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 - Adventurers Lead Teacher
Hi! My name is Sara Marsh. I graduated from Pekin High School in 2015 and attended ICC studying early childhood. I am engaged to my fiancé Matt and will be getting married in September! I have been working in childcare for the last three years as a Sunday school teacher at Bridgeway Community Church and most recently as a preschool teacher at Learning Connections in Bartonville. In my free time I enjoy disc golfing, hiking and walking my dog Bella. I look forward to meeting you all and getting to spend my days with your little ones!
Claire Izeboud - Investigators Lead Teacher
Hello! My name is Claire Izeboud. I am from the Netherlands and came to the United States as a high school foreign exchange student in 2013. I am fortunate to still be living with the same host family that I was with in high school. I really feel like I have two families living across the ocean from each other! I graduated from Illinois Central College with my degree in early childhood education. During my time at ICC, I also worked in their childcare center. I have always loved being with children and love to read them stories, help them explore our amazing world, and just play with them. In my spare time, I enjoy anything that involves being creative! I am so excited to be working at Wonder and am looking forward to providing the best possible care and education for your child!
Abby McGowan - Explorers Lead Teacher
Hello, my name is Abby. I began working with children in 2015 thanks to my mother starting her own daycare business. Beforehand, I never thought working with children would be in my future because I was sure I only wanted to pursue a fitness-related career. Little did I know, having the opportunity to work with kids would lead me to figuring out what in life I’m truly passionate about—helping others. Over the years I have had the opportunity to work with some of the most amazing children whom I will never forget. I care deeply about taking the time to get to know your child's unique personality and needs. I see every child as an individual full of potential and creativity. I strive to set a good example and be a voice of reason to each and every child I encounter. I also go out of my way to add as much fun into your child’s day as possible through play. What are the benefits of that? I’m glad you asked, here are just a few benefits of play: play stimulates the mind and improves brain function, play helps develop and improve social skills, and play connects children to their peers and the world around them. I am currently pursuing a career in psychology. I want to work with children and adults who have been physically or mentally abused, or who struggle with mental illness. My goal is to make those who feel invisible feel seen. In my spare time I enjoy practicing yoga, going to the gym, reading, writing, being outdoors, listening to a good podcast, and spending time with my dog.
Deana Freeman - Explorers 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.
Elizabeth Wittekiend - Assistant Teacher
Hello! My name is Elizabeth Wittekiend, and I am an assistant teacher here at The Wonder Playschool. I am beyond grateful for this opportunity to spend my
afternoons with all of these bright children! I have recently graduated from Richwoods High School and am attending classes at Illinois Central College. 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. I look forward to seeing your children thrive and grow!
Melissa Henrichs - Spanish Instructor
Melissa is originally from San Blas, a small fishing port in Mexico. After studying clinical psychology for three and a half years at the Autonomous University of Nayarit, she met her husband, started their family, and decided to dedicate herself completely to her two little girls. After moving to Peoria, Illinois where her husband is from, she had the opportunity to volunteer in her second daughter's preschool classroom and found her passion for helping children. She believes that the way adults treat kids is the way they learn to be in life. Therefore, her everyday goal is to help the children of Wonder feel happy and confident through play, her interactions with them, and by helping when needed.
James Rush - Chef
Throughout his career as a chef, James has worked in a variety of Peoria-area establishments ranging from Ned Kelly's and Jumers to The Children's Home and Washington Christian Village. He adds so much to our program by providing our children with healthy and delicious meals, all while catering to individual dietary needs and preferences. In his spare time, James enjoys coaching JFL.