Welcome from our Head of School

Greetings,

We are glad you found our site and invite you to walk with us on this journey of creating a more just world.

As a progressive institute, Wingra strives to be responsive and in service to the needs of our students, families, and society. As the 2019-2020 school year was winding down and we witnessed yet another homicide of an unarmed black man, our questions necessarily shifted from ones related to distance learning due to COVID-19, to ones around our principled work to dismantle systems of racism and oppression in our world.  In all cases, we remain grounded and guided by our mission statement.

Wingra’s work is deep and ongoing, and we commit to it not only in words but in action. In a statement sent June 1, I expressed Wingra’s commitment to naming what we are up against, to listening to leaders in the black community, to speaking out, and to anti-racist action both now and sustained. We will examine our institution’s critical role in advancing anti-racist thinking, practices, and policies–abolishing any that do not serve this vision. In a statement from our Board of Trustees: Black lives matter. We denounce police brutality and call for a transformational redesign of local law enforcement…We pledge to work to end systemic racism not only in our local community, but in our school community as well. (Full statement below.)

It is our shared responsibility, as Wingra School, to help foster a more equitable and just society. We stand in service, and our work continues.

With appreciation and determination,

Debbie Millon

Head of School

Contact Information

718 Gilmore Street
Madison, WI 53711

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

Our History

Wingra is an independent progressive school for children ages five to fourteen located on a hillside across from the University of Wisconsin Arboretum, centrally-located in Madison. We’re on the Madison Metro bus line, which is our connection to the Overture Center, the downtown library, the State Capitol, the University of Wisconsin campus, and much more.
There’s a charm to our building, a history. Wingra School lives in the former Dudgeon School building, on Monroe Street.  At its founding in 1972, Wingra School set out to re-imagine education for children in our changing world.
The grass-covered lower yard and upper outdoor performance stage and indigenous playscape 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 lower yard is great for sledding in winter!

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 (NAIS), the Progressive Education Network (PEN), and the National Coalition of Alternative Community Schools. Wingra is accredited by the Independent Schools Association of the Central States (ISACS).

Learn More

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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Administrative & Building Staff

Debbie Millon
Head of School

About Me

Daniel Torres-Rangel

Director of Education

About Me

Christine Stocke

Director of Enrollment & Marketing

About Me

Mary Campbell
Sustainability & Stewardship Coordinator

About Me

Bonnie Schey
Business Manager

About Me

Elizabeth Garcia
Administrative Secretary

About Me

Dave Hinterberg
Building Director

About Me

Chhoeub Chaam
Custodian

About Me

Eddie Smith
Custodian

About Me

Teaching Staff

Debbie Blitz
Nest Teacher

About Me

Kim Cotant
Nest Teacher

About Me

Colleen Pardun
Nest Teacher

About Me

Angela Baker
Pond Teacher

About Me

Tresi Smyth
Pond Teacher

About Me

Megan Palmer Sandrock
Lake Teacher

About Me

Andrea Sherry
Lake Teacher

About Me

Claire Weiss
Lake Teacher

About Me

Allen Cross
Sky Teacher

About Me

Kathy Oker
Sky Teacher

About Me

Britta Pigorsh
Sky Teacher

About Me

Caitlin Weatherwax
Sky Teacher

About Me

Laura Phalas
Art Teacher

About Me

Megan Tripp
Health & Wellness Teacher

About Me

 Aviv Kammay
Music Teacher

About Me

 Miranda Waldman
Technology Teacher

About Me

Angie Sparks
Librarian & Literacy Teacher

About Me

Stacy Corona
Spanish Teacher

About Me

Clara Temlitz
Extended Day & Pond Teacher

About Me

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.

Board Statement- June 11, 2020

Black lives matter.  We denounce police brutality and call for a transformational redesign of local law enforcement, including removal of law enforcement from schools and replacement with counselors.  We support the rights of all to advocate for themselves and others and confirm our commitment to stand behind our black youth as they advocate for creation of a world that is more just.  We commit to using our time, treasure, and talent in support of local organizations, such as Urban Triage, Freedom Inc, and Madison for Black Lives, that are dedicated to lifting and amplifying young black voices.  We pledge to work to end systemic racism not only in our local community, but in our school community, as well.

We, the white Trustees, commit to take the following actions:

  1. To continue to educate ourselves and each other on the insidious nature of our own racism.  We must understand how our internalized racism affects our interactions with black people. We must learn our own history:  how systemic racism was developed and continues to be upheld by white people, in order to be effective in the dismantling the process.

  2. To call each other out when we resort–whether consciously or unconsciously–to a position where we center our white thoughts and white actions without regard for the impact on black voices.

  3. To commit to creating a leadership pipeline for black Trustees to attain positions of power within the board.  It isn’t enough to bring black voices onto the Board and we recognize that getting out of the way is essential to creating fundamental change.

  4. To de-center our own whiteness and our own white experience which is unique to us as those in the dominant white culture.  We will sit with our own discomfort as we make mistakes and not seek closure or reassurance from our black colleagues.  We recognize that it is not up to them to make us feel better.

  5. To work every day to lead the transformation of Wingra School to an anti-racist organization.  Our history as a majority white institution means that there is much to be done and we pledge to use our white privilege to support the creation of a community based in equality and justice.

  • Mark Blitz (Vice President)

  • Patricia Finn (President)

  • Noelle Griffiths

  • David Hoffert (Treasurer)

  • Julie Loehrl

  • Debbie Millon (ex officio)

  • Arlen Moss (President Elect)

  • Kevin Panke-Buisse

  • Christine Stocke

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. In the fall, we let parents know how they can help the school, based on their expressed preferences.

The WFA 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 • Clothing & Book Resales Sales • Teacher Appreciation • And More!

There are many ways to participate in the WFA with varying levels of commitment. Join us on Facebook to learn about upcoming events and other ways to take part.

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 of 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.