This week we highlight the people who make Prairie so special –– our teachers.

Wind your way through Prairie’s halls, and you’ll encounter plenty of hustle and bustle. But the busyness of the Early School wing is often unrivaled in any other part of the building.

It’s also the only place you’ll find six grown women sitting “criss-cross-applesauce” on a regular basis.

But those six members of Prairie’s Early School team have no qualms doing what it takes to get on their students’ level.

“To whom much is given, much is expected,” quotes lead teacher Terie Carpenter. “We’re given a lot by working at Prairie — the children we have, the resources we’re given, the top-notch colleagues we work with. And because of that, a lot is expected from us. And I think we all rise to the challenge.”

Carpenter and her classroom assistant, Ann Bankenbush, are the most seasoned members of the squad, both in their 16th year here. This marks year one at Prairie for lead teachers Abby Brzezinski and Kelsey Cassidy — as well as assistant Emily Henkel; assistant Stephanie Hoffman is finishing year four.

Listening to them chat as a group, one would think they’ve been working together as a cohesive unit for decades. They finish each other’s sentences, trade jokes back and forth; it’s this collegiality that helps keep the three classrooms among them moving in the same direction — and have fun doing it.

“I think it’s evident to everybody that we really get along, and that there’s a very positive energy within our team that helps us do our jobs well,” Hoffman explains. “Everyone shares ideas, we’re open and available to one another, and we find humor in the everyday.”

But that’s not to say it’s only fun and games in the Early School wing. Learning is the objective here just as in any other part of the building; this team has an academic program to follow, target skills to help their kids reach, reports to fill out. And they take that work seriously.

“We also have that huge social and emotional piece, which is another layer on top of academics,” adds Brzezinski. “You never know what [the students’] experiences have been. They may not have any experience at school.”

What’s the formula for reaching all of those goals? Teamwork in crafting lesson plans. Mentorship when it comes to handling sensitive conversations or first-time challenges. Close collaboration, thanks in part to their close quarters in the east wing on campus.

“We have each other, and that’s huge,” Bankenbush says. “One can take over when they sense the other needs help.”

“Being a new teacher, I was looking to work under a seasoned educator and grow my confidence, and being with this group has given me the push I needed,” says Henkel, the youngest member of the group.

Everyone nods in agreement when Mrs. Cassidy expresses how much she loves coming to work at Prairie every day, and sums up her first year here as the best of her professional career so far.

“No matter what we’re doing, it always comes back to what’s best for the children, and what’s in their best interest,” she says. “Everyone is so willing to help me because it will help the children in the end. The community here is incredible in that sense — I’ve never experienced that anywhere else.”


Each day during National Teacher Appreciation Week (May 7th-11th) we will be telling the stories of our teachers, coaches, advisors, and faculty members. You can help Prairie’s teachers continue to progress by making a gift in support of Faculty Development at The Prairie School.

Did You Know: Prairie added its third classroom to the Early School program at the outset of the 2017-18 school year.