Meet the Team
Brian

About the K.I.C. Founder

Brian Horner

Mr. Horner has taught in District 203 in Naperville for his entire career.  He has a bachelor’s degree in elementary education and a double master’s degree in curriculum and instruction and differentiated instruction.  He currently teaches in the district’s Project Idea Plus program for gifted students.  Mr. Horner is a National Board Certified Teacher, a multiple nominee for the “Disney Teaching Award”, a multiple nominee and winner of the “Office Max Teacher Innovator Award”, a multiple nominee for the “Those Who Excel” program, a nominee for the Golden Apple Award, a winner of the district’s “Mission Maker” award, and has been recognized multiple times at the yearly District 203 “Excellence in Education” banquet where the top graduating seniors can invite one teacher who has had the greatest impact on their education since kindergarten. In addition, he has spoken at national conferences and universities on the development of student thinking, the Habits of Mind, and giftedness. Mr. Horner is recognized as an international ambassador for the Habits of Mind by the Institute for the Habits of Mind.

Mr. Horner’s interests include soccer, poetry, piano, grilling out, eating Spaghettios and sushi whenever he gets the chance, and is basically known far and wide as having the worst diet in the history of the world.


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Laura E. Atseff

Ms. Atseff has been a teacher and private tutor for students in grades K-12 for over 25 years. She teaches Honors Math and PI at Naper and Washington Junior High School for Naperville District 203, and has taught all subjects at a variety of grade levels.

Ms. Atseff received her initial teaching degree from Indiana University in Bloomington, Indiana where she played defensive sweeper on the Women’s Division I Soccer Team. She obtained her master’s degree in Reading and Literacy from Benedictine University; as well as several middle school endorsements later on in her teaching career.

In her spare time, Ms. Atseff loves practicing yoga, playing the acoustic guitar, and swimming. Along with those hobbies, she looks forward to traveling the world, cycling with friends, reading, trying new recipes, knitting, and singing in the choir for the West Suburban Symphony.


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Julia Kime

Ever since she was in elementary school herself, Mrs. Kime has wanted to be a teacher. She feels so lucky to teach in District 203. She has taught both 1st and 2nd grade at Highlands for 8 years. Her favorite part of teaching is seeing students have “a-ha!” moments and challenging students to dive deep and do their best. She also loves math puzzles and read alouds!


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Kyle Wood

Mr. Wood studied art at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago where he received a Bachelor’s of Fine Arts with Emphasis in Art Education. Upon acceptance to SAIC, Mr. Wood was awarded the Smith Merit Recognition Scholarship based on the strength of his portfolio. His paintings have been displayed in various galleries, alternative venues and private collections. Since graduating from SAIC in 2007, Mr. Wood has worked as an elementary art teacher. He taught for three years in Plainfield District 202 where he received a CAPE Award for Educator of the Year at Liberty Elementary during the 2008-2009 school year. In June 2010, Mr. Wood earned a Master’s Degree in Education concentrating in Teaching with Technology through Kaplan University. He has been super jazzed to start his first year teaching art and leading the Artrageous Club at Highlands. When not teaching or making art, Mr. Wood enjoys spending his time with his wife, Amanda, and his dog Geoffrey (an entirely too energetic beagle/basset mix sometimes referred to as a “bagel”), and updating his new home, a Chicago style bungalow near the Brookfield Zoo.


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Elida Vandenbergh

Mrs. Vandenbergh has been a teacher in District 203 for the past decade. She has split the last ten years evenly teaching both 1st and 3rd grades. She graduated from the University of Illinois and received her masters degree from National Louis University. She is a National Board Certified teacher, just achieving this prestigious honor this year! Mrs. Vandenbergh has coached the Naperville Dance team for the past nine years. She just got married within the last year and has two beautiful dogs, Chloe and Anna Belle. Mrs. V loves to ski, is a great cook (ask anyone who has tried her dishes!) and due to her exceptional organizational skills and habits, makes her husband separate his dirty laundry into 4 different baskets accordingly to distinct shades of color.


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Julianne LaFleur

Ms. LaFleur graduated from Illinois State University with a Bachelor’s Degree in Elementary Education and earned her Master’s degree in Educational Practices and Technologies through the University of Illinois. She currently teaches in the Project Idea Plus program at Meadow Glens. During her time in District 203, Ms. LaFleur has taught first and third grade. She has been a nominee for the “Those Who Excel” program and was awarded the district Mission Maker award. Ms. LaFleur is also an instructor for Northwestern University’s summer program for gifted and talented learners.

In her free time, Ms. LaFleur enjoys traveling, spending time with her friends and family, reading, and baking.


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Tony Kresl

Mr. Kresl is a 16-year teaching veteran who has taught second, third, fourth grades, and is currently the librarian at Highlands Elementary School. He is always looking to challenge himself as well as his students. He graduated from the University of Illinois with a degree in elementary education. He attended graduate school at Benedictine University and matriculated with a Master’s degree in education and literacy. He’s continued his education by becoming a National Board Certified Teacher. He’s been nominated for the Those Who Excel Award in District 203 twice and was also the OfficeMax District 203 Teacher of the Year in 2009.

When he’s not teaching, you can find him playing the trombone. He loves to take walks with his dog, Sousa, and cook with his wife. He also plays cribbage and can be found reading at any time of the day. An avid sports fan, Mr. Kresl cheers for his two favorite orange and blue teams: Illinois and the Bears! Feel free to remind him how badly both teams are competing this year.


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Ally Gargano

Miss Gargano is ecstatic to join the KIC team this summer! Miss Gargano graduated with a Bachelor’s Degree in Elementary Education from the University of Iowa in 2016. She completed both her student teaching and a long-term substitute position at Meadow Glens Elementary in fifth grade, and is now currently a fourth grade teacher at Prairie Elementary in Naperville District 203. In her spare time, Miss Gargano enjoys reading, spending time with friends and family, singing, and watching every musical known to man! And, if you are asking yourself the question, “Is this the same person I saw in a video singing with Adele last summer?” – the answer is yes!


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Stephanie Birch

Mrs. Birch graduated from Eastern Illinois University with a bachelor’s degree in elementary education. She started her teaching career in Lyons School District 103 teaching first grade. She came to District 203 in 2003 and taught both first and second grade. While teaching second grade Mrs. Birch was part of many curriculum writing teams. Within that time she received a Masters Degree in Reading from Benedictine University.

Currently Mrs. Birch holds the position of Learning Support Coach. This position allows her to work with teachers in all grade levels incorporating best practice instruction to support student learning. As part of this position, Mrs. Birch also works with the school administration to develop and facilitate professional learning taking place on teacher institute days. To recognize her efforts, Mrs. Birch was nominated for the “Those Who Excel” award in 2011. To continue her own professional learning, Mrs. Birch just attained a Master of Arts Degree in Differentiated Instruction from Concordia University Chicago.

Mrs. Birch and her husband have three cool kids that range in age from 7 to 13. She spends much of her time driving her kids from activity to another. The Birch family includes a one year old golden retriever name Lucky who should have been named Chewy or Shredder. In Mrs. Birch’s free time she enjoys watching her kids play sports, shopping, working in the yard, reading and spending time with friends and family. If there is one thing Mrs. Birch cannot live without, it is chocolate. She tells her kids it is her Mommy Survival Food.


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Kara Gallagher

Mrs. Gallagher graduated from Eastern Illinois University, a long time ago, with a dual degree in special education and elementary education. She attended North Central College for graduate school and received her Master’s degree in Leadership and Administration. Mrs. Gallagher has been a Learning Behavior Specialist at Highlands School for the past 12 years. During this time she has created a number of specialized programs to meet the unique learning needs of the students she works with. Mrs. Gallagher was nominated for a “Those Who Excel” award in 2012 for Highlands School.

Mrs. Gallagher has two amazing children (Riley and Brendan) who have an unlimited amount of energy. In her spare time, Mrs. Gallagher enjoys reading, long distance running (she recently ran her 6th marathon) and singing off-key. Since recently joining CrossFit, Mrs. Gallagher can now do up to 200 burpees without throwing up.


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Bridget Kelly

Summer 2020 is going to be exciting as Ms. Kelly is thrilled to join the KIC team! Ms. Kelly graduated with a Bachelor’s Degree in Elementary Education and Special Education from Benedictine University in 2015.  Starting her career at Meadow Glens, Ms. Kelly was a special education teacher for 3 years prior to currently teaching 2nd grade. Ms. Kelly has been nominated for Those Who Excel program three times.  Ms. Kelly loves to learn with her students and share her passion for reading! Outside of the classroom, Ms. Kelly enjoys spending time with family and friends, swimming, and eating ice cream! 


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Jenna Noesen

Ms. Noesen is so excited for a fun filled summer with the KIC program!  Ms. Noesen graduated from Augustana College with a Bachelor’s Degree in Elementary Education.  She is new to District 203 and has served at Meadow Glens in a variety of different roles and grade levels. During distance learning, Ms. Noesen taught science to all grade levels at Meadow Glens, assisted in multiple classrooms throughout the school year, and taught 4th grade for part of the school year. The design of this school year gave Ms. Noesen the opportunity to think outside the box to create meaningful and engaging learning opportunities for students as well as engage with curriculum and content at every grade level. She loves to bring energy and excitement to everything she teaches, and she cannot wait to work with your child!  In her free time, Ms. Noesen loves to travel, shop, and watch Netflix.


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Matt Vande Guchte

Mr. Vande Guchte has been teaching for 10 years and has taught 5th, 3rd, and 2nd grade over that time span.  He is currently teaching 3rd grade at Beebe Elementary in Naperville School District 203.  He graduated from Hope College where he earned his initial teaching degree.  He also received a master’s in educational technology from Concordia University Chicago.  Mr. Vande Guchte enjoys teaching all subjects, but also loves science and incorporating technology or robotics into his lessons when possible.  At Beebe he leads the Robotics Club for 2nd and 3rd graders and also coaches the First Lego League Team.

When not teaching he enjoys spending as much time as he can with his kids, Hailey and Travis. Mr. V is also a huge sports fan.  He plays in basketball and softball leagues around the area when he can.  His favorite teams to watch are the Cubs, the Detroit Lions (even if it’s embarrassing to admit), Michigan, and Duke.  Some other hobbies include reading, taking walks, and being known as a crazy plant dude for all the plants he has!


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Chris Mortenson

Mr. Mortenson has been teaching for a combined 3 years between Geneva Public School District 304 and at Ranch View Elementary in Naperville School District 203. Education is a second career for Mr. Mortenson, previously he co-owned a business that operated in Yellowstone National Park to help visitors experience the park safely. He currently holds a master’s degree in elementary education from Northern Illinois University and a bachelor’s degree in business administration and entrepreneurship from DePaul University. Mr. Mortenson is wildly passionate about helping connect students to their passions and providing resources to see their visions come to fruition.

When not teaching he enjoys digging into a science fiction book, just mention the word “Dune” and you will see his eyes light up like a pin-ball machine. Mr. M is also an outdoorsman at heart, you can bet he is out on a trail over the weekends or planning his next trip out West.

 


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Kelly Quinn

Ms. Quinn has been an elementary school teacher since 2002.  For the past 13 years, she has taught First Grade at Beebe Elementary in Naperville District 203,  but also has experience teaching Kindergarten, Second and Third Grade.  She received her teaching degree from Aurora University.  In 2019, she was a nominee for the “Those Who Excel” program’s Teacher of the Year.  Ms. Quinn has a passion for sharing and discussing literature with her students, facilitating learning of topics that interest them, and helping students find create ways to demonstrate their understanding.

When she’s not teaching, Ms. Quinn enjoys spending time with her family (especially beating Mr. Quinn and her daughters at Foosball), crafting, reading, and playing piano.


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Anna Paige

Ms. Paige graduated from the University of Illinois with a degree in elementary education. She student taught in 5th grade at Kingsley Elementary and is currently working on her Master’s degree in reading from the University of St. Francis. She has been teaching for 9 years and currently teaches 5th grade at Washington Jr High (where she went to school herself!). She is the Battle of the Books sponsor and is the founder of newly created Minecraft club at Washington.

Ms. Paige spends her free time hanging out with her husband and two (large) dogs, Holly and Cali and they recently welcomed a new baby into this world!  Reading is her passion which is why her classroom has a Harry Potter theme! She enjoys listening to authors talk about their books and attends many book signings! She also enjoys video games and immersing herself in various fantasy cultures.


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Allison Fabbri

Ms. Fabbri could not be more excited to join the KIC team this summer! She graduated from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign where she majored in Elementary Education with a concentration in mathematics. Currently, Ms. Fabbri teaches first grade at Highlands Elementary School in District 203 and loves to watch her students grow and achieve!
Ms. Fabbri’s life passions are cooking, shopping, and crafting. In her free time she also enjoys spending time with her dog, Louie, who is only ten pounds but thinks he is as tough as a German Shepherd!


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Katie McGovern

Miss McGovern graduated from Western Michigan University with a degree in Special Education and minors in Early Childhood Education and Elementary Education. After receiving her degree, she returned to Illinois to continue her career in Education. When she first moved back home she became an assistant in a fourth grade classroom at Ranch View Elementary for a year. During this time she was working on her Illinois certification. Ms. McGovern couldn’t be happier teaching first grade at Highlands Elementary!

When she is not in the classroom, she loves to be with family and friends, stay active, go shopping, and eat pizza! Ms. McGovern is looking forward to being a part of Kid Innovation College this summer.


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Shianne Gillespie

Miss Gillespie graduated from Illinois State University with a Bachelor’s Degree in Elementary Education. She currently teaches first grade at Roslyn Road School in Barrington School District 220. Miss Gillespie also works as an instructor for Northwestern University’s summer and weekend program for gifted and talented learners. Last summer, Miss Gillespie taught English in a summer camp in Italy for 4 weeks. In July, Miss Gillespie will travel to a small city in Kenya with a program called Ingage Unlimited. She will work with a team to provide professional development for the teachers in this underprivileged town. In her free time, Miss Gillespie loves to travel, read and spend time with her friends and family!


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Melissa Dexl

Ms. Dexl has been a Naperville teacher in District 203 for the last 4 years teaching 4th and 5th graders in the District’s gifted Project Idea Plus program at Meadow Glens. Prior to teaching in Naperville, Mrs. Dexl taught 4th grade gifted in Plainfield and 8th grade Communication Arts in Yorkville. Mrs. Dexl has also spent time abroad in England’s first grade classrooms.

She graduated from Elmhurst College with a bachelor’s degree in elementary education and received her master’s degree from American College of Education in curriculum and instruction with a concentration in differentiation and her second master’s in Reading Specialist at Olivet University. In addition, Mrs Dexl has her endorsements in Spanish, Reading, Language Arts and Gifted Education.

Mrs. Dexl has three energetic little boys (Jameson, Donovan & CIllian) and German Shepherd named Bonzo. In her spare time she enjoys spending time with her family and friends.  Mrs. Dexl is accident prone and has broken 6 bones!


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Colleen Wielgat

Mrs. Wielgat couldn’t be happier teaching first grade at Ranch View Elementary School in Naperville. Her excitement for working with her young firsties is what inspired her to join the KIC team. Mrs. Wielgat is currently a proud Ranch View Ranger but has a very special place in her heart for the Highland Whales. At Highlands, she was a student teacher, a kindergarten classroom assistant, as well as a special education assistant. While receiving her Bachelor’s Degree in Elementary Education from North Central College, Mrs. Wielgat taught science inquiry classes to 4th and 5th graders from many local elementary schools. Mrs. Wielgat has wanted to be a teacher for as long as she can remember. She is an Italian food eating, energetic, loud laughing, passionate, Pinterest pinning, dog loving, shopaholic that loves going on long runs and spending time with family and friends.