Karen Coyle - Director
Hello and welcome to The Wonder Playschool! After knowing Scott and Jodi Thomason for over a decade and regularly
recommending their in-home daycare to families, I am so grateful to be partnered with them as they continue providing the greater Peoria area with such a unique and high-quality early childhood
programs. It is my goal to give you and your child the best early childhood experience possible. My family and I have lived in Peoria for almost 20 years. My husband and I have 3
children, one currently at home and two living in Arizona. We are active in our local church, serving with the youth group as well as on mission trips to Brazil.
Karen Coyle has been with Wonder since May of 2017 and has served as a certified early childhood educator for over 20 years. She received her bachelor’s degree from Illinois State University in Early Childhood Education with an Endorsement in Mathematics. Karen started her career as a kindergarten teacher in Wheeling, Illinois, and has been partnering with families in giving all children a jumpstart to school success ever since. 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. She also served as lead teacher in the full and half-day preschool classrooms at UPC Discovery in Peoria, Illinois for many years. 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.
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!
Amanda Lyndaker - Operations Director
Hello, my name is Amanda. I have been working in early childhood for seven years. After graduating with honors from Gallaudet University in Washing, D.C. with a bachelor’s degree in family and child studies, I moved to the Peoria area and have continued to expand my education. I hold my level 5 certification in early childhood education from Gateways to Opportunity Illinois Professional Development System. I enjoy serving in the production and children’s ministries at Richwoods Christian Church. My free time is typically spent hanging out with family and friends or being creative with art, DIY projects, and photography. I believe it takes a village to raise a child and consider myself incredibly privileged to be part of that village for the families of Wonder!
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!
Kristi Wittekiend - Investigators Assistant Teacher
Hello, my name is Kristi Wittekiend. 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 family members' children. 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!
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.
Ashleigh Morris - Explorers Assistant Teacher
Hi there! My name is Ashleigh. I started babysitting at the age of 12 and have been a nanny for 14 years. I have experience with twins, multiples, siblings, infants, toddlers, and school age children. I also have been a night care nanny where I watched brand new babies overnight. Children are my passion. If I have a part in raising an open-minded, loving, caring human, then I feel I have done something good for this world. When I’m not at work, you can find me cooking, camping, and being with my dachshund Dot. I can't wait to get to know you and am so happy to be working with your precious babies.
Deana Freeman - Adventurers Lead Teacher
Hello! My name is Deana Freeman. 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 truly missed teaching and returning to the classroom was 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.
Amanda Pfeiffer - Adventurers Assistant Teacher
Hello, my name is Amanda. I received my Associates Degree in Early Childhood Development from Illinois Central College in 2012 and started working in childcare in February of 2013. During my eight years in the field of early childhood, I also earned my level 4 infant/toddler credentials. I became a teacher because I enjoy watching and helping children learn and grow. In my free time, I like to craft and color. I also enjoy spending time with my family and friends.
Jean Ringenberg - Support Teacher
Jennifer Hollis - Support Teacher
Hello! My name is Jennifer. I have always had a passion for working with children, which led me to study child development at Northern Illinois University in
Dekalb, Illinois. I am from the small town of Mendota, but moved to Peoria in May of 2019 after graduating with my Bachelor of Science with a study in family and individual development. My
favorite part about working at Wonder is being able to watch children grow and encourage their learning across all areas of development. It is so rewarding to watch children learn and grow,
and I am so grateful for the chance I have to be part of that.
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.