LIZ WESTBERRY, LEAD EARLY ELEMENTARY TEACHER, SCIENCE
Ms. 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 FOREST SCHOOL TEACHER
Ms. Olson has worked with young children for over 15 years, both in the classroom and in museum and nature based settings. Her first role at Prairie School was Lead Primary Teacher, where her passion for sharing the natural world with children, and belief in the power of unstructured outdoor play was solidified.
Ms. Olson became a certified Forest Kindergarten Teacher through Cedarsong Nature School in 2017 and recently completed Outdoor Play Training through Okanagan College and the Canadian Child Care Federation. She is thrilled to be leading Prairie School’s Forest School class and looks at each day as an opportunity to get muddy, climb trees, build forts, run through the grass and PLAY!
Ms. Olson holds a BA in Art from Illinois State University and an MA in Teaching from National Louis University.
Ms. Olson is a member of the American Forest Kindergarten Association and Northern Illinois Nature Preschool Association. She is also a Certified Interpretive Guide, through the National Association of Interpretation, and a Growing Up WILD Curriculum Facilitator, through the Council for Environmental Education.
Ms. Olson lives in Wheaton with her husband Brett, son Tyler (in the Middle Elementary class) their two cats George and Lou, and their dog Annie. She is an active volunteer in the community and enjoys reading, learning about local history, being with family and of course, spending time outdoors.
CALEY conry, LEAD PRIMARY TEACHER
Bio coming soon...
Angela Brann, Early Elementary Assistant
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.
Vanessa Engstrom, LEAD Spanish TEACHER
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.
Kelin Fulkerson-Smith, Aftercare Teacher
Kelin Fulkerson-Smith began her career working with children in 2008 in a Kindercare preschool class in Lexington, KY. She continued her work with children after moving to Chicagoland in 2009, where she worked with 2-year old through Kindergarten aged children at Kindercare in Elmhurst. Currently, she is in charge of the childhood programming and care for the children ages 0-18 years in her church in Clarendon HIlls.
Ms. Fulkerson-Smith holds a BS in Psychology, as well as a Child Development Associate’s degree from Eastern Kentucky University. She is also certified in multiple Montessori-based programs that she uses in the childhood programming for her church.
In her free time, when she isn’t caring for her own four children, Jena the dog, Skittlessss the corn snake, or Mikey the tortoise, she is an avid runner, hiker, and lover of all things outdoors!
Ms. Fulkerson-Smith (aka, Ms. Kelin), is happy to join the Prairie School staff and enjoys the nature-based aspect of Prairie School very much.
Alyssa Maurer, School Director
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, school coordinator
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.