Faculty & Staff

Adriana Kondrat

Adriana Kondrat

Movement & Games Teacher, Student Support Coordinator
Adriana Kondrat

Adriana Kondrat

Movement & Games Teacher, Student Support Coordinator

Adriana Kondrat (pronouns are she/her/hers) is a Chicago Waldorf School graduate and studied at Arcturus. She was the Assistant Director and Co-Founder of the CWS Summer Camp. She is a BAVX (Bal-A-Vis-X) trainer and is currently studying in spacial dynamics on the west coast. She also has a degree in General Education and joined UPWS in 2012.

Aimee Krall-Lanoue

Aimee Krall-Lanoue

Board Member
Aimee Krall-Lanoue

Aimee Krall-Lanoue

Board Member

Aimee Krall-Lanoue has served on the Board of Trustees since 2018, most recently leading Urban Prairie's governance task force. She has been parent in the Urban Prairie community since 2012 when her oldest son began first grade at the first Urban Prairie location on Halsted. She also has a son in fourth grade who entered into the Waldorf world at City Garden. A writing teacher and researcher, Aimee is a professor of English at Concordia University Chicago. She also directs the Writing Center.

Amanda Poll

Amanda Poll

Class Teacher
Amanda Poll

Amanda Poll

Class Teacher
Amanda Poll (pronouns are she/her/hers) teaches the class of 2025. She grew up in New Albany, Ohio, where she first discovered her love of working with children while coaching swimming and rowing. She attended Ohio State University to study Early Childhood Development. She was also on the varsity rowing team that won the NCAA Championship in 2013. Following her graduation, she earned her master's in Child Development & Education at Oxford University. Her dissertation investigated the impact of reading role models on socially disadvantaged second-graders. After graduation, Ms. Poll moved to Chicago to teach Junior Kindergarten at Chicago Jewish Day School. To further advance her career, she enrolled in the elementary education licensure program at Northwestern University. She student-taught in a 2nd grade classroom in Chicago Public Schools. During her time at Northwestern, Amanda became the main substitute teacher at Chicago Waldorf School, where she frequently worked in the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th grades. Inspired by the Waldorf philosophy, she began her Waldorf training that summer. Amanda graduated from Northwestern in June 2016.
Andi Pearl

Andi Pearl

Class Teacher
Andi Pearl

Andi Pearl

Class Teacher

Ms. Pearl (pronouns are she/her/hers) is an experienced Waldorf teacher with an extensive background in science and math, as well as music, performance, and writing. Andi teaches the class of 2021. She has worked at Miami Waldorf School and Prairie Hill Waldorf School in Wisconsin, where she taught grades 1-8 with a focus on the middle school years. She also served as Faculty Chair at Prairie Hill. For the last seven years, she has worked for NASA and other international space agencies as a professional development specialist and science education specialist for K-12 teachers in space and sun science. She most recently served as Director of Education for a not-for-profit agency focused on nutrition education and urban organic farming initiatives. There, she oversaw curriculum development, program implementation, and training program development for both school educators and apprentice organic farmers in an effort to address nutrition and food accessibility needs in diverse communities. Ms. Pearl holds a B.S. in Elementary Education with a concentration in Math and Science from Iowa State University and trained at Antioch University in Waldorf education and at Great Lakes Teacher Training.

Angela Kiefer

Angela Kiefer

Co-Director of Curriculum and Instruction
Angela Kiefer

Angela Kiefer

Co-Director of Curriculum and Instruction

Angela Kiefer (pronouns are she/her/hers) was our first class teacher, completing her first eight-year teaching cycle in 2017. This year, she is contributing significantly to our school by not only mentoring many of our class teachers but also envisioning, researching, and bringing to life our permaculture garden, edible forest, and outdoor gardening plan. She received her Waldorf training at the Great Lakes Teacher Training program, Milwaukee, WI. Prior to joining Urban Prairie, Ms. Kiefer taught the kindergarten summer program at Singing Winds Waldorf School in Riverside, IL. She is a former improv comedian and an accomplished horsewoman. Ms. Kiefer holds a B.A. in French and Theatre from the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh and has completed coursework for her M.A. in education, Mount Mary College.

Brian Gleichauf

Brian Gleichauf

CO-DIRECTOR OF CURRICULUM AND INSTRUCTION
Brian Gleichauf

Brian Gleichauf

CO-DIRECTOR OF CURRICULUM AND INSTRUCTION

Brian (pronouns are he/his) is part of the tripartite Director of Curriculum and Instruction role which includes Angie Kiefer and Becky Moskowitz. Brian has previously written curriculum for and served on the board of UPWS. Brian holds a BA in Physics from Michigan State University, an M.A. in Theological studies from McCormick Theological Seminary, and a Waldorf Certification from the Center for Anthroposophy. Brian taught 6th-12th grade science and math at the Chicago Waldorf School from 2003-2013. While at CWS, Brian was a founder of the Ruby Garden in Schreiber Park, a community garden for the neighborhood. In 2014, Brian was hired as the first Lead Teacher to open the new high school for Tamarack Waldorf School in Milwaukee. Brian currently resides in Racine, WI, with his family and works for the Eco-Justice Center of Racine. Brian has passions for outdoor life, walking, bicycling, composting, land restoration and permaculture.

Candace  Choma

Candace Choma

Educational Support Coordinator
Candace  Choma

Candace Choma

Educational Support Coordinator

Candace Choma (pronouns are she/her/hers) received her Bachelor’s Degree in Elementary Education from Washington University in St. Louis. Upon graduating, Candace became the founding early childhood teacher of Three Rivers School, a Waldorf initiative in LaCrosse, WI. Candace went on to teach early childhood / kindergarten at both Great Oaks School and Prairie Hill Waldorf School. Candace completed her Waldorf teacher training through Waldorf Teacher Development Association in Ann Arbor, MI. More recently, Candace completed her Master’s Degree in Special Education while teaching in a therapeutic day school setting. Candace is currently in the remedial training program offered through the Association for a Healing Education.

Catherine Francis

Catherine Francis

Vice President
Catherine Francis

Catherine Francis

Vice President

Catherine Francis joined the Board in June 2017 and is a member of the UPWS Facilities Committee and AWSNA Committee Chair.  Catherine has spent her career working in child welfare, managing projects mostly in the area of youth residential care and psychotropic medication monitoring for the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services (IDCFS).  Catherine currently works at the Institute for Juvenile Research at the University of Illinois at Chicago on efforts to improve access and quality of mental health services for children with public insurance.  She has a Master’s of Public Policy from the University of Chicago Harris School with a focus in Child and Family Policy.  She has been a parent at Urban Prairie since the spring of 2016.  She and her husband, Ryan, are parents of a 7th grader at UPWS.  In her free time, she likes to swim, bike, run and keep active outside.

Dan Galat

Dan Galat

Orchestra Program Director
Dan Galat

Dan Galat

Orchestra Program Director

Dan Galat started playing violin when he was 7 years old. 7 years later, he began teaching violin. 12 years and many thousands of hours practice after that he graduated with multiple degrees in violin performance from the Jacobs School of Music. While he was in music school, he taught music theory to undergraduate and graduate students as an Associate Instructor. Upon graduation, Dan performed around the state of Indiana, taught 5th grade orchestra, and directed and launched a nonprofit called Habitat4Music which provided free violin group classes to low income students. In 2016, Dan moved to Chicago to play with the Civic Orchestra of Chicago and began teaching music classes at Urban Prairie. These days, you can find Dan performing around the city performing new music, playing in musicals, chamber groups, and with orchestras at venues from Symphony Center to Constellation.  In his free time, Dan enjoys running, cooking, and spending time with his wife and their two cats.

Danila Miranda

Danila Miranda

Finance Co-Chair
Danila Miranda

Danila Miranda

Finance Co-Chair
Elizabeth Avilla

Elizabeth Avilla

Class Teacher
Elizabeth Avilla

Elizabeth Avilla

Class Teacher

Liz Avila (pronouns are she/her) currently teaches the class of 2026. Liz joined the teaching team at UPWS after working in the Chicago Public Schools, both as a classroom teacher and a teacher coach and mentor with the Chicago New Teacher Center and the Erikson Early Math Collaborative. She most recently assisted in an early childhood classroom at City Garden Waldorf School. Liz has a BA in Sociology from Augustana College and a MEd in Early Childhood Education from University of Illinois at Chicago. She also earned her ESL/Multicultural Certificate at the Erikson Institute. Liz has begun her Waldorf teacher training at Arcturus. Liz was eager to return to teaching in the grades!

Erica Moriarty

Erica Moriarty

Parent-Child Play Group Lead Teacher & Early Childhood Assitant
Erica Moriarty

Erica Moriarty

Parent-Child Play Group Lead Teacher & Early Childhood Assitant

Erica Moriarty (pronouns are she/her/hers) strives to offer families an introduction to Waldorf education in a warm, creative space for parents/caregivers and their children. Erica has a baccalaureate in Psychology with a minor in Art from Northern Illinois University. She has a Waldorf Foundations Certification from the Center for Anthroposophy and an Early Childhood Certification from LifeWays North America. She and her husband and three children support families with children fighting cancer via the Dainty Warrior Project. Outside of the classroom, Erica enjoys teaching group fitness classes, painting, and making crafts with her children.

Glenda Ding

Glenda Ding

Chinese Teacher
Glenda Ding

Glenda Ding

Chinese Teacher

Xuefen (Glenda) Ding (pronouns are she/her/hers) is a native of Lanzhou, in northwest China. Ms. Ding was a college professor for ten years and taught foreign languages at a global education organization in Beijing for eight years. She holds a BA in literature and a master’s in economics. Ms. Ding joined UPWS in 2011. She completed her Waldorf Teacher Training program at Arcturus Chicago in 2019.

Gyasi Kress

Gyasi Kress

Summer Camp and Afterschool Programs Coordinator
Gyasi Kress

Gyasi Kress

Summer Camp and Afterschool Programs Coordinator

Mr. Kress (pronouns are he/him/his) began his professional acting and musical career at the age of 16, while attending Curie Metro High School in Chicago. Highly influenced by his mother's success as the lead singer and guitarist of her own band (Kanika Kress and the Blues Express), Gyasi has continued to pursue poetry and music as a personal passion long after his mother's death. During his college years at University of the Arts in Philadelphia, he started a youth-oriented open mic which expanded to Chicago as the OpenMind OpenMic at the Bridgeport Arts center under HumanThread. An alumnus of TeenStreet Theater, he has worked as a teaching artist and/or mentor with Afterschool Matters, Alvin Ailey Camp Chicago, The Boys & Girls Club, and the Victory Over Violence campaign.

Hannah Avellone

Hannah Avellone

Class Teacher, Interim Faculty Chair
Hannah Avellone

Hannah Avellone

Class Teacher, Interim Faculty Chair

Hannah Avellone (pronouns are she/her/hers) currently teaches the class of 2023. She received her BA from Bard College and her Waldorf teacher certificate from the Arcturus Rudolf Steiner Education Program. Hannah has long been a member of the Urban Prairie community as a lead kindergarten teacher at City Garden Waldorf School, through her work with the Urban Prairie Board, and as an adult educator. Outside of the classroom, you can find Hannah hiking, playing the cello, knitting, singing, and playing games.

Heather La Riviere

Heather La Riviere

Handwork Teacher
Heather La Riviere

Heather La Riviere

Handwork Teacher

Heather La Riviere (pronouns she/her) is a native of Bellefonte, Pennsylvania and grew up in an Army family. She earned a BA/MA from the University of Chicago with general and special honors in Romance Languages. She worked as the Director of Adult and Youth Programs at the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum and as the Director of the Shoreland Language Commons at the University of Chicago. A self-taught fiber artist and seamstress, Heather has made clothing, costumes, quilts, and many, many knitted projects. She also enjoys abstract painting, playing the piano, performing in community dance and theater, and open-water swimming. She lives in Hyde Park with her family.

Indra Lively-Hatcher

Indra Lively-Hatcher

Early Childhood Assistant
Indra Lively-Hatcher

Indra Lively-Hatcher

Early Childhood Assistant

Indra Lively-Hatcher (pronouns are she/her/hers) attended the Olympia Waldorf School grades five to eight and worked at OWS for the past five years; the last three as an assistant teacher in the Huckleberry Kindergarten. Indra has a BA from The Evergreen State College and has completed the Foundation Year for Waldorf Teacher Training. Indra is happy to have found the Urban Prairie community in Chicago after relocating from Washington State.

Jennifer Zielinski

Jennifer Zielinski

Director of Enrollment and Admissions
Jennifer Zielinski

Jennifer Zielinski

Director of Enrollment and Admissions

Jenn uses she/her pronouns, she comes to us with over 10 years experience working in Enrollment Management at the Chicago Waldorf School. She and her husband currently reside in Rogers Park with their 3 boys and Chi-Weenie named Mimi. Her deep commitment to Waldorf education is reflected in her professional development, having completed the Foundation Year at Arcturus Rudolf Steiner Program, as well as having spent a year studying Educational Support with experts at the Association for Healing Education. In July of 2014, she attended the National S.E.E.D. (Seeking Educational Equity and Diversity) Project training to become a S.E.E.D. facilitator and has been leading sessions ever since. She is a graduate of the University of Illinois at Chicago and is excited to be back in the neighborhood.

Kelly Quesada

Kelly Quesada

Cello Teacher
Kelly Quesada

Kelly Quesada

Cello Teacher

Kelly Quesada (pronouns are she/her) is a cellist and educator based in Chicago. Active as both an orchestral and chamber musician, she has been playing in professional ensembles for over 10 years. In addition to performing with the Eugene, Huntsville and Tuscaloosa Symphonies, she was also the founding cellist of the Delgani String Quartet based in Eugene, Oregon. Kelly recently completed her tenure as principal cellist of the Civic Orchestra of Chicago, where she had the pleasure of sharing the stage with the likes of Yo-Yo Ma, Riccardo Muti, and the future leaders of the music world. Kelly is equally dedicated to teaching the next generation of musicians, currently teaching cello at Merit School of Music and South Side Suzuki. Kelly is extremely excited to be joining the Urban Prairie family in her first year!

Mat Riendeau

Mat Riendeau

Class Teacher
Mat Riendeau

Mat Riendeau

Class Teacher

Mathew Riendeau (pronouns are he/him/his) is the class teacher for the class of 2020. He trained at Arcturus Waldorf teacher training program in Chicago. Before coming to Urban Prairie in 2010, Mat taught at Water’s Edge Waldorf School in Wauconda, IL. Prior to realizing his calling as a Waldorf teacher, he completed two tours of service with the United States Peace Corps. He taught English for two years in Sichuan Province, China, and spent two years working at a rural health clinic in Burkina Faso in West Africa. Mat holds a B.A. in Chinese from Middlebury College.

Megan Cather

Megan Cather

Class Teacher
Megan Cather

Megan Cather

Class Teacher

Megan Cather (pronouns are she/her/hers) started at Urban Prairie in 2017 as the 4th grade class teacher and continues to teach the class of 2022. Megan received her BA in Spanish and Writing/Communications from Maryville College and her MS in Elementary Education from Northern Illinois University. She has a Professional Educator License from the State of Illinois with endorsements in Bilingual Education in Spanish and English as a Second Language. Before coming to Urban Prairie, she taught for 10 years in the Chicago Public Schools, teaching bilingual 2nd, 3rd, and 5th grades. She is delighted to be teaching at Urban Prairie, and is currently pursuing Waldorf certification. Megan finds joy in hiking, camping, playing the guitar, and reading.

Megan Rotko

Megan Rotko

Class Teacher
Megan Rotko

Megan Rotko

Class Teacher

Megan Rotko (pronouns are she/her/hers) teaches the class of 2025. Megan began teaching English as a Second Language while living in Chiapas, Mexico between 1995-1999. She returned to the US and earned her degree in Political Science and Spanish while living in An Arbor, MI. After moving to Chicago she taught yoga, meditation, and Spanish to children kindergarten through third grade while completing her Waldorf Teachers Certificate.  Before coming to Urban Prairie, she taught at the Chicago Waldorf School, taking a class from 1st through 5th grade. Megan is the President and Dharma Coordinator of the Chicago chapter of Jewel Heart Tibetan Buddhist Studies Center, where she facilitates weekly classes.

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Michael Levine

Michael Levine

Board Member
Michael Levine

Michael Levine

Board Member

A founding Board member, Michael has served the school since 2009. Michael was the first President of the Board, serving in that capacity from 2009 – 2012. During his tenure, he has also served on the Executive Committee (former chair), Marketing Committee (former chair and former member) and Strategic Planning Committee (former and current chair), lead the school’s search for it’s first full-time Administrator and provided IT support for all areas of the school. Founder and president of AppAbility, a software development consulting firm here in Chicago, Michael has over 20 years of experience in team leadership and strategic decision making. His son, Benjamin, attended City Garden and was a part of Urban Prairie’s inaugural 2009 class.

Missy Byrne

Missy Byrne

Teaching and Office Assistant
Missy Byrne

Missy Byrne

Teaching and Office Assistant

Melissa (Missy) Byrne uses the pronouns she/her/hers. Missy has been a teacher in the Waldorf discipline for sixteen years, and she earned her teaching certificate from Arcturus Rudolf Steiner Teacher Training Program in Chicago. She first became an early childhood teacher at Chicago Waldorf School and held that position for six years. Next, Missy continued her journey at DaVinci Waldorf School in Wauconda, Illinois. She joined the early childhood faculty as a co-lead teacher and assistant and then transitioned to a class teacher. She has been a member of the Urban Prairie Waldorf School for the last two years. Before dedicating herself to Waldorf education, Missy had a career in the corporate sector and then explored the world of international food and wine at Topolobampo Restaurant with Rick Bayless. In the latter position, Missy was able to travel the world of Mexico with its glorious sights and wonderful food! She is so grateful that her journey has culminated with getting to teach and lead wonderful young minds, and she looks forward to continuing this path at Urban Prairie.

Nisreen Al-quamari

Nisreen Al-quamari

Finance Co-Chair
Nisreen Al-quamari

Nisreen Al-quamari

Finance Co-Chair

Nisreen joined the Board in the Fall of 2018 and has been a member of the City Garden-Urban Prairie community since 2014.  Her background is in Finance and she started her career doing Business Valuation.  After taking a few years off, she now works in the Budget Department at the CTA, which is challenging work considering the financial situation of the city and state!  She has 3 children attending UP - two in the class of 2024 and one in the class of 2025.

Peggy Lofgren

Peggy Lofgren

Director of Operations & Finance
Peggy Lofgren

Peggy Lofgren

Director of Operations & Finance

Prior to being hired as Director of Operations and Finance, Peggy (pronouns are she/her/hers) served as our School Administrator, Chair of the Urban Prairie Board Finance Committee and Treasurer. She joined UPWS with a wealth of expertise in administration and finance in the luxury hospitality and wellness industry. She has managed P&Ls for the last 15 years from $2M to $20M in revenue. She has local and international experience in the luxury spa business and has led key corporate initiatives using strategic planning and analytical skills. She has launched multiple new properties and collaborated with corporate leadership in marketing, human resources, design and construction, training, and finance. A UPWS parent, she is committed to Waldorf education and is passionate about Urban Prairie.

Rey Phillips Santos

Rey Phillips Santos

Board Member
Rey Phillips Santos

Rey Phillips Santos

Board Member

Rey A. Phillips Santos has been a member of the City Garden-Urban Prairie community since 2015.  Rey is a Senior Counsel with the City of Chicago’s Department of Law in the Legal Counsel Division, and has been with the City since 2006.  Rey’s background includes environmental law, hotels, finance, education, and history.  When not at work, Rey enjoys nothing more than being with his wife, Sarah, and son, Javier.  If it involves playing soccer, bicycling, hiking, grilling, or essentially doing anything outdoors, so much the better.

Robert Welcher

Robert Welcher

Class Teacher
Robert Welcher

Robert Welcher

Class Teacher
Shannon Callahan

Shannon Callahan

President
Shannon Callahan

Shannon Callahan

President

Shannon is a career nonprofit executive working across sectors specializing in campaign fundraising, strategic planning, and board development. As such, she got a ring-side seat for the amazing fundraising prowess and generosity of the Urban Prairie community with the whirlwind 72-hour new building campaign – a career highlight. Shannon is a Vice President for the National Audubon Society where she enjoys exploring wild places and learning about birds, while raising a bit of money. Shannon, her husband and son moved to Chicago in 2014 after 10 years in London and are happily ensconced in the Hyde Park neighborhood. Upon moving to Chicago, their first (and best) decision was to join the City Garden Waldorf School community by sending their then three-year-old son to join Ms Hellesoy’s class. The Callahan family is excited to deepen their relationship with this incredible community.

Sharla Paul

Sharla Paul

Director of Administration
Sharla Paul

Sharla Paul

Director of Administration

Sharla Paul (pronouns she/her) holds the new Director of Administration role as part of Urban Prairie's 2019-20 governance restructuring. A founding board member, Sharla has a decade of experience as a leader at Urban Prairie. She fostered the strategic planning initiatives to establish long-term financial modeling, to build reserves, and to create our middle-school-into-high-school plan, and led the school's long-term facility search, culminating in a $600k capital campaign and our 13th and Ashland home. Sharla’s experience in education communications and planning includes her work for the University of Chicago, which has won a Grand Gold Award from the Council for the Advancement and Support of Education. In 2019 she wrote the project plan for the National HeadStart Association to draft ethical guidelines for Artificial Intelligence and technology in early childhood education, and she serves on the year-long working group for that initiative. Sharla enjoys river paddling, bicycling by the lake, and backpacking in the Olympic Peninsula. She has three sons, including a UPWS alumnus in high school and students in the graduating classes of 2020 and 2023.

Sherry Diaz

Sherry Diaz

Woodworking Teacher
Sherry Diaz

Sherry Diaz

Woodworking Teacher
Sophie  Baumgartner

Sophie Baumgartner

Faculty Administrative Coordinator
Sophie  Baumgartner

Sophie Baumgartner

Faculty Administrative Coordinator

Sophie Baumgartner (pronouns are she/her/hers) attended the Chicago Waldorf School from kindergarten through 12th grade, graduating in 2005. She earned a BA in Political Science and Environmental Studies from Kalamazoo College in Michigan. Prior to starting at Urban Prairie she spent five years working at Smith Bucklin as membership coordinator for a specialty nursing association. She brings her administrative skills to the Urban Prairie office and her true passion, Circus Arts, to the Urban Prairie students. She is pursuing her Waldorf Teacher Certification and Masters in Education through Antioch University.

Tolman  Flannery

Tolman Flannery

Spanish Teacher
Tolman  Flannery

Tolman Flannery

Spanish Teacher

Tolman Flannery (pronouns are he/him/his) was a Waldorf student himself at the Chicago Waldorf School (CWS), where he was in the third class to graduate eighth grade. Mr. Flannery traveled to Mexico many times as a boy and studied Spanish throughout his schooling. He attended Macalester College in St. Paul, Minnesota and studied in Oaxaca, Mexico for a semester. Mr. Flannery taught ESL to adults for eight years. He then taught Spanish at CWS and North Park Elementary. He also taught in Bilingual Classrooms at Pilsen Community Academy, a Chicago public school. He is currently raising three bilingual children, two of whom attend Urban Prairie. He joined Urban Prairie in 2016.