over a decade of teaching experience in public, independent, and informal settings and most recently worked as a member of the design team and founding faculty at the Mastery School of Hawken in Cleveland, OH. Outside of the classroom you can find Julia hiking with her family, working on projects around her house, or exploring the food and music scene in the city.

Sharon Holmes

Upper School Humanities Teacher & Student Life Coordinator (she/her)

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Born in Chicago but raised in rural Alabama, Sharon prides herself on being a good mix of street-wise and down-home country. She has been teaching in Chicago since 2000 on the West and South sides, and has been involved in teaching since she was an undergraduate at the University of West Alabama (UWA). There, she tutored in the TRIO program—created to increase the college’s retention of first-generation and minority students (of which she was both). Seeing the success of her students gave her a sense of accomplishment and fulfillment that convinced her she was meant to be an educator. After earning her Bachelor’s and Master of Arts at UWA, she moved back to Chicago. Sharon is a lifelong learner—constantly honing and perfecting her skills.  Right now, she is teaching herself how to make furniture out of pallets.  One last thing, ROLL TIDE!

Shannon Hurst

Upper School Science 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. 

Alex Modica

Upper School Humanities Teacher (she/her)

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Alexandra (or Alex) is thrilled to be continuing her journey in project-based education at Bennett. Alex received a BA in English with minors in philosophy and French from Olivet Nazarene University in 2016 before taking a few years to work and travel. In May 2020 she completed her MA in Secondary English Education from Loyola University Chicago. After spending three years developing a project-based 9-12 humanities curriculum at Cabot School in Vermont, she decided to return to Illinois to be close to friends and family. As a humanities educator, Alex believes in the power of stories to promote curiosity, reflection, and understanding, and she loves using writing and literature to help students explore their inner lives and the outside world. When she’s not teaching, Alex can be found reading, cooking, oil painting, and getting outside with her two dogs.

Hannah Shatinsky Roskin

Upper School Humanities Teacher & Division Chair (she/her)

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Hannah is thrilled to take on the role of Upper School Division Chair building upon her previous title as Upper School Humanities Teacher! Guided by a passion for authentic learning, inquiry, and real-world experiences, she is excited to lead her team and embrace new responsibilities.

As an Upper School Humanities Teacher, she has always believed in empowering students to explore beyond textbooks and classrooms. Encouraging critical thinking and intellectual curiosity has been at the heart of her teaching philosophy. Now, as the Upper School Division Chair, she is eager to inspire her fellow educators and provide invaluable support to Bennett’s Upper School students.

After graduating from Millikin University with a BFA in Stage Management, 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, playing tennis, and enjoying the city (when it’s warm enough, that is!)

Eric Totheroh

Upper School Math Teacher (he/him)

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Eric is incredibly excited to return for his second year at Bennett. 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.

Olenka Bodnarskyj

Lower-Middle 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.

In addition to teaching at independent schools in the states, Ms. Bodnarskyj lived and taught abroad for a few years in Southeast Asia. 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 excited for another year of creating and learning with her students at Bennett Day!

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, with his wife Sofia. He 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 be part of the fantastic Bennett Day School team as a 10th Grade Advisor and the Middle School and High School Physical Education Teacher, and is committed to the school’s mission of developing 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’s unwavering passion centers on Second Language Acquisition, employing immersive techniques to give students comprehensible input. Her commitment lies in nurturing their confidence and proficiency, fostering steady growth. With over a decade of experience, she has adeptly guided learners of diverse ages, from children to adults, in mastering the Spanish language. Carmen’s work extends beyond the classroom – as a Lead Teacher, she has honed her craft and served as a mentor to fellow educators within the realm of a private school.

Remaining at the forefront of language pedagogy is a priority for Carmen. She actively engages in continuous professional development by attending influential educational conferences and collaborating with peers in the dynamic field of world languages. This dedication ensures she delivers the most effective and innovative teaching practices.

Carmen’s academic journey boasts a Bachelor of Arts in Literary Studies from Pontificia Universidad Javeriana, in her native Colombia, where her academic exploration also encompassed photography, radio, and television. Building on this diverse foundation, she earned a Master of Arts in Teaching Spanish from the University of Illinois at Chicago, solidifying her expertise in language instruction.

Carmen’s versatile background led her to embark on a unique endeavor in collaboration with the Colombian Ministry of Culture. For six weeks, she immersed herself in an indigenous tribe in the Amazon region, assuming roles as writer-recorder and photographer. This experience enriched her understanding of indigenous dietary traditions, adding depth to her cultural insights.

Carmen’s skill set extends beyond the classroom, as she has contributed her meticulous touch to freelance Spanish text editing. Her dedication goes beyond linguistic intricacies – she is enthusiastic about sharing cultural nuances associated with the Spanish language.

Bennett Day School resonates deeply with Carmen, as it provides an inclusive and nurturing environment. Beyond being a platform for Spanish language proficiency, it fosters rich cultural competence. Carmen is invigorated by the prospect of nurturing forward-thinking students with a global perspective, making Bennett Day School the ideal canvas for her innovative and enriching educational approach.

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 24 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!

Vanessa Grzesiakowski

Full Time Substitute Teacher (she/her)

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Coming soon!

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!

Student Support Team (SST)

Claire Boyd

Lower and Middle School Learning Specialist (she/her)

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Claire is very excited to join the Bennett Day team this year! Claire earned her B.A. in Psychology from Saint Mary’s College in Notre Dame, IN in 2015 and her M.A. in teaching with a focus in Special Education from National Louis University in 2020. Prior to Bennett Day, Claire worked as a Diverse Learners teacher at a charter school on the southwest side of Chicago, supporting students in grades K-8 and in a therapeutic day school setting before that.

When working with students, Claire focuses on building strong connections with students and collaborating with families to best meet the needs of each student she works with. Claire is excited to work at Bennett as someone who is passionate about ensuring all students can access learning in a way that works best for them. In her free time, Claire enjoys exploring the city and trying new restaurants, hanging out with her dog, and going to concerts with friends. 

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

Student Support Team Supervisor & Upper School Resource Teacher (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!

Jamie Rosenbaum

Early Childhood and Lower School Counselor (she/her)

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Jamie is so excited to join the Bennett Day School team this year! Jamie earned her Bachelor’s degree in Zoology from the University of Wisconsin – Madison in 2016 (On Wisconsin!). Following graduation from the University of Wisconsin – Madison, Jamie worked at Lincoln Park Zoo as an informal educator, in which she created and led science-based curricula for children of all ages in addition to facilitating animal encounters for young children. She led numerous nature-based activities and worked to incorporate nature and the environment into learning; in addition to providing support to participants. Jamie found a passion for helping young children and decided to pursue her Master’s degree at Loyola University – Chicago in Social Work, which she obtained in May 2022. She is currently working towards her clinical social work license. Jamie has worked across various academic settings providing clinical support to children from PreK to 12th grade. Jamie has led numerous groups focused on emotional regulation, coping skills, inclusion, and nature play. She approaches her work with all students from the strengths perspective and hopes to empower all children to identify their own strengths in defining their own level of success. In her free time, Jamie enjoys spending time outside, working out, and going for walks with her husband and dog, Keeley!

Kendall Rodheim

Lower and Middle School Counselor (she/her)

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Kendall is excited for her second year at Bennett Day as the 4th through 8th grade counselor! Kendall earned her Bachelor’s degree in Psychology from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 2015 and her Masters 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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Jennifer Newberry brings a wealth of experience that spans over two decades in the Education field as she takes on the role of Upper School Counselor with a fervent passion. As one of the founding members of the Bennett Day Upper School faculty, Jennifer is committed to nurturing the social and emotional development of students throughout their high school journey. Her firm belief in the positive impact of Social-Emotional Learning (SEL) curriculum and support for every student underscores her dedication. Jennifer wholeheartedly recognizes the pivotal nature of adolescence in shaping aspects like self-identity, purpose, and confidence, and she cherishes the privilege of being there for students during this transformative phase.

Jennifer’s proficiency lies in guiding students to cultivate mindfulness, foster healthy communication, nurture meaningful relationships, and establish purposeful goals. Her deep commitment to their holistic growth was evident as she took on the expanded role of the Upper School College Counselor in the preceding year. This role allowed her the honor of supporting the inaugural graduating class through their college application process. Demonstrating her dedication to student achievement, Jennifer embarked on a journey of exploration, visiting 11 different colleges across the Midwest during the past summer.

Jennifer’s academic background includes a B.A. in Education from Rollins College and an M.A. in Counseling from Chicago State University. Beyond her professional pursuits, she finds fulfillment in travel and leading an active lifestyle. Juggling her professional responsibilities with her role as a parent to three children, she eagerly participates in sports and embraces the vibrant opportunities her city has to offer.

As the new school year approaches, Jennifer Newberry is enthusiastic about the opportunities it holds for both her and the Upper School Students.

Administrative Faculty

Kenzie Alonzo

Front Office Administrator (she/her)

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While growing up in a small town in Minnesota, Kenzie knew she wanted to live in a bigger city that provided bigger opportunities. After moving to Chicago five years ago, she started at Bennett as an Aftercare leader full time and soon after graduating in December 2021, with a Bachelor of Science in Biological Sciences on the pre-med track with a minor in psychology. Her dreams of becoming a Pediatric Surgeon came to a short halt in April of 2023 as she welcomed a beautiful baby girl named Aliyahnna, whom she completely loves and adores. For the time being she has decided to continue her experience at Bennett taking over a new position as the Front Desk Administrator/Registrar. While she loves working here at Bennett and making connections with the community and families, she still hopes to become a Pediatric Surgeon in the near future while still enjoying time with her baby girl. 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 Team Supervisor


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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.