The Bloom Community School Board of Directors grew out of a founding core leadership team including Dr. Laura Kalmes, Karin McDowell, Rachel Lapp Whitt, and Grace Sheese, and has grown into a group bringing diverse vocational, organizational, and parenting experiences. This team is committed to creating an independent, progressive school serving the Bloomington-Normal, Illinois, area with a uniquely innovative mission: To cultivate joyful, independent learners in an educational environment that nurtures individual development by integrating high academic standards and community engagement. This mission is served by the learners, teachers, parents, and collaborators of Bloom who are interconnected with our community and its diverse, vibrant organizations, businesses, and institutions.
Gary Weilbacher’s educational career began in Wales, Wisconsin, at Ethan Alan School for Boys during the mid-1980s. He taught students with special needs while working in a program for juvenile sex offenders for four years. He then moved to Madison and spent the next nine years serving with the Madison Metropolitan School District as a special (Marquette Middle School) and regular education (Sherman Middle School) teacher.
Gary’s work and continuing post-graduate program in education at the University of Wisconsin-Madison changed his life, as most of those years were spent working with Barbara Brodhagen and James Beane using an integrative curriculum. Upon receiving a doctorate in curriculum and instruction from the University, Gary and his family moved to Bloomington, where Gary began his work at Illinois State University, where he currently serves as an Associate Professor in the College of Education in Teaching and Learning. For the past 20 years he has worked with “pre-service” teachers – people who want to become middle school teachers. He has published research, perspectives, and other articles in a range of educational journals and magazines.
Gary’s interest in Bloom Community School stems from his work in Madison, as the integrative curriculum is a democratic, student-led approach to learning that takes seriously the needs, questions, and concerns of students. He spent his most recent semester-long academic sabbatical with Bloom Community School, focusing on the Blossoms Class and also spending time with the Sprouts and Pods classrooms.
Board Vice President
Rachel Lapp Whitt
Rachel Lapp Whitt works as a writer/editor, graphic designer, and strategist. A founder of Bloom Community School, she brings a dedication to inspiring, equitable environments that nurture children as creative, able learners. She began career life in public radio and print journalism, then moved into public relations and teaching, and now works as a designer and contributor at Art Class Curator, whose mission is to support art educators in providing meaningful art engagement experiences for students of all ages. In 20+ years of freelancing, Rachel has focused on supporting artists, nonprofits, schools, and small businesses.
Rachel earned a master’s degree in Multicultural Communication at DePaul University during the same year she and her co-author and mother, Anita Stalter, published an all-ages book on Indiana women in history. Her writing and editorial work has also been featured in publications and online journals as well as on public radio.
For nearly 7 years, Rachel directed the public relations department at Goshen College in wide-ranging strategic relations, print, online, video, advertising, event support, and media relations efforts. She has also worked for several boutique marketing and design firms in the Midwest. Rachel then joined the faculty of GC’s Communication Department, teaching courses in public speaking, intercultural communication, PR, mass media, comm research, expository and feature writing, film, and women in media representation. She and a colleague led Peace and Justice Journalism trips with small groups of students to to study issues of global significance like HIV/AIDS, economic markets, and migration.
At the heart of her contributions to founding and sustaining Bloom is her relationship with her child, whose imagination is a constant reminder to Rachel and her spouse of the opportunity to nurture creativity and possibility. They live in Bloomington and are advocates for childhood cancer research.
Jaimie is a native of Bloomington-Normal and nearly a life-long resident. Her only time outside of Bloomington-Normal was going to college at the University of Illinois Champaign-Urbana where she graduated with a master’s degree in accounting and taxation. After graduating she obtained her CPA (Certified Public Accountant) and CVA (Certified Valuation Analysis). She currently works for Insight CPAs Financial PLLC, a local firm in Bloomington. She has worked for the firm for more than 10 years.
In Jaimie’s free time she enjoys spending time with her family and her dog, Bailey.
Jill Donnel began her career as a first grade teacher and has evolved as an educator over 32 years in a variety of roles including middle school language arts teacher and school principal. She currently serves as the Assistant Director/Undergraduate Programs Coordinator for the School of Teaching and Learning at Illinois State University.
Jill’s interest in educating towards democratic ways of being, student agency, and student-centered education began when she pursued her master’s degree in education at Illinois State University. She was challenged to wrestle with the purpose of education in broader terms -- whether education and the process of schooling was an end unto itself (the acquisition of “knowledge”) or whether something deeper was at stake. In particular, she became aware of how her use of innovative instructional strategies, classroom arrangements, and emphasis on learner agency could impact students’ understanding of democracy and could lead them to more democratic ways of being. In her current role, she supports faculty in emphasizing curricula agendas related to issues of equity, social justice, and anti-racism.
Jill Donnel joined the School of Teaching and Learning in the fall of 2008. She is responsible for facilitating the management of the early childhood, elementary, and middle level teacher education programs. She supports the faculty with accreditation processes and program design and revision; program reports for accreditation and licensing purposes; pre-student teaching clinical processes as well as the student teaching processes of the School of Teaching and Learning; managing the university supervisors associated with the student teaching experiences; establishing partnerships with Illinois school districts; facilitating the student teaching study abroad program in Eastbourne, England; and facilitating the management of the professional development school programs for the School of Teaching and Learning.
Jill serves on the University Teacher Education Assessment Committee (UTEAC). She also serves as the co-chair for the College of Education’s annual New Teacher Conference (NtCon) and facilitates the planning of the conference program. She holds a master’s degree in curriculum and instruction from Illinois State University, and she is scheduled to complete her doctorate in curriculum and instruction in the 2021-2022 academic year. She considers it a great privilege to work with the teachers, students, and families of Bloom.
Julie Fraser-Lindsey discovered Bloom Community School as a result of her increasing desire to teach and learn in a progressive, compassionate, and intentional environment. She has a master’s degree in English Studies from Illinois State University and has taught composition and children’s literature at Heartland Community College for over 20 years. During that time she has sought out opportunities to teach writing to younger kids through ISU’s Writing Project and Heartland’s Youth Enrichment Program.
Julie became Capstone Coordinator in Fall of 2020 and joined the board shortly thereafter.
Katie Pommier is a Leadership Development and Change Management Consultant with Accenture, where she provides leadership and culture strategy support to clients and designs research for enterprise-wide change initiatives. Versed in corporate psychology and communication, she leads design thinking and implementation of organizational communication strategies impacting tens of thousands of client employees. In her spare time she works with youth and collegiate sports programs, providing leadership development for individuals and teams.
As a student-athlete of Flagler College, Katie studied psychology and went on to earn a master’s degree at the University of Chicago and a doctorate in organizational leadership at the Chicago School of Professional Psychology. She is a member of the American Psychological Association.
Katie - a lifelong athlete invested in personal and community wellness - worked at the University of Chicago as a wellness instructor and assistant volleyball coach. She initiated and directed the university’s first camps for young athletes as well as led recruitment efforts for “good fit” student-athletes, and designed statistical programs to enhance productivity during sport practices. She was recognized for her leadership with two Coaching Staff of the Year awards. Prior to joining the university athletic department, she worked as the tournament and leadership development director at Great Lakes Volleyball Club. Katie also spent two years with Chicago Ideas as director of internships - directing the recruitment, selection, management and professional development opportunities for more than 20 interns each year.
She has also been involved with Chicago Diplomatic Solutions and the International Youth Peace Movement.