2015-2016 Welcome Letter

Dear Prairie Families,

In his 1693 essay Some Thoughts Concerning Education John Locke described curiosity as the “great instrument of nature” that we must nurture and encourage in our children and ourselves to move humanity forward; and as we begin the school year I am incredibly excited about the curiosity driven adventures that await our students and faculty this year.

I hope you and your family had a great summer and are also eager for the school year to begin. The faculty returned last Monday and they have had a great week of planning and collaborating after a summer full of professional growth.  John Locke might well have been describing our faculty when he wrote that teachers must “know the world well” and model the curiosity and growth that we expect of our students.  Over the summer faculty traveled to Iceland, Costa Rica, Austria and Poland to inspire and inform our students.  They took classes like: “Fulfilling the Promise of a Differentiated Classroom,” “Social Emotional Learning,” “How to Teach Students to Remember,” “Lead the Change: Maker Workshops,” and “Teaching with Fairy Tales.” They read dozens of books about education like The Morning Meeting Book, by Roxann Kriete and Carol Davis, Teaching Student-Centered Mathematics by John Van De Walle etal., Ready-To-Use Mindsets in the Classroom by Mary Cay Ricci, Creative Confidence:  Unleashing the Creative Potential within Us All by David Kelley, The Basics of Data Literacy: Helping Your Students (And You) Make Sense of Data by Bwoen and Bartley and  Ron Berger’s An Ethic of Excellence: Building a Culture of Craftsmanship with Students.

They watched videos on Cooperative Problem Solving by Ross Greene and Leaderships Skills and Focus by Daniel Golman.  They attended workshops on the Wilson Reading Program, World Drumming, Glass Blowing, Columbia University’s Reading and Writing Project, Advanced Placement Instruction and Evaluating AP Exams.  My list of faculty summer activities is four pages long and while they all are impressive, perhaps the most inspiring accomplishments of the summer are Katie White’s winning Columbia University’s highly selective Klingenstein Summer Fellowship and Kathy Boero being accepted into Cardinal Strich University’s Doctoral Program in Special Education.

In addition to supporting faculty growth, perhaps the most important aspect of my job is to hire new faculty and staff and it is my pleasure to introduce eleven new professionals to our community.  Our faculty has enjoyed getting to know these new colleagues and we are excited by their energy, enthusiasm and expertise.  Please welcome them with the warmth and mutual respect that is a hallmark of the Prairie Community.  One additional staffing change for this year is that I have appointed Everett McKinney to be our Associate Head of School in addition to his role as Head of the Upper School.

Prairie’s 51st year looks to be a great one as we work together to raise the next generation of leaders.  It is my hope that when you have questions and/or concerns you will find and work with the person or people that can most effectively help your child thrive.  If you are unsure where to ask a question, please contact your division head or me and we will help you find the best place to start.

On a final note, we are all fortunate to be a part of Prairie.  Part of our good fortune is that almost 30% of the cost of every student’s education is provided by past and current fundraising efforts.  Throughout this year you will be called on to support the school philanthropically so that we can fill the approximately $4,600 gap between tuition and the actual cost of educating each child.  When you are asked to support the Golf Outing, The Prairie Fund and The Premiere – please answer the call.  Every gift matters – participation is our most important metric.  I cannot think of a charity more worthy than our children and their teachers. I also hope that you will attend as many school events as possible and get involved in our Parent Partnership Organization.

I look forward to seeing all of you in the coming days.


Nat Coffman

Nathaniel W. Coffman, Ed.D.
Head of School and President