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.

  • Eileen Maggio

    School Administrative Assistant

    Eileen Maggio

    School Administrative Assistant

    1-708-366-6900

    office@graceriverforest.org

    I have been the administrative assistant for Grace School since August, 2003. Previously I worked at St. Luke Parish School in River Forest, where I held the position of library media specialist for thirteen years. My husband, Joe, and I have been members of Grace Church since 1990, and both of our sons are Grace alumni. In my spare time I enjoy sewing and reading mystery novels.

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. 

Elementary

  • Jessi Pedersen

    First Grade Teacher

    Jessi Pedersen

    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 teach 2nd!
    I did take a break in between teaching to stay home and raise my son, who just started 2nd grade this year and 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.
  • Ahliyah Watson

    Third Grade Teacher

    Ahliyah Watson

    God works in mysterious ways and in his doings, I found Grace Lutheran School. I had the privilege of completing my student teaching experience at Grace Lutheran and it has been an honor to teach at such a wonderful place.

    I grew up on the West Side of Chicago, in the Garfield Park neighborhood. It's close to the Conservatory and the Golden Dome if you are familiar with those places. However, I did not spend much time in schools in my neighborhood. For elementary school, I went to Octavio Paz, which is in Little Village. For high school, I went to Chicago Hope Academy and Providence St. Mel. I've had the chance to experience a lot of fortunes and I am pleased that I am now able to pass on those fortunes to your children!

    Outside of teaching I like to read, cook, write poetry, watch/attend games (basketball, softball, baseball), and spend time with family and friends.

  • 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 recently 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.

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 School 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 Teaching 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!

  • Kristen McShane

    Reading Specialist

    Kristen McShane

    I have been in the field of education for 15 years in many capacities - I have worked as an elementary and special education teacher in suburban, city, private and public schools, a doctoral student working with teacher candidates and assisting research, and now as a business owner of The Learning Specialist. Celebrating the growth and success of others is what brings me the greatest joy. When I am not working, I love to spend time with my husband Luke, daughter Reagan and our Bernese Mountain Dog named Faith.

  • Melissa Hammer

    Art Teacher

    Melissa Hammer

    Born in Grafton, Wisconsin, I spent my childhood on a beautiful hobby farm with my parents and three brothers.  I had a Lutheran education through eighth grade  and after high school went on to study art education at Evangel College in Springfield, Missouri, eventually transferring to the University of Wisconsin Milwaukee. Although I continued to pursue my passion in the arts by honing my potting skills and taking sculpture classes, I found professional success for many years in sales and marketing.

    After getting married, starting a family and staying home with my children, I eased back into the working world as a part-time public speaker in a patient advocacy program for a pharmaceutical company. I spent several years volunteering at Grace School, then worked as a teacher aide in the kindergarten classroom. I became the art teacher in the fall of 2014.

    In the art studio first through eighth-graders explore painting, drawing, sculpture, 3-D art and, more recently, clay, as well as art hisotry. Teaching art to our students is fun and exciting, and it is also good for the soul. I truly feel it was God’s hand in my life that brought me here.

  • 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.

  • Bryce True

    Physical Education Teacher

    Bryce True

    Physical Education Teacher

    1-708-366-6900

    btrue@graceriverforest.org

    I graduated from National Louis University with a Business Degree and worked in the logistics industry for a short while. I realized then my passion was working with students as I had worked with high school students over a number of summers. I decided to return to school and now attend Concordia University and am pursuing my Masters Degree in Physical Education. I have worked as a teaching assistant in Hinsdale and as a permanent substitute in Oak Park for the last few years. I am excited about the opportunity to teach Physical Education to the students at Grace Lutheran.

  • 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.

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

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