FACULTY & STAFF

Administration

  • Mike Carioscio

    Interim Principal

  • Kristi Underhill

    Assistant Principal

    Kristi Underhill

    I grew up in Oak Park and attended Grace Lutheran School for 6th-8th grade (alumni from the class of '87). After graduating from OPRF and attending Calvin College (majoring in education and math with a minor in physics), I got married, moved to Atlanta and started a family. Our next big life jump as a family of 5 was a move to Maryland. After 12 years in Maryland, we moved back to the Chicagoland area in 2012. I began teaching at Grace in 2017.  I started as the PE and jr. high small group math teacher and continued in these roles for 3 years. Then I taught 6th grade for 3 years (there's definitely a 3-year pattern going here). This is my 7th school year working at Grace. For the '23-'24 school year I’ll be teaching math in the morning again and taking on Assistant Principal duties in the afternoon. I’ll be picking up some more sports coaching this year as well. I’m most excited about serving the Grace community in a new capacity while still having the opportunity to directly work with students in the classroom and on the court. Some of my personal passions include baking, sports, any kind of physical movement (not great at Zumba 😉), and encouraging students to try new things.

  • 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

  • Jennifer Brayton

    Pre Kindergarten Teacher

    Jennifer Brayton

    Pre Kindergarten Teacher

    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.

  • 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 oldest 3, graduated from Grace and our youngest currently attends Grace. I have a BA from Saint Xavier University in Chicago and a Master of Arts in Early Childhood Education from Concordia University Chicago. I have worked in Lutheran schools for the past ten years serving in various roles.

  • 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 family's church home. In my spare time I love reading, dancing and playing board games with my husband George. 

  • 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 many wonderful years. My interests outside of work are spending time with my husband, Craig, to whom I've been married for over 33 years. I also enjoy gardening, crafting and family game nights with my siblings.

     

     

Elementary

  • Megan Galeener

    First Grade Teacher

  • 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.

  • Christina Starrick

    Sixth Grade Teacher

    Christina Starrick

    I feel incredibly blessed to be have joined the staff at Grace! My husband, Michael, and I have been married for over 15 years. We have 2 kids who attend Grace and one that graduated from here. I have my Bachelors in Elementary Education from Western Governors University. I did my substitute teaching 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.

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.

  • 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.

  • Kristi Underhill

    Junior High Math

    Kristi Underhill

    I grew up in Oak Park and attended Grace Lutheran School for 6th-8th grade (alumni from the class of '87). After graduating from OPRF and attending Calvin College (majoring in education and math with a minor in physics), I got married, moved to Atlanta and started a family. Our next big life jump as a family of 5 was a move to Maryland. After 12 years in Maryland, we moved back to the Chicagoland area in 2012. I began teaching at Grace in 2017.  I started as the PE and jr. high small group math teacher and continued in these roles for 3 years. Then I taught 6th grade for 3 years (there's definitely a 3-year pattern going here). This is my 7th school year working at Grace. For the '23-'24 school year I’ll be teaching math in the morning again and taking on Assistant Principal duties in the afternoon. I’ll be picking up some more sports coaching this year as well. I’m most excited about serving the Grace community in a new capacity while still having the opportunity to directly work with students in the classroom and on the court. Some of my personal passions include baking, sports, any kind of physical movement (not great at Zumba 😉), and encouraging students to try new things.

Additional Staff

  • Karla Koehne

    Resource Teacher

    Karla Koehne

    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. Later, I was hired in Forest Park Public Schools as their Resource Teacher. Each of these wonderful positions have added to my experience, but Grace has given 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.

  • 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

    Athletic Director and Physical Education Teacher

    Sarah McCabe

    Athletic Director and 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 was 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.

  • Julian Tyus

    Art Teacher

    Julian Tyus

    Julian Tyus received his Bachelor of Fine Arts from Art Center College of Design in Pasadena. A California native, his passion for the arts led him to the city of Chicago, where he earned his Master of Fine Arts from the School of Art Institute Chicago. As an art instructor, he believes that art is a vehicle for self-expression and personal development as well as a necessary component for a well-rounded educational experience.

  • Michelle Marinello

    Social Worker

    Michelle Marinello

    Social Worker

    708.366.6900

    Ms. Marinello spent 10 years teaching 6th-8th grades in Glen Ellyn, District 91.  During that time, she got a master’s degree in school counseling.  She then took time off to be home with her family and is now working part time as a school counselor through Student Savvy.  She comes with excellent recommendations about how well she works with students, teachers, and administration.

  • 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 am on track to graduate from Dominican University Spring of 2024 and am looking forward to starting my Master of Arts in Christian Apologetics from Talbot School of Theology at Biola University. 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 now have two children at Grace. My son is a 4th grader this 23-24 school year, and my daughter in 1st grade. I look forward to building more relationships with all of our current and incoming Grace families.

    Some of my favorite pastimes, besides having fun with my kids, are learning interesting history facts, learning Polish, 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!).

  • Caitlin Wilkes

    Speech Pathologist

    Caitlin Wilkes

    Speech Pathologist

    cwilkes@graceriverforest.org

    I am excited to be joining the Grace community for the 2023-2024 school year.  I am a licensed speech-language pathologist who earned my Master of Science in Speech, Language, and Learning from Northwestern University.  I have worked primarily with children and adolescents in both school and private practice settings with a focus on articulation and phonological disorders, receptive-expressive language disorders, and augmentative and alternative communication. I understand the importance of working as a team in order to best advance a student's speech and language goals and I am eager to collaborate with students, families, and educators at Grace. Outside of work, I enjoy spending time with my husband and children, gardening, and exploring the outdoors.

  • Natalie Salinas

    Extended Day Care

  • Tatianna Allen

    Extended Day Care

  • Joshua Curry

    Extended Day Care

  • Anthony Jamison

    Extended Day Care

  • Bethany Roethel

    Extended Day Care

  • Herbert Gamble

    Extended Day Care

  • Ashanta French

    Extended Day Care

Elementary Education Committee Members:

Joanna Schubkegel
Ed Mason
Nicole Schimidt
Janel Bishop
Ed Kelly
Jessica Bullock
Sara Chizzo

 

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