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Our Staff

One of the reasons Park West is such a special place is our staff. Parents come to have a deep, abiding respect and affection for our staff and the way they care for and respect children and their ideas. We believe that all interactions between and among children and their teachers have an impact on children's intellectual, emotional, social, and moral experience and development. Children need help navigating life in a group. They need the guidance and support of experienced, caring teachers. The emotional support teachers give children is vital to their development.

 

Jane Nolan - Director

Now in her 17th year as Director and 28th as a staff member, Jane’s first experience at Park West was as an assisting parent with her two children, Josh and Jenna Heffernan. During that time, Jane served on Park West’s Board of Directors as Board Secretary, Chair of Special Events and President of the Board. Previous to becoming Director, Jane taught at Park West for 11 years. Jane is often a guest lecturer and consultant at local universities, parent groups, and nursery schools. She has been an exhibit advisor for the Chicago Children’s Museum, a candidate observer and evaluator for the Kohl Award for Excellence in Early Childhood Education, a presenter at local and national conferences, and adjunct faculty at University of Illinois, Chicago, Graduate School of Education, lecturing on Piaget and Vygotsky. Jane has a Master’s degree in Early Childhood Education/Instructional Leadership from the University of Illinois, Chicago.

Byl Adam - 4AM-2 Teacher and JK-2 Assistant Teacher

Byl holds a master's degree in Early Childhood Education from the University of Illinois-Chicago. Prior to graduate school, he served as a Peace Corps volunteer in the village of Kajapati, Suriname, working with community members to establish the village's first preschool class. He began working at Park West in 2008 as a Parent-Toddler class facilitator, and has also worked as the JK assistant, as a Camp Sunshine counselor, and spent two years working in the office. He is excited to be back for another school year at Park West.

Amanda Ott - 2AM, 3AM, and 3PM Assistant Teacher

Amanda earned a Bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education from Knox College- Winter 2014. She began working at Park West in 2008 as a summer camp counselor, and continued so for over seven years. She is excited to join the strong teaching staff at Park West, that support play based learning and children-centered curriculum. In her spare time she enjoys family and friends, board games and traveling.

Joseph DiFiore - JK-2 Teacher

Joseph has worked at Park West since 1985, with all of the various groups and with many co-teacher combinations. Also, his daughter, Katie and his grandsons, Joseph and Mikael, attended Park West. Joseph has a Master’s degree in Early Childhood Education from the University of Illinois, Chicago.

Melinda Polus - 2AM, 3AM, and 3PM Teacher

Melinda Polus has been at Park West since 1979. Her previous teaching experience includes Lincoln Park Cooperative Nursery School and play production at The After School Center. Melinda also has a background in theater and attended the Goodman School of Drama when it was part of the School of the Art Institute.

Amanda Speck - 4AM-2 and JK-2 Teacher

Amanda has held many positions at Park West over the last 14 years, including Camp Teacher, JK Assistant, P/T Facilitator, Administrative Assistant, and One-to-One Support Person. This is her 7th year as a lead teacher, and the 4th year she is co-teaching with Joseph. She is happy to be reunited with Byl, and is looking forward to the school year. Amanda happens to be a former Park West student, and her mother is Anita (2AM, 3AM, 3PM). Throughout college and graduate school, Amanda studied Early Childhood Education. She holds a BA of Sociology and completed graduate coursework in Women's and Gender Studies. At home, Amanda loves baking and cooking for her friends and family.

Anita Speck - 2AM, 3AM, and 3PM Teacher

Anita is delighted to spend another year teaching the youngest groups with Melinda, and to have Mandy join the 1st floor team. She has been teaching at Park West since 1983 when she came as a student teacher, from DePaul’s Early Childhood Education program. While raising her 4 children Anita worked part time, and stayed home a few years, but has been on staff full time since 1996. She has presented at National and Regional conferences on topics including Constructivism, Group Time, and Parental Involvement.

David Butler - 4AM-3 and JK-3 Teacher

David is excited to be entering his eighth year at Park West and his first year working with Sarah and Kristin! After a very nice summer, including a trip to beautiful Portland Maine and having taken a couple courses in early childhood education, David is rearing for a brand new year with all the wonderful students at Park West.

Sarah Wawrzaszsek - 4AM-3/JK-3 Teacher

Sarah has been a teacher at Park West for many years now, in various teaching team combinations. She has been a Camp Sunshine teacher, a JK Assist, Parent/Toddler Facilitator, a one-on-one support person, and spent several years as the 2AM/3AM/3PM Assist. Sarah is excited to start another year in 4AM and JK with David, and now Kristin! She is a Chicago native, loves the skyline at night, riding her bike, and enjoys spending time on figuring out how things go together or work. Sarah has a Bachelor’s Degree in Elementary Education, with concentrations in English and Science from Loyola University Chicago. She has recently taken several ECE graduate school courses at UIC.

Nada Riley - Parent-Toddler Co-Facilitator/ Office Manager

Nada has been involved with Park West for the past 31 years. She is a parent toddler co-facilitator, office manager, the Camp Sunshine coordinator and has been a substitute teacher for many years. Nada’s daughter, Kim, attended Park West and has worked for Park West and is now trying to get going on starting her own non-profit in the coming year(s)!

Katrina Nousaine Mann - Parent Toddler Co-Facilitator

Katrina has been involved with Park West in a variety of roles over the years. These have included parent-tot facilitator, assistant teacher, shadow, camp counselor, and assisting parent. She has a Masters degree in Early Childhood Education from the Erikson Institute and has also worked as a teacher in the Chicago Public Schools. When she is not at Park West, Katrina enjoys swimming, skiing, biking and cooking with her husband, Chris, and son, Zachary. She is excited to begin working with parents, toddlers and Nada in the second floor classroom this year.

Margaret Jungels - Parent Toddler Co-Facilitator

Margaret is excited to be returning to Park West as a Parent Toddler 2 Co-Facilitator. Margaret first joined the Park West Family in 2004 when her older daughter, Katie, started in the 3am class. While her daughters, Katie and Meaghan, were at Park West, Margaret served on the board as Special Events Co-Chair, and as the Treasurer. After leaving Park West, Margaret continued to serve on the school’s Financial Advisory Board. Between 2006 and 2012, Margaret had the pleasure of running her own business – Music With Me – in which she taught early childhood music classes to kids ranging in age from birth to age 5. Since 2011 she has sung with the Chicago Chamber Choir, and has been a board member of the choir since 2012. Before having children, Margaret worked in Human Resources Consulting for a large consulting firm, and continues to work as an Independent Compensation Consultant – helping companies solve compensation issues related to hiring, performance and retention. Margaret has a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Notre Dame in French and Pre-Professional studies.

Kristin Graziano - Parent Toddler Co-Facilitator/JK-2 Assist

Kristin is so happy to be working with Sarah and David this year as the JK-3 assistant as well as returning as the Parent Toddler 2 Co-Facilitator. She started her career at Park West over 40 years ago, in the very first ever afternoon class. Since then, she has experienced Park West as a parent to 3 kids (Iris, Maeve and Beau) as well as a substitute teacher. She holds a Bachelor’s degree in Anthropology and Italian from Indiana University. Her favorite children’s book is “One Morning in Maine” by Robert McCloskey.

Megan Brennan - Administrative Assistant

Megan is very excited to be entering her 2nd year at Park West as the Administrative Assistant. She graduated from Loyola University Chicago with a degree in Visual Communications. In her spare time, she enjoys bicycling, improvisational comedy, and painting.