ACADEMIC PROGRAM EDUCATORS
GRACE SHEESE, Blossom Classroom & Head Teacher
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.
LEAH SOUDER, Sprout Class
With roots in Bloomington-Normal and teaching experience around the world, Leah brings a truly global perspective to Bloom. 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.
Leah 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. She brings incredible energy as well as diversity in professional and life experiences to our classrooms and to our students.
JESSICA FREDERICK, Pods Class
Jess began her path toward becoming 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 and 1st grade in her 8 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 co-presented at the Annual NAEYC Conference on the importance of risk-taking in early childhood, as well at NAEYC affiliate conferences in Arizona and Illinois.
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.
JENNIFER STUBBS, Child Development Coordinator
Jennifer's educational background is rooted in education and child development as well as the sciences. She earned a bachelor’s degree in Biological Sciences and Education from Illinois State University and a Master’s degree in Child Development from the Erikson Institute in Chicago. Jennifer taught in middle school classrooms for 5 years before shifting her focus to younger children. Inspired to create early childhood programs grounded in scientific exploration, she sought a graduate internship with the Chicago Zoological Society where she was immersed in best practices in early childhood nature play-based education.
In Chicago, Jennifer founded WilderWonder LLC – a company providing nature play opportunities for young children and their families, as well as professional development resources for early childhood educators.
In 2018-2019 she joined the Bloom teaching staff to work with early learners, and began serving as Child Development Coordinator. She joined the Bloom Board of Directors in 2019-2020.
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."