20172018 Staff and AmeriCorps Coaches


Julia Dornbusch

School: Peirce School of International Studies

Favorite Recess Game: Foursquare

Bio: Coach Julia is at Peirce Elementary this year as a full-time AmeriCorps member and first year Playworks coach. Originally from Boston, she recently graduated from Grinnell College in Iowa where she studied sociology and French with a minor in global development studies. Her previous work with youth includes 12 summers at overnight camp, as well as coaching and teaching in various communities. Outside of school, you can probably find her playing frisbee, looking for a dog to pet, or eating ice cream.


Patrice Whitfield

School: Monroe Elementary

Favorite Recess Game: Foursquare

Bio: Coach P is a first year AmeriCorps full-time coach at Playworks. She was born and raised in Dallas, Texas. She studied psychology at Baylor University before moving to Chicago. She recently graduated with her master’s degree in counseling and sport psychology at Adler University. Through her play therapy internship, Patrice discovered the power of play and would like to continue helping students transform their social and emotional health.


Melanie Claudio

School: Chappell Elementary

Favorite Recess Game: Castle Ball

Bio: Coach Mel is from the Belmont Cragin neighborhood on the Northwest side of Chicago. She studied exercise sport science at Judson University. She has a passion for service, sports, and youth. As a Playworks coach, she hopes to make every kid feel loved, valued, and cared for.



Sophie Kuznetzow

School: Shields Elementary

Favorite Recess Game: Castle Dodgeball

Bio: Coach Sophie studied psychology with a focus on child development. As a kid she was a part of the Boys and Girls Club, which had a tremendous effect on who she is. She realized the importance of having positive role models who encourage you to play and be creative. She loves being able to guide children to their fullest potential by playing with them. Sophie believes that if we step aside from our hectic adults lives and simply play and bond with a child, we can not only enhance their lives, but our own as well.


Carly Siess

School: National Teachers Academy

Favorite Recess Game: Capture the Flag

Bio: The idea of service is not new to our Playworks coach at The National Teachers Academy this year. Through City Year, Coach Carly served as a tutor and mentor at The Howe School of Excellence for the past two years. Coach Carly is excited to spend her third AmeriCorps year inspiring and teaching students through the power of play.



Sarai Redmond

School: Hamline Elementary

Favorite Recess Game: Steal the Bacon

Bio: Coach Sarai is a Chicago native from the south side who loves living an active life.  She majored in anthropology and double minored in studio arts and gender and women’s studies at the University of Illinois. Coming from a family of five sisters, she has always been around young people. For the last five years, she has continued that trend in various instructor roles including teaching urban agriculture and bike mechanics to CPS high schoolers, working with young girls on issues of black liberation, and even playing with two-years-olds at a Montessori nursery. Sarai believes in the power of play to keep the mind and the body active and agile. While growing up in school, she did not get recess after a certain grade, and thus hours on end were spent sedentary at a desk. This is unhealthy for growing children (and adults) and she is excited to be a part of the movement to keep kids active and healthy!


Jennifer Warack

School: Namaste Charter School

Favorite Recess Game: Sharks and Minnows

Bio: Coach W graduated from Adrian College with a BA in physical education. After graduation, she spent some time as a substitute teacher in her hometown of Detroit before coming to Chicago to join us last year as a coach. Coach W has been working in the recreational field for 8 years and is excited to be back at Playworks for her second year.



Emily Haffner

School: Dvorak School of Excellence

Favorite Recess Game: Foursquare

Bio: Coach Emily, a Chicago land native, is in her fourth year coaching with Playworks. She enjoys helping empower the youth of Chicago to play safely every day and always try new things.



Terrie Barron

School: Pulaski International School of Chicago

Favorite Recess Game: One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish

Bio: Coach Terrie’s passion for working with youth became most apparent at the close of each summer, when she found herself wishing that her role as a camp counselor would never end. Now as a Playworks Coach, not only can she be with youth all the time, but she can consistently be the role model that she always wanted as a childone who validated, valued, and supported the needs to be creative and to play. And maybe more importantly, Terrie now has a means to channel her feelings of hopelessness that accompany the daily reminders of all the problems our communities are facing into positive action. With these said benefits and the fact that a requirement of her job is to literally HAVE FUN, it really can’t get much better than this.


Jordan Carter

School: Hefferan Elementary

Favorite Recess Game: Knockout and Three-line basketball

Bio: Coach Jordan truly feels that his calling in life is to give back to the communities that he grew up in as a child. He developed a true passion for working with youth after graduating from Monmouth College in 2016. The best way that he knows how to do that right now is by giving his time to children that he cares for deeply. This will be Jordan’s second year in a row working for an AmeriCorps program and he has learned so many things about himself, the education system, different communities, and most importantly, the needs of children. He’s been blessed with tremendous mentors throughout his life and Playworks has provided him with a wonderful opportunity to be one through play.


Markus Beyer

School: James Otis School

Favorite Recess Game: Change Places If…

Bio: Coach Markus is a first year Playworks program coordinator and a first year student in the nonprofit management graduate program at DePaul University. He has experience teaching and tutoring ESL to kids and adults in classroom and summer camp settings. As a Playworks coach, Markus hopes to provide a safe and inclusive space for kids to showcase their natural curiosity and creativity.


Tyrone Taliaferro

School: Hamline Elementary (Branch)

Favorite Recess Game: Wolves and Bunnies

Bio: After receiving a degree in sociology from the University of Illinois, Coach Ty joined Playworks in January of 2018 as a coach at Hamline Branch Elementary School. Throughout his career, Tyrone has focused on youth development through a college internship opportunity, at Don Moyer Boys & Girl’s Club as a teen coordinator, and at the Chicago park district as a recreation leader. Tyrone wants to continue to share knowledge with youth and maintain his role at his school as a positive role model for students.


Tamar Alexanian

School: Barry Elementary

Favorite Recess Game: Night at the Museum

Bio: Coach Tam graduated in 2016 from Vanderbilt University with a double major in English literature and women’s and gender Studies. After catching the travel bug, she has had the privilege of working and learning with children in the Republic of Georgia, Armenia, Nashville, and Taiwan. Now, back in her hometown, Tamar is excited to be a part of the Playworks team and serve the community at home.