This week we highlight the people who make Prairie so special –– our teachers and faculty.

By Brendan O'Brien | all school, Student Life

The Prairie Facilities Team

Jim Vass, Director of Facilities
Corey Brandt, Assistant Director of Facilities
Mark Krekling, Assistant Director of Facilities (Night)
John Kurt
Brian Fenkl
Jason Lees

Prairie’s unsung heroes don’t work behind the scenes…they work on top of, underneath, and inside them. They dig and saw and weld. They study blueprints. They worry about leaky this’s and broken that’s. They run wire. Lots and lots of wire. They design new spaces and keep old ones looking pristine. They move stuff. Then they move it again. They orchestrate an endless string of deliveries.

And then the school day starts.

In short, the TPS Facilities Team, directed by Jim Vass, is a group of problem-solvers perpetually on the move, covering the maintenance needs of every department and division while making sure Prairie is clean, safe, and operational.

They work hard. At weird hours. In strange conditions. They are not only the ones who make Prairie go, they are the reason we can continue to boast one of the most beautiful campuses in the country.

And so this week, our school community collectively says what we probably don’t say enough – thank you.

We recently attempted to track down – via email – the facilities guys so they could answer our Thank A Teacher Week questions. We had moderate success. 

What is your favorite Prairie memory?

“All of my favorite memories involve opportunities I got to drive students somewhere. Whether a short trip to baseball practice or the train station, or taking a group to UW-Milwaukee or UW-Eau Claire, it is always fun to listen to the chatter and have the chance to interact.”

Jim Vass
10th Year at TPS


What do you like most about working at TPS?

“I like the sense of community. At Prairie everyone from students and their families to faculty and staff all really work together to form a real community that we can all be proud of.”

Fun Facts about Me…

“I love musical theater, and I also love listening to movie score soundtracks with a couple of my favorite composers Being John Williams and Alan Silvestri.”

Brian Fenkl
18th Year at TPS


How has TPS changed in your time here?

“After 24 years, it would be easier to tell you what’s stayed the same!

Changes in my time at Prairie include the new Upper School, the JAC, new tennis courts, the soccer complex, the PS playground, Welcome Desk, many, many, many miles of computer wire, upgrades to HVAC, lighting, offices and classrooms.

However, I believe the real change has been the addition of incredible people. Assistants in all the Primary School rooms to maximize student potential. Additional professionals in Administration to carry out Prairie’s mission. There were eight full-time employees at Prairie when I started here.”

John Kirt
24th Year at TPS


What is your favorite part about each day?

“Each day I have the opportunity to move around the building and interact with students. I walk through the Primary School and get high-fives and shy smiles. In the Middle and Upper School the students are usually hard are work or sitting in groups talking and laughing, but they stop and say ‘Hello.’ I just enjoy seeing the kids engaged in all the different types of activities.”

Fun Facts about Me

“Here’s three: I have a large vintage toy collection; I built my own house; and I am a coach for USA Baseball.”

Corey Brandt
3rd Year at TPS


Each day during National Teacher Appreciation Week (May 7th-11th) we will be telling the stories of our teachers, coaches, advisors, and faculty members. You can help Prairie’s teachers continue to progress by making a gift in support of Faculty Development at The Prairie School.