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080514-NWS-PRIARIE-NEW-HEAD-OF-SCHOOL

Nathaniel “Nat” Coffman, the new head of school at the Prairie School, talks with students on Aug. 5 at the school.

WIND POINT — Nathaniel “Nat” Coffman makes two seemingly mundane goals a key to his daily routine: learning and improving a little bit each day.

In a somewhat cluttered, disorganized office he was still moving into at The Prairie School, he retrieved a sign he planned to hang in his office that he thought summed up his commitment to these goals.

“You have to apply yourself each day to become a little better,” he read. “By applying yourself to the task of becoming a little better each and every day over a period of time, you’ll become a lot better.”

Going into his first year as Head of School at The Prairie School, 4050 Lighthouse Drive, Wind Point, Coffman used the goal to sum up his new job description.

“I see my job — just like we were talking about every kid being their best self, every student becoming their best self — as to help this school grow and get better; a little bit better every day.”

Coffman, who assumed his new office July 1, is the fifth Head of School in Prairie’s 50-year history and said he plans to continue the tradition of staying at the K-12 private school for a long time.

With the updated title Head of School, Coffman takes over for former Headmaster Mark Murphy, the school’s longest-serving headmaster who started in 1993 and retired June 30.

Coffman went through a lengthy selection process, during which he visited the school twice and interviewed with various committees and panels of faculty, administrators and school trustees, according to Rick Fields, the school’s senior marketing director.

“All those groups gave input and it was unanimous that he was the right person for the job,” Fields said.

Coffman most recently came from York Country Day School in York, Pennsylvania, a similarly nonreligious private school of about 220 students compared to Prairie’s about 670 students.

Not only excited to move with his family closer to the Chicago area where he was raised, Coffman said he has been hearing of Prairie’s reputation as an exceptional school and will enroll his two children here in the coming year.

“This school has a truly national reputation,” he said. “When this opportunity became available, I wanted to be a part of it … and I felt pretty lucky honestly when I got the job.”

Coffman said he will take the first year to observe and determine what the schools strengths are and how it can improve. He added that he plans to spend many years at the school in the tradition of past headmasters.

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