Director and Upper Elementary Teacher: Paula Boback Soon after I became a mother, I thought more critically about my child's education. I wanted to provide my children with a valuable education based in environmental and sustainable principles. When I sat down to describe what exactly I envisioned I wrote this:
"I want my children to attend a year-round school that fosters a real sense of community. Respect is the most important value of this school. Kind words can be heard between teachers and students and between peers. Students are encouraged to express their emotions through art, music, or appropriate body language and words. Students are taught to resolve conflicts by using “I feel” statements. Each child is respected as an individual with feelings, thoughts and emotions. I do not want my children to be rushed to eat lunch in 15 minutes and then have limited time outside for recess. Preparation, eating and clean-up are all part of the lunchtime routine. Nutritious food is provided for the children to enjoy. During the summer, the children eat food they have harvested from the gardens. Playing outdoors is not just recess after lunch. Children are outside as much as possible playing and learning from the environment. I want my children to look forward to school and be excited about learning! The curriculum is relevant and useful. Students' voices are heard as to what they want to learn and then integrated into the curriculum. The teachers communicate with parents through newsletters about everyday learning and what units are upcoming. I use this knowledge to plan family vacations to enhance my child’s learning."
I am very proud to say that Prairie Green School opened in 2011 with all the same ideals. We expanded to include an early childhood program during the 2013-2014 school year. As we grow, I am keeping my original vision in mind and holding true to our mission. I invite your family to come join our community as we build Prairie Green School.
Early Childood, Spanish and Ukulele Teacher: Nicole Upchurch I love my job! In my fourteen years of teaching, I have never experienced a school as empowering to its students and teachers as Prairie Green School. I first began teaching at PGS in the 2012-2013 school year. At that time, I only taught Spanish to the elementary once a week. Paula would join us in the lessons, learning alongside the students. I admired how she interacted with her students and the joy that she brought into the classroom. I knew I wanted this school environment for myself as well as for my daughter, Waelyn.
Music is a passion of mine and I find it to be an effective tool in my teaching. Songwriting has organically found its way into both the elementary and preschool curriculum. In the words of one of my students, “Ukulele is our instrument.” My students have enjoyed the opportunity to record our original songs and perform for others at our school, as well as other local stages. Outside of teaching, I play banjo/guitar and sing in two musical projects locally: Awful Purdies (www.awfulpurdies.com) and the Feralings (www.theferalings.com). I love to see my students at performances! I am deeply privileged to be a part of the PGS community and enjoy the good work of slowing down to guide children as they experience the world around them. I hope to encourage my students to hold on to their inherent curiosity and authentic creativity as they grow.
Elementary Teacher: Jen Wright Being welcomed to Prairie Green School as a fellow learner and teacher is a highlight of my career journey so far. The philosophies of teaching and learning at PGS closely mirror my own. I joined the team this summer and could not be more elated!
My career journey started after I became a proud graduate of Western Illinois University in 2001 where I received my degree in Curriculum and Instruction with endorsements in Language Arts, Math and Science. I continued the journey by earning an endorsement from the University of Iowa in Gifted Education. I have since taught 3rd and 4th grade as well as been an Extended Learning Coordinator for PCM and Lone Tree Schools.
My desire for learners is for them to discover their passions, learn how they learn best and contribute effectively to a community. As a teacher and fellow learner, I strive to empower others in these areas by modeling curiosity, exploring interests of my own and allowing for a safe environment for taking risks. Email: Jen@prairiegreenschool.org
Bridge-Year Classroom Teacher, Art Teacher: Helen Neumann Helen Neumann is an artist and educator who has been teaching various forms of creative expression to diverse populations since the 90s. Helen was trained as a visual artist, with a BA from Grinnell College and an MFA in Painting and Drawing from the University of Iowa. Her teaching career began as an art educator in Atlanta, Georgia, where she was simultaneously teaching drawing at the Art Institute of Atlanta and running an art program for children in a homeless shelter for battered women and children. Helen noticed commonalities between the future art professionals and the disenfranchised youth when their individual ideas were welcomed, fostered, and integrated with the ideas of others to form community. These commonalities included greater connection with the lessons, improved concentration, burgeoning self-confidence, more joy, and a certain quality of shining behind the eyes. Many years later, Helen’s primary goal as a teacher is to help students understand that their brains are always producing ideas (either based on class curriculum or mysteriously their own). She works to create a physical and emotional space in the learning environment where learning and thinking twine together to grow the student and the community. Prairie Green’s small class size, multiage classrooms, devotion to nature, respect for the individual, child-centered philosophy, and ability to incorporate emergent learning is a perfect fit for Helen’s abiding commitment to childhood and intellectual freedom. In addition to Prairie Green, Helen teaches at Coe College, the Wide Eyed Academy for Young Artists, and the REACH Program at the U of I. She is a certified Yoga teacher, and is getting an MSW at the U of I with a focus on children and family (play/art therapy). She is the mother of two teens, Irene and Billy, and has a very demanding dog named Griffin.