Office

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Paul Pressler
Head of School
paulp@willowwind.org
Master of Arts in Educational Leadership, University of Iowa
Master of Arts in Humanities-Culture and Gender Studies, University of Colorado, Denver
Bachelor of Arts in English, University of Colorado, Boulder
Experience: 24 years

Paul began working with school-aged children as a youth sports coach in the early 90s. Paul's first work in a school capacity came at South Torrance High School in Torrance, California. After the tragic events at Columbine High School, Paul spent a year working as an emergency youth counselor in Littleton, Colorado. Prior to coming to Willowwind Paul served for eight years as both a teacher and as the Dean of Students at Denver Academy in Denver, Colorado.

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Ena J. Garner
Business Office Accountant

enag@willowwind.org
Master in Business Administration, University of Iowa Executive MBA program
BS Business & Marketing, Focus Accounting, Mt. Mercy College, Summa Cum Laude

Associate of Arts, Kirkwood Community College
Experience: 30 years

Ena has worked for several multinational and entrepreneurial companies. She brings with her a broad spectrum of experience in a variety of industries. While working as a consultant for Community Colleges for International Development, she found a passion and desire to work in the area of education.

Away from work, Ena can be found enjoying life. Ena’s interests include: golfing, fishing, gardening, study group, yoga, crafts, quilting, landscaping, motorcycle riding, skiing, and DIY projects. She enjoys spending time with her two children, eight grandchildren, six horses, two rescue dogs, and a couple of stray cats on her sixty-acre farm. As a lifelong learner she enjoys reading, listening to books, attending classes, and the occasional movie.

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Laurel Hibbard
Development Director
laurelh@willowwind.org
B.A. in Communication Arts, Wartburg College
Experience: 17 years

Laurel Hibbard joined Willowwind as our Development Director in 2016. She comes to us after nearly 17 years of fundraising experience at the University of Iowa Foundation; the majority of that time spent with development for UI Children's Hospital. Iowa girl born and raised, Laurel grew up in Marshalltown and attended Wartburg College in Waverly, where she received her B.A. in Communication Arts with emphases in Public Relations and Journalism. Laurel and her husband have been in the Iowa City area for 18 years, where they live with their two school-aged daughters and dog. Laurel is passionate about helping children and is very excited to be a part of the Willowwind community and the continued growth of the school. 

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Rachel Butler
Office Manager
rachelb@willowwind.org
BA in French and Secondary Education, Beloit College
MEd in TESOL, Seattle University
Experience: 23 Years

Rachel works at the front desk at Willowwind and also coordinates the Admissions process.  She can be found patching up scraped knees, coordinating upcoming events, and touring prospective families- all in one day!  Before working at Willowwind, Rachel was a classroom teacher at the high school and college levels, where she taught English language classes for international students, immigrants, and refugees. Rachel finds working with young children to be "new and entirely delightful!  Only at Willowwind have I had a student greet me by saying 'You look like a beautiful butterfly!'" 

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Dana Smith
Communications Coordinator
danas@willowwind.org
BFA in Graphic Design, University of Iowa (In Progress)
Experience: 2 Years

Dana, an Iowa City native, joined Willowwind in the summer of 2015. She has worked both in the education, and educational services industries for more than a decade. Dana has always had an interest in the arts and is currently working to complete her BFA in Graphic Design at the University of Iowa. At home, she loves to spend time with her family doing creative projects around the garden and house. Dana is thrilled to be apart of the Willowwind family, and looks forward to being a part of it's continued growth. 

Faculty

MONTESSORI PRESCHOOL

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Shayne Lanning
Lead Preschool Teacher (Ottoe Skipper)
shaynel@willowwind.org
Primary Montessori, United Montessori Association
BA in Elementary Education K-6, English/ Language Arts K-8, Manchester University, 
Endorsement in Special Education Strategist One, Morningside College
Ottoe Skipper Classroom Website
Experience: 14 years

Shayne Lanning has been teaching at Willowwind since 2008.  Her teaching career began after graduation from Manchester College in 2001.  She has taught at Sylvan Learning Center and in several public schools in both Washington and Iowa.  Before moving to Iowa, she taught at Discovery Montessori in Port Orchard, Washington for three years. Her first six years at Willowwind she taught in the full time Ottoe Skipper Montessori Preschool classroom. In 2014 she took over the Marblewing part-time Montessori Preschool classroom. In previous summers she has taught in the summer preschool program. She has also created and taught the Kindergarten Readiness class offered to preschoolers who will be moving on to kindergarten the following year. She has a strong passion for teaching and a love of learning, which she transmits to her students. Currently she is working on obtaining her masters in special education.  

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Leah DeGrazia
Assistant Preschool Teacher (Ottoe Skipper)
leahd@willowwind.org
BA in Religious Studies, Ancient Civilizations, University of Iowa
Ottoe Skipper Classroom Website
Experience: 3 years

Leah is from Winona, MN, but has called Iowa City home for the past six years. Leah graduated from the University of Iowa in May 2014 with a double major in Religious Studies and Classics in Ancient Civilizations and minors in Music and Philosophy. In her free time, Leah enjoys reading (especially books about ancient history, sociology, or sharks), playing her French horn, hiking/camping, and cooking. 

Colette Nakielski
Lead Preschool Teacher (Monarch)
coletten@willowwind.org
BA in Theatre and Music Performance, University of Iowa           Montessori Early Childhood Certificate, NAMC
Experience: 8 years

Colette grew up near Milwaukee, Wisconsin and received her Bachelor's degree in Theatre and Music from Ripon College. After college, she spent a summer touring Minnesota with Prairie Fire Children's Theatre before settling down in Chicago for the next seven years. While in Chicago, Colette worked as an assistant teacher for 2nd and 4th grades, and co-founded a theatre camp at Francis W. Parker School. From there, she took over as the Middle School Performing Arts Teacher at Bernard Zell Anshe Emet Day School. On top of teaching, Colette also sang and acted her way onto various Chicago stages, worked with such organizations as the Chicago Children's Choir, taught private voice lessons, and continued her education at VanderCook College of Music. She is thrilled to be a part of the Willowwind team and continue her journey through the midwest as her husband attends the University of Iowa.

Photo coming soon...

Kaye Miller
Assistant Preschool Teacher (Monarch)
kayem@willowwind.org
BA in Cultural Anthropology and Certificate in Human Rights, University of Iowa
Experience: 1 year
 

Kaye moved to Iowa City in 2008, attending school at Kirkwood Community College and the University of Iowa where she graduated with a Bachelor's in Cultural Anthropology and a Certificate in Human Rights. Her work with community and caring for others started at a young age with childcare and her first job at a nursing home in her home town of Rock Island, IL. Since then she has acquired an eclectic work history developing skills in restaurants, as a private chef, on organic farms and being a full-time private nanny. Her passions are gardening, cooking, spending time with family; her partner Nicholas, her dog Grover, and cat Levon.  She also enjoys being active outside with camping, hiking, and kayaking.

Kindergarten

Michelle Beninga
Kindergarten Teacher (Cottontails) & Curriculum Coordinator
michelleb@willowwind.org
Masters of Education (M.ED Degree), Hamline University
Bachelors of Art (BA Degree) - Psychology, University of Iowa
Cottontails Classroom Website
Experience: 9 years, 7 years at Willowwind

Michelle Beninga has been teaching Kindergarten at Willowwind since 2008.  In 2013, she assumed the role of Willowwind's newly developed Curriculum Coordinator.  Prior to Willowwind Michelle has taught in both Minnesota and Iowa where she has worked with students at all age levels, preschool through 6th grade.  In 2013, Michelle received her Masters of Education degree through Hamline University in St. Paul with the completion of her capstone project titled, "Willowwind's Story: Using Student Portfolios to Develop Authentic Assessments and Reflective Learning."  Michelle also holds a BA in Psychology with an emphasis in Child Development from the University of Iowa.

Building community and confidence are essential parts of Michelle's day-to-day Kindergarten activities. She believes that creating a lifelong love for learning is a critical component to academic and social success. Students in Michelle's classroom work together as family, interacting with one another while also participating in self-reflective discovery. As the Curriculum Coordinator, Michelle is eager to work with the entire community, growing Willowwind's desires, hopes, dreams, and goals for all students - past, present, and future.

Michelle and her husband, Brian, have been married since 2007. They have one son, William, who was born in 2014. As a family, they are avid football and baseball fans cheering for the Hawkeyes, the Packers, and the Twins.  They love to road trip and spend time with extended family.

First & Second Grade

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Eryn Dillard
1/2 Teacher (Prairie Racerunners)
erynd@willowwind.org
BA in Elementary Education, endorsement in Special Education Instructional Strategist I K-8, Spanish Minor, University of Iowa
Prairie Racerunners Classroom Website
Experience: 2 Years

Eryn is from La Crosse, Wisconsin but has called Iowa City home for the past five years. She graduated from The University of Iowa where she spent time teaching in many diverse settings, including dual language classrooms, resource rooms, afterschool programs, and in multiple general education grades. She has always had a passion for connecting with children and coming alongside them as unique learners. She enjoys hiking, paddling, camping, and doing pretty much anything she can outdoors! She is very excited about being a part of the Willowwind team and this wonderful school community!

   

Christine Sobocinski
1/2 Teacher (Mudpuppies)
christines@willowwind.org
BA Elementary Education with Reading and Language Arts, University of Iowa
Specialization, Minor in Spanish, University of Iowa
Mudpuppies Classroom Website
Experience: 9 years

Christine has been a member of the Willowwind community since 2011. She received her bachelor’s in elementary education from the University of Iowa, with a focus in reading and writing and a minor in Spanish. She has a wealth of experience with outdoor education and has guided kids in outdoor inquiries and adventures for the past 7 years with the University of Iowa Wildlife Camps. Her passion for the environment helped her facilitate a student-lead prairie planting at Willowwind in 2011. Christine most recently taught fourth grade at DelCampo International School in Tegucigalpa, Honduras in addition to teaching for the Iowa City Community School District. Christine’s passions outside of school include camping, cycling, and playing outside with her family.

THIRD & FOURTH GRADE

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Debbie Wilson
3/4 Teacher (Burrowing Owls)
debbiew@willowwind.org
BA in Elementary Education, University of Iowa
Master of Arts in Elementary Education, University of Iowa
Burrowing Owls Classroom Website
Experience: 9 Years at Iowa Public schools, 4 Years at the University of Iowa, 10 Years at Willowwind

Debbie earned a Bachelor of Arts in Elementary Education from the University of Iowa and upon graduation in 1975, was hired to teach for the Iowa City Community School District. She continued in that position for nine years. This work led to graduate work in the area of Elementary Education with an emphasis in Language Arts. With the Masters Degree, she earned certification to teach Language Arts through eighth grade as well. She continued her studies at the University of Iowa, where she pursued a PhD in Elementary Education. During her time there, she taught methods classes in the areas of Language Arts and Reading. She began work on a dissertation concerning the use of computers for writing in the elementary classroom. She used this education in a very personal way when she began teaching her own children at home. During that time, she supervised other families homeschooling their children and tutored individual students. She began teaching at Willowwind School in 2006 and taught summer school classes for several years. She began working as the third/fourth grade classroom teacher during the 2007/2008 school year. 

In 2015, Debbie was honored with the Iowa City Chamber of Commerce Teacher of the Year Award.

Fifth & Sixth Grade

Rachel DeMaris
5/6 Teacher (Wolves)
racheld@willowwind.org
BS in Science Education, University of Iowa
MA in Elementary Education, University of Phoenix
Wolves Classroom Website
Experience: 15 Years in Museum Education/ 5 Years at Willowwind

Rachel DeMaris began her work in challenging creative, inventive children to grow their brains as a middle school and high school science teacher. After leaving the classroom, she spent many years exploring and learning with children and their families in both science and technology centers and children’s museums. In her 15 years in informal education, Rachel served as an educator at the Science Center of Iowa and the Science Station, the Program Director at the Family Museum, and the Manager of Play and Learning at the Iowa Children’s Museum, where she was active in promoting S.T.E.M. learning experiences. During her museum tenure, Rachel taught countless professional development workshops to early childhood teachers and presented at the Association of Science and Technology Centers and the Association of Children’s Museums conferences to promote best practices in science education for young learners. The classroom beckoned, however, and Rachel jumped at the opportunity to join the Willowwind faculty in 2012. In 2013, Rachel was honored with the Robert E. Yager Active Learning Award. 

Rachel lives in Iowa City with her husband, Micah. Her daughter, Cordelia, is a Willowwind student and her son, Oliver, is a junior high student. When she isn’t teaching, Rachel can usually be found with her nose in a book.

Specials

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Dan DeMarco
ASP Director
dand@willowwind.org
Willowwind ASP Program Website
Experience: 2 years

Dan has been with Willowwind's after school program since fall of 2014. He grew up in West Chester, PA, a suburb of Philadelphia, and graduated from the University of Iowa in 2014. Outside of Willowwind, Dan enjoys writing, playing music, and dragging friends to karaoke with him. He also coordinates after school creative writing programs at various public schools in Iowa City with the Iowa Youth Writing Project.

Katherine Anderson
Music Teacher
katherinea@willowwind.org
BA in Music, Minor in K-12 Music Education, Luther College
Willowwind Music Classroom Website
Experience: 7 years

Katherine Anderson has been teaching preschool-6th grade General Music and 4th-6th grade Band at Willowwind since the Fall of 2012. She also works as the Program Director, overseeing Willowwind's after school enrichment and summer programs, which she has done since January 2013. Katherine received her B.A. from Luther College with a major in Music and minor in K-12 Music Education. Prior to teaching at Willowwind, she spent two years directing eight vocal and instrumental ensembles at Columbus High School in Waterloo, IA. Ensembles include; Concert Band, Concert Choir, Jazz Band, Pit Orchestra, Pep Band, JV and Varsity Show Choirs. Katherine also served as the vocal music director for the annual spring musicals. 

Katherine's experience working with elementary students reaches beyond her time at Willowwind. She created and led summer camp programs in the Twin Cities, MN and served as the Assistant Director of the Oneota Valley Youth Choir in Decorah, IA for several years. 

Ryan Bentzinger
Art Teacher
ryanb@willowwind.org
BA in Studio Art with Honors in Education, University of Iowa
Willowwind Art Classroom Website
Experience: 3 years

Ryan Bentzinger is a teaching artist based out of Iowa City. He graduated with a BA in Studio Art with Honors in Education from the University of Iowa in 2011. Ryan was assistant to Chunghi Choo from 2009-2015. He is licensed under the State of Iowa to teach K-12 Art, and has been the Art Teacher at Willowwind since 2012. 

Ryan has exhibited his artwork regionally and internationally, including Asia, Australia, Europe, and the United States. His work has been acquired for the permanent collections of the Santiago Museum of Contemporary Art in Santiago, Chile, and the University Museums of the Iowa State University in Ames. 

Ryan’s artwork is inspired by imaginative stories and societal phenomena. When he is not passionately teaching and advocating the Arts, he continues to paint, draw, and write in his studio.

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Ximena Campos
Spanish Teacher
ximenac@willowwind.org
BA in Elementary Education, BS in Accounting
Experience: 8 years 

Ximena is a native Spanish speaker from Chile. Prior to her arrival in the United States, Ximena worked as an elementary teacher for six years in her home country. For the past two years, Ximena has worked in the ICCSD after-school program as a Spanish instructor as well as a Spanish teacher at the Iowa City Senior Center. Ximena holds both a BA in Elementary Education and a BS degree in Accounting. Ximena currently holds a Native Authorization License with the state of Iowa. 

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Susan Toth
Physical Education/Health Teacher

susant@willowwind.org

BA, Physical Education (K-12), Minor Education, (K-8) Physical Education, (5-12) Physical Education, (K-8) Health, (5-12) Health, (5-12) Driver and Safety Education, University of Iowa, Introduction to Public Health (Currently Enrolled) and Olivet Nazarene University, Safety Issues Related to Alcohol and Other Drugs, (Currently Enrolled)

Experience: 5 years

Susan joined the Willowwind family this year with much enthusiasm.  For the past five years, she taught a variety of positions, such as a Physical Education, Health, and Driver’s Education teacher. While teaching, Susan has continued her education. For the past two years, she has coached a Boy’s High School JV swim team.

New to the Iowa City community, Susan is eager to explore the area with her husband and three sons.  As a Physical Education teacher, she strives to create an active learning environment where students feel safe and comfortable participating in physical activity. Her goal is to create an environment where students can enjoy movement, improve skills and fitness levels, and learn the importance of maintaining an active lifestyle to lead a happy, healthful future. She loves playing sports and traveling. Her most recent challenge was hiking down to the bottom of the Grand Canyon with her husband and seventy-eight year old father-in-law, spending the night at Phantom Ranch, and hiking back up the next morning. What a challenge!