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Playe, Erik

College & Career Counselor

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Playe, Erik

College & Career Counselor


M.A., Liberal Studies, Wesleyan University

B.A., English, Saint Michael's College

If you were a superhero, what powers would you have and why?
I would be able to ripen an avocado just by touching it. I would even be able to bring avocados back from being overripe by touching them. I could make a dent in world hunger this way and also make guacamole at any moment.

What is one thing you've learned from students?

Patience...maybe. I am still working on it.

What did you want to be growing up?

A Jedi and a waterskier.

What draws you to working with students?

Their energy and never wondering if I am doing something meaningful.

What is one thing you enjoy about CSS and why?

I love that we are the Kodiaks. I have been a Wildcat, a Purple Knight, a Winged Beaver, a Cardinal, a Sun Devil, a Hawk and a Warrior, and now I am happy to be a Kodiak.

What is your favorite spot in the world and why?

Pagosa Springs, CO. My wife, Kelly, and I have a piece of property in Pagosa where we camp. It's our happy place.

Erik was born and raised in Northampton, MA, where he graduated from the Williston Northampton School. He attended St. Michael’s College in Vermont, where he majored in English Literature and minored in Spanish. He earned a master’s degree in Liberal Studies, with a focus in Humanities, from Wesleyan University in Connecticut. For the past 13 years, he has been teaching English and/or has served as a college counselor at three U.S. independent schools and at an international school in South America. He served, most recently, as Director of College Counseling, Academic Dean, and Softball Coach for a boarding school in Arizona. Erik and his wife, Kelly, are excited to be moving to Colorado Springs. Kelly is a horticulturist, who is starting her own business in resilient landscape design. Kelly and Erik enjoy hiking, snowshoeing, biking, gardening, and birding together. Erik loves teaching and working with high school students. He hopes there will be no livelier place on campus than his college counseling office, and is excited to share his enthusiasm with students and families at The Colorado Springs School.

Pratt, Rachel

Children's School Creative Dramatics and Middle School Drama Teacher

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Pratt, Rachel

Children's School Creative Dramatics and Middle School Drama Teacher


B.A., Music Theatre, Colorado Mesa University

Reynolds, Kaja

Visual Arts Teacher

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Reynolds, Kaja

Visual Arts Teacher


M.A., Instruction and Curriculum, University of Colorado at Colorado Springs

B.F.A., Ceramic Art, University of Washington, Seattle

B.A., Anthropology, Bates College

What is your role at CSS? I am the Visual Arts teacher for grades 3-12. I teach a variety of Art electives in the Upper School such as Ceramics, Jewelry-Making, Printmaking, Video Production, and Digital Photography.

What is one of your favorite memories at CSS? One favorite memory is when guiding a student in class they said, “Mrs. Reynolds, you are like a magician - you are amazing!”

What did you want to be growing up? I wanted to be two things: a musician and an artist. I wasn’t sure what kind of artist, but I wanted to become famous for my art! I played the cello when young, and I wanted to learn how to play the guitar and sing so I could be in a band.

What draws you to teaching? I grew up with a Mom as an artist and a Dad as an architect. We often went to museums, and I would think about how I could share my love of art with others. In addition to creating my own artwork, teaching became a rewarding way to share my love of art with young people. I get incredible joy from creating, making, discovering, and exploring different mediums of art, and I wanted to share that passion with students.

What would people be surprised to learn about you? They might be surprised to know that I created my own business, called Mountain Clayworks, where I was a professional potter for 12 years, making and selling my work locally at Commonwheel Artist Co-op in Manitou Springs, as well as making special orders for people such as dinnerware sets, mug sets, etc. Two years ago, I created another business called Colorado Karma Jewelry by Kaja, where I make beaded, leather, and forged copper jewelry, such as earrings, necklaces, and bracelets. I sell my jewelry locally at a wonderful Artists Cooperative called EclecticCO, located in downtown Colorado Springs.

Schilperoort, Alex

3rd Grade Teacher

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Schilperoort, Alex

3rd Grade Teacher


M.A., Educational Psychology, University of Colorado at Denver

B.A., Sociology, Whitworth University

What is your role at CSS? I am a 3rd-grade teacher.

If you were a superhero, what powers would you have? Hands down, flying! Can it get any better? Assuming you don’t have a fear of heights, I suppose.
What did you want to be growing up? A professional soccer player in the World Cup. I’ve settled for adult recreational soccer games, but I’m pretty happy with that.
What is one thing you enjoy about CSS? I love the tight-knit community that is characteristic of CSS. The smaller class sizes allow for deeper relationships with students and parents. This, along with an amazing group of colleagues, is just a few, but really important, factors that keep me coming back every year.

Siegel, Lea

Business Office Manager

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Siegel, Lea

Business Office Manager


What would people be surprised to learn about you?
I have had two different series of rabies shots! I love animals, and sometimes rescuing them comes with a shot.

If you were a superhero, what powers would you have and why?

Teleportation. I love the notion of being able to magically go back in time or into the future to experience firsthand what life was like and to be able to better understand people and places.

What is one thing you've learned from students?

I have learned kindness from my students. Small gestures can make people feel noticed and important. Saying hello or remembering something specific to a person can immediately build a bridge. Lessons learned: Smile more, and be kind!

What did you want to be growing up?

A novelist

What draws you to working with students?

Working with students allows me to draw a new purpose daily. I love the changing environment and the opportunity to try new things throughout the day. It is a rewarding experience when students have "light bulb" moments and I like being able to contribute to that in any way I can.

What is one thing you enjoy about CSS?

I was drawn to our experiential learning models. I fully believe that being able to emotionally be connected to your responses to the world around you better prepares you for life. I love that we invest in students' actions and thought processes through travel and hands-on experiences. I am excited to get to know everyone and become an active part of our community.

What is your favorite spot in the world?
My favorite spot in the world is the British Isles. I love the beauty, history, and architecture of Ireland and Scotland. I am an avid reader, and favor novelists from this region.

Swanson, Deborah

Fundraising & Grants Coordinator

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Swanson, Deborah

Fundraising & Grants Coordinator


B.A., English, Colorado College

Leadership Pikes Peak, Denver Paralegal Institute

Debbie comes to CSS with nearly 20 years of experience in the nonprofit and academic fundraising sectors at institutions including but not limited to Early Connections Learning Centers, Fostering Hope Foundation, The Resource Exchange, and Colorado College. Prior to accepting her new role as fundraising and grants coordinator at CSS, Debbie served for five years as a fund development manager for Girl Scouts of Colorado, where she was responsible for driving fundraising initiatives across an eight-county region. We look forward to her fundraising efforts at CSS.

Throughout her career, Debbie has gained a wealth of knowledge in events planning, marketing, communications, donor recruitment, and grant writing. Her greatest fundraising successes include a $645,000 grant obtained for James Irwin Charter Schools, where she served as director of development between 2011 and 2014. A long-time resident of Colorado Springs and personal business owner, Debbie loves motorsports, especially motorcycles, and frequently can be seen riding her high-powered Vespa around town.

Takacs, John Paul

Upper School Mathematics Teacher

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Takacs, John Paul

Upper School Mathematics Teacher


B.S. Mathematics, Pacific University

Spacial Dynamics IS12

What would people be surprised to learn about you?
I started college as a music major with no interest in math. After taking my first college math class with a very inspirational professor, I fell in love with it and switched majors.

If you were a superhero, what powers would you have and why?

Definitely being able to fly. Mostly for the view and areal perspective.

What is one thing you've learned from students?

I have learned never to take myself too seriously. I will make mistakes from time to time, and I always encourage students to call me out on them. I think it would be hard to teach and be overly worried about self-image.

What did you want to be growing up?

I wanted to be a music teacher or join the coastguard.

What draws you to working with students?

I have always been a teacher in some form or another. I think I enjoy teaching math because it's fun in a way that people often don't see. It's a subject where I feel I can make a difference and pass along some of my enthusiasm.

What is your favorite spot in the world?

My airplane. I have no favorite geographical place but I always feel at home in the air.


John Paul received his BS in mathematics from Pacific University where he also studied education and music. During this time, he completed and graduated from the Spacial Dynamics five-year training in movement and movement analysis, which has been a great aid to him in the classroom. In addition to teaching Math and Physics during the school year, he flies competition aerobatics in the summer. This is a sport that he believes has shaped him as a person and something that drives him to pursue new learning opportunities and push himself to the edges of his comfort zone.

Thomas, Joe

Technology Manager

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Thompson, Gina

PreKindergarten Teacher

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Thompson, Gina

PreKindergarten Teacher


B.S., Early Childhood Education, Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts

Master's, Early Childhood Education, Trinity and Cambridge College

What would people be surprised to learn about you?
I love camping and kayaking.

If you were a superhero, what powers would you have and why?

To make people laugh

What is one thing you've learned from students?

To see the humor in things.

What did you want to be growing up?

An oceanographer. I was going to marry Jacque Cousteau and live on the Calypso.

What draws you to working with students?

It is never boring! I live for the ah-ha moments and seeing kids excited about their learning.

What is one thing you enjoy about CSS?

Everyone's positive attitudes and dedication.

What is your favorite spot in the world?

The beach! Some of my best memories are of vacations near the shore.

Gina began teaching in 1988 at Pine Cobble School in Williamstown, Mass., as the director/lead teacher of the preschool, kindergarten, and after-care program. She then taught at Williamstown Elementary as the kindergarten/first-grade teacher, where she also directed their inclusive summer camp. Gina and her family moved to Colorado in 1997, and she was the general manager of Jack Quinn's Irish Restaurant and Pub for almost seven years before working as a real estate agent. In 2011, she was back to teaching at KinderCare as the Kindergarten Readiness teacher, and then in 2016, began as the Pre-3 teacher at the children's center at Colorado College before joining CSS in 2022.

Toussaint, Amy

Fourth Grade Teacher

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Toussaint, Amy

Fourth Grade Teacher


B.A., Psychology, Magna Cum Laude, Temple University

M.Ed., Elementary and Special Education, Summa Cum Laude, Holy Family University

What is one thing you’ve learned from students?
Through my years in the classroom, one thing I’ve learned from students is that they want the same things as me out of life. They want to be successful, to feel emotionally safe, and to experience the true joy that life has to offer. However, more often than not, this success manifests itself after a trusting relationship is built with the student. They want to know you are vested in them.

What draws you to working with students?

Children see the world through a different lens. Their joy and innocence in how they perceive the world around them is a beacon of hope for all of us and our future. What a privilege and honor it is to be entrusted in facilitating academic and social-emotional learning in the development of these sharp minds.

What did you want to be growing up?

Growing up I wanted to be the next Jane Goodall. I loved meeting new people and learning their stories.

What is your favorite spot in the world?

My favorite spot in the world is Africa, particularly the northern end. When I initially agreed to use my knowledge and expertise to help lead teacher training seminars in Liberia and work to provide social-emotional learning in the Village de l’Espérance, I had no idea the impact this would have on myself and my future. Living a temporarily primitive lifestyle amongst a group of people filled with nothing but hope allowed me time to find myself and my true passion in life. What a gift it is to ripen in such amazing grace!

A native of Pennsylvania, Amy graduated with a Master of Education in Elementary and Special Education from Holy Family University and earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Temple University. An educator for more than 15 years to students representing a wide range of socioeconomic, geographic, and academic backgrounds, Amy adopts a "whole-child" approach to teaching and learning and is a firm believer in nurturing the needs of the entire child. Prior to joining The Colorado Springs School, her experiences included acting as a mentor teacher, working as a special education liaison, and providing community-based therapeutic behavioral support for foster children at the Children’s Crisis Treatment Center in Philadelphia. In 2011, she was granted the Beacon of Light Teacher of the Year Award in Philadelphia. When it comes to education, her diverse teaching experience holds a common thread: “Maslow before Bloom.” In addition to teaching in the United States, her philanthropic endeavors have led her to Northern Africa and Haiti, where she has facilitated teacher training seminars in Monrovia, Liberia; taught orphaned girls at the Village de L’Espérance, Ain Leuh, Morocco; and provided humanitarian aid in Port-au-Prince, Haiti following the earthquake of 2010. She is an active duty military spouse and the proud parent of two current CSS Kodiaks.

Tyler, Tambi

Head of School

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Tyler, Tambi

Head of School


M.S., Effective Teacher Learning Leadership, Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa

B.A., Secondary English Education, Grand View University in Des Moines, Iowa

A.A., Liberal Arts, Des Moines Area Community College

Tambi Tyler is Head of School at The Colorado Springs School. She brings nearly 25 years of experience in education.

Before joining CSS, Ms. Tyler served five years as the Upper School Principal and Deputy Head of Secondary at Atlanta International School, a co-ed, day school with 1,200 students in preschool through grade 12. She also pioneered equity and inclusion initiatives at the school.

She joined Atlanta International School from Des Moines Public Schools, where she worked for 19 years. She held multiple leadership roles, including teacher, Middle School Dean of Students, K-8 School Improvement Leader, Interim Human Resources Director, and Middle School Vice Principal in an International Baccalaureate program.

Ms. Tyler earned a Bachelor of Arts in Secondary English Education from Grand View University in Des Moines and a Master of Science in Effective Teacher Learning Leadership from Drake University in Des Moines.

Ms. Tyler, who has two adult children, is excited to be a part of the school community and an active resident of Colorado Springs.

“There is a particular sense of community that comes from each interaction with students and teachers,” she said. “There is an incredible sense of hard work and dedication to achievement, personal responsibility, and a true feeling of community. I look forward to sharing the school’s mission and story, while making meaningful partnerships with leaders, companies, and families in the region.”

Vaughan, Vicki

Director of Athletics

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Vaughan, Vicki

Director of Athletics


M.S.Ed., Physical Education, Illinois State University

B.S.Ed., English Education, Illinois State University

What is your role at CSS? I am the athletic director and girls’ varsity basketball coach, and Middle School girls’ basketball coach.

What would people be surprised to learn about you?
Our CSS community might find it a bit surprising to know that my first gig at CSS was actually in 2001 as a part-time worker in Maytag, either serving food or checking in kids. In fact, it was in this setting when Rick Risk, the athletic director, approached me about coaching the girls’ basketball team. My life was in flux as my coaching position at USAFA had abruptly ended, so I promised him I would only be able to coach one year. Now, 19 years later, I am sitting in Rick’s old chair at his desk, hiring more CSS coaches.

What is one thing you’ve learned from students?
Lessons I’ve learned from students at CSS include not taking myself too seriously and being in the moment. Also, young people are very resilient, which has been witnessed during this COVID-19 experience, and I’m always impressed with how our students find a rhythm and can balance their hectic school days.

What did you want to be growing up?
As a child, a dreamer of making the world a better place, I journaled my ambitions of being a doctor, teacher, and lawyer. Luckily for me, as a teacher, coach, and athletic director, I have been able to utilize several aspects of these professions in my life’s work. My grandmother and parents were also teachers, so I gravitated toward what was familiar to me. I vividly recall playing “teacher” with the neighborhood kids, writing lessons on the small, green chalkboard, and giving out homework assignments. Or I was getting all the kids together for a “practice,” drawing up basketball plays on my dad’s old clipboards. I am so lucky to have found my true calling in the form of teaching and coaching.

What is your favorite spot in the world?
My favorite spot in the world would be on a basketball court, any court, anywhere in the world. A basketball court is my safe place, my home away from home. While growing up, a basketball court offered me solace, control, and self-reliance when I needed to escape or find a routine. To rediscover my youth, all I have to do is grab a basketball and step onto a court, any court, anywhere in the world.