BLOOM FACULTY & STAFF
Our teachers and staff are foundational to expressing Bloom’s innovative format and philosophy in approaching education as a dynamic, collaborative, and engaged experience of cultivating joyful, independent learners.
Multi-age classrooms at Bloom that honor the developmental needs of students are designed around a low student-to-teacher ratio. This classroom design provides the opportunity for differentiated instruction and the establishment of meaningful relationships as teachers assess student skill-building, interests, and social-emotional development on an ongoing, highly individualized basis.
Teachers facilitate individual and group projects that incorporate 21st century learning framework standards and utilize ongoing, individualized growth assessment -- rather than standardized testing -- to measure student outcomes and to improve instruction. Bloom teachers design thematic units to incorporate learning across content areas – an exciting approach that integrates and reinforces learning in ways that add depth and relevance to students’ everyday lives.
Bloom Community School has recruited teachers who will qualities that the school aims to engender in their learners: curiosity, independence, authenticity, resilience, and joy.” One of Bloom's founding board members, Dr. Laura Kalmes said, “learning is not confined to the years we spend at school; but rather, learning is a process that unfolds over a lifetime. As John Dewey famously said, ‘Education is not preparation for life; education is life itself.’"
Each teacher’s experience, disposition, collaborative interests, and inquiry-based learning experience is important to the formation of practices at Bloom. Bloom approaches its students as learners and as citizens of our school community, and as such, Bloom promotes diversity, equity, and justice in schools and society. Our teachers are instrumental in helping children to become lifelong learners and also active, empowered members of our community.
GRACE SHEESE, Blossoms Classroom & Capstone
Grace, who is one of the co-founders of Bloom Community School, has more than 20 years of teaching experience in a range of settings. A graduate of the College of William and Mary who also holds a Master of Fine Arts Degree from Illinois State University, she has worked as a public elementary school classroom teacher, a reading specialist, and an English Language Learners (ELL) instructor. She is an active ceramics artist and concurrently serves as an adjunct assistant professor of art at Illinois Wesleyan University.
Grace has developed a teaching philosophy that embraces a combination of structure and autonomy to promote learning and growth in her students. At Bloom, she strives to create a learning environment that fosters independence, self-confidence, personal responsibility, and social awareness. She designs cross-disciplinary projects and inquiry-based learning activities to address curricular goals while also providing meaningful, integrated experiences that encourage students to be active and engaged participants in their own learning and to develop into lifelong learners.
ALANNA OSTER, Sprouts Class
With 15 years of educator experience in a range of settings, Alanna has developed a philosophy of teaching and learning that prioritizes play, connection, and emotional safety as foundations for true learning and creativity. She builds on these by applying her background as a college-level English instructor and a collaborative parent educator for elementary-aged children in areas of history, humanities, and critical thinking. As a parent and teacher, she is also a proponent for children spending time learning in wild spaces for exploration, emotional regulation, and learning about the outdoors.
Alanna focused on English literature while earning first a Bachelor's Degree and then a Master's Degree at Southern Illinois University Carbondale, where she also served as a Composition Teacher for college freshmen. She has particular interest in teaching others to use language as a tool for authentic and accurate expression while also examining rhetoric, reputable sources, and appropriate documentation. Committed to supporting a variety of learning styles, she has also utilized tools and technology to help those with language difficulties feel more comfortable with both reading and writing.
JESSICA SCHIEK, Pods Class
Jess began her path as an educator at Illinois State University, where she earned her Bachelor’s Degree in Early Childhood Education and an Endorsement in Special Education. Jess has taught preschool, kindergarten, 1st grade, and 2nd grade in her 11 years of teaching. In 2016 she was one of 14 individuals nationwide awarded the Lasting Legacy Scholarship to attend her first Annual National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) conference. She has since presented at nationwide and statewide conferences on the importance of risk-taking in early childhood, loose parts play, and intentional interactions with young children.
Inspired by the Reggio Emilia approach and combined with inquiry-based learning, Jess guides her students through social-emotional and curricula challenges each day through hands-on, collaboration-encouraging projects and opportunities for building confidence and independence. Jess promotes natural play indoors and out during the school day. She creates supportive structure to ensure that students feel secure, yet free: free to ask questions, to be their authentic selves, to build positive relationships, to fail, to feel proud, to be intrinsically motivated, to create, and to build a love of learning.
LEAH SOUDER, Teaching & Learning Coordinator
With roots in Bloomington-Normal and teaching experience around the world, Leah brings a truly global perspective to Bloom. After leading the Sprouts Class fat Bloom or four years, she moved into a new position as Teaching and Learning Coordinator, providing continuity in teacher and classroom support through collaboration and leadership as well as coordinating communication with families related to enrollment.
Leah earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Education, cum laude, from Illinois State University. She also has an English as a Second Language certification through the American College of Education. She started her career in elementary classrooms in Minneapolis, Minn., after which she and her husband began an international sojourn. She taught at the North Jakarta (Indonesia) International School, QSI International School (Shenzhen, China), and at the Rabat American School (Morocco). A dedicated life-long learner, Leah has developed expertise in English as an Additional Language (EAL), reading and writing workshops, prevention of bullying, visible thinking strategies, supporting students succeeding with dyslexia, project-based learning, and co-teaching practices.
ELIZABETH LATHROP, Administrative Coordinator
Liz Lathrop comes to Bloom from the staff of Special Olympics Illinois. She brings decades of experience in a wide range of educational settings and continues a pattern that began early in her life of returning to educator work wherever she has lived. Liz has served in various roles in early childhood education, special education, and craft education as well as outdoor learning. Throughout 35 years of moving around the United States, she has observed many different educational settings, philosophies, and practices - both in her professional roles and through the lens of parenting her now-grown children through their own school years. Liz embraces Bloom's values of nurturing children as well-rounded, joyful, life-long, independent, learners. When not at Bloom, her time is spent with her husband and their dog, or "up to (her) elbows in clay or glue."
JULIE FRASER-LINDSEY, Capstone Coordinator
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.