Faculty Spotlight

Elizabeth Stemn

Kindergarten Teacher
Bachelor of Arts, Minnesota State University-Moorhead
Total of 11 years at Elgin Academy. Mrs. Stemn returned to EA in 2014 after moving back to the area.

What does a typical day in Kindergarten look like?

When the children arrive in the morning they are welcomed by music and greeted by their teacher and each other as they enter.They sign in, star their calendar, and have free play while awaiting the arrival of their friends.Music, songs, and chants are an important part of our day!We begin and end each day with a song and occasionally take a "brain break" with a song and dance as needed to rejuvenate.We also say the Pledge and sing the Star Spangled Banner each day.Schedules and routines are a big deal for us!We go to P.E., music, library, art, and French during the week.We work a lot in centers while in the classroom on a rotation basis.The centers include working with words, listening to reading, reading with someone, writing, math, and working with the teacher in small groups or independently.Of course, we break for snack mid-morning and have quiet time with books or journals after lunch.Social and emotional development are so important at this age too.We work a lot on building confidence, problem solving, taking turns, and working and playing well with others through games, activities, and role play.We have a class meeting most every day to check in with how things are going, how people are feeling, and to work through situations and as they arise.

Moving up from Preschool to Kindergarten is a big step for a lot of kids.Talk about how you and EA help students to make this transition smoothly?

We have a morning in January called Step-Up day which is designated for students in Pre-K to experience a little of what to expect in Kindergarten.The children come with me to the Kindergarten classroom and we do a few whole group activities as well as a few centers I've set out for them.Also, we are fortunate to see each other in passing while going to and from specials classes such as music and art throughout the year.There is a day in May that Pre-K and K students meet up to play together on the "big" playground.Kindergarteners will show Pre-K "a sneak peek" of the cafeteria where they will eat lunch when they are in Kindergarten.

What do you enjoy most about teaching Kindergartners?

That's a tough question because there is SO MUCH I love about it! Perhaps two of my favorites is their spontaneity and genuine love for learning and each other.They aim to please and always say the funniest things that either melt my heart or crack me up!They always want to do and be their best. The best Lego builder, chess player, chef, artist, musician, drawer, reader, joke teller, writer, etc. and yet encourage each other to build each other up.Kindergarteners find joy in the ordinary. It doesn't take much but a little encouragement and a smile to change a frown upside down or dry a tear.

Recently one of EA's Seniors gave a speech on the fact that we can all learn a lot from the younger students if we just took the time to listen.What have you learned from your students over the years?

Oh my, my list is too long for this brief interview.I have learned (and re-learned) the importance of sharing, playing fair, saying sorry when you hurt someone, always imagine and wonder, enjoy simple, compliment, hold hands, encourage, laugh at mistakes, and of course....WASH YOUR HANDS! Being a friend and building friendships is a skill we work on in Kindergarten all day, every day, all year.One of my favorite quotes is from Katrina Mayer, "Being a good friend doesn't mean you always have the right words to say. Sometimes it means you just know when to be a good listener." I often substitute "friend" for "teacher" when I'm with my students.Everyone wants to be heard....even when you're five.

So is it really true that "All I Ever Really Needed to Know I Learned in Kindergarten?"

Hmmm, let's see...1) you can read....2) you can do it—ALL BY YOURSELF! (or maybe with a little help?)...3) working together is a GOOD thing! Practice, practice, practice; patience, patience, patience....4) Numbers are all around you and can tell you things....5) your turn to add to the list.


Craig Pinson

Middle School Athletic Director
LS & MS PE Teacher
Bachelor of Science, Northern Illinois University
Master of Science, Ohio University

I really like teaching activities that students don’t get exposed to a lot.  You can go to any school in America and learn how to dribble a basketball in PE.  It takes a special kind of teacher to trust a kindergarten student with a floor hockey stick…

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Jennifer Brown

Lower School Administrative Assistant
Bachelor of Science, St. Louis University

"I enjoy knowing that I've helped someone, whether it's by completing a task, making sure information gets where it needs to go, or just listening. I get to do all of those every day."

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Julie Janik
Middle School Social Studies, Language Arts, and Theater
Master of Arts, National Louis University 
Master of Arts, Bowling Green State University Master of Music, University of Cincinnati
Bachelor of Music, University of Cincinnati 
"Middle school kids are a joy to teach. Their critical thinking skills and academic independence are just starting to blossom at this age, and they are contemplating topics and issues in new ways and at deeper levels."
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Elizabeth Stemn

Kindergarten Teacher
Bachelor of Arts, Minnesota State University-Moorhead

Kindergarteners find joy in the ordinary. It doesn't take much but a little encouragement and a smile to change a frown upside down or dry a tear.

Read More about Elizabeth Stemn
Jessica Brown

Middle School English
Bachelor of Arts, State University of New York-Cortland
Master of Science, Nazareth College
Master of Arts, DePaul University

"By teaching and guiding students through basic skills, they are better able to take control of their learning."

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Amy Maly

Early Childhood Teacher
Bachelor of Science, Illinois State University

"We can use our tools that we learned at a young age to celebrate success and work through challenges over the course of a lifetime."

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Doug Sept

Upper School Director & College Counselor
Bachelor of Science, University of Missouri
Master of Science, University of Kentucky

"There is a palpable sense of joy at Elgin Academy."

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Peggy Veltri

Middle School Language Arts and Social Studies
Bachelor of Journalism, University of Missouri
Master of Business Administration, Loyola University
Master of Arts in Teaching, National Louis University

"When we learn about things like the Silk Road in social studies, we don't just read about it, we take interactive journeys along it, trading as we go."

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Rick Williams

Director of Athletics and
Varsity Boys Head Basketball Coach
Bachelor of Arts, Judson University
Master of Science, Capella University

"By playing hard, having fun and getting better we let everyone know what it means to be a Hilltopper!"

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Heather Giebel

PS-8 Grade Music
Master of Music, New England Conservatory
Bachelor of Music, University of Massachusetts

"I wouldn't want any child to miss out on a musical education."

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Jim Kidston

Technology Director, Upper School Computer Science
Bachelor of Arts, University of Michigan
Master of Arts, University of Chicago
Master of Business Administration, University of Chicago

"My goal is to make myself unnecessary."

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Adeline Moon

4th Grade Teacher
Bachelor of Science at University of Illinois

"We have a Twitter page that allows the weekly student "Tweeter" to showcase what is going on in the classroom."

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