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TCNS Teachers & Staff

Deb Bernstein is delighted to join the Trinity staff as an assistant in the 3-year-old afternoon class this year.  Previously she worked as a TCNS substitute.  Deb resides in Wilmette with her husband and two young daughters, who are TCNS alums.  Prior to having her kids, Deb worked in the corporate world as a buyer for a major retailer and is an alum of Bradley University. She has since discovered that she loves working with young children and has decided to pursue a career in early childhood education.


Kristen Bowie is thrilled to be back as the lead teacher in the TCNS Parent-Tot class this school year.  Kristen went to Vanderbilt University, and holds a degree in Elementary Education and Child Development. After graduating, she taught first, second and third grades in Atlanta, Georgia and Evanston, until her first child was born in 2006. After taking some time off to be at home with her three children – Lily, Grace and Liam (her youngest two are Trinity alums) – Kristen is so happy to have this opportunity to be a part of the spectacular TCNS team.


Agata Budzik is in her third year at TCNS, as co-lead teacher in the 4-year-old morning class, the 4-year-old afternoon class and the Lunch Bunch program.  Having double majored in Education and Spanish at the University of Findlay in Ohio, she incorporates Spanish into the 4’s program throughout the day, as well as at rug time and in Spanish center lessons.  Her career began teaching seventh grade, but her true joy is preschool.  She lives in Chicago with her husband and her two rescue dogs.


Maria Costas is a resident of Wilmette and has taught preschool for ten years. This is her second year at Trinity as the academic readiness specialist. She attended Loyola University of Chicago where she received a BS degree in Psychology and also received a Masters of Education degree in Community Counseling. During that time, she also spent a year in LUC’s Masters program, where she completed a year of curriculum and instruction classes. She is married and has three wonderful children – a daughter and two sons.  Maria loves traveling, reading, shopping and spending time with friends and family!


Anne Crowley is the proud mom of three TCNS grads!  Anne started out at Trinity as a substitute teacher and then joined the staff last year as an assistant teacher in afternoon Kindergarten Enrichment.  In addition, she is a “Safe House” volunteer during the summer, where she provides temporary housing to children in times of crisis to keep them out of foster care.  When she is not in the classroom, Anne enjoys volunteering as a Girl Scout leader and a room parent for her kids’ classes.


Valerie Dashiell has been teaching for more than twenty-five years.  A former second and third grade teacher, Valerie now teaches morning Kindergarten Enrichment at Trinity, in addition to Music and Movement and Science Enrichment to the 4-year-olds and kindergarten students.  Val lives in Evanston with her husband.  She is the proud mother of two grown children and two grandchildren.



Sue Gaertner is thrilled to say that she is in her seventeenth year as director of TCNS!  She is also the lead teacher in the 3-year-old morning class.  Sue earned her teaching degree from the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana. Prior to joining TCNS, Sue was the preschool coordinator at Skokie Park District.  She also taught first and second grade, but her true love is preschool!

Sue’s high-energy style of leadership is noticed in all that she does.  She is constantly striving to improve the school and incorporate the latest in educational practice.  For example, she recently added yoga instruction to the Kindergarten Enrichment program.  Her warmth and support motivate the staff to strive for excellence.

Sue’s three children are products of Wilmette School District 39, where she was an active volunteer.  She is on the executive board of a non-profit dedicated to helping families facing the tragedy of a child with cancer.  Sue is devoted to TCNS and loves giving tours of the school! Contact her at sue@trinitywilmette.org to request one.


Luanne Hampton has been at Trinity for sixteen years. Teaching the little ones has always been her passion. Currently she is a co-lead teacher in the 4-year-old morning and afternoon classes. She resides in Skokie with her husband.  Luanne has two daughters.  One graduated from Marquette in May, 2017 and is now a second grade teacher in Milwaukee.  The other is a corporal in the United States Marine Corps, working in social media at the Pentagon. (And believe it or not, Miss Sue taught both girls when they were in preschool!)


Laurie James is starting her eighth year at Trinity.  She holds a Master of Arts in Teaching and is the co-lead teacher in Ready Two Grow, the lead teacher in the 3-year-old afternoon class and an assistant teacher in the 3-year-old morning class and the Kindergarten Enrichment’s lunch hour.  She also serves as an administrative assistant and cooking specialist.  Laurie lives in Wilmette and has three daughters; the youngest is a senior at New Trier.


Ellie Johnson is a co-lead teacher in the 4-year-old afternoon class and an assistant in the 3-year-old morning class.  Now in her fifth year teaching at Trinity, Ellie started as a substitute teacher, which ignited a spark and a quest to study early childhood education. Ellie is a former TCNS parent and a graduate of Miami University in Ohio. She lives in Wilmette with her husband and three Trinity alum daughters.



Joyce Ladin is in her ninth year at Trinity, where she is a Lunch Bunch assistant and provides childcare for siblings during the Parent-Tot class.  She also helps with babysitting during the Parent Advisory Board meetings.  She resides in Glenview and is the proud grandmother to three grandchildren.




Ginny Lezama is a long-time teacher at Trinity and is a co-lead teacher in the 4-year-old morning class.  She has two daughters; one is an assistant at McKenzie School and the other teaches in the Chicago Public Schools.  Ginny raised her family in Wilmette and now resides in Evanston.




Courtney Mackenzie is an assistant teacher in Ready Two Grow, after joining the Trinity team last year as a substitute.  She lives in Wilmette with her husband and three children, the youngest of whom is a TCNS alum.  Before staying home with her kids, Courtney worked in sales.  She is a graduate of Wittenberg University.




Meghan MacKinnon was very excited to join the Trinity staff last year as the TCNS administrator and a substitute teacher.  Previously, she was a part of the TCNS community as a parent and a Parent Advisory Board volunteer for eight years. She resides in Wilmette with her husband and three daughters, all of whom attended Trinity. Prior to being home with her girls, Meghan worked in public relations, fundraising and event planning for several firms and organizations, and also was a houseparent with Boys Hope/Girls Hope in Evanston. She is a graduate of the University of Notre Dame.


Colleen Shean is thrilled to be in her second year at Trinity as co-lead teacher in the Ready Two Grow class.  Colleen has a BA from Notre Dame and a Masters degree in Teaching.  She started her teaching career as part of Notre Dame’s ACE program, teaching third grade in Mobile, Alabama; she also taught fifth and sixth grades in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Prior to her ten-year sabbatical to stay home with her children, Colleen was an educational consultant and facilitator for a leadership development company in New York City.  Colleen resides in Wilmette with her husband and four children.


Lindsey Smithwick joins Trinity this year as the music instructor in all of the classes after volunteering her time, talent and guitar in the Ready Two Grow class last year.  With a background in entertainment, her fun, interactive songs and warm teaching style encourages the kids to sing, clap and dance around.  Lindsey lives in Wilmette with her husband and two young daughters.  Her eldest daughter, Sadie, is in the 4-year-old program.



Kathy Stein became part of Team Trinity ten years ago. She is currently an assistant in the Parent-Tot and Ready Two Grow classes.  She has also been an assistant in the Kindergarten Enrichment class and Lunch Bunch in previous years.  Kathy has a BA in Communications and a minor in Music from American University.  She lives in Wilmette with her husband and two sons, both of whom are Trinity alums.



Lauren Wasielewski is happy to be in her third year at TCNS, where she teaches morning and afternoon Kindergarten Enrichment. She received her BA in Literature from Northwestern University and her Masters in Education from DePaul. Before coming to Trinity, Lauren taught second grade in a Chicago Public Schools gifted program and worked with students as a private tutor. She lives in Chicago with her husband, Kevin, and their two pups Alfred and Penelope.


Kathy Zawacki joined the Trinity team seven years ago and is an assistant in Ready Two Grow. With a background in photography, Kathy loves working with the children at the art table with their special projects.  She finds it so fulfilling to watch the little ones develop – be it through art, songs, dance, play. Kathy lives in Wilmette with her husband and two kids, both of whom are (that’s right!) Trinity alums!