Leadership Team

The 21st Century Preparatory School leadership team is currently comprised of three members:  Executive Director -  Valencia Koker (x1170), Elementary Principal -  Jennifer Petruska (x7862), Middle School Principal - Tasia White (x7862)

Valencia Koker

As a former teacher and principal, I know that the heart of a school lies in great teaching and learning. Therefore, I am steadfast in the belief that an uncompromising educational experience is the life-changing difference between dreams realized and dreams denied for our students. 

Prior to beginning my career in education, I served our country in the United States Air Force, which provided a wealth of invaluable experiences in the states and overseas that led me directly to my passion of serving children. I began my teaching career in Milwaukee Public Schools and later worked for Racine Unified School District. Upon acceptance into the nationally recognized New Leaders Aspiring Principals Program, I relocated to Chicago and served as the Resident Principal at Lindblom Math and Science Academy High School. During my tenure with Chicago Public Schools, I was granted the privilege to lead one of the city's turnaround schools as the Principal of McNair School of Excellence on the westside. Over the course of three years, the school drastically improved and made significant gains from the lowest school rating of Level 3 to the highest rating of Level 1+.

As a proud Racine native, I am deeply committed to working with the staff, students, families and the larger community to foster a great school to best serve the needs of our 21st Century Preparatory Scholars.

Jennifer Petruska

Education is my passion, and I consider myself a lifelong learner.  I received my Bachelor of Arts degree in Elementary Education with honors from the University of Iowa.  My undergraduate honors thesis focused on Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder.  In 2004, I earned my Master of Education degree in Curriculum and Instruction from National-Louis University in Evanston, Illinois.  As a part of my graduate program, I was given the opportunity to pursue National Board Certification.  I earned my certification as a Middle Childhood Generalist in November 2004.  In 2014, I was recertified.  In May 2011, I received a Master of Science degree in Educational Leadership from Cardinal Stritch University in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, which enabled me to receive my Director of Instruction and Principal licenses.

Prior to joining the 21st Century Preparatory School staff, I was a classroom teacher and gifted and talented coordinator.  I taught third grade for five years.  I spent two of those years in San Antonio, Texas at Pecan Valley Elementary School.  At Pecan Valley Elementary, I received a technology grant which changed my teaching philosophy.  I believe technology should be integrated into the classroom on a daily basis.

I returned to Illinois after September 11 because I felt the distance from my family was too great.  I was fortunate to find a position in Antioch, Illinois at Oakland Elementary School.  During the three years I was in Antioch, I received a lot of valuable training in differentiating instruction to meet the needs of all learners.  The technical knowledge I gained in San Antonio coupled the differentiation experience from Antioch prepared me for my next position, gifted and talented coordinator.

For nine years, I served as the gifted and talented coordinator for Riverview School, a pre-kindergarten through eighth-grade school.  Throughout my time there, I revamped the program, greatly increasing services for not only the students identified as gifted and talented but for any student who sought additional challenge.  In addition to working with students and coordinating extracurricular clubs and events, I served as an instructional coach for teachers.  I provided assistance in planning and differentiating curriculum.  At Riverview, I learned the importance of student voice, rigor, and creativity in the curriculum.  I also gained valuable experience in collaboration to increase student achievement.  As a result of my efforts, I was honored with a Herb Kohl Fellowship in 2009 as one of 25 specialists in the state of Wisconsin.  In October 2014, I received the Gifted Educator of the Year award from the Wisconsin Association for Talented and Gifted.

Whenever I have free time, I love to travel.  My adventures have taken me to China, India, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Egypt, South Africa, Mozambique, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Kenya, Tanzania, Malawi, Zambia, Morocco, Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, Canada, Mexico, Colombia, Turkey, England, France, Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Italy, and Spain.  I believe it is important to incorporate multicultural literature and current world events whenever possible because our kids today are living in a global community.

I was fortunate to receive the role of elementary principal here at 21st Century Preparatory School in 2014.  I like to combine my passion for technology integration, differentiation, student voice, rigor, creativity, collaboration, and global learning in this new role to help all students grow academically, socially, and emotionally.

Tasia White

 

 

believe that leadership is a journey that consists of exercising influence and providing direction based on a vision. It is crucial for the administrative team to be highly effective, results-oriented, open and collaborative. My leadership style is communicative and hands-on. Whether the issue is school culture related or instructional in nature different solutions are required. I like to analyze the situation at hand and develop the best plan of action. I have no problem handling or modeling how to handle any situation. I would never expect my staff to handle any situation that I wouldn’t handle myself. The most important skill that I have learned as a leader is the ability to delegate tasks that are not high leverage for me to handle as a leader. I am committed to the betterment of the institution, the achievement of my students and the development of my staff.

An educational leader must manage many buckets: staff, scheduling, public relations, budget, community involvement, and strategic planning. My leadership style will allow me to oversee all of these buckets and strategically delegate tasks. My goal is to ensure that each decision I make aligns with the goals that are in place, while still providing timely and adequate instructional feedback to support teacher development.

The ideal work environment fosters collaboration. I strive to build growth mindsets and encourage teamwork. I promote strong relationships with open communication and positive reinforcement. I also believe in an open door policy for staff, families, and students to facilitate communication between different parties as needed. As a results-driven leader, I will prioritize supporting my staff in a way that allows them to feel valued as one of the most essential components to the success of the academic institution. This will be done through praise, positive reinforcement and constructive feedback to keep them bought into the importance of giving 100% at all times.

One of my greatest strengths as an educational leader is my ability to build relationships. I like to truly develop trusting relationships with my staff, students, and families. I do this by letting them know that I believe that change runs deeper than test scores. I will always emphasize that it takes all of us to work together to help students succeed. In order to make this happen relationships need to be built and maintained. Another strength of mine as an educator is the ability to be a critical consumer of resources. Resources are often in abundance in academic institutions. It is important to know how to utilize these resources to meet the needs of your institution. From my experience in this area, I have been able to identify valuable resources and put them to use in a data-driven manner.

My leadership style has been developed through my years of service as a counselor, teacher, and administrator. With eight years of hands-on experience in the classroom, and 2 years in administration, I have developed an in-depth knowledge base with regards to highly effective leadership. I have been committed as a lifelong learner by obtaining a Master of Arts in Special Education, Bachelor of Science in Psychology, WI Cross-Categorical Educator License (1-8), and an IL Learning Behavior Specialist Educator License with stipulations. Furthermore, I have worked with The Achievement Networkto effectively use interim assessments, Dr. Cary of Thinking Core, on English Language Arts Common Core standard studies and attended The Standards Institute in Washington D.C. to deepen my understanding of CCSS in math to develop teachers’ capacity. All of my experiences have shaped me into an effective leader that could serve as a change agent for any academic institution.