OUR BOARD OF DIRECTORS

President/CEO

Christine Holmes is the President/CEO of Penfield Children’s Center and a long-time leader in health and human services with a focus on children and families. Penfield Children’s Center is a provider of Milwaukee County’s Birth-to-Three program, early childhood education and therapies to more than 1,600 children located in Milwaukee. Prior to Penfield, Ms. Holmes spent 14 years with Children’s Hospital and Health System as Director of Community Ventures and Advocacy where she provided oversight for the development of community social service initiatives.

Ms. Holmes’s community engagement extends to her service with several organizations including: National Birth-5 Peer Advocate Roundtable, Bureau of Milwaukee Child Welfare Partnership Council, Wisconsin Alliance for Infant Mental Health, Wisconsin Early Learning Coalition and the United Way Teen Pregnancy Prevention Oversight. In 2013, Ms. Holmes was honored with two awards including a scholarship from the Harvard Business Club of Wisconsin to attend a week-long session on Strategy Perspectives for Non Profits at Harvard. The Penfield board nominated Ms. Holmes and she was also awarded a “Women of Influence” award by the Milwaukee Business Journal.

At the national level, Ms. Holmes previously worked as Public Relations Director for the Alliance for Families and Children and Prevent Child Abuse America. Ms. Holmes has her Master’s Degree in Social Work from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.

James BurnettIn his role as Director of Public Relations for Kane Communications Group, James brings his experiences as a storyteller and relationship builder to a point.

Public relations done right involves thought leadership. It involves telling clients’ stories in any and every format and style that makes them relatable and demonstrates the benefit of their service or product. Yes, there are press releases and media advisories. But understand the sky’s the limit. Also, think narrative written features, blog posts or social media entries, podcasts, even speeches and public convening.

James’s 21 years in communications work includes 16 years as an award-winning journalist for major news outlets including the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, the Miami Herald, and the Boston Globe. At the Journal Sentinel, James was part of a team that won a National Headliner Award for reporting on urban redevelopment in Milwaukee. At the Herald, James co-authored an investigative story recognized with an Associated Press Sports Editors Award because it may have helped exonerate a college baseball player accused of a crime. And at the Globe, James was a writer in the paper’s Pulitzer Prize-winning coverage of the aftermath of the 2013 Boston Marathon Bombings. He has also been a magazine and broadcast contributor to O: The Oprah Magazine, U.S. News & World Report, CNN and NPR.

Born and raised in Southeastern Virginia – with a detour to Sicily as a child, James first moved to Milwaukee in the fall of 1998 to write for the Journal Sentinel. After 14 years away in South Florida and Boston, he and his wife and children moved back to Milwaukee to be near family in 2018.

When he is not in family-man mode or being a so-so gardener, you can find James walking his black lab Leo at any number of North Shore parks, playing basketball at the Jewish Community Center, volunteering with his son’s Cub Scouts troop, or working on his version of the great American novel.

In his professional and personal lives, James insists that relating to and accepting as many people and as many types of people as possible is the key to effective communications.

I am a Client Advisor with J.P. Morgan’s Private Bank in Milwaukee. In my role, I focus on helping high net worth clients address their complex wealth management needs. Leveraging the resources at J.P. Morgan, I can address all aspects of financial planning, including banking, credit, estate planning, philanthropy, and wealth transfer.

Prior to the Private Bank, I worked at both Stark Investments and Racon Capital, spending much of my career as a macro analyst and product specialist respectively. Both experiences laid the foundation and provided a framework for my current work.

But my career actually started as a teacher. I was trained in Canada, spending time as a researcher prior to moving to Milwaukee, focused on the micro-interactions that take place in the classroom. During my time in the field, I published numerous articles and a spelling text book, Nelson Spelling 2.

I was born in Toronto, Canada. I have a B.A., B.Ed., and M.Ed. from the University of Toronto. In 2000, I made Milwaukee my home and currently reside in Cedarburg with my family. All three of my children have attended Montessori schools.

Julie holds a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Communications from DePauw University, Greencastle, Indiana and a Masters Degree, In Human Resources, from the Graduate School of Business at Loyola University Chicago. She has 20 plus years of working experience in the field of Human Resources/Talent Development; specializing in training and recruiting.

In addition to her professional endeavors, Julie is a dedicated community volunteer serving on a variety of boards and committees over the years. Most notably, she served as the President of the Junior League of Milwaukee as well as serving eight years as Vice-President on Kappa Alpha Theta’s International board.

Currently, she on the board of Impact100 Milwaukee as a Communications Director, is a member of the Whitefish Bay Police Commission, the Whitefish Bay Historic Preservation Commission and the personnel committee at her church. She also is the training chair for the University School of Milwaukee’s Business Internship Program.

Julie and her husband, Brian, feel so lucky to be raising their young children in such a vibrant and wonderful city!

Bob Mikulay is the retired Executive Vice President of Marketing for the Miller Brewing Company and has had an extensive and successful career in marketing and branding strategy, consumer and customer insight, sales management, strategic planning and a myriad of other areas. Before joining Miller Brewing Company, he served as Senior Vice President of Marketing for Philip Morris U.S.A. In 2004, he was recognized by Advertising Age as one of the 50 most influential marketing executives in the country. Bob currently advises small businesses and start-up ventures on all aspects of business strategy and development.

Bob serves as Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the Milwaukee Institute of Art & Design (MIAD) and Penfield Children’s Center. He is also a member of the Board of Trustees for the Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Milwaukee.

Bob graduated from the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis with a bachelor’s degree in communications in 1973 and attended the U of M’s Carlson School of Business’ Masters Program from 1973 to 1975.

Bob currently lives in Whitefish Bay with his wife, Susan, a writer and communications consultant. They have one son, David, an actor living in West Hollywood, California.

Melissa Murray

Melissa Murray is a mother, wife, daughter, volunteer and business owner/real estate investor. She navigates the delicate balance between work and family every day. Melissa manages the purchase, ownership, management, rental and/or sale of multi-family and commercial property holdings for her real estate investment business.

Melissa is originally from New York and relocated with her husband Ron to the Milwaukee area seven years ago to work for Kohl’s Department Stores. She was a Product Manager in Men’s Apparel, responsible for product creation, merchandising and sourcing. Melissa’s team building skills enabled her to lead direct reports and develop strong cross-functional partnerships.

Prior to joining Kohl’s, Melissa was a Vice President of Sales at Smart Apparel headquartered in New York City. She was responsible for managing and growing the men’s private and licensed brand apparel businesses. Melissa worked with leading U.S. retailers, Nordstrom, Dillard’s, Belk, Kohl’s, JCP, Macy’s, Bloomingdales, Saks, Costco.

Melissa’s twenty year career in the men’s fashion business included extensive international travel to Asia and Europe to strengthen retail/vendor relationships and facilitate product/supply chain development.

Melissa enjoys spending time with her family, friends, traveling and playing sports. She resides in Shorewood, WI with her husband Ron and her five year old daughter Sloane. Sloane currently attends Montessori school.

Secretary

As Senior Vice President and Market Executive, Tere Sackerson oversees the client’s team of Global Treasury Management professionals, striving to achieve the highest levels of client satisfaction. Her top priority is that the team not only meets, but also exceeds the client’s expectations.

Tere joined PNC with over 15 years of experience in the Financial Services industry, and over 10 years specializing in Global Treasury Management. Prior to joining PNC, Tere was a Team Leader in National Corporate covering 13 states and managing a team of professionals between Wisconsin and Illinois for U.S. Bank.

Tere volunteers for the Girls Scout of America and St. Mary’s Parish School. She is also an active board member for the Betty Brinn Children’s Museum and PNC Milwaukee Running Festival.

Tere enjoys spending time with her family, running and focusing on wellness.

Ronny Thompson

Ronny Thompson, having flunked retirement, became the Founder and Chief Executive Office of PeachyClean, LLC., where he oversees the strategic direction of the company. Mr. Thompson brings 40 years of experience in the cleaning, construction and sales industries to his work. Prior to starting PeachyClean, LLC., Mr. Thompson served as Owner/CEO of White Glove Services, Inc., a commercial cleaning business.

He was Co-Owner of Envirotech Services, LLC, a construction company and he was a Partner/Operator of Nebula Personal Brand Management, a sports image consulting company. Mr. Thompson attended Marquette University where he studied Business Management. He is the proud Executive Director of the Athletes for Autism Foundation which he started in memoriam of his daughter.

Deanna Tillisch has served as President & CEO of the United Performing Arts Fund (UPAF) since November 2011.  UPAF is the largest united performing arts funds in the country and has provided more than $310 million in operating support to the performing arts since 1967.  Under Tillisch’s leadership, the UPAF Campaign has grown 23.9%.

Prior to assuming her current role, Deanna served as vice president of the Northwestern Mutual Foundation and director of Corporate Affairs, where she oversaw the charitable arm of the company, community relations and events management.  She was also Director of Market Development and ran the company’s Public Relations Division where she served as the company’s chief spokesperson.

Prior to Northwestern Mutual, Deanna was recruited to start up and manage a satellite office in Miami, Florida for Lesnik Public Relations, a Chicago-based Marketing Public Relations firm.  She also served as public relations counsel for Cramer Krasselt and as director of public relations at the Milwaukee Ballet.  She began her career at A.O. Smith Corporation, managing employee communications.

Deanna is a board member of Milwaukee Institute for Art and Design where she chairs the Governance Committee and sits on the Executive Committee.  Additionally, she is a member of the Burke Foundation Board, ImagineMKE Task Force and TEMPO Milwaukee.  For 13 years, Deanna  served on the Life Navigators Board of Directors and is a past president. In 2017, the Tillisch family was recognized as the Life Navigators Challenger Honoree.

Deanna was named one of the Women of Influence in 2016 (Milwaukee Business Journal) and one of the Women of Distinction in 2014 (Women & Girls Fund of Waukesha County).

Deanna holds a Master of Business Administration, graduating with honors, from Marquette University and a Bachelor of Arts in Communications from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.  She is a member of Beta Gamma Sigma, a Business School Honorary Society.

Treasurer

Lisa is an Executive Director in the assurance practice at Ernst & Young and has been employed there since 1997. She works with public- and privately-held organizations in the retail, consumer and industrial products industries. Areas of specialization include auditing, SEC filings, financial reporting, audit committees, leadership and development of others. She holds a Bachelor of Business Administration – Accounting from UW Oshkosh and is a CPA. Lisa serves on the Audit Committee of Penfield Children’s Center and has a passion for children and education.

Stephen is the Senior Vice President of Business Development for Kohl’s. A finance and strategy executive by background, Stephen relocated to the Milwaukee area from Seattle and joined Kohl’s three years ago. A native of Northern Ireland, Stephen has a degree in accounting and business finance from the University of Dundee in Scotland and is a chartered accountant (UK) and CPA (US). Stephen is married with three children and lives in Fox Point.

Vice Chair

Madonna Williams was born in Evanston, Illinois and is the oldest of 14 children. Upon moving to Milwaukee when she was 4 years old, she spent 16 years in local Catholic schools, including St. Eugene, Dominican High School and later attended St. Norbert College to earn a degree in elementary education.

Madonna is an active volunteer and has served on a number of boards including Penfield Children’s Center (17 years), Schlitz Audubon Nature Center, Blood Center of Wisconsin and Boys and Girls Clubs of Greater Milwaukee.

She has also been involved with United Way, the Milwaukee Public Museum, United Performing Arts Fund and the Kettle Moraine Garden Club.

Madonna and husband, Jay, have 3 married children and 5 grandchildren.

OUR STAFF

Head of School

Kathy Ronco joined Penfield Montessori Academy as executive director on March 13, 2017. Kathy comes to Penfield Montessori with an exceptional background in education including 13 years as the executive director at Highland Community School – a Montessori charter school located in Milwaukee’s central city.

During her tenure at Highland, Kathy built the enrollment from 84 students to more than 420 students building a rigorous Montessori academic model, a robust parent engagement program and a culture of success for students of all abilities. Kathy’s work at Highland helped build the model for what is now the largest array of public Montessori schools of any city in the nation.

Over the years, Kathy has served on several local and national boards working on issues of poverty, equality and social justice. Kathy lives in the city of Milwaukee and has one son.

Learning Strategist

Katie’s passion for teaching started when she was in elementary school. Her passion for special learners grew when she volunteered in the NICU and during her student teaching experience. After attending the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater, Katie earned a dual certification in regular and special education.

Her teaching career started at Penfield Children’s Center in 2008 when she worked as a teacher in the Birth-to-Three program. In 2012, she left Penfield to teach preschoolers with visual impairments. This past school year, Katie worked in a public school teaching students with disabilities in K4 and K5. She looks forward to continuing her teaching journey with Penfield Montessori Academy.

In her free time, Katie enjoys gardening, sewing, taking road trips, and visiting parks with her family.

Director of Family and Community Engagement/Enrollment Specialist

Amy has been an employee at Penfield Children’s Center for 15 years. Amy moved from Green Bay to Milwaukee to attend the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and earned a degree in Social Work. After starting at Penfield Children’s Center, shortly after graduation, Amy realized that working with the families of children with special needs was where she was meant to be. Amy has held a number of positions at Penfield, most recently Director of Family and Community Engagement. Amy supervises the Parent Mentors, Family Programs, Community Outreach and Volunteer Services.

In the spring of 2016, Amy took on the role of Enrollment Specialist for Penfield Montessori Academy. As the school was preparing to open, Amy created a comprehensive parent engagement component that mirrors the work being done with families at Penfield Children’s Center. As she balances Penfield Children’s Center and Penfield Montessori Academy, Amy also works very part-time at Children’s Hospital, and is the Vice President for the Down Syndrome Association of Wisconsin’s Milwaukee Chapter.

Amy is married, has a beautiful daughter, and a very loved yellow lab. Her family lives in Milwaukee, but their favorite place to be is in Alaska, Wisconsin with family and friends.

Speech Language Pathologist

Special Education Coordinator

Learning Strategist

Learning Strategist

Speech and Language Therapist

Biographical information coming soon.

Student Support Coordinator

Office Manager

Speech Language Pathologist

Programs Coordinator

Administrative Assistant

Biographical information coming soon.

Physical Therapist

Biographical information coming soon.

Occupational Therapist

Learning Strategist

MONTESSORI GUIDES

Montessori Guide

Dana has been working in the field of Montessori education for the past five years. Before transitioning to Montessori, Dana worked as a traditional K4 teacher at a private school on the south side of Milwaukee. As she explored different educational philosophies, Dana was intrigued by the Montessori Method, as it is so different than traditional educational practices. The more she learned, the more she wanted to know. Dana enrolled in AMI Primary training course at the Montessori Institute of Milwaukee in 2012.

Soon after, Dana began working as an Assistant in a Children’s House in Cedarburg, WI at an AMI Montessori School. She started her Montessori Primary training while working as a Montessori assistant, which allowed Dana to immediately apply what she was learning in a practical setting. Dana loved working in a Montessori Children’s House classroom, and watching the children follow their interests and inspire each other. One of Dana’s favorite quotes about Montessori education is: “The secret of good teaching is to regard the child’s intelligence as a fertile field in which seeds may be sown, to grow under the heat of the flaming imagination. –Maria Montessori”

Dana worked at an MPS Montessori school as she completed her AMI Primary training. She enjoyed the diverse student population and the positive energy of a larger school. Dana graduated from the Montessori Institute of Milwaukee in June 2016. Dana heard about Penfield Montessori Academy from a friend who was familiar with the amazing work being done at Penfield Children’s Center.

Dana was a part of the founding team of Penfield Montessori Academy during the school’s first year of operation, working as a lead Montessori Primary Guide. She currently works with children between the ages of three and six years old in one of the Children’s House classrooms. Dana’s favorite part of her job is witnessing the small, yet powerful, victories of every child and celebrating each success.

Dana earned her Masters in Montessori Education from Loyola University of Maryland in Baltimore in September 2017. She is passionate about continuing the work of Maria Montessori and providing a high-quality and innovative Montessori program in Milwaukee.

Montessori Guide

Ginnie knew she was meant to be a teacher since she spent her summers in college as an assistant preschool teacher, supporting children as they made the transition into formal school settings.  Through that experience, she realized the incredible power of teachers, children, families, and communities working together to support the development of young people.

For that reason, Ginnie joined Teach for America in 2011, and has since been teaching first and second graders in Chicago and Milwaukee. In addition to her undergraduate degree from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and teaching credentials through Dominican University, she recently completed her AMI Montessori certification at the Montessori Institute of Milwaukee.  Ginnie is thrilled to work with the children and families at Penfield Montessori Academy.

Montessori Guide

Biographical information coming soon.

Montessori Guide

Sonia believes that every child is deserving of an enriching education delivered with respect. Her goal is for children to independently reach their fullest potential. As a parent with a special needs child, she fully understands the patience, love, and extra attention that is needed to help students exceed in everyday life.

Prior to becoming a founding member at Penfield Montessori Academy, Sonia worked as a paraprofessional for two years at Maryland Avenue Montessori School. She majored in Early Childhood Education with a minor in Communication from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. She earned her Association Montessori Internationale (AMI) Montessori Certification at the Montessori Institute of Milwaukee and is currently pursuing a Masters in Education degree through Loyola University of Baltimore.

Sonia is married with two daughters, an eight year old who attends Maryland Avenue Montessori School and a two year old who attends Penfield Children’s Center. Her hobbies include spending time with family and friends, working out, cooking Mexican and Puerto Rican cuisine, gardening, rock climbing, and practically any outdoor activity.

Montessori Guide