Meet the Team

Karen Coyle - Director

Hello and welcome to the Wonder Playschool!

After knowing Scott and Jodi Thomason for over 10 years and regularly recommending their in-home daycare to families, I am excited for this opportunity to “join forces” with them on this venture of opening a center that is so unique to our area! It is my goal to spend every day giving you and your child the best early childhood experience possible. My family has lived in Peoria for almost 20 years. My husband and I have 3 children, 2 currently at home and 1 at college. We are active in our local church, serving with the youth group as well as on mission trips to Brazil.


Karen Coyle has served as a certified early childhood educator for 20 years. She received her bachelor’s degree from Illinois State University in early childhood education with an endorsement in mathematics. Her most recent role has been Lead Teacher in the full and half-day preschool classrooms at United Presbyterian Church (UPC) Discovery Preschool in Peoria, Illinois. During this tenure, Karen implemented research-based practices, including the Project Approach. She presented student-led Projects at the National Association of the Education of Young Children’s Conference as well as at the Heart of Illinois Association of the Education of Young Children’s Conference. Karen’s work experience also includes serving as a Family Educator, Preschool Teacher, and Teacher Mentor in DCFS-Licensed Child Care and Home Provider settings for the Peoria County Regional Office of Education Preschool for All Program. Karen started her career as a kindergarten teacher in Wheeling, Illinois, and continues to partner with families in giving all children a jump-start to school success.

Jennifer Bowman - Assistant Director

Hello! My name is Jennifer Bowman. I am the Assistant Director and a Floater teacher here at The Wonder Playschool. I am very excited to get to know your child and you! I have always had a passion for working with children, so while attending Olivet Nazarene University I majored in social work. After graduating I worked with foster children and teens for 3 years. I began to question if that was what I wanted to do—spending 90% of my time behind a desk. I didn’t feel like I was making the difference in children’s lives like I had always envisioned doing, so I explored with early childhood classes at ICC. Thus began my Early Childhood journey! I have been a teacher with every age group and have loved every moment of it! I have been trained in and have implemented Creative Curriculum in childcare centers. I believe that a teacher has a responsibility to create a safe environment so that children feel emotionally secure. Children should be given choices and have an active role in determining how they will learn. Children need our support to mature in all areas, and as a teacher we strive to help children become successful and eager to learn. I also began to learn the business side of childcare and found another passion for the behind the scenes things. I was a director for 8 years at a childcare in Hopedale, IL. When I saw pictures of The Wonder Playschool and sat and talked to the owner Scott, I knew I wanted to be part of this amazing center. I have been here for a year and half and have loved every moment of it! I look forward to meeting you and your family!

Sara Marsh - Explorers Lead Teacher



Deana Freeman - Adventurers Lead Teacher


Hello! My name is Deana Freeman and I am beyond excited to be joining The Wonder Playschool family. I cannot wait to partner with the parents and staff in the teaching, care, and loving of your children. I have a deep passion for caring for children and watching them grow and develop. I love seeing them roll, sit, crawl and walk, begin talking, develop social skills, and form their first friendships. I began babysitting at a very young age and taught for 13 years before taking a break from teaching while focusing on the growth and development of my own daughter. I have truly missed teaching and returning to the classroom is like an amazing homecoming! During my free time you will find me spending time with my daughter either in the swimming pool, riding the newest roller coaster she can coax me on, or inventing a new adventure to go on together. I also love to read, spend time with family, or play a game of pool. In addition, I volunteer in the church nursery a couple Sundays a month. I look forward to getting to know each of you and working together to provide the best care possible for your most precious children.


Emily Clark - Investigators Lead Teacher


Hello, my name is Emily, and I am the lead teacher of our Investigators classroom here at The Wonder Playschool. I love the environment at Wonder and feel so at home here with my Wonder family. I am very grateful for the opportunity I have to care for your child! I live in Pekin and am currently enrolled at Illinois Central College, finishing up the requirements for my Associate of Applied Science in Early Childhood Education. I have always had a strong passion for working with children, ever since I was young. For as long as I can remember I have wanted to be a teacher, and I am so excited that I get to pursue that dream by being part of The Wonder Playschool and teaching your child. I love being able to watch as children learn and grow, and I feel very privileged to be part of that. I will make it my priority to provide your child with the best care in a safe and fun learning environment. In my free time, I enjoy hiking, singing, camping and spending time with family. Thank you for allowing me to teach and care for your child-- I look forward to getting to know you and partnering with you to help your child reach his or her full potential!



Alexis Doak - Assistant Teacher


Hi! My name is Alexis Doak. I have been working in childcare for 14 years, starting as a volunteer at Head Start, then working as a babysitter, and more recently serving as a postpartum doula. I have 2 daughters and also have custody of my sister and a family friend. We run a zoo consisting of a dog, cat and gecko. I am a very gentle and free range parent. I have found that when you offer children the freedom to explore they are capable of incredible things! I believe “a person is a person no matter how small” and that children are deserving of respect and autonomy.

Elizabeth Wittekiend - Assistant Teacher


Hello! My name is Elizabeth Wittekiend, and I am an assistant teacher here at The Wonder Playschool. I am so beyond grateful for this opportunity to spend my afternoons with all of these bright children! I have recently turned 18, and am still attending Richwoods High School. Even though I don't have a degree in early childhood development, I will be taking classes to become a teacher in the near future! Ever since I can remember, I have enjoyed being around children and getting the chance to watch them grow. I look forward to meeting you all and working with your children!

Kristi Wittekiend - Assistant Teacher


Hello, my name is Kristi Wittekiend and I am grateful to be a part of The Wonder Playschool. As a mother of three, I know how much joy and love children bring into your life. I began babysitting at a young age and loved it. Later, I was a working mother for a while and then a stay at home mom and cared for friends and families kids. Being around children has always been enjoyable and a huge part of my life. Now that my own are older, it’s so wonderful to be surrounded by little ones again. Hopefully my time here at Wonder will be long lasting, I look forward to seeing your children thrive and grow!

Melissa Henrichs - Assistant Teacher


Hello! My name is Melissa Henrichs. I feel so grateful and happy to be here at The Wonder Playschool as an assistant teacher and to spend time with your little ones-- they make me feel like a child again! To know me some more, I am from Mexico, from a very small fishing port called San Blas. I was studying a career in clinical psychology for three and a half years at the Autonomous University of Nayarit, at this time of my life I met my husband and we created our lovely family, so I decided to make a space from my career to dedicate completely to my two little girls and join him with a pizzeria restaurant as co-owner. Then in July 2014 we moved to Peoria, Illinois. My husband is from here and I feel so lucky that he has a wonderful family that embraces me and my girls with so much love. All my life since a very young age I have had such good chemistry with kids. Babysitting in Mexico and spending time with kids in my very large family were my first experiences with childcare. Then with my own little girls, it has been so important to me to spend the whole time with them, so once my second daughter started preschool at UPC Discovery, I started to go there as a volunteer mom to play with the children and care for them, too. Since then I have this big interest in helping kids. It amazes me the way they think and by then how they act. I believe that the way adults treat kids is the way they learn to be in life. My every day goal is to make your child feel happy and confident through our interactions, by playing and helping when needed. Currently, I am planning to come back to study, more specifically in childcare now that I discover how much I love them! Learning never finishes! A perfect day for me is spending the day time with my girls and husband, going for a hike, and end it up with a date night. In my spare time I love to dance, do arts and crafts, and practice Spanish with my girls. I am looking forward to meeting you and your child at The Wonder Playschool, and, last but not least, thank you for your trust in us!

Meredith Byrne - Assistant Teacher


Welcome to The Wonder Playschool! My name is Meredith Byrne, I am so excited to help care for your little one! I have always had a heart for kids! From helping my mom babysit, volunteering in the nursery at my church, or being a nanny in the summer, I always found myself taking care of kids. I’m the youngest of 5 kids, and I am an aunt to 3 nephews and 6 nieces. I grew up in Peoria and graduated from Richwoods High and ICC with certificate as a CNA. I enjoy the dynamic and exciting opportunities that young children bring. They are so passionate and excited about the world around them. These little people have taught me so much about discovery, imagination, curiosity, joy, and the never-ending journey of learning. Most importantly, I love supporting each child in their own individual path, and I always strive to give them the care and resources necessary for their own independent growth. I can't wait to work together with you as we help your children reach their full potential!