Prairie's master Early School teacher creates a warm and loving environment for her students.

By Brendan O'Brien | Primary School, Student Life

A version of this story previously appeared in the Prairie alumni magazine.

It’s been a week. Well, four days, actually. Four days and already the difference is noticeable.

My three-year-old twins, Sawyer and Sullivan, are good kids, but four days in class with Terie Carpenter and Ann Bankenbush has made them kinder somehow, wiser, more interested in the world around them.

This, of course, is what great teachers do – they use the attitudes and attributes inherent in their students as starting points to nurture and develop well-rounded people.

For 15 years Carpenter has been nurturing and developing Early School students at Prairie. Common is the Upper School student who still claims her as their favorite teacher, fondly recalling their days in her bright, vibrant classroom.

After earning her undergraduate degree in Special Education from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, Carpenter spent seven years teaching for Racine Unified before coming to Prairie in 2002. She focused her graduate work on teaching hearing-impaired children and still incorporates sign language into her classroom every day, something that was revealed to me firsthand. Driving home one afternoon in late August, the twins excitedly started signing different zoo animals – zebra, giraffe, tiger, elephant – one after another, the creatures alive to them in a way they’d never before known.

“My philosophy is to nurture and educate in a warm and loving environment that is developmentally appropriate for young children,” says Terie.

Carpenter and Bankenbush go above and beyond to ensure that environment is continuously filled with color, excitement, compassion, ingenuity, creativity, and curiosity. Students learn not only through various lessons, but purposeful play, visiting a variety of “centers” carefully curated by the two teachers. Art, travel, food, reading, etc. – these are all themes students explore during their time for creative play.

Everyone on campus knows the incredible things that happen inside Terie’s classroom. I just didn’t realize it would be so obvious after only four days.

For the first time in history, Prairie welcomed a third section of Early School when classes began in the fall of 2017. All three Early School sections offer a full-day academic program for students ages 3 and 4, including foreign language and music instruction, regular field trips, and daily physical education classes.