Meet the Team

Scott and Jodi Thomason - Owners

Scott and his wife, Jodi, began their journey with early childhood in 2001 as a small in-home daycare in Peoria. Their vision has always been to provide the Peoria area with unique, top-notch childcare experiences that challenge the status quo. After moving and expanding their in-home daycare in 2004, they have been very fortunate to continue fulfilling this vision through the openings of The Wonder Playschool and the acquisition of A+ Children's Academy. They take pride in each of their centers and are grateful for the opportunities to ensure unparalleled care for the children entrusted to their care.

Kelsey - Culture Director

As a Peoria native, Kelsey is dedicated to providing exceptional early childhood programs to the community. She joined A+ STEAM Academy in 2016 and was fortunate to meet Scott and Jodi Thomason through their acquisition of A+  in 2019. Kelsey developed a passion for early childhood at a young age growing up with two older and three younger siblings. Her time attending Suzhou Singapore International School in Suzhou, China as a highschooler continued to deepen her passion for education and community service, as she was able to volunteer and work with young children in a variety of settings. After having the opportunity to raise funds and travel with South Africa Vastfontein Project to help build a secondary school in Pretoria, South Africa, Kelsey knew that education and community service was her place in the world. Kelsey went on to receive her associates degree from ICC in 2018, and continued her education at Bradley University taking coursework in early childhood education with special education certification and English as a second language endorsement. She eventually received her bachelor's degree in human services - child and family studies from Southern New Hampshire University in January of 2022. Post graduation, Kelsey took an opportunity to work with Child Care Connection as a Quality Specialist. This time gave her valuable insight into Illinois' early childhood quality rating systems and allowed her to work alongside and be mentored by leaders in the field like Susan MacDonald, Barbara Volpe, and more. She is so grateful for all she learned during her time as a Quality Specialist and is thrilled to return to The Wonder Playschool as Culture Director!

Makenzie - Logistics Director

Makenzie joined forces with Barefoot Learning in 2019 working at Scott and Jodi's in-home daycare. She absolutely loved her time spent there and is still connected with many of the families and children she cared for. One of Makenzie's favorite parts of working in early childhood is the relationships she is able to build with the children, as well as with their parents, siblings, grandparents, etc. Many of the families she has worked with have considered her an extension of their family, which Makenzie considers a huge honor and privilege. Makenzie is most proud of the titles she holds as Mom, Bonus Mom, and Auntie Kenz. In her free time, she enjoys going to the neighborhood lake, going out to eat, cooking/baking, and watching movies and sharing a big bucket of popcorn with her fiance (Tyler), stepson (Colton), 2 cats, dog, and soon-to-be daughter (MaeLynn). 

Kara - Adventurers Lead Teacher

After graduating high school, I attended Bradley University and majored in nursing. While in college and after graduation, I worked in home care, caring for elderly clients with dementia. I then began nannying and found a huge passion in childcare. I was a nanny for a year and a half. Bonding with children, watching them learn and experience new things, and seeing the small things that they find joy in is what makes me feel fulfilled in working with children and it shows me how beautiful the small things are in life that I otherwise may overlook.


Crissy - Adventurers Support Teacher

Hello! My name is Crissy. After graduating high school I was unsure what I wanted to be when I grew up (other than living a healthy life and starting a family one day!) I grew up having a brother ten years younger than I was, so I often helped my mom when we were younger. Before choosing to be a stay at home mom, I had worked in the food industry, retail, and in an office setting as a receptionist. When a friend was looking for childcare, I decided I would do that out of my home, at times taking on a couple other children. Through the years as my daughter grew older, I cared for my younger nieces and nephews. I have always been known as the “fun” aunt, playing games and running around with the kids in all the things they like to do. My youngest nieces and nephews still love coming over and having sleepovers, going to parks, and playing games. I feel that I have a natural attachment with children, no matter their age. I can get on the child’s level and can also have the teaching and learning mentality. I am extremely proud of our daughter, Kara, who was easy to raise and is now intelligent, mature, and has a huge heart. I enjoy getting together with family and friends whether it is for holidays, cookouts, and birthdays or simply getting together to sit by a fire, relax and talk or going out to eat. In my spare time I like to stay active and healthy. I have always belonged to a gym of some sort. For the past several years I have been with Farrells, where I kickbox and do resistance bands. I also love going on walks with friends or walking my dog. I love being outside when the weather is nice, working in the yard, working on home projects or chilling out on the deck.

Doina - Investigators Lead Teacher

Originally from Brasov, Romania, Doina attended University and earned a three-year degree in accounting. Doina moved to the United States in November of 2008 and started working in early childhood in 2014. She quickly realized how much she enjoyed working with children and decided to pursue a new direction with her career. In 2022 Doina completed the Child Development Associate Program. Doina has two sons, Raul and Radu. She enjoys traveling with them to their soccer tournaments. In her spare time, you can find her watching romantic movies or visiting new places. Every year she takes a trip to Florida or the Dominican Republic to relax by the ocean.


Kristi - Investigators Support Teacher

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, then a stay at home mom and cared for friends' and family members' children. Being around children has always been enjoyable for me and a huge part of my life. With my own children older, it is so wonderful being surrounded by little ones again. I love seeing the children at Wonder thrive and grow!

Nicole - Explorers Lead Teacher

I graduated in Primary Education Science from the University of Padua in 2020. Following graduation, I taught children ages 3-4 in a kindergarten for one year, then spent the next two years teaching in the primary public school in Italy. I moved to Peoria in August of 2023 for my husband’s work and have been enjoying this city so far! What I enjoy most about working with children is seeing them learn and use that learning to do things on their own. I love seeing their curiosity and creativity, and being able to watch as they use their imaginations. In my free time I enjoy walking and jogging, spending time with friends and family, watching movies, reading books, and traveling around the world.

Debbie - Support Teacher


Hello, my name is Debbie. I was born and raised in Peoria. I have two daughters and two grandchildren. I love to read and spend time with my family. I started working with children 28 years ago. During that time I also ran an in home daycare. I have also taken classes at ICC to become lead qualified. I love children’s honesty, curiosity, and innocence! I love to work with children and hopefully make a difference! My hope is that the world will be a better place because we were important in the life of a child.

Tonya - Support Teacher

Hello! My name is Tonya McPhail. As a proud mother of four children and a grandmother to two, I have spent many years nurturing and supporting children. While raising our children, our house became “the hang out house” and was often filled with other kids from the neighborhood. In 2012 we moved to China where I had the incredible opportunity  to volunteer at the Wuzhong District Orphanage. We also served as a foster family for a two-year-old during our time in China. While I worked fourteen years as a facility director, my time spent raising my own children and caring for children in other capacities gave me a love for seeing children learn. I love watching their faces light up as they learn or understand something new!

Nancy Hinnen - Early Childhood Consultant, Teacher Mentor


As a lifetime educator, I am honored to serve alongside you and the Wonder Playschool team, to notice your child’s moments of “awe,” and together, capture their wonder and craft learning experiences that open their minds to cognitive connections and new discoveries. Throughout my lifetime, I have been fortunate to learn from many impactful leaders. Starting with my parents, who exemplified diverse community problem-solving, to growing alongside colleagues, children and families through years of classroom teaching, administration, directing, training, coaching and consulting through the Peoria County Regional Office of Education and Heart of Illinois United Way, and locking elbows with experts in the field of child growth and development, education, and leadership. Angela Andrews (Illinois Council of Teachers of Mathematics Distinguished Life Achievement in Mathematics Award, author of Little Kids – Powerful Problem Solvers), Howard Gardner (Multiple Intelligences), Judy Jablon (Co-author of Powerful Interactions), Sanford “Sandy” McDonnell (Former chairman emeritus of McDonnell Douglas Corporation and CHARACTERPlus), Sam Meisels (Authentic assessment, President of Erikson Institute), Wess Stafford (President Emeritus of Compassion International, author of Too Small to Ignore), and Harry Wong (Educator and author of First Days of School – How to Be an Effective Teacher) have each given me the gift of learning through the lens of honoring children. As Harry Wong taught me, “You see in children what you look for.” Thank you for allowing me the privilege of extending my lens even further by kneeling among your children, pausing to capture their “wonder,” engage in powerful interactions, and “look for” the amazing thinking within the minds of those who teach me the best.