board Of DirecTORS
Our Board meets monthly throughout the academic year. Faculty, staff, parents and members of the community are welcome to attend our Board meetings. To see our agenda or minutes from past board meetings, please contact the administrative office by phone or email, and we would be happy to provide you with copies.
The Children's School is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization governed by an elected Board of four officers and seven other members. The Board's responsibilities fall into four area: fiscal oversight, institutional policy-making, long-range vision and planning, and hiring and evaluating of the Director of Curriculum and Instruction and the Director of Administration. Please direct questions on these topics to Board members in their official capacities.
B.A., Economics, University of Chicago
M.B.A., University of Chicago
Leader in Enterprise Analytics, Northern Trust
“We have two children at The Children's School. I value TCS commitment to creating a vibrant learning environment where my sons can collaborate with their fellow students and let their imagination shape amazing learning opportunities, which allow them to immerse themselves in their course of study. I am a strong supporter of progressive education because our children must be able to think, create, and constantly reinvent themselves as technology and the world rapidly evolves around them. ”
Andy Curtis, Treasurer
B.S., Civil Engineering, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Senior Program Manager, Salesforce
"We have been a part of the TCS community since 2012, when my oldest son Jack started kindergarten. We love the school and Progressive Education for our two boys because of its support of children’s social-emotional development, the focus on critical thinking rather than rote memorization, the emphasis on social justice, and the experience our kids get with working on teams for project work that we feel is critical for later success in life. Our kids are happy, curious, and excited to go to school. As a board member, I look forward to helping connect the staff, students, and families of TCS and ensuring that we’re all working together towards TCS being the best school and community it can be."
Becky Fuller, Vice President
Jennifer Hamilton, Treasurer
Ph.D., Statistics, University of Maryland
M.A.,Education Policy, The George Washington University
B.A. Literature/Woman’s Studies, The George Washington University
Vice President, Education and Child Development, NORC at the University of Chicago
"As a first generation college student who has been working in the field of education research for nearly 30 years, I am delighted to be able to serve on the Board of The Children’s School. Our daughter enrolled in 3rd grade in the fall of 2019, and I was immediately impressed with the school’s educational philosophy. TCS consistently emphasizes the importance of diversity, multiculturalism, multiple intelligences, cooperative and collaborative learning, and a child-centered approach to teaching. My daughter particularly loves to work on projects with her peers and appreciates how civics and democracy are embedded into school life. After just one short year, she has learned the most important lesson of all - learning is not a task, but a fun and challenging thing to do, a way of life."
Sonia Johansen, Secretary
B.A., Sociology/Anthropology, Earlham College
M.S., Elementary Education, Indiana University
M.Architecture, Illinois Institute of Technology
"As a granddaughter and a daughter of teachers, I have long been impressed by the power of a school experience. Impressed by its grassroots approach, the commitment to fostering students’ voices, and the evolution of a progressive curriculum with democracy and social justice at the core, we are fully enjoying watching our daughter Vera launch her own school experience in Kindergarten with The Children’s School community. My graduate thesis focused on new curriculum design for early education. I felt strongly that any educational curriculum that sought to engage students in an authentic way couldn’t ignore the built environment of the school. I hope to bring this combined perspective of study in both education and architecture to my term on the TCS Board."
Julia Huff, Alumni Member at Large
B.S., Early Childhood Education, Concordia University
Preschool Teacher, Chicago Public Schools
"My daughter joined TCS in the fall of 2011 for her kindergarten year. I value The Children's School for providing a place for children to explore, create, and discover. The focus on environmental and social issues is a strong component, and I appreciate the focus on learning, not testing. Progressive education is important today because it shows a strong respect for children's voices and allows for a variety of learners to achieve goals. As a board member, I feel it is most important to make connections to families and listen to their ideas/concerns."
Ahmed Dola, Member at Large
B.S., Leadership and Management, New York University
with certificate in Project Management
"I believe strongly in progressive education and a project-based approach to learning. Our kids have greatly benefited from the experience and the love of learning it fosters. I see a great deal of potential for growth at TCS. I believe that to effect change, you need to be part of it. It requires more than just the school’s administration and leadership to make that happen. We are all stewards that can map the direction that we want to sail and at the same time have the resilience to mitigate unforeseen events. I want to be part of the ongoing conversation and enable transformative changes to realize the mission and vision of a world class education that we would all like to see for our children."
Scott Bellner, Member at Large
B.S., Mechanical Engineering, University of Massachusetts at Amherst
"Quite simply, the Children's School changed our lives. When our daughters completed 2nd & 4th grade at public school, we felt that change was necessary, and that we would make whatever sacrifices were required to ensure school was no longer a shallow, stressful grind, but rather an enriching and challenging experience that will help them grow into whole individuals. If only we had made the switch sooner. The Children’s School greeted us with an entire school body of children who believe in their self-worth and are invested in their education. Shed were the endless worksheets, hours of homework and standardized tests that had chiseled away at our little ladies’ interest and curiosity to learn. The switch activated an excitement to get to school each day to find out what challenges lay ahead. They also reclaimed their afternoons and evenings to play and be kids. As a result, I am thrilled and energized to join the Board of Directors and do what I can to support the staff, enliven the children, and represent the community as we embark on the next era of TCS here in Oak Park."
Alyssa Stark, Member at Large
B.S., Business - HR Management, Western Governors University
My family joined TCS in the fall of 2019 when my twins started kindergarten. After a less than stellar experience with pre-k we knew we needed to research other options. We were TCS fans after our first tour led us to meet Ms. Nadine and witnessed first-hand "kindergarten project work".
A progressive education has allowed our boys to learn in a way that suits them as individuals while learning how to thrive in a community. The respect and care that is shown to each student is above and beyond what we could have hoped for. TCS has truly given my children a voice in their own education.
I look forward to working with this extraordinary board of parents, teachers, and administrators to be a good listener and help connect the TCS community.
Mary Quest, Community Member at Large
M.A., Early Childhood Education, Concordia University Chicago
"We have been part of the TCS community since my oldest was in kindergarten and every year we have seen incredible growth in our children, not only in terms of academic skills, but in their ability to identify their own strengths and interests, to be a good friend, to self regulate, to communicate in a wide range of ways and to listen to what others have to say. I am appreciative every day that my children are part of a community that supports them in learning about rights and responsibilities as well as how to identify issues of social justice and to use their voices to advocate for equity. As faculty at Erikson Institute, where I now teach social and emotional development and teacher education coursework, I find myself sharing examples of the ways that The Children's School is a model of what is possible in the larger world of education because children's voices are heard and their strengths are recognized. "
B.A., Humanities, Yale College
J.D., University of Chicago
“I love being around children. Most children like to be silly, but they’re very earnest about the things that are important to them. I’m the same way. I love learning and am curious about just about every topic. At the Children’s School I get to explore with the children. I never knew anything about mummification or Ancient Japan or hatching chicks until I studied them with my class.”
Christina Martin, J.D., Director of Curriculum and Instruction
Jasmine Davis, Faculty Representative
B.S., Elementary Education, Northern Illinois University
"Since I was very young, I have always been a person who wonders about so many things. I remember being a young child and always asking adults around me questions about everything, because to me these were the people who had all the answers. As I grew older I was fortunate enough to be introduced to books, and museums, and various people of all different cultures and beliefs. It was then that I realized that the answers didn’t just come from the adults in my life; I realized that learning simply came from living and experiencing life and the people in it. This discovery is the reason why I teach. Every day I get to see the excitement from students learning from the world around them, and realizing that as long as they keep questioning and wondering that joy of learning will never stop.”
Honorary Board Members (non-Voting)
BJ Richards, Honorary Board Member
40+ years in Early Childhood Education
Owner, licensed child-led, play-based child care home with an anti-bias learning environment
“I was interested in TCS as soon as I heard Daniel Ryan was starting a new progressive school in Oak Park. I have been working in Early Childhood for many years and wish TCS had been around when my daughter was in school. Progressive education is important today because education has become more about test scores, grades, worksheets and rigid rules that do not allow a child to develop their imagination, creativity, curiosity and the love of learning about what they are interested in. Many children do not learn through memorization and book work -- they need a more hands-on approach. I believe progressive education helps develop a child’s strengths and sees them for who they are, instead of trying to make them fit the mold of what our education system thinks they should be.”
Board Member Emeritus
B.A., Education, University of Michigan
M.Ed., Educational Administration, Harvard University
Ed.D., Educational Administration, Teachers College, Columbia University
Principal, Nursery -2nd Grade, University of Chicago Laboratory Schools, Chicago, IL
"As the Founder of The Children's School, I am pleased that we have created a learning community that honors the voices of children. Through projects, academic discourse, and democratic processes, children are fully engaged in their own learning. Since our first year in 2004, children have built castles, covered wagons, organic gardens and more. With expert guidance from teachers, these projects evolve from the the ideas and interests of the children. Using progressive educational practices, The Children's School is a community of children, teachers, and parents that celebrate and nurture the unique learning needs of each child."
Daniel P. Ryan, Ed.D., Founder, Board Member Emeritus