meet our team


At The Wonder Academy, caring and dedicated professionals are guiding your children. While Illinois state law only requires preschool teachers to have limited credit hours in early childhood education, we require our lead teachers to hold degrees in early childhood or a related field. This helps us know your children are being given purposeful, engaging experiences that are carefully planned by knowledgeable and well-trained individuals.

 

We also feel that stability for your child is important, so we start our teachers at a salary level 27% higher than the norm. This not only minimizes turnover, but helps attract and retain committed and enthusiastic teachers who are happy and satisfied with their careers.

 

We are always striving to develop our staff and ensure we are doing all we can to provide the best services possible. All of our employees are background checked, take part in regular staff meetings, and are provided with numerous opportunities for professional development.


Karen Coyle

Director

 

Karen Coyle has served as a certified early childhood educator for 20 years. She received her bachelor's degree from Illinois State University in early childhood education with an endorsement in mathematics. She served as Lead Teacher in the full and half-day preschool classrooms at United Presbyterian Church (UPC) Discovery Preschool in Peoria, Illinois. During this tenure, Karen implemented research-based practices, including the Project Approach. She presented student-led Projects at the National Association of the Education of Young Children’s Conference as well as at the Heart of Illinois Association of the Education of Young Children’s Conference. Karen’s work experience also includes serving as a Family Educator, Preschool Teacher, and Teacher Mentor in DCFS-Licensed Child Care and Home Provider settings for the Peoria County Regional Office of Education Preschool for All Program. Karen started her career as a kindergarten teacher in Wheeling, Illinois, and continues to partner with families in giving all children a jump-start to school success.



Jennifer Bowman

Assistant Director

 

Jennifer has always had a passion for working with children. After studying social work at Olivet Nazarene University, she spent three years working with children and teens in foster care. After choosing to further her education, she began exploring early childhood classes at ICC and started her early childhood journey. Jennifer has been trained in Creative Curriculum and has implemented it in childcare centers with infants, toddlers, and preschoolers. After having opportunities to learn the business side of childcare, she found another passion for the behind the scenes work that takes place. She then served as director for eight years at a childcare in Hopedale, IL before joining the Wonder family.


Emily Clark

Lead Teacher, Young Preschool

 

Emily has always had a passion for working with children and has wanted to be a teacher for as long as she can remember. Emily began her pursuit of this dream by attending Illinois Central College for her Associate of Applied Science in Early Childhood Education and joined our Wonder family in June of 2018. She loves being able to watch children learn and grow and feels very privileged to be part of that process. Emily makes it her priority to provide the children of Wonder with the best care possible, in a safe, fun, and nurturing learning environment. In her free time, Emily enjoys hiking, singing, camping, and spending time with family.




Kenia Santiago

Lead Teacher, Junior Kindergarten

 

Kenia has been working in the field of early childhood education for over sixteen years. She has had the opportunity to work as a preschool teacher, a bilingual English / Spanish assistant teacher, a substitute teacher for a variety of programs and school districts, and, most recently, as a preschool yoga instructor. Kenia is currently pursuing her Applied Associates Degree in Marriage and Family Studies as well as her children's yoga certification. Kenia's goal as a teacher is to be a role model and to foster and maintain a positive, fun, respectful and safe environment for children. She enjoys being able to help children grow and support both their academic and social-emotional learning. In her spare time, Kenia enjoys spending time with her two children and puppy, running, going on walks, playing board games, watching movies, cooking and dancing.


Alexis Walker

Assistant Teacher, Junior Kindergarten

 

Alexis Walker graduated from Peoria Christian High School then continued her education through early childhood education classes at ICC. She has worked with kids for several years—in the church nursery, babysitting, as a teacher's assistant, and helping with her young brothers. She loves working with children and feels that they fill such a big part of her heart. During my senior year of high school, she served as a teacher's assistant in her brother's first grade class and absolutely loved watching the kids grow and develop in their own ways. She is honored to work with the children of Wonder, to be able to watch them grow and develop, and to help them along the way!


Melissa Henrichs

Assistant Teacher and Spanish Instructor

 

Melissa is originally from San Blas, a small fishing port in Mexico. After studying clinical psychology for three and a half years at the Autonomous University of Nayarit, she met her husband, started their family, and decided to dedicate herself completely to her two little girls. After moving to Peoria, Illinois where her husband is from, she had the opportunity to volunteer in her second daughter's preschool classroom and found her passion for helping children. She believes that the way adults treat kids is the way they learn to be in life. Therefore, her everyday goal is to help the children of Wonder feel happy and confident through play, her interactions with them, and by helping when needed.


Noelle Haverhals

Yoga Instructor

 

Noelle has been teaching Vinyasa Flow for 15 years and loves that yoga can be adapted to any age and level. She was previously the yoga instructor for the University of Iowa Men's Basketball team, taught for Breast Cancer patients and survivors at the University or Iowa Hospitals and clinics, Yoga Instructor for The University of Maryland Wrestling team and Women's Basketball team, and taught in a variety of studios. She loves to encourage a healthy lifestyle for children and hopes to guide them in the joy of taking care of their body and mind!



Trevon Cooper

Music Instructor

 

Trevon is a graduate of The University of Iowa with training in music education and a degree in vocal performance. In addition to serving as a worship pastor at Northwoods Community Church, he enjoys having the opportunity to partner with The Wonder Academy and provide children with engaging and hands-on musical experiences to help them develop a love for music as well as the ability to express it.


James Rush

Chef

 

Throughout his career as a chef, James has worked in a variety of  Peoria-area establishments ranging from Ned Kelly's and Jumers to The Children's Home and Washington Christian Village. He adds so much to our program by providing our children with healthy and delicious meals, all while catering to individual dietary needs and preferences. In his spare time, James enjoys coaching JFL.

 


Choosing the right provider for your child's education is an important decision, and we look to make it as easy as possible. Our young preschool and junior kindergarten classes at The Wonder Academy provide children with a unique, engaging, and high quality approach to early childhood education. We would be happy to answer any questions you may have, just give us a call (309-412-5679) or schedule a tour.

 

7717 N University

Peoria, IL 61615

309.412.5679

Hours:

7:00am - 5:30pm

Monday - Friday