FACULTY & STAFF

Dedicated, caring, faithful teachers.

Creating a welcoming space where every student belongs.

At Grace Lutheran School, our teachers care about and pay attention to every child. They know each student’s unique strengths, interests, and characteristics, and encourage them to pursue what they care about most. Our educators seek to continue their own growth as well and live out their faith in every part of their lives and work.

Administration

  • Bill Koehne

    Principal

    Bill Koehne

    I am a proud product of Lutheran education from kindergarten through advanced degrees.  I graduated from Zion Lutheran School in Bensenville, Walther Lutheran High School in Melrose Park, and Concordia University Chicago.  I have also received a Masters in Curriculum & Instruction and a Type 75 Administration Certificate from Concordia.  My teaching career began in 1991 at my alma mater, Walther Lutheran High School, where I taught mathematics and coached boys track and basketball.  I began serving as the school principal at Grace on July 1, 2012. I have been a member of the congregation at Grace Lutheran Church since 1999 when I married my wife Karla, a life-long member of Grace Church.

  • Jessica Allen

    School Administrative Assistant

    Jessica Allen

    School Administrative Assistant

    ext. 205

    jallen@graceriverforest.org

    I attended Moody Bible Institute in Christian education but graduated from Judson University. While in college, I worked at Riverwoods Christian Center in the summers, where I met my husband. We have 7 children, and I homeschooled for 6 years. I worked as a teacher’s assistant in special education for 6 years. I enjoy relaxing at home with my family watching movies and playing games.

Early Childhood

  • Tina Baird

    Pre-Kindergarten Teacher

    Tina Baird

    Pre-Kindergarten Teacher

    708-366-6900

    tbaird@graceriverforest.org

    I moved to River Forest from Littleton, Colorado, but am a Midwest native. I grew up in Wisconsin. After receiving a BA in Communicative Disorders from Valparaiso University, I returned to Milwaukee, where I obtained a post-baccalaureate degree in Early Childhood/Exceptional Education Needs from Cardinal Stritch University. I have worked in a variety of education settings, my favorite being at a summer camp for children with developmental delays on the shores of Lake Superior. Previously, I was a speech therapist at a PreK-8 school in Colorado. In my spare time, I enjoy spending time outdoors with my husband, Mick, and three sons, Caelin, Clayton, and Cole.

  • Kim Hoffman

    Junior Kindergarten Teacher

    Kim Hoffman

    Junior Kindergarten Teacher

    708-366-6900

    khoffman@graceriverforest.org

    I have been a member of Grace for over 16 years. My husband, Bryan, is a life-long member of Grace and graduated from Grace School in 1992. We have four beautiful children, two boys and two girls. Our daughters, both now in high school, graduated from Grace and our sons both currently attend Grace. I have a BA from Saint Xavier University in Chicago and I am currently working on my Master of Arts in Early Childhood Education at Concordia University Chicago. I have worked in Lutheran schools for the past ten years serving in various roles. I am so excited for the opportunity to be the Junior Kindergarten teacher at Grace.

  • Jackie Johnson

    Senior Kindergarten Teacher

    Jackie Johnson

    Senior Kindergarten Teacher

    1-708-366-6900

    jjohnson@graceriverforest.org

    My name is Jacquette (Jackie) Johnson-Lindmark and I have worked at Grace since 2005. I have a B.S. in Elementary Education and I am a certified Slant Reading Instructor. 2 of my 3 children have been students at Grace and it is also my families church home. In my spare time I love reading, dancing and playing board games with my husband George. 

  • Megan Galeener

    Pre-Kindergarten Aide

    Megan Galeener

    Pre-Kindergarten Aide

    I have had several years of experience in  early childhood education. I have bachelors of science in Human development with a concretion in child development from the University of Illinois.  I’m married to Aaron, and we have three beautiful children who attend Grace. If you don’t see my kids at Grace, they are probably at the baseball field or ice rink. We have a golden-doodle named Maverick who loves travel with us. His favorite trip was going out west to Yellowstone last summer. Our cat, Buttercup Sprinkles, has partiality to sticking closer to home and enjoys hanging out with me while I drink coffee and read on the deck.

  • Jennifer Brayton

    Senior Kindergarten Aide

    Jennifer Brayton

    Senior Kindergarten Aide

    I am a lifelong member of Grace Lutheran Church and School, having attended and graduated from Grace in the late 1980's.  I have a bachelor's degree in education from Knox College in Galesburg, Illinois. My husband, Mike, and I were married at Grace and all 6 of our children have either graduated from Grace or currently attend the school.  My interests have always included the education and care of young children. I also enjoy watching movies, Starbucks drinks, and spending time with friends and family.

  • Julie Brown

    Junior Kindergarten Aide

    Julie Brown

    Junior Kindergarten Aide

    I am fortunate to be a Grace School alum and proud to say it was here at Grace that I was taught that Jesus loves me and all his children. I was taught to be kind of others and treat them with respect and dignity. I graduated from Oak Park River Forest High School, where I enjoyed their early childhood classes, and then worked full-time at a small infant and toddler day care program in Oak Park. I continued my studies at Triton in their early childhood program. I was fortunate to work at St. John Lutheran School in Forest Park, which later became Walther Lutheran Academy. After many years of working as a preschool teacher's aide and in the after-school program there, I came to Grace where I have worked for four wonderful years. My interests outside of work are spending time with my husband, Craig, to whom I've been married for 33 years. I also enjoy gardening, crafting and family game nights with my siblings. In the fall and winter months, I assist with dog training in the evenings when I'm not in class with our dog, Mae.

     

     

Elementary

  • Jessi Pederson

    First Grade Teacher

    Jessi Pederson

    I have taught in Lutheran schools for 17 years since graduating from Concordia University Chicago with a degree in Lutheran Early Childhood Education in December of 1999. Nine of those years have been spent as a 1st grade teacher, which I have found to be my favorite teaching position. I love to foster the development of and love for reading with these 6 and 7 year-olds.

    I have enjoyed taking some additional courses focusing mostly on reading and writing skills and applications, and I am always reading for enjoyment and to keep myself current with educational practices and theories. When I am not working, I can be found enjoying my own 3 children and going on big and little family adventures.

  • Meagan Cullen

    Second Grade Teacher

    Meagan Cullen

    Second Grade Teacher

    1-708-366-6900

    I was born and raised in the Beverly neighborhood on Chicago's south side. I graduated cum laude from DePaul University with a degree in Elementary Education and then immediately began teaching in Chicago Public Schools. I then received my master's degree in Curriculum and Instruction from American College of Education. Throughout my ten year career as a teacher I have taught many grades, and I am beyond excited to teaching 2nd!
    I did take a break in between teaching to stay home and raise my son, who keeps me on my toes. Together with my husband Nathan and son Colin, I love to listen to music, travel, cook, bike and hike.  We are always looking for new experiences that our wonderful world has to offer. I look forward to keeping the spark of curiosity alive in my students as well.  I feel so very blessed and honored to be a member of the Grace Lutheran team.
  • Christina Starrick

    Third Grade Teacher

    Christina Starrick

    I feel incredibly blessed to be joining the staff at Grace as the 3rd grade teacher! My husband, Michael, and I are celebrating our 15th anniversary this year and have 3 kids who attend Grace. I have my Bachelors in Elementary Education from Western Governors University. Last year, I was a very busy substitute teacher at Grace where I got to know so many of the wonderful students at our school. Prior to teaching, I was the director of a homeschool co-op in Oak Park and tutored there as well.

    Outside of the classroom, I primarily spend my time reading, strength training, or lying in the hammock.

  • Ruthi Brucato

    Fourth Grade Teacher

    Ruthi Brucato

    The Lord has blessed our family by the ministry of Grace Lutheran School and I am honored to be the fourth grade teacher. I hope to daily extend the grace and love of Jesus Christ to my students. I grew up in West Africa and California and moved to Chicago to attend Moody Bible Institute, where I received a B.A. in Elementary Education and Bible. I then attended Wheaton College Graduate School for certification in T.E.S.O.L (teaching English as a second language) and taught for a few years at Oak Park Christian Academy. The Lord brought my family to serve and work in Bologna, Italy, for almost 8 years before leading us to live in Oak Park and enroll our children in Grace School. Outside of school I love going downtown in Chicago, swimming, cooking (Italian food!), and spending time outside with my sweet husband and amazing four children.

  • Lisa Nelson

    Fifth Grade Teacher

    Lisa Nelson

    Serving children is my passion. I have been blessed to work with children of all ages for many years, with the bulk of my experience in the fifth grade. I am excited and thankful to now serve the fifth and sixth grade classes at Grace!

    My husband and I relocated to Oak Park after living thirty years outside the United States. We spent our years between Bolivia, Costa Rica, and Slovakia. At times challenging, living abroad was a humbling, enriching time for our family. We returned to the US to be closer to an aging parent, our six children and their spouses, and our first grandchild!

    I enjoy many things, but I am always grateful for time to go on walks with my husband, visit with our children, sit by the fire and read, provide hospitality, and just create.

  • Kristi Underhill

    Sixth Grade Teacher

    Kristi Underhill

    I grew up in Oak Park and attended Grace School for 6th-8th grade. After graduating from OPRF, attending Calvin College and majoring in education with an emphasis on math and physics, I got married, moved to Atlanta and started a family. Life was full with three children and another big move to Maryland. After 12 years in Maryland, we moved back to the Chicagoland area in 2012. There is never a dull moment in my home with my son, his wife and their 4 children living with us. All 4 of my grandchildren happily attend Grace Lutheran School this year.

    Prior to becoming the 6th grade teacher, I taught PE and 7/8 small group math at Grace Lutheran for 3 years. I am loving teaching 6th grade because it’s such a crossroads of maturity and establishing successful life habits getting ready for junior high. Besides all of the academic objectives in sixth grade, my individual student goals include team building, learning appropriate ways to ask for help, taking care of your own business, staying out of drama, and having a growth mindset. Some of my personal passions include baking, sports, moving, and encouraging students to try new things. The smile when a student masters a skill keeps me motivated.

  • Jami Raad

    First Grade Teacher Aide

    Jami Raad

    First Grade Teacher Aide

    I am so excited to be joining the 1st grade class at Grace this fall! I am a mom of two middle school kiddos that are attending Grace, who I have homeschooled in the past. I have also worked as a substitute teacher, a nanny, and as a children's ministry leader at my church. I love kids, and I love to teach them new things! I'm an extroverted city girl who loves nature, so pretty much anything with people or the outdoors makes me happy. I love to read a good novel or poetry, and I do math and logic puzzles to relax. I can't wait to meet our new class, read some fun books to them, and find out what kinds of things each of them enjoys doing!

Junior High

  • Brian Schultz

    Seventh Grade Teacher

    Brian Schultz

    I am the junior high math and science teacher. I have been teaching at Grace since 2008. Aside from teaching the students about the wonders of the mathematical world, I coach boys basketball and track and field. I received my undergraduate and graduate degrees from Valparaiso University. Outside of school I enjoy spending time traveling with my wife, Liz, and our daughter, Athena.

  • Lisa Wolfanger

    Eighth Grade Teacher

    Lisa Wolfanger

    I have been a teacher in Lutheran schools for more than two decades. Before coming to Grace, I taught in Lutheran schools in Pittsburgh and New York City. I received a bachelor's degree in education from Concordia, River Forest, Illinois, and a master's in education from Nazareth College, Rochester, New York. At Grace I teach English-language arts, American history, and religion. In addition to my classroom duties, I direct the Grace School bell choir as well as the church's youth and adult bell choirs.

  • Breah Ponce

    Junior High Math

    Breah Ponce

    I attended Judson University for undergrad and double majored in Mathematics & Psychology. After a brief dip in corporate America, I knew I wanted to veer my career towards teaching. I quickly obtained my professional teaching license alongside my Master of Arts in Teaching at Trinity International University. I taught mathematics for four years at Morton West High School, during which I had three children. I then put my teaching career on pause for 10 years to raise my children full time, and as a bonus, I had a fourth baby! In 2020-21, I had the pleasure of returning to the classroom via Grace Lutheran School, teaching middle school math. I absolutely love GLS and thank God for the opportunity to educate young thinkers within the Christian framework.

Additional Staff

  • Karla Koehne

    Special Education Coordinator

    Karla Koehne

    Special Education Coordinator

    1-708-366-6900

    kkoehne@graceriverforest.org

    Grace has been home to me for my entire life, so it is a true blessing to be here as an educator working in the same halls that I walked as a student. I am very excited to be the Special Education Coordinator here at Grace, supporting students with their learning in the classroom or in small group sessions.

    I received my Elementary Education degree from Valparaiso University and my Master’s degree in Reading from Concordia University. Throughout my years of teaching, I have taught 2nd, 4th, and 5th grade and then I became the Reading Specialist and ESL teacher in the River Forest Public Schools for 16 years. My husband, Bill, and I adopted three amazing boys from South Korea and I decided to hang up my hat from teaching to enjoy raising our boys at home. After 10 years, the urge to teach came back. I joined the staff at St. Andrews as a resource teacher and then pursued an endorsement in Special Education. I was hired in Forest Park Public Schools as their Resource Teacher. Each of these wonderful positions have added to my experience, but Grace will give me the opportunity to share my faith and my love for Jesus Christ.

    In my free time, I am spending time with all the boys in my life traveling, hiking, playing games, gardening and cooking!

  • Keary Bramwell

    School Librarian

    Keary Bramwell

    School Librarian

    708-366-6900

    My Dad and Step-Mom are both librarians, and my Mom is an English teacher so I grew up around books. It seemed natural for me to combine the two and become a children’s librarian. After getting my Master’s degree in Library Sciences, I worked at the Mount Prospect Public Library for 11 years as the Youth Collection Librarian. I then took some time off working to be a stay home mom once I had my daughter, but I have stayed active in the field through committee work, including through my current work on the Newbery Committee and joined Grace Lutheran School in 2021.

    I think of the library as a place to support students both in and out of the classroom. This means that in addition to strong research skills, students need to have access to a diverse collection. Books can be windows or mirrors and children need both to grow.

    When I'm not working, I'm probably spending time with my husband and daughter or reading. I also love spending time outside, working on craft projects, and baking.

  • Natalie Johnson

    Art Teacher

    Natalie Johnson

    I graduated with a degree in fine arts and child psychology from Western Michigan University in Kalamazoo. My passion for the arts, specifically working with children, brought me back to my roots in the Chicago area. I’ve worked the past 6 years in various art studios and programs working to help deepen creativity, imagination, and connection with children. Any chance I get, I love learning new art mediums and techniques! I’ve had the privilege of working in studios specializing in clay, book arts and papermaking, just to name a few. Outside the art room, I love to travel to new places and visit my family in Upper Michigan. I look forward to growing with the students and staff at Grace Lutheran School! I can’t wait to see what we create together!

  • Johanna Johnson

    Music Teacher

    Johanna Johnson

    I have a music education degree from Indiana University Bloomington.  I have spent many years teaching classroom music and private lessons, and joined Grace Lutheran School as the music teacher in 2021.  I have been a member of the Grace Parish Choir for about 5 years, and also play the French horn and piano.  I am blessed to have three musical children, all of whom attended Grace.

    When I am not working, I enjoy reading, going to concerts, spending time with friends, and watching movies with my cats, Bono, and Charlie. I love spending time with my children, and also enjoy traveling.

  • Sarah McCabe

    Physical Education Teacher

    Sarah McCabe

    Physical Education Teacher

    1-708-366-6900

    smccabe@graceriverforest.org

    After 21 years at Oak Park River Forest High School, including six years of teaching and 21 years of coaching, and another 10 years at Westview Hills Middle School, I am thrilled to join the Grace teaching team and get to work with the children of Grace Lutheran School. This wonderful place is the foundation of my educational journey. High School years at Oak Park River Forest, a degree from St. Olaf College, and classes and student teaching through Concordia University Chicago all contributed to developing my sense of calling to work with children. My husband Mark and our daughters Grace and Catie are excited for me as I eagerly embrace the opportunity to cheer on our Grace students. I am so grateful that God has led me back to Grace!

  • Erika Lyle

    German Teacher

    Erika Lyle

    I studied German at Concordia College in Moorhead, Minnesota. After I graduated, I traveled to Martin, Slovakia to teach English to first-graders. After that amazing year, I returned to the States and accepted a position teaching German at Oshkosh North High School in Wisconsin. I taught there for three years, after which my husband and I moved to sunny South Carolina. During our seven years there I spent my time substitute teaching and eventually became a stay-at-home mom when our three children were born. My family and I moved to Oak Park in 2015 when my husband, Dave, accepted the call to be Grace’s Senior Pastor. We enjoy being back in the Midwest and love being part of the Grace Lutheran Church and School family.

  • Cheldon R. White

    Band Teacher

    Cheldon R. White

    I attended Indiana State University in Terre Haute, Indiana and studied music. I am from Bellwood, Illinois, and being a graduate of Walther Lutheran High Schoo (now Walther Christian Academy), I felt it was my calling to come back for an opportunity to make an impact in the area where I grew up. In 2020 I started teaching instrumental lessons  at elementary schools in the area including Grace as part of Walther's band program. Percussion and euphonium/tuba are my principal instruments. I am thankful to my family for teaching me to play percussion as I was growing up.  I got my start in our Baptist church. Outside of music I enjoy sports such as basketball, football and martial arts along with activities in nature. Although I do not have children of my own, I am blessed to have four nephews, one niece and two amazing pet turtles.

     

  • Ana Garcia

    Director of Enrollment and Marketing

    Ana Garcia

    Director of Enrollment and Marketing

    708-366-6900

    agarcia@graceriverforest.org

    I started my studies at Judson University, and am currently finishing them up at Dominican University in River Forest. I worked in corporate America for years, but wanted to move into a career I am passionate about. I have always been involved in volunteer work with children or youth, whether that was a youth/children's ministry leader at my church, or an assistant coach to my son's soccer team. I have a passion for providing kids with knowledge, faith, and confidence.

    My oldest started attending Grace at age 4. Every year, I became more and more involved at Grace. I believe in what Grace is doing for its students and community. This is my first year working at Grace, and I feel so blessed to be able to help with its mission to bring in, build up, and send out disciples for Jesus Christ. I now have two children at Grace. My son is a 3rd grader and my daughter is in kindergarten. I look forward to building relationships with all of our Grace families.

    Some of my favorite pastimes, besides having fun with my kids, are learning interesting history facts, training for half marathons, and reading.

  • Betty Lewis

    Orchestra/Violin and Viola Teacher

    Betty Lewis

    Orchestra/Violin and Viola Teacher

    Betty Lewis is an active violinist and violist in the Chicago area performing with groups as diverse as Broadway in Chicago shows and as an extra with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. In the summer, she is on the faculty of the Birch Creek Music Performance Center and is a member of the Peninsula Music Festival in Door County, Wisconsin. She teaches violin and viola at the Chicago School of Violin Making and runs the Starter Strings program for the Hyde Park Youth Orchestra. Ms. Lewis has performed extensively with the Bach Cantata Vespers ministry at Grace and is thrilled to be teaching at Grace School.

  • Jean Hatmaker

    Cello Teacher

    Jean Hatmaker

    I grew up in nearby Elmhurst in a musical family; I started playing the cello when I was just shy of my third birthday. Music has always been my calling. I went to Indiana University to get a Bachelors and Masters in Music Performance under the tutelage of Janos Starker. I have been very fortunate to have a robust career as a performer, specializing in chamber music, and can frequently be seen in Grace’s sanctuary either performing with my quartet, the Kontras Quartet, or playing for the Bach Cantata Vespers series. When I’m not at Grace I can be found performing in other venues around the Chicago area, as principal cellist of the Elmhurst Symphony, occasionally on the road on tour with Kontras, or even sometimes at bluegrass festivals with our good friends the Kruger Brothers! 

    Teaching is meaningful to me because I love to help others enrich their relationship to music and cultivate a new skill. I have students of all ages, from first grade up through adults in their 80s. Besides teaching at Grace, I am also the cello professor at Elmhurst University, and I see private students in my home in Oak Park. My husband and I have a cat and a retired greyhound dog. We enjoy curling up as a family with a good book or watching TV (when I’m not practicing, that is!).

  • Courtney Clennon

    Speech Pathologist

    Courtney Clennon

    Speech Pathologist

    cclennon@graceriverforest.org

    I am the Speech Pathologist at Grace Lutheran this year.  I also work in Early Intervention as a speech therapist and have been doing so for 12 years.  I have three daughters and a poodle.  In my free time I like to play golf with my husband or ride bikes with my daughters. Also, I love to bake!

Testimonials

Grace has been such a blessing for our family. We came to Grace with a fourth grader, a second grader, and a junior kindergartener. Our oldest struggled with reading prior to starting at Grace, but after just a year she has made tremendous strides and thoroughly enjoys reading now. The teachers and staff do not just care about the academic strides the students make. They care deeply about the students themselves and the entire family. Grace truly is a wonderful community and I am so glad we found them!

parent

I recently transferred my 10-year-old son to Grace from a public school. It was one of the best decisions I have ever made. My son is excited to go to school and loves that he has friends. I am so happy that he could walk in and feel at home, loved, and nurtured. The staff is so wonderful.

parent

I have two kids who attended Grace Lutheran School and both have come out well-prepared for high school. We liked that Grace had a diverse student body from a wide variety of zip codes. The staff is made up of dedicated and talented teachers, many of whom come back after retirement and volunteer at the school. The music instruction is fantastic and the athletic offerings give students of all skill levels the opportunity to participate and compete in a supportive environment. Our family felt an overwhelming sense of community at Grace, fostered by involved parents combined with the support of school faculty, staff, and Grace Church itself. If you’re considering a private school education for your child, do yourself a favor and check out Grace. You won’t be disappointed.

parent