Dear Prairie Families,
You’ve heard me say time and again that it’s the people who make Prairie, Prairie – and that is especially true of our faculty, each one selected for the talents and experience they bring to their roles. I am excited to introduce the following teachers:
Dr. Nat Coffman
Head of School and President
Nicole Bayer’s teaching career has been spent leading 3rd, 4th, and 5th Grade classrooms; for the past six years she has also served on her school’s Literacy Leadership Team, training colleagues in best educational practices. She will be joining Prairie as a lead teacher in 3rd Grade. With a B.S. in Elementary Education from Cardinal Stritch, she comes to us from Ben Franklin Elementary School in Franklin.
Karen Kostos will be assuming the role of 1st Grade assistant replacing Elizabeth Long, who is becoming the Primary School’s World Language teacher. Karen has a B.S. in Therapeutic Recreation from the University of Toledo, and has put these skills to use during her many years working at Mother’s Day Out Preschool and as a Special Education Assistant for the Racine Unified School District.
Assuming the role of teaching assistant for the Early School’s Creative Captains, Mackenzie Krupp is a Racine native and licensed Special Education Aide who has worked at several area schools. She was most recently part of the Early Education program at Bull Fine Arts and has been an assistant at Racine Montessori and a district-wide substitute for Racine Unified. Mackenzie is replacing Emily Henkel, who is becoming the lead teacher in the newly-opened fourth Early School classroom.
With twelve years of experience assisting in Racine Unified and Kenosha Unified classrooms, Cecilia Leal joins Prairie as an Early School assistant teacher in the Brave Explorers classroom.
We are pleased to welcome long-term Early School substitute Cheryl MacDonald to our faculty as the teaching assistant in the Shining Stars classroom, filling the role vacated by Andrea Pearson in her move to the Admission Office. Cheryl spent last semester assisting the Creative Captains in covering a maternity leave, so she comes to this role already familiar with the ES program. Cheryl holds a B.S. from UW – Parkside.
With a major in History and a minor in Educational Studies from Carthage College, Madisen (Madie) Nitsch comes to Prairie from ALL IN Athletics, the largest travel basketball program in Illinois. At ALL IN, Madie serves as the Director of Customer Relations & Girls’ Basketball. She is taking a part-time position at TPS as the 2nd Grade teaching assistant.
Tristan Pearson ‘99 is returning to TPS as a lead 5th Grade teacher after several years living in Minnesota and Iowa. In addition to being an alumnus of our school, he worked at Prairie from 2005 – 2013 as a Middle and Upper School English teacher and as Dean of the Middle School. Tristan holds a B.A. in English from St. Olaf College and began his career in the Princeton (WI) Public Schools as an English, Drama & Film, and Studio Production teacher.
Débora (Deb) Romero Utley is a veteran teacher who recently moved to Racine from Richmond, Virginia, where she was named a Top Ten Teacher of the Year. She holds a B.A. in Elementary Education and Spanish/Bilingual Education from Calvin College and has extensive experience leading classrooms in grades 1 – 7. She has also taught ESL and elementary school Spanish. Deb will serve as a lead teacher in 2nd Grade replacing Marcia Wilks, who is moving to 1st Grade as a lead teacher.
TJ Hearn has worked at Prairie as a Middle School soccer and basketball coach since 2009 and now joins our faculty as a P.E. teacher. He was previously employed in a similar role at Evergreen Academy. TJ graduated from the University of Wisconsin – Parkside with a Bachelor’s degree in Sport Management, and remains active in Racine’s youth sports community – particularly the ACE soccer club.
With both Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in History from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, Kathryn Ouradnik will be serving as Prairie’s 7/8 Social Studies teacher. She comes to Prairie after four years with the Oak Creek-Franklin Joint School District; prior to that, she worked as a graduate assistant at UWM and she also serves as the Assistant Director of the Milwaukee Kickers South Youth Academy.
Neal Johnson was a Middle and Upper School math teacher and the Math Department Chair at St. Andrew’s Sewanee School before moving to Wisconsin. He was also involved in St. Andrews’ athletic program as the Head of Strength & Conditioning and as an assistant coach in their Track & Field, Cross Country, Football, and Basketball programs. Prior to teaching, Neal was the Assistant Director of Annual Giving at the University of the South; at Prairie, he will be teaching Geometry and Computer Science. He holds a B.S. in Mathematics from the University of the South.
Upper School Math Teacher Olivia Jensen comes to Prairie, where she will be teaching Precalculus AB, Precalculus A, and AP Stats, from her prior role as a physics and math instructor at Racine’s Walden III High School. She has tutored in both subjects since college, graduating from Carthage with a B.A. in Mathematics and a dual minors in Physics and Secondary Education. Olivia is also an Early Childhood Education Group Leader for the YMCA of Metropolitan Milwaukee, serving the both the academic and social-emotional needs of her students ages 4 – 12.
Lukeus Perez recently completed his M.A. in Mathematics at the University of Missouri, and prior to this he obtained a dual B.S. in Mathematics and Physics from UW – Parkside. In addition to serving as a math tutor during college, he remains involved with students as a volunteer, assisting with math-related co-curriculars. Immediately prior to coming to TPS, Lukeus served as a mathematics teaching assistant at the University of Missouri. He will be teaching Intermediate Algebra, Calculus, and AP Calculus AB in the Upper School.
With a B.A. in History and Secondary Education and an M.A. in History from Northern Illinois University, Kevin Wienke is currently working on his Ph.D. in History at Marquette University as he joins Prairie part-time to teach US History, Government, and Comparative Religion. He has been a TA and research assistant at Marquette as well as an archives assistant at the University as well as with the Archdiocese of Milwaukee.
Beginning this fall, Upper School French will be taught by Elizabeth Willis, Ph.D. Eilzabeth was a double major in French and English at St. Cloud University in Minnesota before earning her M.A. and Ph.D. in French and Francophone Studies at The Ohio State University. She has served as a visiting or adjunct instructor at several colleges and universities, including The Ohio State University, Spelman College, Ohio Wesleyan University, the University of Denver, and the Université de Rennes-1 in Rennes, France.
Trista Deuster ’16 comes to Prairie after five years working for the Milwaukee Bucks in their Live Programming & Entertainment division. A Prairie “lifer” who began in Early School, Trista holds a dual B.A. in Economics and Journalism, Advertising & Media Studies (emphasis in Public Relations) from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. She is currently working towards her MBA in Marketing at the University of Wisconsin-Parkside.
Alysha Ingham, R.N. will be supporting School Nurse Julianne Smith by working part-time in the Health Office. She has worked as a medical-surgical, orthopedic, and neurosurgical nurse at Ascension All Saints in Racine for the past fourteen years.
Maria Felix is coming out of retirement to serve as Prairie’s part-time dishwasher. While not at TPS, she enjoys caring for her grandchildren.
A familiar face to many at Prairie, Brian Fenkl has rejoined our Facilities team this summer as Assistant Director. He has more than twenty years of service to TPS and recently earned his Class 3 License as a Facility Operating Engineer via the American Society of Power Engineers.
Prairie’s Assistant Athletic Director for Sports Information and Events, Sammie Woodward ’16, recently completed her Masters of Education (emphasis in Sports Leadership) at Carthage College, where she also received a dual B.S. in Exercise Sports Science and Public Relations in 2020. A certified personal trainer, Sammie joined the Boys’ Basketball program in 2021 as the Varsity Assistant Coach, and worked in Prairie’s Admission Office during the 2021 – 2022 school year.
FAMILIAR FACES IN NEW PLACES
- Shay Borzynski ‘00, previously a lead Kindergarten teacher, is moving to the role of Director of Admission.
- Liza Davis will continue to teach English while assuming the role of Upper School Academic Dean.
- John French, US Social Studies teacher and Social Studies Department Chair, will move into the Upper School Dean of Students role.
- Austin Gundlach, previously the Assistant Director of Advancement, is moving to the role of Visual Communication Manager.
- Emily Henkel, previously an Early School teaching assistant, is moving to the role of Early School lead teacher.
- Kim Leinweber, previously a member of the Compass Team, is moving to the role of Kindergarten lead teacher.
- Elizabeth Long, previously the 1st Grade teaching assistant, is moving to the role of Primary School world language teacher.
- Shannon Schafer, US Science teacher, will be adding Dean of the Faculty to her duties, working 1:1 as a mentor and coach for teachers throughout the school.
- Valerie Sprunger, previously a 1st Grade lead teacher, is moving to the Compass Team to work with Primary School students.
- Katie White, PS Art Teacher, will be adding Curriculum Coordinator to her duties, coordinating Prairie’s curriculum map schoolwide for a fully aligned scope and sequence.
- Marcia Wilks, previously a 2nd Grade lead teacher, is moving to the role of 1st Grade lead teacher.
- Sammie Woodward, previously Admission Office intern, is now Assistant Athletic Director for Sports Information & Events.
- Lisa Yunker, previously the Business Office assistant, is moving to the role of Primary School/Health Office assistant. Her Business Office duties will be partially transitioned to Jake Lipor, who will continue as Prairie’s Stay & Play and Summer Programs Director.