Scott & Jodi Thomason
Owners 

Scott and his wife, Jodi, began their journey with early childhood in 2001 as a small in-home daycare in Peoria. Their vision has always been to provide the Peoria area with unique, top-notch childcare experiences that challenge the status quo. After moving and expanding their in-home daycare in 2004, they have been very fortunate to continue fulfilling this vision through the openings of The Wonder Playschool and the acquisition of A+ Children's Academy. They take pride in each of their centers and are grateful for the opportunities to ensure unparalleled care for the children entrusted to their care.

Karen Coyle
Executive Director

Karen Coyle has served in the field early childhood for over 20 years. She received her bachelor's degree from Illinois State University in early childhood education with an endorsement in mathematics. She served as Lead Teacher at United Presbyterian Church (UPC) Discovery Preschool in Peoria, Illinois. During this tenure, Karen implemented research-based practices, including the Project Approach. She presented student-led Projects at the NAEYC Conference as well as at the Heart of Illinois Association of the Education of Young Children’s Conference. Karen’s work experience also includes serving as a Family Educator, Preschool Teacher, and Teacher Mentor in DCFS-Licensed Child Care and Home Provider settings for the Peoria County Regional Office of Education Preschool for All Program. Karen joined Barefoot Learning, Inc. in May of 2017 and continues to partner with families in giving all children a jump-start to school success. 

Jennifer Bowman
Human Resource Director

Jennifer has always had a passion for working with children. After studying social work at Olivet Nazarene University, she spent three years working with children and teens in foster care. After choosing to further her education, she began exploring early childhood classes at ICC and started her early childhood journey. Jennifer has been trained in Creative Curriculum and has implemented it in childcare centers with infants, toddlers and preschoolers. After having opportunities to learn the business side of childcare, she found another passion for the behind the scenes work that takes place. Before joining Barefoot Learning, Inc. she served as the director of a childcare in Hopedale, IL for eight years. 

Adrianna Dewitt
Support Teacher

Adrianna is from Pekin, Illinois and studied at Illinois Central College. She plans to continue her education by pursuing a bachelor’s degree in elementary education. As the oldest of seven siblings and many cousins, Adrianna has been working with children for as long as she can remember. She has also had
various babysitting opportunities and worked at Camp of Champions during the summer. Spending so much of her life around children has contributed to her desire to help them learn and grow. In her free time, Adrianna enjoys spending time with friends and family, as well as reading books and watching movies. 

Brittany Harris
Support Teacher

Brittany has been working with the children at A+ since 2017. She has had over eighteen years of experience in early childhood, where she has worked with children ranging in ages from birth to age five. Brittany attended Illinois Central College studying education and has two children of her own―a daughter and a son. When Brittany isn't working at A+, she enjoys making the best memories she can with her beautiful family.

Cheryl Wolfe
Lead Teacher

Cheryl was born and raised in Willshire, Ohio. She moved to Peoria with her husband and two sons in July of 2016 and has been enjoying life in Illinois. Cheryl has a bachelor’s degree in elementary education with a kindergarten endorsement, an associate degree in early childhood education, and a master’s degree in elementary education with a focus on early childhood education. She has worked as a preschool teacher in Ohio, Texas, and Dunlap, and was the Assistant Preschool Director at Redeemer Early Learning Center in Peoria. She is committed to providing children with enriching STEAM experiences every day! 

Helena Wang
Support Teacher

Helena was born and raised in Beijing, China, where she earned a bachelor’s degree in trade economics. She went on to work for China State Construction Engineering Corp for 7 years—coordinating with foreign builders. In 1999, she followed her husband to the U.S. and studied at University of Nebraska Lincoln, eventually earning a Bachelor of Science in computer science with a minor in mathematics. After working for six years as a programmer, her second child was born. This led her to begin concentrating on educating her children at home. After reading more and more psychology books on kids, she began to realize that good early education for children can stimulate the potential of the brain and facilitate the parallel development of the left and right brains. She became more and more devoted to children’s early education by teaching them how to deal with the hard times. She has volunteered in many areas with children, including being a Chinese language teacher for over ten years. 

Jess Snyder
Lead Teacher

Jess graduated from the University of Iowa with a bachelor’s degree in sport and recreation management and a minor in human relations. She is currently pursuing a career in federal law enforcement while running the school-age gymnastics program and helping with preschool and ninja classes at Jump Start Gymnastics.

 

She has also spent several years working with children at daycares, including Little Tykes. In her very limited free time, Jess enjoys reading books and watching TV with her family. 

 

Jennifer Hollis
Lead Teacher

Jenny has always had a passion for working with children, which led her to study child development at Northern Illinois University in Dekalb, Illinois. Jenny is from the small town of Mendota, but moved to Peoria in May of 2019 after graduating with her Bachelor of Science with a study in family and individual development. Jenny's favorite part about working with children is being able to watch them grow and encourage their learning across all areas of development. It is so rewarding to watch children learn and grow, and she is so grateful for the chance she has to be part of that.

 

Kenia Santiago
Lead Teacher

Kenia has been working in the field of early childhood education for over sixteen years. She has had the opportunity to work as a preschool teacher, a bilingual English / Spanish assistant teacher, a substitute teacher for a variety of programs and school districts, and, most recently, as a preschool yoga instructor. Kenia is currently pursuing her Applied Associates Degree in Marriage and Family Studies as well as her children's yoga certification. Kenia's goal as a teacher is to be a role model and to foster and maintain a positive, fun, respectful and safe environment for children. She enjoys being able to help children grow and support both their academic and social-emotional learning. In her spare time, Kenia enjoys spending time with her two children and puppy, running, going on walks, playing board games, watching movies, cooking and dancing. 

 

Lisa Winborn
Support Teacher

Lisa has been working with children the last few years and loves helping them gain knowledge and skills. Her favorite things about teaching are building confidence and seeing children feel proud of themselves. Lisa is currently working toward her bachelor's degree in psychology at University of Illinois Springfield and intends to pursue a master's degree. In her free time, Lisa loves to spend time hiking, kayaking, and trying new outdoor activities. Her loyal sidekick for most of these adventures is her Aussie/Border Collie mix, Dixie. She loves to hike, but is still training to be comfortable on a kayak. Lisa also loves spending time with her family and feels blessed to have them nearby. 

 

Liz Thomas
Lead Teacher

Liz was born and raised in Southern California and met her husband while studying music at San Diego State University. She began raising seven of her nine children while living in Phoenix, Arizona and moved to Illinois in 2001 for her husband’s job. In Joliet, Illinois, she taught swimming for eight years with the YMCA.  In 2008, she moved to Peoria with her family.

Liz has a bachelor’s degree in psychology/child development and a master’s degree in early childhood studies. She is currently attending National Louis University and pursuing her Illinois teaching license for early childhood. Liz began work in early childhood after moving to Peoria and has worked in Peoria as a Head Start assistant teacher, as a child-care teacher in day care centers, and as a substitute teacher for Peoria Public Schools and Peoria Academy.

 

Makayla Braun
Lead Teacher

Makayla Braun is from Edelstein, Illinois and graduated from Eastern Illinois University in 2020 with a degree in Human Services and Community Leadership. She has always had a passion for working with young children. Throughout her time in high school and college, Makayla had the opportunity to work with children of various ages,   specifically the early childhood years. Her heart truly lies with working with little ones and watching them learn and grow. Makayla’s goal as a teacher is to engage with the children socially and emotionally, as  well as continue to create a safe environment where they can flourish and grow into  confident learners. 

 

 Mithu Roy Bandyopadhyay
Lead Teacher

Mithu was born and raised in Kolkata, India, where she earned her masters degree in language and art, then taught at a high school for six years. After getting married, Mithu moved to United States with her husband and eventually welcomed a son. Mithu took an interest in early childhood after volunteering in her son’s preschool class, which led her to pursue a teaching career. She eventually went back to college to earn her associate’s degree in early childhood education, then spent four years as a preschool teacher. Mithu finds great joy in watching children grow and learn new things. In her free time, she enjoys reading, spending time with family and friends, gardening and traveling around the world. She also spends time as a parent volunteer for her son’s choir and band, as well as other activities.

 

 Tyler Thomason
Head of Maintenance

Tyler has been working with Barefoot Learning Inc. for over ten years. Even as a young child, Tyler was always building and fixing things. He is enjoying the opportunity to use these skills as a member of the A+ team. During his free time he enjoys detailing his car.