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.Arch., University of Notre Dame
Registered Architect in Illinois and Ohio
"My middle child began fourth grade at The Children's School two years ago, and we are so pleased with his experience. TCS has brought back his love of school, exploring new ideas, and learning about the world around him. My husband and I find the progressive education TCS provides so important to a child's personal and social growth. Our youngest is now in the first grade, and the learning through play approach suits his needs so well. I enjoy being an active part of my children's educational community."
Sandi Carr, President
Rachel Douglas Swanson, Vice President
Rachel is mom to Isaiah (2nd grade) and Solomon (2 years old) and partner to Doug. She found out about TCS while pregnant with Isaiah and therefore decided where he would attend school before she decided whether or not to use cloth diapers. In her free time, Rachel is a Creativity Coach, working with schools across the country to provide more engaging, equitable, and creative learning experiences for students and teachers. Formerly Rachel has been a teacher in Chicago Public Schools, an instructional coach in CPS and Elmwood Park School District, and the Academic Director for the Lutheran Schools of Chicago. Rachel is an avid reader and lover of laughter.
Fellow of the Society of Actuaries (FSA)
BSBA, Drake University
Lead Strategic Actuary, Kuvare Holdings
"We are new to The Children's School community as my daughter began first grade there in the fall of 2020. The alignment of values and core beliefs made the decision to join TCS an easy one.
We have been so impressed with the communication, thoughtfulness, and decision-making process during this challenging time. I look forward to partnering my passion for children's progressive education with my skill set to help TCS navigate our ever-changing environment."
Emily Lorentzen, Treasurer
Mary Quest, Secretary
M.A., Early Childhood Education, Concordia University Chicago
PhD, Child Development, Loyola University Chicago and Erikson Institute
"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. When I teach child 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."
Michael McGuire, Member at Large
B.A., Business Administration, Pacific Lutheran University
M.B.A., Elmhurst University
Sr. Account Manager FedEx Services
“Every child is uniquely special, and all children must learn on their own trajectory. We can guide them on their path, but the discovery and navigation of that path is an important part of the learning process. We found The Children’s School five years ago when we were looking for an appropriate school for our son Colin. He had some learning challenges and would have been shuffled around and lost in the public system. Pam and Christy were extremely reassuring that this was the right place for Colin, and they were not wrong. TCS has provided a home for both of our boys now, and we couldn’t be happier with the ethos and child-centered pedagogy of the curriculum. Colin and Finn have both flourished at the school, which I believe provides one roadmap for what effective childhood education can be.”
Courtney Bledsoe, Member at Large
B.A., Psychology and Human Development, University of Kansas
A.M., University of Chicago, Crown Family School of Social Work, Policy and Practice
Clinical Social Worker, Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago and
Pop Pediatric Therapy Services
"We have been at TCS since 2018 and my kids are now in 4th and 2nd grades. We were fortunate to discover progressive education through the preschool my children attended and knew that we wanted to find a similar play and project-based approach for elementary and middle school.
I am a clinical social worker and have spent my career working in mental health with kids and families. Finding a school community that aligns with our values has been a real blessing. It is important to me to be an active member of the school community and support TCS as they continue to bring progressive education to life."
Jon Sieg, Member at Large
A.B., History, Harvard University
M.B.A., University of Chicago Booth School of Business
Equities Trader, Citadel Securities
"TCS is a truly wonderful, one-of-a-kind school and community, and its growth and success are good for our broader west side community, as an example of what education can and should be. As a parent, I have witnessed TCS be transformative for the development and outlook of our daughter, and I want to give back to the school that has done so much for her and her peers. It's my hope that my experiences in finance, leadership, and project management can be useful to the school.
I am particularly passionate about TCS’s nature play and learning curriculum, including on-campus, during forest days, and on field trips. A sense of wonder, love, and curiosity for the natural world should be essential for every child (and every adult), and the feeling of stewardship and responsibility that follows in our role for caring for the earth is invaluable. I'm excited to see how as a board member I could better support that focus on learning in nature, through projects, new partnerships, or just showing up and helping out."
Julia Huff, Alumni Representative
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."
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
Mika Yamamoto, Faculty Representative
B.A., Comparative Literature, University of Southern California
M.A., English Language and Literature, Central Michigan University
"When I was in elementary school, I was very happy at my public school; I loved to learn and had a lot of friends. But on Saturdays, I went to Japanese school, where I cheated on kanji tests and remained friendless year after year. On Saturdays, my socks didn’t even match… which in the 80’s was not yet cool. Same child, and yet, I felt differently about myself and showed up differently. No one was explicitly mean to me; I just didn’t feel like I belonged. Never mind that I didn’t learn, that was secondary to my misery. No child should ever feel so miserable. But in third-grade, I had a Japanese school teacher who made extra effort to make me feel seen. That year, I got A’s on my kanji tests and made two friends. Most importantly, I was happy. This has become my touchstone story for how I believe children need to be treated. All week long, I had the same body, the same brain, the same family, the same home… the only thing that was different was my school environment, and it turned out one adult made all the difference. Since then, research has verified this is true. My unhappiness was not inherent or inevitable; I was not destined to be unhappy, not even just on Saturdays. I just needed one kind face; but the flipside was that without it I could not be happy."
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 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