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Contents —

02 From the Head of School 04 Faculty Notes 06 Premiere 2018: Imagining Greatness 08 Saying Thanks: Prairie Celebrates

Thank a Teacher Week

11 City Snapshot 12 A Year Behind the Lens campus happenings 14 Class of 2018: The Dreamers and the Difference-Makers 18 Making Magic: Bonnie Benes Retires 24 Westside Maria 26 Class of 1978: Mission: Accomplished 30 What I Did on My Summer Vacation

• Back on Campus by Katie White

• The Art of Listening by Jennifer Cobb

• Ready, Set, Adventure by Melissa Flynn

33 Prairie Named Top Private School

in Wisconsin

34 Alumni Notes the last word 37 Jumping Right In

CONTRIBUTORS Editor: Brendan J. O’Brien Designer: Austin D. Gundlach Photographers: Jeff Wilson/Varitay Studios Austin D. Gundlach

U-Rah-Rah: Bonnie Benes, retiring after 34 years, reacts as members of the Badgers’ Marching Band crash her 2 | retirement celebration in June. Read more about Bonnie’s remarkable Prairie career on page 18.

Authors: Pat Badger Jennifer Cobb Nathaniel W. Coffman, Ed.D. Melissa Flynn Tom King ‘78

Rachel Morello Brendan O’Brien Aliya Pitts Katie White

From the Head of School —

Dear Prairie Alumni and Families, As we begin The Prairie School’s fifty-fifth year, and our first without our founder, I am confident that Mrs. Johnson would expect us all to embrace the future and move forward together striving every day to be our best selves. She founded Prairie as a world-class college preparatory school to create an environment where every student would be known, valued, supported, and challenged to develop the curiosity, creativity, and communication skills to thrive as adults who make a difference in their communities, careers, and families. You, our alumni, are a living testament to her legacy. So many are of you are thriving as lifelong learners in every possible walk of life, and in this fall’s magazine we catch up with the class of ’78 at their 40th reunion and dozens of other alumni in the notes section.

“Prairie has many strong programs and incredible facilities, but our greatest strength is the people who work here. Our faculty is deeply committed to finding and bringing our the best in each child.”

Prairie has many strong programs and incredible facilities, but our greatest strength is the people who work here. Our faculty is deeply committed to finding and bringing out the best in each child. There is no better example of this love and support for students than Bonnie Benes, who retired this summer and is featured on page 18. We know Bonnie will stay in touch and continue to be a regular spectator for the Hawks. In addition to sharing Bonnie’s commitment to each student, our faculty is also consistently striving to grow and improve. This summer has been a busy one with more than a dozen different collaborative faculty growth and development projects (three of which are share on pages) as well as a shared reading of The ABC’s of How We Learn by Daniel Schwartz, the Dean of the Stanford Graduate School of Education. Our goal was to develop a better understanding of the latest research on the many ways people learn and what specific pedagogical methods work best for each type of learning. I have a few extra copies of the book; if you would like one and are in town, please stop by my office. This fall we welcomed several new faculty members. They are truly talented, experienced, conscientious, and inspiring educators. The group includes two Ph.D.’s, an NCAA All-American, a grandmother, two captains of their college soccer teams, an amazing mixed media artist, and an alumnus returning home. I hope you will visit our website to learn more about them. On a final note, I hope you all enjoy this issue of PRAIRIE and have a great fall. Please keep in touch and stop by for a visit. Sincerely,

Nathaniel W. Coffman, Ed.D. Head of School & President

Faculty Notes

TEACHERS STRIVE FOR GROWTH OVER THE SUMMER — PAT BADGER, Advisor for Equity and Arts, served on staff at SEED equity leadership trainings in California and Massachusetts. Pat also used her voice as a co-presenter at Froedtert Hospital in Milwaukee, speaking on “Words Matter: LGBTQ+ Issues in Healthcare.” Additionally (she had a busy summer), Pat premiered a commissioned composition, entitled Calon Lan, for recorder orchestra at The Clearing Folk School in Door County, WI — along with MATT Primary School Music Teacher.


In June, JENNY COBB, Middle School English Teacher, traveled to Jeanette, Haiti with her husband and a nongovernment organization called The Haiti Project. Jenny participated in a “teacher exchange” — a day of professional development with Haitian educators — a student art workshop, and attended both Upper School and Kindergarten graduation at St. Marc’s School. She even learned some French Creole from her patient friends in Janette and ate wonderful Haitian meals. [A]

CLARE COSTELLO, Middle and Upper School English Teacher, graduated with a Master of Arts in English from the Middlebury Bread Loaf School of English. This five-year degree meets each summer for a six-week intensive program, which puts graduate study of literature and writing in conversation with pedagogy. As Co-President of her graduating class, Clare gave an address at her summer commencement ceremony. A

MARI GROBSCHMIDT, Learning Specialist, completed her Mentoring Certificate through Cardinal Stritch University’s College of Education and Leadership. The program gives educators additional tools to engage, support, and advance the professional learning of their colleagues — teachers! In May, ALIYA PITTS, Assistant Head of School for Community Relations, served as a moderator for the 2018 Giving USA Milwaukee Panel at the Milwaukee Public Museum (MPM), where she guided nonprofit leaders from the MPM, Milwaukee School of Engineering, and United Way of Racine County in a discussion of national philanthropic trends. As of February, Aliya is also lending her leadership skills as a new member of the Board of the Hospice Alliance Foundation in Pleasant Prairie, WI. Founded in 1981, Hospice Alliance is the only hospice house in Southeastern Wisconsin.

LYNNE SANTALUCIA, Upper School Math Teacher and COMPASS Team Math Specialist, recently completed Stanford’s online course, “How to Learn Math for Teachers.” The course, taught by Professor Jo Boaler, explores new research ideas on mathematics learning and student mindsets that can transform experiences with math.

VICKI SCHMITZ, Art Teacher/Department Chair, and SARAH TITUS, Upper School Social Studies Teacher,

each joined a 15-member cohort at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago for a week-long AP Summer Institute, a combination of seminar sessions and hands-on collaborative studio activities focused on the importance of art history and contemporary art practice in the high school classroom. These two educators are planning to pool their gains to create the curriculum for an art history/making class, which this fall for Prairie juniors and seniors. [B]

JEAN WEAVER, Upper School Science Teacher, attended the Biennial Conference on Chemical Education at the University of Notre Dame in July. Along with 1700 chemistry educators from various levels throughout the U.S. and abroad, Jean gained new ideas for labs, activities, and teaching strategies. She also shared two well-received presentations on labs she has created for Prairie’s Honors Chemistry and AP Chemistry classes.


Five Straight Years of 100% —

When Dr. Coffman arrived at TPS prior to the 2014-15 school year, it quickly became apparent to him what makes Prairie so special – the people. In particular, a faculty that is relentless in its efforts to go above and beyond for students and families, doing whatever is necessary to ensure every student is known, valued, supported, and challenged. This fall, for the fifth consecutive year, 100% of Prairie’s fulltime faculty made a gift to the Prairie Fund, a fund that helps Prairie balance the budget while offsetting everything from classroom supplies to professional development. The show of support directly speaks to the faculty’s shared belief in the school’s mission.

“It’s a pleasure being part of the Prairie School community,” says Margaret McDonough, Co-Director of College Counseling. “It’s a pleasure and privilege to work with colleagues, students, and parents who believe in the value of education, especially the education of the whole child; people who are thoughtful and purposeful in pursuit; seek the growth and well-being of all students; and share of fundamental ethic of civility, trust, and respect.”

Interested in joining Prairie’s teachers? Visit to make your Prairie Fund gift today!

Premiere 2018, held April 28th in the Johnson Athletic Center, raised over $280,000 in support of scholarships and financial aid. Presented by Specialty Underwriters LLC, this year’s event was attended by over 430 guests.

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With a theme of Imagine, the evening afforded ample opportunities to celebrate the life of Prairie’s founder, Imogene Powers Johnson. Here, Helen Johnson-Leipold ’74, Board Chair, talks about her mother’s remarkable vision and the special place Prairie held in her heart.

Saying Thank You



Kevin Will Position:

Upper School Science, Varsity Boys’ Golf Coach

By Rachel Morello, Communication Manager

— Most Prairie families and faculty members cannot recall a time when Kevin Will wasn’t a fixture on campus. 2018 marked Will’s 34th year as a member of the Prairie community — and during his tenure, he’s been involved in nearly every aspect of school life. Organizing the US trip to Camp Manito-Wish, coaching golf, basketball, and tennis, advising Student Government: in his own words, “I’m sure I’m forgetting something!” How has TPS changed over your time teaching here? Size. When I came here 34 years ago, the graduating class was 30 kids. Now, we’ve more than doubled in size, and that changes the culture. It was very family-centric back then, and it still is now. You do lose some intimacy when things grow bigger, but by the same token a bigger group is more diverse, which is healthy.

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What is your favorite TPS memory? There are just too many! I’ve made a lot of great friends here. I’ve been very comfortable here. It’s been a good fit for me. What advice do you give new TPS faculty and staff when they start? I encourage them to make connections with the kids. I’ve always been a firm believer that if the kids believe you are there for them, they’ll do what they need to do — not just in biology class, but in life. I’ve never considered myself to be the world’s greatest teacher, but I get kids to buy in and hence, they grow. And that’s what we’re here for, to help them grow. Fun fact: Something students might not know about Mr. Will (according to his good friend Bonnie Benes)… “He has an amazing singing voice!”


Jim Vass (left), Director, Corey Brandt (right), Assistant Director; Mark Krekling, Assistant Director (Night); John Kurt; Brian Fenkl (bottom), Jason Lees Position:

Prairie’s Facilities Team By Brendan O’Brien, Director of Communication

Prairie’s unsung heroes don’t work behind the scenes… they work on top of, underneath, and inside them. They dig and saw and weld. Study blueprints. Worry about leaks and breaks. Run wire... lots and lots of wire. They design new spaces and keep old ones looking pristine. They move stuff. Then they move it again. They orchestrate an endless string of deliveries. And then the school day starts.

What is your favorite part about each day? “Each day I have the opportunity to move around the building and interact with students. I walk through the Primary School and get high-fives and shy smiles. In the Middle and Upper School the students are usually hard at work or sitting in groups talking and laughing, but they stop and say ‘Hello.’ I just enjoy seeing the kids engaged in all the different types of activities.”

– Corey Brandt, 3rd Year at TPS

The TPS Facilities Team, directed by Jim Vass, is a group of problem-solvers perpetually on the move, covering the maintenance needs of every department and division while making sure Prairie is clean, safe, and operational.

What do you like most about working at TPS? “I like the sense of community. At Prairie everyone from students and families to faculty and staff work together to form a real community that we can all be proud of.”

They work hard, at weird hours, and in strange conditions. While they are not only the ones who make Prairie go, they are the reason we can continue to boast one of the most beautiful campuses in the country.

This spring, we attempted to track them down via email. We had moderate success. What is your favorite Prairie memory? “All of my favorite memories involve opportunities I got to drive students somewhere. Whether a short trip to baseball practice or the train station, or taking a group to UWMilwaukee or UW-Eau Claire, it is always fun to listen to the chatter and have the chance to interact.”

– Jim Vass, 10th Year at TPS

– Brian Fenkl (left), 18th Year at TPS

How has TPS changed in your time here? “After 24 years, it would be easier to tell you what’s stayed the same! Changes in my time at Prairie include the new Upper School, the JAC, new tennis courts, the soccer complex, the PS playground, Welcome Desk, many, many, many miles of computer wire, and upgrades to HVAC, lighting, offices and classrooms. However, I believe the real change has been the addition of incredible people. Assistants in all the Primary School rooms to maximize student potential. Additional professionals in Administration to carry out Prairie’s mission. There were eight full-time employees at Prairie when I started here.”

– John Kirt, 24th Year at TPS

Proud to be Prairie

The Faculty and Trustee Celebration Dinner is a longstanding tradition, one which marks the arrival of another school year. In addition to celebrating career milestones, the evening also affords trustees and faculty members a chance to welcome all the new faces on campus.

From left to right: Ben Wagner (Theater), Sophia Penkala (3rd Grade), Tom Bresnehan (MS/US Math), Eric Hollow (PE/Health), Alesha Stam (Kindergarten), Gardner Seawright (MS Social Studies), Joe Manley (1st Grade), Bernoli Baello (US Math), Paula Dorsey (4th Grade), Zach Perkins (Strength & Conditioning Coach), Hortense Dupin (Computer Programming), Izzi Buikus (Fine Arts), and Jason Louttit (US Math).

sAVe the dAte

PREMIERE 4 27 19

City Snapshot

By Brendan O’Brien, Director of Communication

Summer in Chicago. You can almost hear it, can’t you? The laugher and yelling of people walking down the crowded street; the stoplights clicking through their colors; cars honking; bus brakes hissing; an eclectic collection of corner musicians playing horns and banging on bucket drums. However, this summer, people walking down Michigan Avenue heard a different sound if they stopped in front of Our Treasure Trove – entry #625 in the Lighthouses on Mag Mile public art display – and used their imaginations. Waves lapping against unoccupied shores. A foghorn blowing. A gentle breeze rustling the green leaves of campus trees. From June 19th – August 11th, the worlds of Wind Point and Chicago collided in a beautiful mosaic lighthouse that was handcrafted on Prairie’s campus during the spring. Spearheaded by Holly Wolf-Mattick, Glass Studio Manager, Our Treasure Trove was truly a team project, with students and teachers from all three divisions lending their talents – and imaginations – to this one-of-akind creation.

A Year Behind the Lens

It was another year of innovation, impact, and success for Prairie’s students. Here we share some of our favorite images from 2017-18. The Communication Office

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Students w ork with Holly Wolf -Mattick, Glass Stud io Manager , and Bill Rei d ’73, Artist-in-R esidence, o n Prairie’s su bmission to the Lightho uses on Mag Mile public art display in Chicago .

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Members of the US robo tics team manip ulate their bo t at the 2018 VEX Robot ics State Tourn ament. The team also qualified for the Natio nal Championsh ips.

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Love our lens? Follow us on Instagram @theprairieschool

The Dreamers and the Difference-Makers CONGRATULATIONS TO PRAIRIE’S CLASS OF 2018

By Rachel Morello, Communication Manager

For Prairie’s Class of 2018, a diploma is more than just a framed piece of paper.

That paper represents a great number of accomplishments — academic, athletic, artistic. It signifies growth and persistence. It marks the beginning of a new adventure. The Class of 2018 is poised to tackle that adventure. This year’s graduates received offers for merit-based scholarships totaling nearly $8 million. They were admitted to 114 of the country’s finest colleges and universities, including some of the most selective and highly-ranked in the country. They have enrolled at the likes of Yale University, the University of Wisconsin - Madison, the University of California - San Diego, Northwestern University, the University of Chicago, and Cornell — just to name a few. As the saying goes, “To whom much is given, much is expected.” Dr. Coffman reiterated that sentiment in his message to graduates at their Commencement ceremony in June. 14 |

“As you begin the next stage of your life, I’m absolutely, positively sure that wherever you go, and whatever you do, there will be other people who need your help,” he said. “Make your dorm, your team, your college, your community a better place because you showed up, you helped others, you built relationships, and you made a difference.” For some members of the Class of 2018, their diploma represents fifteen memorable years as a Prairie student. Of the 66 students graduating with the Class of 2018, 22 of them have attended Prairie since first grade or earlier. These “lifers” have experienced every lesson, dining room selection, and tradition Prairie has to offer. Lifer Quinn Shannon will spend the next four years at the University of Wisconsin - La Crosse, where she’ll play for the Women’s Soccer team. Shannon is aware her experience has been unique — she’s spent the majority of her young life at Prairie. But she’s excited for what the future has in store, and and says she’ll be proud to share her experiences when future roommates or teammates ask, ‘Where did you go to school?’

“It’s like you’re diving off a diving board,” she explains. “In Primary School, you’re climbing up the ladder and your teachers are behind you, cheering you on. Middle School, you’re walking toward the edge and you start to look out at what’s below you. In Upper School, you’re at the edge, and you just have to jump.” “Now it’s up to us. We just gotta go for it.” The Prairie community took its own leap of faith this year. The Class of 2018 celebrated Prairie’s first Commencement ceremony without founder Imogene Powers Johnson, who passed away in March. But attendees felt her presence nonetheless — thanks to the message delivered by Johnson’s daughter, Helen Johnson-Leipold ‘74, the newest chair of Prairie’s Board of Trustees. “The greatest gift you have to offer this world is what only you can bring to it — your imagination,” Johnson-Leipold said. “Your diploma is a testament to the power of imagination, determination, and persistence. I believe there is a dream as big and as important as a Prairie School in each of you. And I believe, as my mother believes, you can now go out and make your dream happen.” All with the help of that piece of paper.

Prairie is about family and community - and there is perhaps no more public display of family pride than Commencement day for faculty members who are also Senior class parents. It is a long-standing Prairie tradition that staff members take to the stage and read their child’s name during the awarding of diplomas.


Codey Brandt with dad Corey, Assistant Director of Facilities

Wesley Eaton with mom Lisa, ELL Teacher

Luke Goelz with mom Kim, School Nurse

Logan Krekling with dad Mark, Assistant Director of Facilities

Quinn Shannon with dad Klay, Director of Technology

Eli Vass with dad Jim, Director of Facilities


HOMECOMING From Powder Puff to Fall Fest to the big dance, Homecoming week at Prairie is filled with annual rites of autumn. Nowhere is the senior class’s enthusiasm and camaraderie more apparent than during class competitions in the JAC.

SENIOR SENDOFF The best traditions are ones that are unquestionably unique. While other schools may gather as an entire community to celebrate their seniors, none of them can claim a campus walk like this. Senior Sendoff sees the graduates exit Upper School and walk over to the JAC for their class slideshow, Prairie’s students and teachers high-fiving and cheering them on the entire way.

SENIOR STANDOUT: ANNLI NAKAYAMA By Brendan O’Brien, Director of Communication There are three specific characteristics listed in the description for Prairie’s Medal for Academic Excellence, the school’s highest academic honor. As it turns out, they are apt adjectives for someone as comfortable playing Trix the Aviatrix in a spring musical as she is discussing her JapaneseAmerican heritage while penning an essay on the 2017 Student Diversity Leadership Conference (SDLC) in San Diego.

Mahl Youth Music Scholarship. The Wisconsin Wildlife Federation Conservation Leadership Corps Scholarship. The French Award.

Inquisitive. Reflective. Curious.

This fall, Annli will find a new supporting cast at Yale University. However, no matter what path she ultimately chooses, one thing is already certain – her star will only continue to burn brighter.

Ladies and gentlemen, meet Annli Nakayama ’18. Whether in the classroom, on stage, or surrounded by the TPS community – as she was while donning a bright red snowman sweater and emceeing Prairie’s beloved 12 Days Celebration from midcourt of the JAC last December – Annli routinely found herself at the center of what was happening. At this school, a place committed to encouraging student success in every medium imaginable, the awards and scholarships bestowed upon Annli speak to a remarkably driven young woman whose interests – and curiosities – are the epitome “Inquisitive. Reflective. Curious.” Cum Laude Society member. The Music and More Mearl

Hers was an Upper School career spent stealing the show, just as she did as Trix in The Drowsy Chaperone in March, a performance that earned her a Jerry Award for Outstanding Supporting Performance.

“At SDLC, 1,600 student from independent schools across the country gathered together to lift each other up, form bonds of friendship, and tackle issues of injustice and inequity through conscious dialogue and deep thought – something I never even considered possible.” – Annli Nakayama ’18

Making Magic

BONNIE BENES RETIRES FROM PRAIRIE AFTER 34 REMARKABLE YEARS. NOW WHAT? – Brendan J. O’Brien, Director of Communication The woman was exhausted and bleary-eyed from having spent all night and day driving from Washington State. Children’s in Milwaukee was one of two hospitals in the country that could help her nonverbal son and so here she was, 1,500 miles from home, standing in the Ronald McDonald House (RMHC) lobby on a Sunday night. She needed help and rest. She needed the kind of compassion that lifts us up when we’re having difficulty standing on our own. Somewhere in the House, Bonnie Benes and her fellow Hospitality Volunteers were already busy with the duties of their shift – putting clean sheets on queen beds, picking up play areas, doing dishes in one of the kitchens. “She needed help getting settled,” Bonnie says. “And she needed to be fed. That’s when the volunteers really kick in.” She recounts the story on a beautiful afternoon in July, sunny and hot, breezy, the kind teachers dream about when calendars turn to spring. I met her at The House where we tagged along with a special tour being given to a group of nursing students from Marquette University. The professor brings all of her classes here because she feels it’s important for future nurses to see what happens at RMHC. Simply put, it’s magic. Magic happens here. “You think Prairie is a happy place,” Bonnie whispers as we follow behind. “This is a happy place. No matter what kind of week I had, I always knew I had Sunday nights.” 18 |

Every other Sunday, Bonnie gets in her sporty SUV and drives 20 minutes north on I-94 from her home in Franklin to serve her 6:00 to 9:00 PM shift as a Hospitality Volunteer. The House, as the full-time employees (just thirteen) and volunteers (a whopping 550+) affectionately call it, has served 43,000 families since opening its doors in 1984. Their mission is to keep families together while their children receive medical treatment at local hospitals, mainly Children’s, located just across Watertown Plank Road. Upon building an addition in 2013, RMHC – which welcomes families from all fifty states and numerous countries – has not had to turn away a family in need. The place is easy to love. Compassion and kindness are everywhere – carefully stocked pantries and inviting rooms and clean, curated hallways; the House dog McNugget – or Mac, if you become well-acquainted with the Chief Cuddle Coordinator, a white Bichon and Havanese mix; a Secret Garden which is one of the most serene, beautiful, and peaceful places you will ever sit. However, there’s the rub. In order for a family to experience all of this, it means their child is sick. “Our job is to make sure they have to think only about their kids when staying with us,” Kylie Erlandson, Community Engagement Coordinator, explains to the students. The tour is halted as the group circles up inside the Magic Room, necks craned, everyone marveling at the rainbow canopy overhead and the floor-to-ceiling shelves filled with books and toys and games. Everything in here is donated. When any child checks in, they are given a token to pick out an item of their choosing.

For 25 years Bonnie has helped make this magic happen. She picks up Legos and does loads of sheets and makes sure pantries are stocked with coffee and ketchup. We’re tagging along not because she wants to understand what happens at The House – she’s got that down – but because she wants to understand better. Giving brief tours to new families is a Hospitality Volunteer’s responsibility, but she wants to know more, wants to give in-depth tours for these kinds of groups.

Bonnie Benes retired from Prairie in June. After forty years of teaching – the last thirty-four in Wind Point – this summer is the first in four decades she’s not mentally preparing to return to school. Rather, she’s mentally preparing for how she will stay away. _____ Roughly two months earlier. June. The day after Commencement for the Class of 2018 and guests would give anything for summer’s relentless heat. Mother Nature is in a miserable, drizzly mood, but it doesn’t matter. Campus is still buzzing. Nothing could keep the people away. Over 300 guests register for Bonnie’s retirement celebration. The number of people that show up is even higher. They come in shawls and slacks and windbreakers. They come from across the country. They come carrying bourbon or something Badger red. (Bonnie is a big fan of both.) Family and friends and co-workers and former students – goodness, the students – they all come to thank Mrs. B. for what she’s meant in their lives. Some of her close acquaintances say a few words. Cathy Taylor ’87 talks about what it’s meant to have Bonnie as a role model and friend all these years. Kat Clark ’08 talks about being a timid teen who, in Bonnie, found a steadying presence whose compassion ultimately influenced her decision to pursue a career in education. US science teacher Kevin Will, another Prairie fixture – he and Bonnie started at TPS the same year – talks about what Bonnie has meant to the school, about their close friendship, about the heart-stopping canoe adventures of field trips past.

NO ONE LIKE MRS B. Bonnie’s ability to put all of my angst regarding adolescent development into perspective was essential to my mental well-being. I loved sitting on her proverbial “couch” while she listened to my worries. Her wisdom was always spoton and I have been known to call her since graduation. Hope she leaves a forwarding number. Sara Birndorf, parent of Josh Birndorf ’16 I remember exactly the first time I met Bonnie. It was her first day as the Prairie Physical Education teacher and I was the Primary School Art teacher. That afternoon I was in the lower art room when I heard a loud sound – someone was singing and skipping down the ramp. It was Bonnie – instant friendship! There is no one like her. Cathy McCombs, Retired Prairie Teacher

Mrs. B. was one of the most impactful educators throughout my time at Prairie. She always had high expectations of her students, but we were always met with guidance, encouragement, and a good joke. Mrs. B. was also the best at designating nicknames – and while I don’t continue to go by Meggly Weggly Bubble Bath, I smile every time someone asks if I have a nickname. Megan (Rowland) McGuire ’82, parent of Maddox McGuire ’29 and Finley McGuire ’32 There is one memory that stands out when I think back on Middle School at Prairie. Mrs. B. had called me into her office to talk about a “situation” I had been involved in. I fully expected a stern lecture or punishment of some sort, but Mrs. Benes only cared about ensuring I learned from the experience. I was of course relieved, but also blown away by how she truly cared about how I was learning and growing as a person. Anybody who has been lucky enough to encounter Mrs. B. knows that is at the very core of who she is. Eric Wagers ’09

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There is laughter and applause and cheering. No one notices the rain. At one point Dr. Coffman, with help from his daughter, Claire ’19, presents Bonnie with an old school Lady Hawks basketball jersey, framed – number 34, same as the years she’s been at Prairie. When she first started, Bonnie spent a few seasons as the Girls’ Varsity coach. If you ask, she’ll tell you about the record. (0-19). She’ll tell you what kind of coach she was. (“Umm, not real great.”) And after that she’ll tell you what an amazing experience it was, remembering it all in a single word: fun. Eventually it’s Bonnie’s turn to talk, which she does while clutching a wadded Kleenex. For more than three decades, this has been home. Next month, another school year will begin to unfold with the same hard-to-comprehend rapidity as the thirty-four that have preceded it. “It’s humbling,” Bonnie says. She is emotional; anyone would be. “It’s humbling to see all of you here. To think back. Hear your stories. But I want you to know – whatever you may think I did for you, I promise, you all did so much for me.” After her remarks, but before everyone begins vying for a hug or selfie with Mrs. B., it’s time for the surprise. From somewhere in the foggy distance comes the banging of drums and the blaring of trombones. Marching through the mist from the north end of campus comes the UW Marching Band, here from Madison to serenade the guest of honor. _____ In 2017, Heather (Svoboda) Morris ’97 walked towards the Johnson Athletic Center on a perfect summer afternoon in early June. Just like the sun glistening off the building’s impressive banks of smoke-colored windows, she too was reflecting, remembering her Prairie experience, marveling at how life has a tendency to come full circle. The reason for her return was two-fold: not only was she back to watch a family member graduate, but it was also her 20th class reunion. As she sat in the stands and watched her niece, Payton Schultz ’17, she remembered when it was her wearing the robe and walking across the stage. “It was a very emotional day for me,” remembers Morris. “Especially singing the Alma Mater and watching the graduates exit. I was moved to tears.”

Like everyone else, she filed out of the gym and soon found herself surrounded by a sea of well-wishers, friends and family and faculty in suits and dresses, everyone searching for this or that graduate. It was in this swarm she bumped into her Lower School gym teacher, a woman who once taught her to skip while listening to Billy Joel’s “Uptown Girl” on vinyl. “I ran into Mrs. Benes in the hallway and we spent a quick minute catching up,” remembers Morris. “We talked about what was happening in my career, my family, and how Prairie had set me up for success. I was quite emotional about everything. As I apologized, she said something that not only impacted me that weekend, but something that has stayed with me. She said, ‘It’s okay. Your emotions show that this mattered. All of this mattered.’” _____ There are so many Heather Morris’s. Earlier this year, when Bonnie announced her plans to retire, the memories and stories poured into the Communication Office. The teacher who always had time for you. The teacher who always had breakfast bars and oranges in her office. The teacher who always had a hug. The teacher who always asked how you were doing. The teacher with the open door policy. The teacher who knew you. The teacher who remembered you. “Bonnie had this way of making us feel like we were the best, most important family to ever walk the halls of Prairie,” says Sue Gaertig, whose children, Abby ’10, Anna ’13, Bobby ’15, and Bethany ’15 all attended TPS. “When I tell people that, they laugh and say she made them feel the same way. She has this gift for listening, for caring, for loving. She’s able to push aside the small things we get hung up on as parents and make us see that everything will be okay. She is every child’s biggest advocate.” So many Heather Morris’s. _____

There are two things that have really stuck with me about Mrs. Benes – the first being that she KNOWS the kids. Not only do my children attend Prairie, but my niece and nephew do, too. My children are eight years apart. When chatting with Mrs. Benes, not only did she know my Middle School child at the time, but she knew my Early School daughter and mentioned my nephew and my niece. She knew the relation and when each child would be attending Middle School. As someone who has a difficult time remembering names, this was not only impressive but shows that she truly cares. The second story involves lunch time. If you’ve ever been at the Middle School lunch hour, you will have witnessed Mrs. Benes only raising her hand to gain attention and the entire lunch room quiets down immediately. That’s respect from the children. That kind of respect is earned not through hard-edged discipline or yelling and screaming. Amy Giles-Maurer, Parent of Mackenzie-Kay Maurer ’26 and Brennan Huff ’18

Coming from the south, I had high expectations for college football. In my first few months, many coworkers shared their love of the Badgers, but none were filled with exuberance the way Bonnie was as she described game day at Camp Randall. It was fitting, then, that my first Big 10 game was with Bonnie and her family. As much as I love football, I couldn’t tell you who played an exceptional game that day, or even who won. But I can tell you how Bonnie’s stories of her time in Madison made me laugh. I can tell you exactly what the stands felt like as they shook during “Jump Around” and how much she enjoyed sharing that moment with others. I can tell you how grateful I was to be Bonnie’s guest, and how I’ll always be thankful for her friendship that day and every day since I first stepped foot on Prairie’s campus. She makes me - and so many others - feel important not because of what our roles are or what we can do for her, but because she values our hearts. Callie Atanasoff, Director of Admission

When Bonnie was five, her father came home one day with a bunch of metal desks. An old schoolhouse was being torn down across town and, a teacher himself, he figured they’d make the perfect additions to the family basement. Downstairs in that faux classroom were notebooks, texts, a chalkboard. This basement is where Bonnie got her start. “My brother and sister were the pupils,” says Benes. “I was the teacher.” Education was literally in her veins. As was the calm, caring temperament that endeared Bonnie to 34 years worth of Prairie School students and families. “My parents were the kindest people in the world,” she says. “We didn’t have a lot. My dad was a teacher and salaries way back then – let’s just say he didn’t make much money. And mom stayed at home with the three of us. But there was always something about them; they were very kind to people. They were great role models. I look at my siblings – same way. My sister was the kindest. My brother is the kindest.” In Prairie, Bonnie found the kind of close, tight-knit community where her kindness was appreciated and returned. Sure there were other stops (prior to TPS she taught briefly in Green Lake, a tiny resort town between Princeton and Fond Du Lac on Highway 23) as well as opportunities passed up (in 1998 she nearly accepted a job to head a department in the Manitowoc Public School District), but Prairie was home. Once you find your home — your life’s calling — why would you ever leave? “I loved the size, the people. The families of Prairie connected with me. Sandy Kontra was one of the first moms I knew. Sue Cook. Gloria Batten: all these families were so kind. And I loved the collaboration, the collegiality. I look at my friends – Everett [McKinney], Kathy [Boero], Kevin Will, Kevin Pearson, Callie [Atanasoff ], Molly [Lofquist Johnson] – we all get something from each other. But we’re not parasitic. We just like each other. That’s what I love about the place. You don’t have to worry about too much when people are taking care of each other.” _____ The tour is done and we’re debating a late lunch at City Market Cafe next door. “Oh, let’s just go. It’s not like I have anything else to do,” Bonnie says, smiling. Like all discussions with her, the conversation is constant, genuine, heartfelt. We talk about her fist battle with breast cancer in 1993, and the second in 2000. We talk about Ruth Bader Ginsburg. We talk about her becoming Head of the Middle School in 1998. We talk about teachers who impacted her, like Mrs. Kimble in 1st grade who let Bonnie collect the milk money from her classmates – two cents per carton. We talk about her admiration for Gene Johnson. “How can you not love what Prairie is because of Mrs. Johnson’s love for people and her love for education?” says Bonnie. “The respect she had for learning makes you want to have that respect for learning. And you hope you can impart that to other people.” What I’m most interested in, however, is why.

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Why is Bonnie loved by so many? What made her different? Why do alumni, back for the first time in twenty years, end up hugging her? How did she endear herself to decades of students when her primary interactions with them came during the most tumultuous time – Middle School – many people ever experience? “You never know what a person is going through on any given day,” she says. “So why not be nice? Especially with teenagers. You got a zit on your nose, or your clothes smell, or you overslept, or you don’t have a lunch, or your mom’s being a jerk to you, or you’re being a jerk to your mom? Why make it more difficult? Kindness is so underrated. So if I can impart that, if I can be there for a kid who’s crying in my office – think about it. How important do you feel – whether you’re an adult or you’re thirteen – when somebody takes the time to talk to you? That’s a pretty big deal, isn’t it? And if I can do that for one person, then I’ve done my job.” As we finish our chicken wraps and sweet potato fries, there’s only one thing left to discuss. “I’m nervous,” Bonnie says, as if sensing the very topic in question. “I’m nervous because I don’t know what else I’m good at. This is all I’ve known for forty years. I babysat when I was twelve. I worked a concession stand at the baseball diamond in the summer. I was a lifeguard. I was a student-trainer at UW and then I started teaching right away. For forty years I’ve been teaching. I’m sixty-two and it’s like – holy shit – I don’t have to go to work next week. In fact, Wednesday is going to be a little weird because it’s August 1st and I don’t have to be at school. So I’m a little frightened. I have to admit that. But what am I going to do? What’s next? Well, you saw part of it today.”

We conclude our time together talking about the volunteer work she’ll do. At the House. At Hunger Task Force. At a number of other nonprofits that have played a pivotal role in her and her husband Mike’s lives. She’s excited to have time to work out every morning. To go to Madison. To watch sports. To read. She has just finished the new Patterson novel, The President is Missing. “I just read a full book,” she says. “550 pages. Oh my God. It was amazing.” Teaching since the age of five. It can’t be easy to simply turn the page, to begin writing the next chapter. “I’m nervous about what’s on the other side, but I don’t want to replace it with something just to be replacing it.” It, of course, is Prairie. A place that was made forever better thanks to her humor, compassion, and patience. ____ Heather Morris had a blast at her 20th Reunion — visiting campus and seeing what had both changed and remained the same, reconnecting with classmates, and spending time with her niece. In the days that followed her interaction with Bonnie in the hallway after Graduation, she had time to think about what the moment really meant. “I realized how right she was,” says Morris. “It all mattered. Prairie. My classmates. My family members who attended and taught here. And Mrs. Benes. It all shaped the person I am today. That moment with her, call it whatever you want – advice, consolation, friendship – it will stay with me forever. Because she was right. Every class, every friendship, every teacher, every experience – they all shaped us. And Mrs. Benes was at the heart of it all.”



— In this special celebration year of the 100th birthday of acclaimed US musician Leonard Bernstein, Mia Pinero ’12 can now write her own reflections about starring in one of his iconic works. From June through August, Pinero performed the role of Maria in Minneapolis’ Guthrie Theatre’s production of West Side Story. From the huge head and torch of an inverted Statue of Liberty looming ominously over the orchestra, to the multicultural composition of the typically-staged-as-white Jets, from the electric reworked choreography, to the abstract stage setting, the production offered grit and new ways to consider, “What does it mean to live in America?” The run included sventy-two shows, and in a role where illness or injury or exhaustion are always a possibility – and thus necessitating the need for a sub to step in on any given night – Mia can claim the remarkable feat of singing and dancing all summer long without missing a single show. Seeing her, talking with her, watching her, and catching a glimpse of her world, I can affirm that she is still the captivating presence on stage that we remember from her Prairie theatre days. The craft of performance requires talent, but even more, the continual capacity of self-reflection, selfevolution, deep listening, and commitment to hard, perpetual work. These are all things Mia’s growing artistry reflects in the magic she creates. Mia won a 2017 Drammy Award for Best Actress in a Musical (West Side Story). She earned her B.F.A from Montclair State University. Read more about her career at


Mission: Accomplished

A RETURN TRIP HOME, A REUNION, AND A REALIZATION 40 YEARS IN THE MAKING. By Tom King ’78 In June 1978, I walked across the Field House stage to receive my high school diploma. John Mitchell, Headmaster, shook my hand and assured me that the foundation laid at 4050 Lighthouse Drive would serve me well in college and beyond. Forty years later, I returned to campus for Reunion Weekend. Dr. Nat Coffman, Head of School, shook my hand and asked, “So, how did we do?” Cognitive dissonance – discomfort, as Mrs. Betts taught, that emerges when opposing thoughts fill our minds – reared its ugly head. I mumbled a few words and disengaged, to sort through how to size up my Prairie heritage. Thought number one was that I have felt embarrassed to be “a lifer” from a small country day school shaped by a blue-collar town that’s seen better days. Minutes into my college experience, I learned how no one could confuse Harvard Yard with Wind Point. Bell-bottomed jeans,

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broad vowels, and a bizarre vocabulary (what’s a bubbler?) distanced me from sophisticated kids from exclusive communities and name-brand high schools. I was a product of a Midwestern institution that embraces simple values. Every school day had brought me past the Rotary International plaque offering the four-question test. I had earnestly told visitors that Paul Harris, Rotary’s founder, was a native son. Mr. Mitchell’s constant reminder to “Remember who you are and what you represent” had instilled a desire to do the right thing when no one was looking. Mr. Swanson had pounded into our skulls that good sportsmanship trumps athletic accomplishment. The upshot, when I arrived at college, was that I was not cool. Here was a kid who openly shared, didn’t eat paste, and colored between the lines. Efforts to flirt with preppy girls went nowhere. Final Clubs, Harvard’s version of

fraternities, had little interest in “punching” Racine’s version of Theodore Cleaver. I coped by inserting emotional distance from my hometown and making jokes at its expense – “Hey, it’s like Toledo without the glitter.” Yet, at age 58, I felt a need to return. Through a series of emails and phone calls, members of our class reconnected and talked each other into coming home. When we met in person, conversations erupted without effort. Our bodies looked older, but banter revealed that personalities remained unchanged – except perhaps that we had become better listeners with a bit more empathy. Conflicting thought number two was that Prairie is amazing. The school accomplished its mission of setting us up for success. On a proportionate basis, Prairie placed as many students into elite colleges as any high school in the country that year. After college, classmates became Fortune 500 CEOs, advisors to Congress on tax policy, counselors to Secretaries of State, Disney Imagineers, and rock and roll sex gods. But that’s not the important part. Conversations revealed that every member of our class became a good citizen. We care for our families, follow current events, vote, pay taxes, support charities, and volunteer our time. Walking through what was once the girls’ field hockey pitch, I struck up conversations with alums from other classes. Guess what? They’re no different. Gathered in one place was a remarkable collection of people who would make any community proud. I also noted that the Prairie campus, something I had taken for granted, is stunningly beautiful. It’s hard to beat Frank Lloyd Wright-inspired buildings nestled in a lush, lakeside setting. How could I trash and love my heritage? I couldn’t. I resolved the dissonance by recognizing that our wonderful school produces kind, involved people who help make this world a better place. I am proud to be a Hawk.

Mr. Mitchell, wherever you are, I just want to say one thing: Andover and Exeter got nothing on us.

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From Jill Neubauer ’78

It took one strong, eager voice reaching out to our class to get people to say, “Yes, I’ll come back.” Tom King, our Class of ’78 Valedictorian, was that voice and it worked.

It was a bit nerve inducing to think of the weekend as it approached, but once it started it was easy, grounding, and meaningful to connect with classmates. People I knew (a bit) forty years ago were familiar. What struck me was the warmth and respect we had for each other. After a weekend of opportunities to talk with classmates, I came away with the belief that we were-are-a remarkable class. Not because we were closely-knit or a cohesive group in ’78 — I don’t think we were — but because we have each found our path in life. We have each found our way to a life of meaning, relationships, and productivity in areas of interest and talent. That is the best a school can strive for and we talked about how Prairie, helped us on our journey. I feel more connected to my class now than ever before, and look forward to our next get together. Whenever Tom decides to send out the call to gather, I will say “Yes.”

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From Richard Gorton ’78

There was no single fondest memory for me. There were a lot of great experiences and activities that afforded me a breadth of knowledge, along with various challenges that helped me to grow. Today, professionally, I’m in computing. I got my exposure to this via a programming segment in an Upper School Science class, and it was thoroughly addictive. I further pursued computing in college, and have been doing software close to the hardware ever since: Digital Equipment Corp (DEC)’s Semiconductor Division, Cisco, and AMD. As well as multiple smaller companies. But that is not all of it. “Remember who you are and what you represent” was a mantra while I attended — and that resonated. Our family business in Racine was based upon creating high quality machine tools — engraving machines and mills. The “quality” aspect and “being responsible” parts have stuck. And as part of the remembrance, I’m grateful for the Prairie experience. I try hard to “pay it forward” via funding of Science education at Prairie. The biggest surprise, for me, about our 40th reunion was how many of us participated, arriving from all over the nation. Catching up with classmates regarding what they have done and are doing was quite interesting. In addition, the graciousness of our many hosts was incredible: Connie and Liz for Friday night dinner; Jill for the Saturday night picnic.

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Seth Bigelow ’78

By Aliya Pitts, Assistant Head of School for Community Relations

In June, Seth Bigelow came to Wind Point from Georgia for his 40th class reunion — but in the summer of 1975, he traveled all the way from Sao Paolo, Brazil. His father’s job with J.I. Case brought the family to Racine and Seth to Prairie. Although Seth only attended for three years until his graduation in 1978, he remembers it as a special part of his life.

At Prairie, Seth was active in theater — “I was in every play I could get into” — and also joined the soccer team. Having never played the sport, he eventually served as the goalie on the 1976 State Championship Boys’ Team. He used to walk or ride his bike to school, and vividly recalls the beauty of the campus and nearby Lake Michigan. Today, Seth is a Ph.D. Forest Ecologist at the Joseph W. Jones Ecological Research Center, studying fire and silviculture in the management of longleaf pine forests. His academic journey involved a stint at Dartmouth studying anthropology, nursing school for his RN, and an evolving passion for plant biology that led him to both the University of California - Santa Cruz and the University of Florida to study botany and ecology. With so many demands on his time, what compelled him to return for his reunion? “I loved getting to Racine and the Midwest — just that whole environment. It was a powerful experience to be reunited with this small group of people — I felt an instant sense of deep belonging. We were all transported was amazing to see how people have evolved and yet being able to recognize the essence of each of us that’s exactly the same.”


From Pattie Rivituso ’78

It’s so hard to sum up all my emotions and feelings about my experience at Prairie. The reunion was such a wonderful event that brought back all the fond memories I have of my one year there. I am just filled with gratitude for having had the opportunity to attend Prairie for my senior year. From the Headmaster, Jack Mitchell, and the Head of the Upper School, Ed Wucker, to all my teachers and friends and classmates, I was welcomed and given the opportunity to excel and have a very fulfilling and enriching experience in all aspects — from fellowship with classmates, to academics, to co-curricular activities — like the musical Carousel and playing on the softball team. I can’t imagine a more fulfilling and wonderful senior year and will forever be grateful that my parents had the vision of enrolling me after we came back from Puerto Rico. They retired to Florida the following year, but wanted me to have the opportunity to finish high school in Racine where we had lived prior to Puerto Rico and where we returned every summer as my Dad checked back in with the home office of SC Johnson. Prairie, Racine, the lake, the lighthouse, and SCJ all bring the warmest feelings and emotions and thoughts. I am so very fortunate they are a part of my life.

HOW I SPENT MY Back on Campus

Returning to her beloved Madison, Katie White finds herself impacted in more ways than one. By Katie White, Primary School Art Teacher This July I found myself packing my bags yet again for the much-anticipated two-week residency for my graduate school program at the University of WisconsinMadison. As part of the Master of Science for Professional Educators program, I participate in online classes during the school year while having the opportunity to study with my cohort in person during the summer. And to ensure that this is a truly authentic college experience, I live in a dorm with my classmates. But what makes this experience even better is that I get to be back in Madison, a city I absolutely love. Walking down State Street to see what’s new and different, watching the sunset at the Memorial Union Terrace, and getting a slice of mac ’n’ cheese pizza at Ian’s are just a few of my favorite things to do while back in the city. My family always visits me for the weekend when I am on campus and we have a favorite tradition of stopping to see the places my husband

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education professors in the country, I have also connected with talented teachers from around the world. Surprisingly, I think I underestimated the impact of these personal connections on my learning.

Katie White poses with daughters, Meg ’28 and Lauren ’25

Ben and I lived when we were Badgers in the late nineties. (Our daughters Lauren and Meg do not seem to appreciate this walk down memory lane as much as we do.) A highlight of this summer was locating many of the Bucky on Parade statues that were on display throughout Madison and Dane County. As I look towards graduation in May, I am struck by the insights gained by continuing my education. Not only have I had the chance to learn alongside some of the top

I strive to create a supportive learning community in my classroom each year and now I have the chance to experience this process from the vantage point of the student. Continuing my studies has also been a positive, albeit harried, experience for my family. We teach students at Prairie to be lifelong learners and I am excited that my daughters are experiencing all of the adventures (spending time on the UW campus) and challenges (balancing fun with schoolwork) with me. As with so many of life’s more memorable moments, it is both the people and the places involved that make them truly dynamic and transformative. And this summer has proven no different.

SUMMER VACATION The Art of Listening By Jennifer Cobb, Middle School English Teacher

In April, four of my colleagues and I were awarded Prairie’s Professional Enrichment Grants to take part in the Stanley H. King Counseling Institute (SKI). I was super excited to travel to Colorado, spend time with colleagues, and get away for a week. I had no idea. What I actually got myself into was a week-long intensive class that challenged some of my established behaviors as a teacher and counselor. I was plunged into small group sessions, role plays (which usually annoy me), and some serious discussions about my interactions with people. Suddenly, I was a student again. I listened to long lectures, moved from class to class, sat for hours a day, participated in discussions, and did homework. “This is not what I signed up for,” I kept thinking. “I’ve been teaching for years. I don’t need this.” I couldn’t have been farther from the truth. Turns out I did need it and learned that even after thirty years of teaching, I can grow and change as a person and educator. Narrowed down, my big takeaways were: A) Resist the urge to ‘fix it,’ and B) New connections are important. “Be patient,” Sam, my professor, kept repeating. Most teachers are in the business of solving problems. For example, when a student comes to me with a problem, my immediate reaction is to fix it. Sam explained how this does not help the student as much as listening and asking clarifying questions. The techniques we learned encourage students to pinpoint issues and come to their own decisions about approaching their obstacles. This kind of listening builds stronger relationships and fosters their personal growth much more effectively than when we fix it for them. Every afternoon, we met in small groups comprised of novice to veteran teachers and administrators. All thirteen of my group members taught me a little something – and faced the hard work of practicing with me. We worked together and made it through some tough exercises. We became a tightly knit group and formed special connections (we have a group chat going right now). At Stanley King, I learned and practiced skills for listening in a new way. I also met some incredible educators who will be a support for me during the coming year.

Jenny traveled to SKI with a number of TPS colleagues. Here, they share the most important thing they took away from their week in Colorado. “You don’t have to fix it, just listen!” – Carmen Warren, MS Mathematics “SKI taught me many tools to use as an advisor, but the most valuable takeaway in my mind is the reminder to always listen deeply and make a connection.” – Lisa Koleske, Director of Human Resources “The Stanley King Institute helped me realize that deep listening, or listening to hear instead of respond, is a key component in forming meaningful relationships with my students, advisees, and colleagues.” – Brianna Kuntsman, MS Mathematics

Ready, Set, Adventure

For Upper School math teacher Melissa Flynn, summer is a chance to get up and go. By Melissa Flynn, Upper School Math Teacher Ever since I began teaching, I’ve been told by my friends and family how lucky I am to have summers off. However, as someone who loves to learn and try new things, I’ve never thought of summers as “time off,” but rather a chance to regroup, try something new, and go on adventures. Summers are filled with travel, graduate school, mentoring new teachers at the University of Notre Dame, stage managing, designing and scenic painting for theatre companies, and tutoring students. This summer I attended the Klingenstein Summer Institute for Early Career Teachers at Columbia University’s Teacher’s College. I spent two weeks at The Lawrenceville School in New Jersey with seventy-five other early-career independent school teachers, as well as lead teachers and presenters from around the world. Arranged into Diversity and Equity and Curriculum groups, we quickly got to work on topics ranging from brain science to content-specific misconceptions to school diversity and culture. In addition to exploring Lawrenceville’s campus and engaging in conversation with some of the greatest minds in education, two collaborative projects greatly influenced my thinking on classroom teaching.

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In one small group we focused on the idea that all of mathematics, specifically higher mathematics, can be connected and developed from the more simple structures we learned as elementary and middle school students. Another collaborative project was our Critical Friend’s Group where we focused on improving our teaching and curriculum design as a means to help and better support our students. Working with three other eductors ranging in age, hometown, and subject area, we all presented lessons, accepted feedback and answered questions. We were not redesigning or rushing anything, but rather reflecting upon and processing our artifact and its intent. Both projects impacted my practice and how I develop and design curriculum. Based on these experiences, one of my goals this year is to spend time reflecting upon my own teaching practice on a regular basis.

Prairie Named Top Private School in Wisconsin

Summer isn’t typically a time for winning titles in Wind Point, but that’s exactly what happened in July when named Prairie the Best Private High School in the State of Wisconsin. The popular ranking website – Niche currently has over 475,000 likes on Facebook – has become a dependable source for people researching K-12 schools and colleges, as well as places to live and work. According to Niche, “The 2019 Best Private High Schools ranking is based on rigorous analysis of key statistics and millions of reviews from students and parents. Ranking factors include SAT/ACT scores, the quality of colleges that students consider, student-teacher ratio, private school ratings, and more. Data sourced from the U.S. Department of Education, Niche users, and the schools directly.” Rounding out the top five for 2019 are University School of Milwaukee, Madison Country Day School, Marquette University High School, and Madison Edgewood High School. Prairie was ranked #2 in 2018. Visit to leave a review of your experience at Prairie.

Alumni Notes —

1970s In May, Helen Johnson-Leipold ’74, Chairman of the Board and CEO for Johnson Outdoors, Inc. and Chairman of the Board for Johnson Financial Group, was named the Harvard Business School Club of Wisconsin’s Business Leader of the Year. The award “Celebrates an inspirational Wisconsin executive who has made significant contributions to both his or her organization and the community at large.” Johnson Leiopold was honored at a special awards dinner at the Phister Hotel in Milwaukee.

1980s Tom D’Orazio ‘82 CEO of two new companies he is currently taking to market: Overa and Spaybac. Overa is a non-hormonal birth contral injection for women and a vaccine to humanely control animal populations. A starter on Prairie’s 1982 State Championship basketball team, D’Orazio was featured in the Racine Journal Times’ Catching Up With feature last April.

1990s Monila (Kotecha) Junkins ’92 and her husband, Brian, are co-owners of Friends’ Marketplace and Garden Center in Orleans, MA. First opened by Brian’s parents as part of a small chain that stretched across southeastern Massachusetts, Friends’ Marketplace is celebrating twenty years in Orleans this year.

2000s Jessica Nilles ’01 has joined Fireside Farm as an assistant horse trainer. An accomplished rider, she has won a number of United States Dressage Federation (USDF) championships including USDF Reserve Champion Intermediate I at Nationals 2016, and USDF Grand Champion Intermediare I at Region 2 Championships 2017. 34 |

MARRIAGES & BIRTHS Divinity Matovu ’04, a Community Program Manager with Lyft, was recognized at the 2018 Top Moms of Color in Tech reception held in California. The event was hosted by the Reach Mama Network. For more information, visit www. Peter Olesen ’05, Vice President of O&H Bakery, was recently recognized by the University of Wisconsin Business School in their 8 to Watch Under 40 publication. Olesen earned his BBA from UW in 2009. He was also recognized by the Milwaukee Business Journal in their 40 Under 40 publication in 2017. Tresha Nielsen ’08 is a Senior Product Designer with High Sierra in charge of back-to-school products and most backpack products. In August she was profiled on [A]

2010s Ashleigh Mohrbacher ’12 was recently awarded the Biel Fellowship at Winona State University. The honor is given annually to one member of the school’s nursing class. Emily Lovdahl ’14 has joined Festival Ballet Providence for the 2018-19 season. Previously she was with Nevada Ballet Theatre since 2016, where was involved with productions such as Swan Lake, Serenade, and Western Symphonyas among other classical and contemporary works. Zane Navratil ’14 was named to the 2017-18 Google Cloud Academic All-America At-Large Second Team for DIII as selected by college Sports Information Directors across the country. The recent UW-Whitewater graduate finished his college career with a 4.0 grade point average while earning a BA in Accounting. He is currently working on his Master’s in Accounting. A standout on the Men’s Tennis team, Navratil finished his Warhawk career with a combined 112 singles and doubles wins. [B]

Amanda Cifuno ’07 married Joe Livingston on July 7th, 2018. MacKenzie DeClark ’12 married Alec Muniz ’12 on July 6th, 2018. Mirella (DeRango) Sabol ’02 and her husband, Kyle, announce the birth of Emma Michelle Sabol (10/15/17). [C] Megan Huizinga ’05 married Dylan Morgan on May 5th, 2018. Kevin Lange ’06 married Kia Her on Saturday, August 18th, 2018. Kristy Lehner ’09 married Justin Lemminger on December 31st, 2017.

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A new family member (please include child’s full name and date of birth)

An honor received

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magazine reserve the right to revise and rewrite items for content and length.

Update your address, phone number, email address, profession, family

information and anything else you

would like to share. To do so, email Brendan O’Brien, Director of Communication, at or

use the Update Your Information

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OFF AND LEARNING On September 4th, Prairie welcomed Brian Harris ’74 back to campus to deliver this year’s Convocation address. His message was powerful, stressing the importance of striving for greatness and living life with a constant desire to question, learn, and grow. After a successful business career in the steel industry, Harris has become an urban farmer in retirement, reimagining farming in inner city Grand Rapids, MI. Read more about his story and this year’s Convocation, at www. prairieschool. com.

36 |

The Last Word —


Jumping Right In By Rachel Morello, Communication Manager

On the first day of swim practice, Coach Yoav Meiri arrived to find not a single athlete had brought along a cap or goggles. This might not always fly with a varsity-level coach. But when your sport is brand-new to the school, you make a few concessions. “Some of them had never even put their face in the water” Meiri remarks. The 2018-19 school year marks the addition of Prairie’s first ever Upper School Swimming & Diving Teams — girls’ in the fall, boys’ in the winter. The Prairie-Racine St. Catherine’s co-op teams will compete as members of the Southern Lakes Conference, led by Meiri, a Prairie parent, former All-American at the University of Minnesota, Olympian, and twenty-time Israeli champion. In its first season, the PSC Aquatics girls’ team garnered fourteen members — half from Prairie, half from St. Cat’s. Almost every member of this inaugural squad is a beginner, and they like it that way. “I have no idea what I’m doing, but neither does anyone else,” chuckles Prairie Junior Hannah Hua. “It’s really good to have everyone start off fresh together.”

“We can all learn and struggle together,” agrees Senior Sarah Pettinger. “We get to set the tone for the program this year, and going forward.” Coach Meiri says his team’s beginner status will undoubtedly dictate the kind of success they achieve. But it will also give them a benchmark for progress. “We’re not going to have a state qualifier this season. We’re not going to have a conference champion. But, we’ll go to every meet, we’ll have fun, and we’ll do our best,” Meiri says. “What they lack in experience, they make up for in enthusiasm.” For the time being, PSC teams will practice at the YMCA Lake Avenue pool, since Prairie doesn’t have a pool of its own on campus — although that’s a long-term dream for the program, Meiri says, along with expanding to Prairie’s Middle and Primary Schools. For now, he says, the goal is to develop a love for the sport in as many Hawks as possible. “I recognize Rome wasn’t built in a day, and neither was a Prairie swim team. This is the first step.”

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Prairie | Volume 4 - Issue 2  

Prairie | Volume 4 - Issue 2