Urban Prairie Waldorf School

Faculty & Staff

Hannah  Avellone

Class Teacher


Hannah Avellone received her BA from Bard College and her Waldorf teacher certificate from the Arcturus Rudolf Steiner Education Program. A class teacher, Hannah has long been a member of the Urban Prairie community as a lead kindergarten teacher at City Garden Waldorf School, through her work with the Urban Prairie Board, and as an adult educator. Outside of the classroom, you can find Hannah hiking, playing the cello, knitting, singing, and playing games.

Elena  Baba

Eurythmy Teacher


Elena Baba graduated from the London School of Eurythmy and has been teaching Eurythmy to children and adults since 1989. She has taught Eurythmy at the Rudolf Steiner College, Arcturus Teacher Training in Chicago, and the Foundations Study Program on the East Coast. Elena returned to Chicago in 2017. She is happy to be working with students at Urban Prairie, performing with Midwest Eurythmy Group and being involved with the Rudolf Steiner branch.

Heather  Berhalter

Director of Community Development


Heather Berhalter has been a member of the Board of Trustees since 2009 and is currently responsible for marketing, admissions, enrollment, parent education, and development efforts for the school. Before moving to Chicago, she served in the State Department Foreign Service in several overseas posts and in Washington, D.C. as a Special Assistant to Secretary Madeleine Albright. She is also a La Leche League Leader. She and her husband, Jay, have three sons, including two UPWS students and a City Garden student.

Megan  Cather

Class Teacher


Megan Cather started at the Urban Prairie Waldorf School in 2017. Megan received her BA in Spanish and Writing/Communications from Maryville College and her MS in Elementary Education from Northern Illinois University. She has a Professional Educator License from the state of Illinois with endorsements in Bilingual Education in Spanish and English as a Second Language. Before coming to Urban Prairie, she taught for 10 years in the Chicago Public Schools, teaching bilingual 2nd, 3rd, and 5th grades. She is delighted to be teaching at Urban Prairie, and is currently pursuing Waldorf certification. Megan finds joy in hiking, camping, playing the guitar, and reading. Her favorite book in the 4th grade was Island of the Blue Dolphins.

Candace  Choma

Educational Support


Candace received her Bachelor’s Degree in Elementary Education from Washington University in St. Louis. Upon graduating, Candace became the founding early childhood teacher of Three Rivers School, a Waldorf initiative in LaCrosse, WI. Candace went on to teach early childhood / kindergarten at both Great Oaks School and Prairie Hill Waldorf School. Candace completed her Waldorf teacher training through Waldorf Teacher Development Association in Ann Arbor, MI. More recently, Candace completed her Master’s Degree in Special Education while teaching in a therapeutic day school setting. Candace is currently in the remedial training program offered through the Association for Healing Education.

Glenda Ding

Mandarin Teacher


Glenda Ding is our Mandarin instructor. A native of Lanzhou, in northwest China, Ms. Ding was a college professor for ten years and taught foreign languages at a global education organization in Beijing for eight years. She holds a BA in literature and a master’s in economics.

Tolman  Flannery

Spanish Teacher


Tolman Flannery was a Waldorf student himself at the Chicago Waldorf School (CWS), where he was in the third class to graduate eighth grade. Mr. Flannery traveled to Mexico many times as a boy and studied Spanish throughout his schooling. He attended Macalester College in St. Paul, Minnesota and studied in Oaxaca, Mexico for a semester. Mr. Flannery taught ESL to adults for eight years. He then taught Spanish at CWS and North Park Elementary. He also taught in Bilingual Classrooms at Pilsen Community Academy, a CPS School. He is currently raising three bilingual children, two of whom have joined him at Urban Prairie. He is happy to be a part of the Urban Prairie Community.

Miguel Garcia

Music Chair


Miguel Garcia has taught at Urban Prairie for three years. He took on the role of Music Director at the start of the 2014-15 school year. He graduated with honors from from Boston College (B.A., Music) and the Chicago College of Performing Arts (M.M., Violin Performance). Mr. Garcia has performed as a soloist, chamber musician, and orchestral violinist across the United States, Europe, Africa, and Asia for over 15 years. He was the two-time winner of the Boston College Concerto Competition, resulting in his solo performances of the Brahms and Bruch violin concertos. Mr. Garcia has received fellowships from Boston College, the Aspen Music Festival, and the International Music Academy. His 2016 performance schedule includes concerts with the Illinois Symphony, Third Eye Opera Company, Peoria Symphony, Chicago Summer Opera, and Main Street Opera. He has performed with a number of diverse artists and ensembles, including Gil Shaham, David Robertson, Brinton Smith, Yo-Yo Ma’s Silk Road Ensemble, and the Trans Siberian Orchestra. A graduate of the Washington Waldorf School, Mr. Garcia has undergone Waldorf Music training with Par Albom, Christiaan Boele, Elizabeth English, and Monika Sutherland. He currently performs on a violin made in 1897 by Maurice Mermillot.

SarahJane Gembara

Aftercare and Assistant Teacher


SarahJane's started at Urban Prairie in 2015. Her first year she worked primarily as an aftercare teacher while finishing her undergraduate degree at UIC. After graduating in May she took a position as a first grade assistant for the rest of the school year. She currently works in aftercare and assists with second grade recess.

Karen  Hartz

Class Teacher


Karen Hartz, Pedagogical Director, joined Urban Prairie in the summer of 2015 and became the faculty representative on the Board. With degrees in English and secondary education, Karen has worked in a variety of public and private high schools in Illinois and Wisconsin. She has taught all levels of high school English, from remedial to AP, and has coached forensics and directed theater. After the birth of her son, a friend encouraged her to read an article on educating the “heart, head, and hands.” Finding a philosophy of education that resonated with her own, Karen joined several Steiner study groups before enrolling in Waldorf teacher training and serving as a full-time second grade aid to a master Waldorf teacher. A year later she had the opportunity to take up her own class. Karen has since led four middle school classes, at Prairie Hill Waldorf School in Pewaukee, WI, and the Chicago Waldorf School. In addition, Karen served as full-time faculty chair and was a board member at Prairie Hill.

Sophie  Huckabay

Administrative Assistant


Sophie Huckabay is the administrative assistant at Urban Prairie. She attended the Chicago Waldorf School from kindergarten through twelfth grade, graduating in 2005. She earned a BA in Political Science and Environmental Studies from Kalamazoo College in Michigan. Prior to starting at Urban Prairie she spent five years working at SmithBucklin as membership coordinator for a specialty nursing association.

Ashley Ingold

Class Teacher


Ashley Ingold has moved on from Administrative Assistant at UPWS, which included many roles. She has a BS degree in Art Education from Southern Illinois University.She is enrolled at the West Coast Institute for Anthroposophy and will graduate as as class teacher in 2019. Ms. Ingold is co-teaching 2nd grade this year with Ms. Johns.

Bailey  Johns

Class Teacher


Bailey Johns completed her Foundation Studies at Arcturus while also working at UPWS as an aftercare, recess, and classroom assistant. Bailey attended Antioch University to complete her teacher training and MEd. During her time on the east coast, she interned and worked at the Lake Champlain Waldorf School. She is a co-teacher for the second grade with Ms. Ingold.

Angela Kiefer

Class Teacher


Lead teacher Angela Kiefer received her Waldorf training at the Great Lakes Teacher Training program, Milwaukee, WI. Prior to joining Urban Prairie, Ms. Kiefer taught the kindergarten summer program at Singing Winds Waldorf School in Riverside, IL. She is a former improv comedienne and an accomplished horsewoman. Ms. Kiefer holds a B.A. in French and theatre from the University of Wisconsin – Oshkosh and has completed coursework for her M.A. in education, Mount Mary College.

Emma Kolsky

Educational Support


Ms. Kolsky assists Ms. Johns and Ms. Ingold in the classroom.

Adriana Kondrat

Games and Movement Teacher


Adriana is the movement teacher and math tutor at UPWS. She is a Chicago Waldorf School graduate and is currently enrolled at Arcturus. She was the Assistant Director of CWS Summer Camp and will be leading the UPWS camp program this summer.

Joey Kupstas

Assistant Class Teacher


Joan Loren (Joey) Kupstas is an assistant class teacher for the third and fourth grades. She
graduated from Pennsylvania State University with a Bachelor of Arts in English and went on to
earn a Master of Science from Wilkes University in Educational Development and Strategies.
Joey taught as an adjunct professor at Luzerne County Community College in Pennsylvania
before relocating to Chicago with her husband. She also spent time working with children
through teaching dance and fitness classes. Currently, she is completing Foundation Studies in
Anthroposophy and the Arts through the Center for Anthroposophy and is excited to be a part
of the Urban Prairie Waldorf community. Outside of the classroom, you can find Joey taking or
teaching yoga classes, reading a good book, singing in her church choir, and spending time with family and friends.

Shabath Leidy

Handwork Teacher


Shabath Leidy is our handwork and woodwork teacher. She attended Chicago Waldorf School from early childhood through 12th grade. After attending college, she received her Waldorf training at the Arcturus teacher training Center. Ms. Leidy was formerly an assistant at City Garden Early Childhood Center.

Peggy Lofgren

Director of Operations and Finance


Prior to being hired as Director of Operations and Finance, Peggy served as the school administrator, chair of the Urban Prairie Board Finance Committee and Treasurer. She joined UPWS with a wealth of expertise in administration and finance in the luxury hospitality and wellness industry. She has managed P&Ls for the last 15 years from $2M to $20M in revenue. She has local and international experience in the luxury spa business and has led key corporate initiatives using strategic planning and analytical skills. She has launched multiple new properties and collaborated with corporate leadership in marketing, human resources, design and construction, training, and finance. A UPWS parent, she is committed to Waldorf education and is passionate about Urban Prairie.

Meredith  Merchant

Educational Support, 3 Stream Coordinator


Meredith received her Bachelor of Fine Arts in New Media and Sculpture from Ringling College of Art and Design. Upon graduating, Meredith spent her time living broadly over the United States. She also spent one year serving the community she grew up in via AmeriCorps. The calling to be a Waldorf educator came while Meredith was working for an artist in Colorado. She holds a class teacher certificate from Antioch University, and is an M.Ed candidate. Meredith spent her practicum working as the Land Stewardship Assistant at The Hartsbrook School in Hadley, MA. There she decided educational and student support was her path. Meredith is currently in the remedial training program offered through the Association for Healing Education.

Jillian  Miller

Class Teacher


Jillian Miller is one of the 1st grade class teachers for UPWS' first double-track class. She comes to us with vast experience from the Housatonic Valley Waldorf School in Connecticutt where she served as a class teacher, faculty co-chair, and ombudsman. In addition to her Waldorf teacher training, Jillian also has holds a Masters Degree of Social Work and is a licensed clinical social worker with extensive experience working with at-risk youth.

Amanda  Poll

Class Teacher


Amanda Poll is from New Albany, Ohio, where she fell in love with children coaching swimming and rowing. She attended The Ohio State University to study Early Childhood Development; she was also on the varsity rowing team that won the NCAA National Championship in 2013. Following her graduation, she earned her master's in Child Development & Education at Oxford University. Her dissertation investigated the impact of reading role models on socially disadvantaged second-graders. Amanda then moved to Chicago to teach Junior Kindergarten at Chicago Jewish Day School. To further advance her career, she enrolled in the elementary education licensure program at Northwestern University. She student-taught in a second-grade classroom in Chicago Public Schools. During her time at Northwestern, Amanda became the main substitute teacher at Chicago Waldorf School, where she frequently worked in the second, third, and fourth grades. Inspired by the Waldorf philosophy, she began her Waldorf training that summer. Amanda graduated from Northwestern in June 2016 and is thrilled to begin her teaching career at Urban Prairie Waldorf School.

Mat Riendeau

Class Teacher


Class teacher and Faculty Chair Mathew Riendeau trained at Arcturus Waldorf teacher training program in Chicago. Before coming to Urban Prairie, Mat taught at Water’s Edge Waldorf School in Wauconda, IL. Prior to realizing his calling as a Waldorf teacher, he completed two tours of service with the United States Peace Corps. He taught English for two years in Sichuan Province, China, and spent two years working at a rural health clinic in Burkina Faso in West Africa. He holds a B.A. in Chinese from Middlebury College.

Mary Spalding

Class Teacher


Class teacher Mary Spalding is a graduate of the Arcturus Waldorf teacher training program in Chicago. She has also completed the Association For A Healing Eduation’s (AHE) Educational Support Program. She taught lyre and painting at the Chicago Waldorf School, where she has been a longtime parent and also served for ten years on their Board of Trustees in a myriad of capacities. Prior to her involvement with Waldorf education, she spent many years working in an administrative capacity for Northview Biosciences, an independent contract testing laboratory. She received an M.F.A. in Radio, Film and Television from Northwestern University and a B.F.A. in Visual Art from the University of California, Irvine.

Chelsea Weidner

Aftercare Lead


Chelsea Weidner graduated in May 2017 with her BA in Psychology from Northwestern College in Iowa. Chelsea has recently moved to Chicago to attend Erikson Institute’s Master program for Child Development. She has past experience working with children in a variety of settings including summer camps, child care centers, and home settings. Chelsea is adding to experience by leading our aftercare team.