College of Education

University Primary School
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Faculty & Staff

The faculty and staff at Uni Primary are a dedicated team of educators who enjoy an intellectual approach to teaching and learning. As teacher researchers (a Reggio Emilia inspired role of teacher), we seek to "make learning visible" for one another, our families and children, and with the University students and researchers who work alongside us. Each of our classrooms has multiple teachers to collaborate with, and we thoughtfully prepare environments and experiences while listening to the voices of the children in our care. We seriously delight in learning with and from the children and one another.

Staff

Director/Principal of School: Dr. Ali Lewis

An enthusiast in the field of education, Dr. Lewis has served as Uni Primary’s Director for 13 years. She instructs in the elementary licensure program at The College of Education, and learns daily from the preschool through college students in her care. Dr. Lewis is uplifted by a dedicated staff of teachers committed to the rights of children and their families. She loves being the principal at University Primary!

Contact

School Office Support Specialist: Christine Wyant

I have lived in central Illinois my entire life. The small rural town that I currently live in is where I have called home since I was 3 years old.  This is my 26th school year at University Primary School.  My time here at UPS has not only taught me a lot about children and education, but it helped me to be a mom to my amazing 4 children!  I have recently termed myself a “tinker” much like Tinkerbell!  I love to create things and make things beautiful and organized. From functional systems to aesthetics! Decorating and crafting are my happy place! I often will find myself not wanting to throw something away thinking I can make it into something else.  I also enjoy photography, traveling, spending time with my family and extended family and watching my son pitch for his college baseball team! 


Preschool Classroom

Head Teacher: Natalie Roberts

I hold a Bachelors in Psychology and Human Development from the University of New Mexico and have 13 years experience in the classroom. I've spent time as a preschool administrator and created and led parent-education workshops for families with young children. In addition, to my love of teaching, I enjoy yoga, being outside, swimming, hiking, riding my bike, gardening, reading, or just relaxing with my family and friends.

Co-Teacher: Olivia Hea

Hey there! My name is Olivia Hea. I just recently graduated from the University of Illinois majoring in early childhood education. I am from small town in Illinois called Mount Sterling. This past summer I got to know many faces, working as a play worker for the Adventure camp. I look forward to seeing familiar faces and cannot wait to be a part of the University Primary team in Preschool classroom. As a first-time teacher, I am eager to learn inside and outside of the classroom as I’ll be pursuing a master's degree at UIUC in education!

Co-Teacher: Brenda Ramirez

Hello! My name is Brenda Ramirez. I am from a small suburb 45 minutes north of Chicago called Mundelein. I recently graduated from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign with a bachelor's degree in Early Childhood Education. I am super excited to be a part of University Primary School and join the preschool classroom this year as I work toward my Master's Degree!

Extended Day Preschool/Adventure Playworker: Sheena Segady she/her

Salutations! I hold a Bachelors in English Literature from the University of Pittsburgh and have been delighted to work with children for the past twenty years. I have enjoyed various roles as both an educator and a director, but my favorite space has always been found in preschool. In addition, to my love of teaching, I enjoy art, travel, being outdoors, yoga, reading, and photography. 


Kindergarten/1st Grade Classroom

Head Teacher: Ann Clare

Having taught kindergarten in Virginia and New York before working as both teacher and consultant in early childhood classrooms and early intervention in Illinois, Ann is happy to be in her tenth year of teaching at University Primary!

Co-Teacher: Kawai Cheung

My name is Kawai Cheung and I grew up/went to school in the south side of Chicago. I recently graduated with a bachelor's in early childhood education from the University of Illinois, and will be a first year co teacher in k/1 as I complete my Master's Degree. I can’t wait to use this opportunity to gain experience and learn from the K/1 class.

Co-Teacher: Anna Ashton

Hi! My name’s Anna Ashton and I’m from the Chicago suburbs. I recently graduated from University of Illinois with my B.S. in Early Childhood and am a first-year co-teacher in K/1! Outside of UPS, I enjoy playing with my dog, finding new plants to add to my collection, and getting together with friends. I’m truly looking forward to learning from and working with such a tight-knit community of family and friends at University Primary!


Second/Third Grade Classroom

Head Teacher: Kristen Miller

Hi! I'm Kristen Miller, I was born and raised right here in Illiois. My family and I have lived in many places, but we are happiest in Champaign, close to friends and family. I've been a teacher in early childhood and elementary classrooms, and also served as a Preschool Director in Champaign and Brooklyn, NY. I like reading and golfing with my family, and love being the head teacher in the 2nd/3rd grade classroom!

Co-Teacher: Jade Merritt

Hi! My name is Jade Merritt, and I recently graduated from the University Of Illinois with my Bachelor of Science in Early Childhood Education. I grew up in the Chicagoland area and have had a very rewarding experience living and learning in Champaign Urbana. In my free time, I like to go shopping, swimming, and dancing. I can't wait to learn more in the 2nd/3rd grade room this school year! 

Co-Teacher: Molly Thornberry

My name is Molly Thornberry, and I am a recent graduate from the University of Illinois Early Childhood Education Program. I was born and raised on a small farm in Springfield, Illinois where I loved to spend my time outside. I will be a Co-Teacher in the 2nd/3rd grade classroom where I hope to learn and grow right alongside the students as I earn my master's in education. Because of my adventurous spirit, I have always loved working with kids, and I am so excited to join the wonderful team at University Primary!


Fourth/Fifth Grade Classroom

Head Teacher: Nikki Anderson

My name is Nikki Anderson, and I am the Head Teacher for the 4/5 classroom. I have been part of the University Primary School family since the 2019-2020 school year. Outside of school, I enjoy reading, singing, watching suspense dramas, traveling to warm beaches, shopping and spending time with my family and friends.

Co-Teacher: Victor Ruiz-Divas

Hola familias! My name is Victor and I am one of the co-teachers for our 4th/5th-grade classroom. This is my third year being a member of the Uni Primary family. I was born and raised in Grand Rapids, Michigan. I am currently a third-year doctoral student at the U of I. Outside of the classroom and academia, you can find me engaging in various forms of art or watching/playing the world's game, futbol (soccer). Let's learn together!

Co-Teacher: Em Santana

Hi, my name is Em! I will be joining the 4/5th grade classroom as a co-teacher. I was born and raised in Chicago, Illinois. In addition, I just recently graduated with my bachelor's degree in early childhood education. I'm currently a first-year graduate student at the U of I. During my time outside the classroom, I tend to relax at home with my three fur babies: Ro, Ottie, and Daisy or singing karaoke songs in my apartment. Overall, I'm delighted to be a member of the Uni Primary team as I work towards my master's degree!


Spanish

Spanish Teacher: Cristina Flores

¡Hola! It has been my pleasure to be a member of the University Primary School family since 2019. Spanish language acquisition and the culture of Spanish-speaking countries are two of my passions.  I share my passion with students from elementary all the way through college.  I hold a Master's degree that specializes in teaching Spanish Language and Culture. 


Adventure Play Afterschool Program & Summer Camp

Director: Kelsey Langley

I’ve been exploring and provisioning for the power of child-directed play for over a decade professionally, after a lifetime of working with children. I love being a “different kind of grown-up” in the eyes of children. For me, this work is tied to radical love & authenticity and it is my honor, privilege & joy to hold space for play- and all it means for children- each day, all year long. I am also in my last year of graduate school for mental health counseling & play therapy.

When not playworking at UPS, you'll still find me outside: exploring rivers & forests, taking pictures of all the beautiful things, watching my lush, Urbana garden grow, or practicing counseling locally!

Adventure Play Teacher: Max Skaj

Hi, my name is Max! I have a biology degree from Parkland College, and now attend the University of Illinois for a degree in Fish and Wildlife Management. I love being outdoors, hiking, camping, kayaking, and cuddling up with my two cats and a good book!

 

 

 

Adventure Play Teacher: Opal Zaleski

My name is Opal and my pronouns are they/them. This will be my third year as a Playworker at APAS. I have been working with kids since finishing my Master's in Physics in winter 2017. My work is rooted in youth liberation & autonomy. Outside of work, I enjoy learning Brazilian Jiu Jitsu (BJJ), reading non-fiction, and watching cartoons.


Teachers at Work and Play