Meet Our Teachers

Karen Beck, Director and Teacher - 16 years with UHP


Karen became a part of the UHP community while living in Eagle Heights from 1998-2002. Her two children, Ellie and Alex, attended UHP. Karen was the Treasurer Board Member, a Parent Helper, and a Substitute Teacher before the Board hired her as the Director.


Karen loves to garden. She has two rain gardens filled with native perennials to help replenish ground water and keep the lakes clean as well as for pollinators. She has a love for insects, bugs, and being outside. She is a backyard beekeeper and has Walking Stick Insects in the classroom. She enjoys sharing her passion for insects, nature, science, math, and building with the kids! Plus, she loves singing and doing process art and projects with the children.

Karen also enjoys kayak camping in the Apostle Islands, Wisconsin and tent camping in the Porcupine Mountains, Michigan.

Karen has been teaching for over 16 years. Her most recent accomplishment was earning her initial PreK - 3 teaching license through Concordia College receiving it in June 2020.

Jennie Leunig - 2022-23 Morning and Afternoon Teacher - Second year with UHP


Hello! I’m Jennie and I’m so excited to be at UHP! I love working with kids, especially at camp or anywhere I can spend a good bit of time outdoors. My favorite summer camp, which I went to for nine summers as a camper and worked at for two summers, is the Concordia Language Villages’ German village, Waldsee.

I majored in Italian and International Studies at UW-Madison and I love learning new languages. This passion has taken me to study abroad years in Germany and Italy, and I am currently in the pursuit of learning French and Spanish. My love for languages coupled with my desire to work with children in a school setting steered me towards speech-language pathology and back to UW, where I am finished up the Communication Sciences & Disorders Capstone Program. When I’m not at preschool or in class, you can find me reading, baking, doing yoga, skiing (if there’s enough snow at Cascade Mountain), singing, or going for a walk by Lake Monona.

UHP is the perfect place to see smiling faces. Thanks for the warm welcome!

Cristina Rioja, TR Lunch Bunch Teacher - Second year with UHP


Hola! I am Ms. Cristina a Preschool Teacher. I am from Lima, Peru. Thirty years ago, I came to Oshkosh. I have always worked surrounded by little ones “chiquitos” in different programs. In July 2021, I retired and moved to Madison. I am so happy to be the Lunch Bunch Teacher on Tuesdays and Thursdays at UHP.


We are very happy to announce that Cristina will be our Tuesday & Thursday Lunch Bunch teacher for the 2022-23 Academic Year! Cristina has been working in childcare for over 30 years as a teacher at UW Oshkosh Head Start and as owner of her licensed daycare. She recently moved to Madison to be closer to her daughter. She was highly recommended to us: "Cristina has a genuine interest in providing natural and thoughtful experiences for children and families. She possesses a calmness that is shared with the children near her. Her love of teaching is unconditional and true. Her passion and patience for children leaves nothing to be desired." We are looking forward to another great year with Cristina!

Tabitha Engstrom, Summer Camp Teacher - MWF Lunch Bunch Teacher for the 21-22 Fall Semester.


My name is Tabitha Engstrom and I am so excited to start my second year working in the preschool setting, and third year teaching, here at University Houses Preschool!


In 2019 I graduated from University Wisconsin, Oshkosh with a BA in International Studies and Spanish. After graduating I felt a little lost with my career prospects, plans change! With the desire to get a little exploration under my belt I packed up my life and flew of to Valencia, Spain. I spent the better part of a year there teaching English of students ages kindergarten through 6th grade. I had such a blast, exploring Spain and other countries in Europe. It was also a great opportunity to perfect my Spanish. Besides studying Spanish, I learned it from my mother and visiting her home country, Nicaragua.


This past year I worked at a Head Start in Crystal Lake, IL, where I grew up and have lived my whole life. While working in Spain I discovered Speech Language Pathology, volunteering with one of the SLPs that worked at our school. While working at Head Start my interest in SLP only grew. That brings me to where I am today!


Currently, I am studying at UW, participating in their Speech Science and Disorder Capstone program. This program offers post baccalaureate students an opportunity to take all the CS&D courses required to apply to a Master's program if they did not study the field in undergraduate.


I am so excited to explore Madison, I love being in new places! So far, I am loving the UHP too, I feel warm and welcome and like I am right where I belong!

Renee Deschard - Substitute Teacher - 3 years with UHP

Renee has two children who attend UHP and is also the President of the UHP Board. Renee was a public school librarian for 8 years in Wisconsin and is looking forward to working with children again (and reading fun stories!). Her favorite past times are dancing, listening to music, singing and playing tennis. Her favorite children's book author is Mo Willems.


Our teachers are the heart of UHP. The work we do together as a team betters the lives of the children and families we serve. If you love children, play-based curriculum and being outside, you might be a good fit. Please apply by emailing a letter of interest and resume to kmbeck@uhpparentcooperative.org. Here are the job descriptions:

§ UHP Preschool Teacher

§ UHP 4K Teacher


Pay range is $14 – 18 per hour depending on experience. Part time teachers receive $250/month; Full Time $500/month from Child Care Counts Subsidy. Plus, $50/month for retirement.