Our Team

Julie Byrnes Bio Pic

Julie Byrnes - Interim Executive Director

As we search for a new leader of the Playhouse, Julie Byrnes is stepping in as Interim Executive Director. Julie joined GiGi’s Playhouse’s Board of Directors in May of 2018 and had been acting as the Vice President and Program Committee Chair. Julie is active with fundraising, and was the chairperson of the 2019 “i have a Voice” Gala.

Julie is a speech language pathologist with her own private practice and consulting business. Her specialized training includes a background in early childhood speech and language development and bilingual/dual language development. She has lived in Spain and traveled for extended periods in Belize, Mexico, and Latin America. Julie is a Madison native and grew up just up the street from GiGi’s Playhouse. She is married and has two young children.

Julie looks forward to meeting, serving and collaborating with our families, volunteers, and believers.

Heidi Christianson Bio PIc

Heidi Christianson - Site Assistant

Heidi is a native of Fargo North Dakota. She moved to Wisconsin the summer of 2015. She attended the University of North Dakota and taught Title Reading for many years at the elementary level. Heidi has been a stay at home mom for the past ten years. She and her husband Jim live in Cottage Grove and have three daughters Hannah, Miah, and Sophie.

Heidi served as secretary for the Red River Valley Figures Skating club for 10 years and has volunteered in many other capacities such as Jr. Achievement and Schools of Hope. In her spare time Heidi enjoys spending time with family and friends, yoga, traveling, reading, and scrapbooking. She is very excited to join the GiGi’s team.

Kayla Kristensen Bio Pic

Kayla Kristensen - Speech and Language Pathologist

Kayla moved to Madison from her hometown in Northwestern Wisconsin to pursue her undergraduate degree in psychology and communication sciences and disorders at the University of Wisconsin-Madison (UW-Madison). Kayla continued her studies with a Master's degree in speech-language pathology at UW-Madison. She was so excited to complete her clinical fellowship within the Waisman Center Clinics and has since worked within a variety of interdisciplinary teams at the Waisman Center, including the Down Syndrome, Newborn Follow-Up, Neuromotor Development, Feeding, Cerebral Palsy, Communication Aids and Systems, and Autism and Developmental Disabilities Clinics. Starting the Amina Grace Speech and Language Program at GiGi's Playhouse Down Syndrome Achievement Center has been an amazing experience for Kayla. She is highly motivated to partner with individuals with Down syndrome across the age span and their families and teams to provide evidence-based, individualized, and family-centered speech and language services. Kayla loves celebrating all the different ways that we use communication to connect with others.

Judy Heil Bio Pic

Judy Heil - Literacy Coordinator, SMART program leader

Judy Heil, a retired public school Speech/Language Pathologist, has been on the Program Committee since its inception at GiGi's Playhouse - Madison in 2016. She has been program leader for various GiGi's programs, including LMNOP, Leaps and Bounds, and the S.M.A.R.T. Adult program. Along with adult programming, her primary focus currently has been with the Literacy program as a tutor, tutor trainer, and more recently as Literacy Co-coordinator.

Outside of GiGi's Playhouse, Judy is active with Special Olympics, programs at her family church, and volunteer support at Edgerton Community Schools. Her family, friends and travels keep her "out of trouble" the rest of her waking hours.

Josh Tarum Bio Pic

Josh Tarum - GiGi Prep and GiGi Fit program leader

Josh moved from Eagan, Minnesota to Madison in order to pursue an undergraduate degree in neurobiology. He currently is a senior, and he plans to attend medical school in the fall of 2020. While in high school, Josh worked as a teaching assistant at the Eagan Montessori Academy. Today, he works as a research assistant in a neuroscience lab.

Josh loves sports, writing music, and volunteering. In his first two years at UW Madison, he was a signed electronic music producer for a local record label. He enjoys playing the drums, piano, and the guitar. Currently, Josh is a captain of the club wrestling team. Regarding volunteering, he likes to help out at an orphanage in Honduras, which is where he says he discovered his love for medicine. He is excited about his new role as GiGi Prep Assistant, and he looks forward to contributing to GiGi’s Playhouse.

Courtney Tymus Bio Pic

Courtney Tymus - GiGi Prep Teacher

I am finishing up my last semester with a major in Rehabilitation Psychology and a minor in Promoting Activities for Diverse Abilities! I started tutoring at GiGi’s in the Spring of 2019 and I fell in love with being able to use my creative side to ignite a passion for learning in others. I am honored to be given the opportunity to intern at GiGi’s for the summer and find so much joy in the successes of participants at the Playhouse.

I have previously interned as an inclusion specialist at an elementary school and worked in the UW Diagnostic Laboratory. I have also tutored at the Omega School helping adults with disabilities study for the GED, volunteered at the UW Rehabilitation Clinic, and served as a mentor for freshman pre-health students. I currently work as a personal care assistant as well as respite care provider for families in the Madison area. In my free time I enjoy cooking, photography, and doing anything outside! My ultimate goal is to become an occupational therapist and I will be applying to programs in the Fall!

Colleen Shapleigh Bio Photo

Colleen Shapleigh - Math Coordinator

Colleen moved to Madison 31 years ago with her husband to raise their family of 3 children. She received her undergraduate and graduate degrees from Purdue University in Elementary Education , Special Education, and Emotional Disturbances . Recently , Colleen retired from the Madison School District where she taught Middle Schoolers, worked as a Learning Coordinator, and also as a teacher coach. She was thrilled to begin her volunteering at Gigi's playhouse in the Summer of 2018, as a co-teacher in the LMNOP program. During the Winter of 2019, Colleen coordinated the pilot for the Math tutoring program and now that the program is established in Madison, is the Math coordinator for the program. In addition to volunteering at Gigi's , Colleen enjoys biking, hiking , traveling, and best of all spending time with her grandchildren !