Prairie Welcomes New Faculty to the Community

Dear Parents and Friends of Prairie,

Earlier this summer, I introduced you to the faculty and staff members who had been hired to join our team. I talked about how our comprehensive search and interview process yielded what we felt was an exceptionally talented and motivated group of educators.

Today, I can tell you our initial impressions were spot on. Having had the opportunity to work with them individually and watch them prepare for the upcoming year, I can’t overstate how excited I am to have them as part of our community.  They are amazing additions to Prairie, and I look forward to watching them impact our students.

Whether you see them in the classroom or walking across campus, please take a moment to say hello.


Nat_Coffman_black tanback

Dr. Nat Coffman, Head of School & President

Erin Housiaux – Upper School English Teacher/Co-Department Chair

  • 9th  and 11th Grade Literature Teacher  at Ransom Everglades School, Miami, FL., since 2006
  • School Leadership Experience at Ransom Everglades School -Tenth Grade Academic Dean,2015 – present
  • Assistant Dean of Students (grades 9-12), 2011-2015
  • Director of Experiential Programs (grades 9-12), 2010-2013
  • Director of Curriculum (grades 6-8) and Sixth and Seventh Grade English Teacher/Team Leader at The Willauer School – Boston, MA 2003-2006
  • Community Leadership:
  •           Co-Chair Culture and Values Committee
  •           Implemented MCCJ’s Student Voice Program
  •           Faculty Leadership Award, University of Miami School of Law, 2014
  • B.A., Cum Laude, English and Education, Bucknell University, Lewisburg, PA
  • Masters of  Educational Leadership, Florida International University, Miami, FL
  • Erin is continuing her education, studying for her Masters of English Literature at
  • Middlebury Bread Loaf School of English, Ripton, Vermont

Valerie Olmstead – Primary School 1st Grade Teacher

  • Third Grade Teacher at William E. Young School-Homer Glen, IL., since 2012
  • Differentiation Facilitator-coaching other faculty members to build differential lesson plans, since 2015
  • Kindergarten Teacher at Westbrook School – Glenview, IL., 2011-2012
  • ELL Tutor with strategies to support English Language Learners
  • B.S. in Early and Middle Child Education – Butler University,  Indianapolis, IN
  • M.A. Education-Reading Specialist – Olivet Nazarene University, Bourbonnais, IL

Vicki Schmitz – Art Teacher/Department Chair

  • Visual Arts Instructor, Grade K-8 at The Pegasus School-Huntington Beach, CA., since 2004
  •             Mentoring Program Coordinator for new faculty & staff
  •             Co-developer of Pegasus Dream Lab, maker space initiative
  • Visual Arts Instructor, Grade K-6 at Price Laboratory School-Cedar Falls, IA., 2003-2004
  • 2014 Orange County Top 25 Teachers awarded by the Orange County Register
  • B.A. in Art Education & B.F.A. in Printmaking – University of Northern Iowa
  • Klingenstein Summer Institute, Teachers College Columbia University
  •             Fully funded fellowship, summer institute for early career teachers
  • M.F.A. in Art Education – University of Northern Iowa

Melissa Schroeder – Upper School Social Studies Teacher

  • World History Teacher at Zion-Benton Township High School – Zion, IL., since 2013
  • Expert in project based learning and scaffolding units through backward design
  • Co-taught units: civilizations, Greece and Rome, crusades, industrial revolution, and WWI in conjunction with world studies English Course
  • Coached freshman boys’ soccer and JV girls’ soccer
  • B.A. in History and Social Science with a minor in Education – Carthage College, Kenosha, WI
  •             Summa Cum Laude
  •             Departmental Honors in History
  •             Top 10 student G.P.A.

Dena Roncone – Theater Director/Drama Teacher

  • Teaching Artist – Milwaukee Repertory Theater, since 2015
  • Drama Teacher/Director – Steele Canyon Charter High School – Spring Valley, CA 2008-2016
  • Acting Teacher – John Robert Powers & Associates – Milwaukee, WI 2007-2008
  • M.A. Theater Education – Emerson College, Boston MA
  • B.A. Theater – University at Buffalo, The State University – Buffalo, NY
  • CLAD (Crosscultural, Language, and Academic Development) Specialist

Hannah Keller – Director of Advancement

  • Director of Carthage Fund, Carthage College, since 2014
  • BA, Summa Cum Laude, Carthage, Elementary and Cross-Categorical Special Education
  • Masters of Education, Carthage, Expected 2017