faculty

LIZ WESTBERRY, LEAD EARLY ELEMENTARY TEACHER, SCIENCE

Liz Westberry

Liz Westberry has been with the Prairie School since its beginning. She has a BA from the University of Connecticut, and she is a certified Montessori teacher ( from the New England Montessori Teacher Training Association, in Cambridge Ma.). Liz was a Lead teacher and a Science teacher for 6-9 year olds in schools on both the East coast and locally.

She has been teaching for over 12 years. Liz served on the Connecticut State Board for Alternative and Homeschools and has written a published guide to curriculums and resources for homeschoolers. 

She is a Master Gardener, a long-time 4H leader, and has worked with the exchange program AFS as a liaison coordinator. She is the mother of three, ranging in age from 14 to 31 and recently became a grandmother! Liz loves to take children outside, especially when there are cool things to spot! (birds, bugs etc.) Her biggest claim to fame is being the owner of Roxy the papillon, the official Prairie School Greeter! 

 

JENNIFER OLSON, LEAD PRIMARY TEACHER

Jennifer Olson

Ms. Olson has worked with young children for over 15 years, both in the classroom and in museum and nature based settings. She was a lead pre-kindergarten teacher before joining the administrative team of a group of early childhood centers as their curriculum specialist. Ms. Olson designed original curriculum spanning from language development and early geography, to service learning and mathematics, currently in use by over 200 teachers. Ms. Olson prides herself in offering her students a dynamic hands-on classroom experience, full of music, art and outdoor exploration. She truly believes early childhood is a precious magical time to be celebrated!

Ms. Olson holds a BA in Art from Illinois State University, and a MA in Teaching from National Louis University. She is a Certified Interpretive Guide, through the National Association for Interpretation and a Growing Up WILD Curriculum Facilitator, through the Council for Environmental Education. Ms. Olson was also recently certified as a Forest School instructor. 

Ms. Olson lives in Wheaton with her husband Brett, son Tyler (in the Early Elementary class at Prairie School) and their three pets: cats George and Lou, and Annie the dog. She is an active volunteer in the community and also enjoys reading, being with family, and spending time outdoors.

 

Eileen Campe, Literacy specialist, Theater

Eileen Campe

Eileen Campe grew up in Chicago and graduated with a bachelors in Education from Loyola University, and a Masters Degree in Education from National Lewis, and over 70 hours of on-going education. Eileen also has her ESL and Middle School endorsements. Eileen has taught elementary and middle school students in both private and public schools in Chicago and Wheaton for over 15 years, and was Dean of Students at Academy of the Sacred Heart for 4 years. Eileen is co-director of the Children's Playhouse in Wheaton, and has extensive on-going education in theater. 

 

Katie Morgan, Lead Math Teacher

Katie Morgan

Katie Morgan holds a Bachelor of Arts in Elementary Education with a minor in psychology from Illinois Wesleyan University and a Master of Science in Child Development from Erikson Institute where she was awarded the Irving B. Harris Fellowship. Katie was a teacher for ten years in Chicago Public Schools, nine of which were at Franklin Fine Arts Center in a project based, arts infused classroom. Katie has worked the last eight years for the Early Math Collaborative of Erikson Institute as an instructional coach and leading professional development for teachers on high impact strategies and best practices in mathematics.

Katie lives in Glen Ellyn with her husband Tim and three daughters Maddie, Julia and Keira and their three pets: Kirby the dog, a guinea pig Victoria and Spiky the Madagascar hissing cockroach. Katie enjoys reading, golfing, horseback riding and enjoying the outdoors with her newfound love of gardening. 

 

Vanessa Engstrom, Primary Assistant Teacher, Spanish

Vanessa Engstrom

Ms. Engstrom has worked with young children for over 14 years. Her love and passion to teach children started when she was a nanny for 2 boys (in Spanish only) because she enjoyed the children's curiosity about the world. She also taught Spanish to young children as a Lead teacher at a Language Center during this time. 

Ms. Engstrom studied early childhood education and obtained an AA in Early Childhood Education and Care from the College of Dupage. After obtaining her degree she taught preschool and Pre-k and worked as a Bilingual Assistant at a Glen Ellyn Elementary School.

In 2013 Ms. Engstrom founded Play and Learn Spanish Inc, a Spanish immersion program in Naperville for children ages 3-16. She adds math, science, music, books and fun games as part of her Spanish Curriculum.

Ms. Engstrom lives with her husband Joe and their 8 year old daughter Alexandra and their pet dog Cuddles.

 

Angela Brann, Early Elementary Assistant

Angela Brann

Ms. Brann brings a background of science and art and a passion for education to the Early Elementary team. 

Ms. Brann holds a BS in Packaging Engineering and during her career has worked with metals, paperboard, glass and polymers to develop packaging solutions for multiple industries ranging from consumer electronics to pharmaceutical products. She is a scientist with expert knowledge in physics, chemistry, mechanical engineering, mathematical models, marketing, and technical writing. 

Throughout her career, Ms. Brann’s love of art has allowed her to be successful in developing creative solutions to many scientific challenges. In addition, she believes that integration of arts into academic disciplines is necessary for developmentally appropriate, experience based learning. She brings vast experience in many mediums ranging from musical training to dramatic expression with a passion for fine arts and education. In her early career Ms. Brann taught foreign language, music, and religious studies to early elementary students, and is looking forward to building on her teaching experience at Prairie School. 

Ms. Brann lives in Wayne Township with her husband Edward and her two sons William and Oliver. She enjoys jewelry making, painting, knitting/crocheting, needle felting and camping.

 

Staff

Alyssa Maurer, School Director

Alyssa Maurer

Alyssa has been School Director at Prairie School of DuPage since 2015. Prior to serving as School Director for Prairie School,  Alyssa spent 9 years helping Prairie School and other local schools with marketing, enrollment, and development. Alyssa holds a degree in fine arts from the University of Illinois and degree in graphic design from Columbia College. Alyssa spent the earliest part of her career as a freelancer helping performance art theaters and venues with branding, marketing and advertising before moving on to serve as Art Director for the Goodman Theatre. Seeking a more diverse range of projects and following her entrepreneurial spirit, Alyssa left the Goodman Theatre to form Tonic Design Studios, a graphic design and branding firm in Chicago for both theatrical and corporate clients. After 18+ years of building and running Tonic Design, Alyssa began working in local schools to be closer to her children. In 2011 Alyssa joined the founding members of Prairie School of DuPage to run the marketing campaigns and develop the visual arts program. 

Over the years, Alyssa has served on multiple non-profit boards. She is co-founder of Breathe, a foundation for the artist which hosts Chick Singer Night a showcase for female singer-songwriters world-wide. She was also director and host of the showcase at the Chicago venue for 6 years.

Alyssa lives with her husband, two daughters, Buddy the dog and Fluffy the cat. When she has a free moment she also enjoys singing, drawing, writing, and learning new things!

 

Rikki Ranieri, Office Assistant

Rikki Ranieri

Rikki is the mother of two boys. She has a passion for conscious parenting, natural health, and simple living. Having always been interested in behavior and an avid observer of all creatures, Rikki earned her Bachelor of Arts in Psychology at DePaul University in 2005. In recognizing and learning more about the mind-body-spirit connection, her studies have expanded to include holistic ways of healing and navigating life. She earned her Certificate in Massage Therapy in 2009, and has been an IL licensed Massage Therapist since. Through having the privilege of providing childcare, being a part of the Prairie School community, and raising her children, Rikki has begun an adventure - of heart-centered living and embracing the many lessons that our relationships provide. 

 

Katy Zimmerman, Marketing

Katy Zimmerman

Katy Zimmerman has worked in the marketing field for over 16 years. She began her career as a film publicist in Chicago, IL representing Paramount Pictures, MGM, and Miramax films. She worked as an account executive at an advertising agency in Toledo, OH where she managed marketing and digital projects for La-Z-Boy Inc. She later worked for RED development in Kansas City, MO on the corporate marketing team where she managed marketing and communication functions within portfolio of lifestyle shopping centers across the country. After a move back to Chicago, she worked as a social media consultant for Career Builder, and as a social media blogger for TalentMinded. Most recently she worked at Colorado Technical University on the Social Media team as a Content Strategist where she managed the university faculty blog overseeing publication of 170+ blogs and over 50 faculty contributing writers. She developed an in-depth university-wide content strategy and managed marketing and social content according to SEO best practices. She is also a Professional Photographer specializing in family and child photography, boutique school portraits and dance studio portraits. Katy enjoys exploring outdoors with her family, traveling, knitting, dancing and cake decorating. She lives in Winfield, IL with her husband and three young boys.