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.
Board Vice President
Rachel Lapp Whitt
Rachel Lapp Whitt's vocation in storytelling is expressed in work as a writer/editor, graphic designer, and brainstormer. She serves as creative designer for Art Class Curator, an organization that provides art educators with meaningful art engagement tools to share with a wide range of students. In 20+ years of ongoing freelance work, she has focused on supporting visual artists, musicians, nonprofits, schools, and small businesses - supporting those who create connectedness for people and the planet.
Rachel began her career in public radio and print journalism, then moved into public relations and teaching. For seven years, she directed a busy PR department at Goshen College in wide-ranging strategic relations, print, online, video, advertising, event support, and media relations efforts. A political activist since her stroller-riding days, she joined an academic colleague to create a Peace and Justice Journalism Initiative to connect college students with opportunities in international social justice journalism.
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 about preserving women's voices in state history. She 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. Rachel also advised student organizations and studied Spanish in El Salvador. She later served as an editor for multimedia publications in intercultural and international education.
At the heart of her contributions to founding and sustaining Bloom is her relationship with her daughter, whose imagination is a constant reminder to Rachel and her partner of the opportunity to nurture creativity and possibility. They live with in Bloomington.
Trisha Malott is a Bloomington-Normal native and nearly life-long resident. She holds an undergraduate degree from Illinois State University in economics and a graduate degree in social work, while also being a Licensed Clinical Social Worker. Her clinical work has included work with children impacted by trauma and sexual abuse, adult survivors of sexual assault, those with severe and chronic mental illness, and women’s issues. While she has loved her clinical path and the patients she’s encountered through the years, her true passion is at an administrative level and more, to impact change at a macro level.
Trisha has served as a Director of Development for a non-profit agency, served on fundraising committees and chaired annual events, been an Executive Director for a community mental health program, taught psychiatry residents at a medical school, and more recently been a Chief Operating Officer of a large multi-state group psychology practice. She currently works for McLean County Government as the Behavioral Health Coordinating Council Supervisor and strives to impact systemic change relative to behavioral health in our community through collaboration and new and innovative programming.
First and foremost, she is “mama” to a sweet son who first attended Bloom for the 2018-2019 academic year and is proud to call Bloom “home” again. In their free time, Trisha and her son love exploring the outdoors, hiking, reading, playing card games in coffee shops, and creating adventures together.
Devon Lovell spends her energy and time engaged in learning, creating, and discovering, both professionally and personally. She has worked in education since graduating from Northwestern University with a degree in speech education and English, teaching high school English, speech and theatre for 10 years in suburban Washington, DC and rural central Illinois.
Devon currently works as the Learning Director at Family Matters, a community-based, not-for-profit in Rogers Park that is committed to building an equitable society. Her work there has centered around education and learning, advocating for families within the public school system, running a volunteer-based tutor/mentor program, creating a summer learning program, and most recently working to launch a Kindergarten classroom. And she lives in Bloomington, which makes for some interesting challenges trying to balance her commitments to the communities where she and her family live and where she works in Chicago.
Devon enjoys involvement in the Bloomington-Normal arts community, especially Heartland Theatre and The Next to Normal Story Slam, social justice work through her church, New Covenant Community, and simply hanging with her two kids, her husband and their dog.
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.