Meet Our Team

Mrs. Heather Wakeford

Executive Director | B.A. in Elementary Education

I am overjoyed to extend a heartfelt welcome to you and your child at Fia Mia Academy! I'm Heather Wakeford, and the privilege of being the Executive Director of Fia Mia Academy fills me with immense pride and excitement. With a passion for education spanning fifteen years, I graduated with honors from Elmhurst College, holding a B.A. Degree in Elementary Education and an A.A. Degree from the College of DuPage. Presently, I maintain a Professional Educator License, Director Certification, and an Early Childhood Educator Credential. I am an active member of the North American Reggio Emilia Alliance and have been recognized as a former Golden Apple Award Nominee.

My journey in education has shown me the tremendous impact of quality education on a child's life. It's not just about imparting knowledge; it's about nurturing their curiosity, empowering their dreams, and instilling a lifelong love for learning. The Reggio Emilia approach holds a special place in my heart. It resonates with my belief that children are innately creative and capable learners. They possess an incredible thirst for understanding the world around them. As educators, it's our responsibility to cultivate and celebrate this innate curiosity, fostering an environment where every child's unique talent can thrive.

On a personal note, I am a lifelong resident of Elmhurst, cherishing life with my husband, Bill, and our children, Austin, Tyler, and Travis. We share our home with our lovable dog, Falcor, and my parents, forming a lively and loving family. In my leisure time, I enjoy quality time with my family, boating, and fishing at our summer home, love to travel, find solace in reading, and am an avid storm chaser!

As a mother myself, I understand the importance of providing a nurturing, stimulating, and safe environment where our youngest learners can flourish and discover their true potential. We're dedicated to creating an atmosphere where learning is an exciting adventure, and where every day is a new opportunity for growth and discovery. The Reggio philosophy is not just a set of principles for us; it's a guiding light in shaping an educational journey that's deeply personal and enriching for each child. Your trust in us to lay the educational foundation for your child is an honor that we cherish.

We're here to partner with you, listen to your thoughts, address your concerns, and collaborate in crafting a unique educational experience tailored to your child's needs and aspirations. I invite you to reach out to me anytime at I am looking forward to embarking on this incredible educational journey alongside you and your child, where every day is an opportunity to wonder, explore, and learn together.

Ms. Lucy Cosentino

Early Childhood Teacher | B.A. in Elementary Education

I have had the privilege of teaching in early childhood education for over a decade. My journey in this field began as a result of my fascination with the boundless potential of children during their formative years of growth. Over the years, I have had the privilege of guiding countless children through their early development milestones. My experience has enriched my understanding of how children learn and thrive best in the classroom.

Early childhood education holds immense importance in society with the ability to shape a child’s future and development through the care and nurturing of passionate educators. It is the foundation for lifelong learning and provides the building blocks for future academic success. These early learning years provide immense opportunities for a child’s social-emotional development and allow children to have positive interactions with family, peers, teachers, and community members around them.

My educational philosophy is rooted in the belief that early childhood education is the basis for self-confidence, autonomy, and molding young minds for the future. I am committed to nurturing the whole child, fostering curiosity, and empowering my students to become active, thoughtful, and engaged participants in their own learning and in society. As an educator, I strive to create a dynamic and inclusive learning environment that empowers students to become critical thinkers, responsible citizens, and confident lifelong learners. In my classroom, I welcome risk-taking with zero judgment and endless encouragement. There is never enough praise you can give a child to engage their eagerness to learn and achieve their highest potential.

In my experience as an early childhood educator, curiosity, exploration, and critical thinking open the doors to a child’s cognitive skills. I embrace children from all learning stages and believe every child has potential when given an opportunity to choose their own path to learning. Allowing children to pursue their own learning through their individual interests promotes a sense of ownership over their development and makes learning most rewarding to the individual child. I view my role not only as an educator but as a cultivator of a lifelong love for learning.

Ms. Emily Bell

Early Childhood Teacher | M.A. in Elementary Education

Hi, I'm Emily Bell, fulfilling the role of Early Childhood Teacher at Fia Mia Academy, catering to the delightful young minds of tomorrow. My lifelong dedication revolves around nurturing and educating children, making it the sole profession I've ever aspired to pursue. Over a span of 12 years, I have honed my skills and expertise, embraced various environments, and engaged with children across a wide spectrum of age groups, ranging from infants to middle schoolers.

Possessing a master's degree in early childhood, earned through an accelerated program at National Louis University, where I graduated with honors within a year, I have been equipped with invaluable insights and knowledge. My recent teaching experience involved structuring classroom settings, guiding children in developing healthy coping mechanisms to identify and manage their emotions. Additionally, I have worked diligently with children facing learning disabilities, employing diverse teaching styles to facilitate their understanding of essential subject matter.

In my journey through both hands-on experience and formal education, my teaching philosophy has crystalized around empowering students to attain their fullest potential. I firmly believe that teachers serve as beacons of inspiration, positive role models, and crucial aids to students in both academic and personal struggles. Establishing a strong teacher-student relationship is paramount, fostering growth not only for the individual student but for the entire classroom, and shaping a sense of community.

I uphold myself to the highest standards as an educator, dedicating unwavering attention and effort to each child, and recognizing their unique identities, and aspirations. At Fia Mia Academy, my goal is to encourage your children to thrive academically while relishing their time at school and embracing the joy of learning. Witnessing the growth of the students I've had the privilege to guide, be it on a personal or academic level, has been the most gratifying aspect of my teaching journey. I celebrate each child's individual pace and find immense inspiration in their achievement of milestones and goals.

Ms. Sabrina Romero

Early Childhood Teacher | B.A. in Elementary Education

Hello! My name is Sabrina Romero, and I am a highly passionate Early Childhood Educator. I live in Schaumburg with my Husband Joe; we are High School Sweethearts! In my free time, I enjoy quality time with family/ friends and take a variety of yoga classes. I am honored to be your child's teacher this year!

As a teacher, I am a Reggio-inspired, constructivist, and project-approach practitioner. What does that mean? It means I will be loving and celebrating each child in the classroom for exactly who they are! It means I am a heart-centered educator who deeply values each child's ideas and wonderings as an integral piece of the curriculum. The classroom teachers and environment work collaboratively with the families to create a truly authentic and meaningful learning experience for every student.

You are your child's first teacher and as such hold a deeply important role in the classroom community! I truly value my relationships with my students and their families. I graduated from Columbia College Chicago in 2012 with a B.A. in Early Childhood Education with ECE credentialing. I've since taught at a diverse range of early childhood settings and private schools in the Chicago Northwest Suburbs. I am also a Kids Yoga Teacher Certified Educator through Yogapalooza. I am passionate about integrating Yoga & Mindfulness throughout the classroom and curriculum for ample benefit to each child in my care. I am excited to meet you and your child!

"Our task regarding creativity is to help each child climb their own mountains, as high as possible, no one can do more."

— Loris Malaguzzi

Ms. Grace Martin

Early Childhood Teacher | B.A. in Elementary Education

Hello, I'm Grace Martin, embarking on the role of Early Childhood Teacher at Fia Mia Academy. I am brimming with excitement as I step into this position and eagerly anticipate the opportunity to connect with all the prospective families. Cultivating a secure and nurturing atmosphere is my priority, fostering an environment where your children can flourish through their learning, exploration, and growth.

Originating from Arlington Heights and graduating from the University of Iowa with a B.A. in Education Studies and Human Relations, accompanied by a minor in Educational Psychology, I've gained valuable knowledge to aid my teaching journey. During my time in Iowa, I served as a classroom assistant in a play-based early childhood center, primarily focusing on children aged 12-24 months. Following graduation, I continued my dedication to early childhood education by working full-time in that center until my return to Illinois in May. It was during this time that I truly fell in love with the field and resolved to pursue it as a lifelong career.

My involvement with children spans over a decade, encompassing roles in babysitting, nannying, and daycare settings. Early childhood education has always held a special place in my heart, and I am genuinely thrilled to integrate the Reggio Emilia philosophy into my teaching approach.

Beyond the realm of education, my personal life finds joy in the company of friends, family, and my beloved pets—Simon, my pug, and Evan, my cat. I relish reading, exploring the city (soon to be residing in Edgewater Beach), sampling new eateries, and watching movies. Additionally, my family and I actively participate as a host family for Safe Families for Children, an organization dedicated to preserving family unity during times of social isolation through volunteer efforts.

Children possess incredible potential, and I consider it my duty as their teacher to facilitate their exploration of the world. I'm eager to observe their individual interests and craft engaging activities and projects that delve deeper into their curiosities. Collaborating with you, your child, and this community, I strive to establish an environment conducive to successful learning.

Ms. Jamie Purl

Early Childhood Teacher | B.A. in Elementary Education

My name is Jamie Purl, and I am the teacher in the Nido classroom at Fia Mia Academy. I’m excited to welcome all the new families and infants to our community. Our Nido classroom environment will help your child learn about the world around them. We’ve created a safe and nurturing space where your child will continue to develop their skills.

I was born and raised in Chicago, and currently still live in the city. I went to Bradley University where I studied and earned a bachelor’s degree in early childhood education. While earning my degree, I worked as a teacher’s assistant at an early childhood center with infants. This is where my love for working with infants started. When I graduated, I was able to work as a lead infant teacher in Oak Park, IL.  From there, I continued growing and teaching various ages from 6 weeks to 8 years old. I have over 10 years of experience working with young children, and I’m thrilled to be continuing those years here at Fia Mia Academy!

In my free time, I love spending time with my family and friends. I’m an active person who loves the outdoors. My hobbies include yoga, going for walks, exploring national parks, cooking, and reading.

I find inspiration in working with younger children, especially infants, because I’m able to influence and make a positive impact on their first learning experience. I will be here to work with both you and your infant to ensure I’m providing them with everything they need to continue to learn and grow.

Ms. Bridget Zito

Early Childhood Associate Teacher | B.A. in Fine Arts

I believe that emanating positive energy in a warm and nurturing environment is the greatest gift one can give a developing mind. When a student feels welcome, safe, and respected and their efforts are appreciated and praised, a lifetime love of learning is established. My role as an Early Childhood Teacher is to provide the support and guidance that is so crucial during the formative years. I am committed to the social, emotional, physical, and intellectual growth of each student.

By working collaboratively with other teachers, the students observe a sense of community and follow the examples set by their mentors. I love having the ability to share my creative background in fine arts, visual and performing, with all involved in the classroom. I also love the opportunity to learn new concepts in STEM, and the strengths of my peers, daily. The positive relationships between the teachers and the students are fostered by being a part of the bigger picture while having the ability to stand out and share their own individual ideas and talents.

Each child is a unique person and possesses their own learning styles, strengths and talents. As a teacher, I am there to observe what makes each student special and understand their specific needs in the learning process. Students are most excited to learn when they are able to make choices, share their ideas, and have the necessary tools to build upon their knowledge. I strive to know each child individually and help them discover and build upon their strengths.

"Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once we grow up."

— Pablo Picasso

Ms. Caitlin Bouse

Early Childhood Teacher | M.Ed. in Early Childhood Education

I've been working in the field of Early Childhood Education for over 20 years. I hold an M.Ed. (2009) in early childhood education with a specialization in special education from Roosevelt University.

In my quest to create a space full of nurturing play, child-led learning, nature, and relationships, I discovered that play-based learning is a MUST for all early childhood environments. I'm an advocate for playful learning in early childhood and support the development of problem-solving skills, creativity, and social interactions by acknowledging and building upon the child's preferred ways of exploring and understanding their environment. I firmly believe that the classroom is the third teacher.

I recognize that children live in a three-dimensional world and need to be learning from interactions with real-world objects and people. Children learn by doing and experiencing, not by passively watching. By closely observing and building respecrul relationships with the children in my care, I carefully curate my classroom experiences and provocations to be meaningful and relevant to the children and their specific developmental needs.

I'm not just a teacher and lifelong learner... I also have an awesome daughter, and I love tacos, hiking, biking, reading everything, and traveling to new places.

Ms. Megan Newman

Early Childhood Teacher | B.A. in Children’s Studies

My name is Megan Newman, and I am very excited to have the opportunity to teach as an Early Childhood Teacher for Fia Mia Academy. I have always had a passionate drive for early educaGon and development, as well as a fierce and intrinsic goal to make a posiGve impact on our youngest members of society.

I earned my bachelor's in children’s studies with a focus on child and family advocacy from Eastern Washington University while teaching in a preschool. Following graduaGon, I transiGoned into roles such as Director of EducaGon, overseeing curriculum development and teacher training. I've also served as an operaGons manager and assistant head of school for Montessori programs, in addiGon to tutoring English and Language Arts. While I've been dedicated to educaGonal leadership, I've always felt drawn to teaching directly. Most recently, I led a Head Start program in partnership with the YWCA.

My goal as an early educator is to ensure that each child is receiving a strong foundaGon by providing tools for every domain that will help them throughout their educaGon. I teach with love and paGence, helping children learn to advocate for themselves, navigate their emoGons, and communicate construcGvely. I aim for each child’s individual needs and unique ways of learning to be recognized and accommodated.

My educaGonal philosophy rests on four pillars: independence, bounded freedom, environmental care, and community. I encourage students to complete tasks independently to nurture their confidence. Clear boundaries in the classroom foster autonomy and trust. I treat the environment as a teaching tool, promoGng ownership and respect through environmental care. I aim to culGvate personal responsibility and connecGons within the classroom and build a community of trust through open communicaGon.

Some fun facts about me: I also hold a degree in Vocal Performance and am passionate about music. I love to play my guitar and piano and will oVen integrate music into my teaching process. I have a small terrier mix named Violet who keeps me very busy, as well as many house plants that I love learning about and nurturing. I also love to read. I am honored to have the privilege of teaching for Fia Mia Academy, and I cannot wait to meet you and your lible learners!

Chef Jillian Bouse

Private Chef | B.A. in Health Education

As an educator with a bachelor’s degree in health education and a lover of food, I am passionate about using culinary adventures to develop creativity, community, and understanding of a broad range of subjects and skills.

I have taught students of all ages, from adults to preschool, and one thing remains the same regardless of age: when we cook together and enjoy food with one another, we transcend differences, learn new things, and have fun at the same time! I am so excited about the opportunity to cultivate and encourage a love of healthful and adventurous eating students at Fia Mia Academy and look forward to everything we will create together.

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