About Us2018-11-30T14:57:16+00:00

Welcome from our Head of School

We had numerous and exciting construction projects happening both inside and outside of Wingra this summer. We look forward to debuting new things throughout the school year. The start of construction for our nature-based playground has begun– a great opportunity for students to see it emerge and take shape before their very eyes.

This summer, as changes took place just outside my office window, I considered how we as humans build resilience, a core component to our overall wellness. All of us–young and old–encounter difficult, adverse, or stressful moments in the days of our lives. With practice, we can skillfully respond to these moments and work our way through them with compassion for ourselves and others. Each of us has different strengths and core values that guide the way we engage with and respond to the world. When encountering a challenging moment, we can practice pausing to focus on our strengths and on values such as integrity, honesty, kindness, and patience. In this way, rather than avoiding the difficulty, we lean into it with intention and learn that, while life isn’t free of challenge, how we choose to respond makes all the difference.

We’ll continue practicing this with your children this year. And, when we practice and model this again and again, our whole community becomes healthy and more resilient–we are better able to have a positive impact on the larger landscape of society.

Debbie Millon
Head of School

Contact Info

718 Gilmore St
Madison, WI 53711

Phone: (608) 238-2525
Email: info@wingraschool.org

Our History

Wingra School is an independent, kindergarten to 8th grade, school located on a on a hillside across from the University of Wisconsin Arboretum, in the heart of Madison. At its founding in 1972, Wingra School set out to reimagine education for children in our changing world.
There’s a charm to our building, a history. Wingra School lives in the former Dudgeon building, near the heart of Madison on Monroe Street. We’re across from the UW Arboretum and on the Madison Metro bus line, which is our connection to the Overture Center, the downtown library, the State Capitol, University of Wisconsin campus, and museums.
The grass-covered, hilly front yard and paved back playground are Madison city parks that provide children with green space, trees, ball diamonds, swing sets, climbing structures, and wide-open spaces. The hill in the front yard is great for sledding in winter and water slides on Fun Day!

In 1970 and 1971, five women, all with considerable knowledge in the fields of education and child development, set out to create a learning environment for children that followed many of the same philosophies as the “open classroom” or British primary model. It was a time when many educators questioned the effectiveness and benefits to children of the traditional, highly adult-centered practices in American education.

The open, informal, or British primary model was heavily influenced by the work of educator John Dewey and developmental psychologist Jean Piaget and was characterized by the following:
• Multi-age or “family” groupings of children
• “Learning centers” to move through during an openly structured school day
• Recognition that children are active constructors of their own knowledge
• Teaching as facilitating, guiding, and setting the stage for children’s discovery
• Learning as a highly individualized process, strongly bound to social connections and community responsibilities

Wingra’s founders’ original intent was not to create a new school but to demonstrate to the Madison school district a more child-centered, mixed-age approach in the hopes that they would implement it within the public schools. They tirelessly lobbied the school board, convincing them along the way to send several teachers to England to explore the open classroom.

Ultimately, the district proposed a three-year experiment starting with five-year-olds and adding an age group each year. This arrangement did not satisfy Wingra’s founders, in part because the true benefit of the family groupings would not be enjoyed until the third year. After thanking the district for its support and consideration, the founders opened Wingra School in 1972 in the Dudgeon building with 45 students in two classrooms. The school’s first teachers were Sam Jackson, JoAnn Schoell, and Jackie Hass.

Wingra expanded as interest in the school grew and younger students matured. In the mid-seventies, a class for 9 to 11 year olds was added. In 1983, Wingra started a program for the middle school years, ages 11 to 14.

Serving students from kindergarten through eighth grade presented new challenges and opportunities. The informal model, traditionally used with younger students and in early childhood settings, was reinterpreted to meet the needs of early adolescents. The classrooms for older students have become a high-quality alternative to large middle school settings.

Over the decades, Wingra has established connections with organizations that serve independent schools, including the National Association of Independent Schools, the Progressive Education Network, and the National Coalition of Alternative Community Schools.

Administrative & Building Staff

Debbie Millon
Head of School

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Daniel Torres-Rangel
Director of Education

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Christine Stocke

Director of Enrollment & Marketing

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Mary Campbell
Sustainability & Stewardship Coordinator

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Bonnie Schey
Business Manager

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Elizabeth Garcia
Administrative Secretary

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Dave Hinterberg
Building Director

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Chhoeub Chaam
Custodian

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Eddie Smith
Custodian

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Teaching & Extended Day Staff

Debbie Blitz
Nest Teacher

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Kim Cotant
Nest Teacher

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Colleen Pardun
Nest Teacher

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Angela Baker
Pond Teacher

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Tresi Smyth
Pond Teacher

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Megan Palmer Sandrock
Pond Teacher

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Andrea Sherry
Lake Teacher

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Claire Weiss
Lake Teacher

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Sierra Patterson
Lake Teacher

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Allen Cross
Sky Teacher

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Emily Frederick
Sky Teacher

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Kathy Oker
Sky Teacher

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Sagan Pizzingrilli
Sky Teacher

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Jenny Bosben
Art Teacher

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Weslie Cymerman
Health & Wellness Teacher

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 Aviv Kammay
Music Teacher

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 Miranda Waldman
Technology Teacher

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Luis Varela
Spanish Teacher

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Angie Sparks
Librarian & Literacy Teacher

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Sarah Gustafson
Extended Day Teacher

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Jessica Reneau
Extended Day Teacher

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Job Openings at Wingra School

Wingra School is committed to attracting staff of varied backgrounds and to developing inclusive classroom communities that draw strength from a positive recognition of diversity. We value diversity in our community with regard to gender, race, color, creed, religion, sexual orientation, national or ethnic origin, and ability.

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Board of Trustees

Wingra School is a nonprofit organization governed by a Board of Trustees composed of parents, staff members, and community volunteers. The board provides support for all aspects of the school through fundraising, policy development, maintenance of the organizational structure, and participation in financial and long-range planning.

The board is self-perpetuating; new members are chosen by current board members to bring in needed strengths and talents. Staff members are nominated by the staff. It is important that potential board members are committed to Wingra’s mission and ownership and are able to “think big” in terms of systems, not details.

To nominate a candidate to the board, please fill out and return this form (.pdf).

  • Sharon Besser
  • Mark Blitz

  • Andrew Carne (’88)

  • Nick Carolla

  • Matt Dregne
  • Patricia Finn (President)

  • Lynn Hirsh

  • Aviv Kammay

  • Thomas Kammeyer (Vice President)

  • Debbie Millon (ex officio)

  • Alissa O’Farrell (’96)

  • Greg Pfluger

  • Lesley Sager

  • Andrea Sherry

  • Beth Snodgrass

Parent Service & Participation

Within the Wingra community, partnerships and relationships are fostered through shared experiences among our students and their families. We want to know the important people in children’s lives and invite active participation in our school community for parents, extended family, and caregivers. We encourage active engagement in children’s education to help ground them and help them flourish. Through school-wide and classroom volunteer opportunities, our parent organization, and special events, there is a way for everyone to be involved.

At Wingra School, we have always depended on parent volunteers to help with school events and activities. Working on the premise that many hands make light work, we ask all parents to sign up for specific roles, activities, and events of interest. Early each summer, parents are asked to share their preferred service opportunities for the coming year through a Parent Service Form (.pdf). In the fall, we let parents know how they can help the school, based on their expressed preferences.

The WCC brings together parents and caregivers to create opportunities to connect and learn from each other, build relationships, and support Wingra’s events and programs to strengthen our community.

Community Conversations • Family Game Night • Family Poetry Night • Follies Bake Sales • Teacher Appreciation • And More!

There are many ways to participate in the WCC with varying levels of commitment. Join us on Facebook or sign-up on our mailing list to learn how you can become involved.

Parents have many opportunities to volunteer in their child’s classroom. That could include being a guest speaker or sharing an area of expertise, driving for a class field trip, providing classroom snacks as assigned, supporting teachers and students in the classroom, or tasks at home.

Community Connections

Preservice Teachers

Wingra School was founded as a private institution for the public good. One way we continue to realize this commitment is by hosting student and practicum teachers from local universities* and colleges into our classrooms. We are fortunate to work with many educators, early in their careers, each semester.

Wingra Service Learning (WSL)

Wingra pursues service projects to connect with and support organizations within Madison. Service-Learning, as defined by Community Works Institute, is an educational strategy that combines academic and social goals to meet community needs. Collaboration occurs through compelling sense of purpose, engagement, and reciprocity among all partners.

Visiting Tours

A visitor to our school has much to learn about our intentional educational community. We host tours for current and future educators, university professors, and others interested in seeing firsthand how we cultivate an atmosphere activity, learning, and freedom. One can feel it the moment the door is opened! We also strive to be a model for healthy ecological practices and invite neighbors and businesses to tour our building and witness how we give care to the environment.

New Morning Nursery School

New Morning Nursery School has much in common with Wingra School in its nurturing, child-centered approach. The school was formed as a non-profit cooperative by parents in 1972 and is located on a second floor wing at Wingra.

Would you like to learn more?

Please email christine@wingraschool.org with any questions or to schedule a tour. She’d love to hear from you.

Community Involvement

Are you a local business in need of a performance space? A local artist, musician, or gardner who enjoys collaboration? Email christine@wingraschool.org with any ideas. It’s important to stay connected.