Lydia Nantwi 

Ms. Nantwi has been an educator for more than 30 years and she has a Master’s degree in African History from Northwestern University, a Master’s Degree in Educational Administration and Supervision from Governors State University, an ABD (All But Dissertation) from the University of Chicago, and an Ed.D in Transformative Leadership from Concordia University.

School President

Phyllis Winter

Ms. Winter is the heart and soul of Children of Peace. The founding Principal of the Trinity School for the Deaf, Ms. Winter served as Principal of Children of Peace School when the school was formed in the early 1990s after a merger of three Catholic schools. Ms. Winter is supposed to be retired but she is at Children of Peace from 6:00 a.m. until 6:00 p.m. She provides homework assistance to children in the after-care program. She also teaches sign language to the younger students.

Director of Special Education
Susan Leef
Ms. Leef has considerable experience in specialized services. In addition to her Master’s degree in School Administration and Supervision, and a degree in elementary education, Ms. Leef has certification in ELL (English Language Learners), and an LBS1 (Learning Behavior Specialist) certification to serve students with special needs. She also has certification as a Director of Special Education.

School Secretary

Maria Beltran

Ms. Beltran has served in various capacities at Children of Peace School for almost 25 years. Ms. Beltran is the first point of contact for parents and visitors and she manages the day-to-day operations of the school. Ms. Beltran has a degree in elementary education from San Miguel University

in Allende, Mexico.

Finance Manager

Shannon Carsello

Ms. Carsello serves part-time as the Director of Finance for Children of Peace. Ms Carsello has a degree in Accounting from the University of Illinois and she has worked at Children of Peace School for more than 15 years.

Sign Langauge Interpreteurs

Dr. Carole Clark

This is Dr. Clark’s second year serving as a sign language interpreter at Children of Peace. In addition to providing interpreting services for our students who are deaf or hard of hearing, Dr. Clark also teaches sign language to students in grades 3-8.

Diane Russell

Ms. Russell has ministered to the deaf and hard of hearing for many years. She provides service to students at Children of Peace as a sign language interpreter. A retired teacher, Ms. Russell has a Bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education and a Master’s degree in Deaf Education from Illinois State University. Ms. Russell is a member of the International Catholic Deaf Association and the

National Catholic Office of the Deaf.

School Support Staff

Before-and-After-School Care

Tanya Coleman & Bertha Williams Everett


Jennifer Jones & Madeline Morales


Javier Avila & Emilio Calderone



Marylu Dukic

Marylu Dukic has a Bachelor’s degree and she is a Montessori credentialed educator. As an elementary school teacher, Ms. Dukic taught on a Navajo Reservation and she served as adjunct professor at Luther College, supervising student teachers.

Montessori Teaching Assistant

Cynthia Mennella

Cynthia Mennella has served the students at Children of Peace for 15 years. She also teaches children’s liturgy at Notre Dame de Chicago Parish. Ms. Mennella has a degree in Accounting and Finance from Sydney Technical College in Australia. In addition to her Bachelor’s degree, Ms. Mennella is a certified Montessori paraprofessional.

Pre-K 3

Therese Kroeker

Therese Kroeker is entering her first year at Children of Peace. She graduated cum laude from DeVry University with a Bachelor’s degree in Computer Information Systems and she has a Master’s degree in Education. Ms. Kroeker has more than 10 years of experience as an educator in both public and private schools.

Pre-K 4

Catherine Escoto

Catherine Escoto has been a teacher at Children of Peace School for 16 years. In addition to teaching our Pre-K students, Ms. Escoto also serves as volleyball coach. She has a Bachelor’s degree in Early Childhood Education from

St. Xavier University.

Pre-K Teaching Assistant

Estrella Santana

Estrella Santana aka known as Ms. Starr is the teacher assistant for Pre-K3 and Pre-K4. Ms. Santana has a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology and is a graduate student at UIC studying

Early Childhood Education.

Kindergarten/First Grade

Veronica Gibson

Veronica Gibson is a graduate of Walter Payton High School and she has a Bachelor’s degree from Bethune-Cookman University. This is Ms. Gibson’s first year at Children of Peace School. She previously served as an early childhood educator with the Easter Seal Society.

Second Grade

Kendra Oprondek

This is her first year at Children of Peace but Kendra Oprondek (aka as Ms. O) brings more than 15 years of experience as an educator to our school. Ms. Oprondek has a Bachelor’s degree from Drake University and a Master’s degree in Elementary Education from St. Xavier where she graduated with a 4.0 GPA.

Third Grade

Francesca Varela

Francesca Varela has been a teacher at Children of Peace for 11 years. Ms. Varela serves as the third grade homeroom teacher and she teaches math to students in grades 3-5. In addition to her catechetical certification, Ms. Varela has a Bachelor’s degree from North Park College in Elementary Education and Psychology. Ms. Varela is endorsed in Middle School Science and Social Studies.

Fourth Grade

Ginny Halisz

Ginny Halisz earned a degree in Elementary Education from Northeastern Illinois University with a minor in Language Arts, Ms. Halisz has been a teacher at Children of Peace for 35 years. In addition to teaching Language Arts to 3rd, 4th, and 5th graders, Ms. Halisz serves as the homeroom teacher for 4th grade.

Fifth Grade

Pamela Helgerson

Pamela Helgerson, in addition to serving as the homeroom teacher for 5th graders, teaches Social Studies and Science to students in grades 3-5. Ms. Helgerson has been a teacher at Children of Peace for 16 years and she has a Bachelor’s degree in Education from Concordia University.

Sixth Grade

Kimberly Foley

Kimberly Foley is our 6th grade homeroom teacher.

Mrs. Foley has a Bachelor’s degree in English Education from Winona State University and a Master’s degree in Reading from Concordia University. Ms. Foley teaches English/Language Arts to our 6th – 8th graders. This is Mrs. Foley’s fifth year serving the students

at Children of Peace.

Seventh Grade

Anne Kach

Anne Kach teaches mathematics to our 6th – 8th grade students and she serves as the 7th grade homeroom teacher. Ms. Kach has a Bachelor’s degree in Mathematics and Secondary Education from Marquette University and a Master’s in Mathematics from the University of Wisconson-Madison. This is Ms. Kach’s 6th year teaching at

Children of Peace.

Eighth Grade

Dr. Mario Pierce 

Dr. Mario Pierce joins the Children of Peace staff as our 8th grade homeroom teacher and the Science and Social Studies teacher for grades 6-8. With more than 12 years experience in education as a teacher and administrator in both public and Catholic schools, Dr. Pierce has a Bachelors degree from Southern Illinois University in Carbondale, Illinois, a Master's degree from Norfolk State University in Norfolk, Virginia, and an Ed.D. from the University of St. Francis in Joliet, Illinois. Dr. Pierce lectures at local colleges and universities on interpersonal and speech communication.

Deaf Education Teacher

Madeline Stoffels

Ms. Stoffels Graduated from Illinois State University with two Bachelors of Science in Education: Learning Behavior Specialist & Deaf and Hard of Hearing. Ms. Stoffels is certified in Visual Phonics, Grammar Graphics and Bridgeview Learning Systems (all programs that benefit Deaf/Hard of Hearing students). She is the founder & facilitator of Sign Language Club here at COP, Secretary of the Cardinal Stritch Foundation and the Teacher Chaperone for COP's involvement with Big Shoulders' Brush Creek Science Enrichment Program. This is her 4th year at COP.

Lab Technician

Afsara Haque

Afsara Haque is a medical student at the University of Illinois and she is working part time at Children of Peace as a lab technician, developing lab experiments in conjunction with Dr. Pierce for our 6-8th graders. With teaching experience with the Los Angeles Unified School District, Ms. Haque has a dual degree from the University of Southern California, a BA degree in Health and Humanity and a BS degree in Human Biology which an emphasis in Human Evolutionary Biology. Additionally Ms. Haque has an educational specialist certificate in Special Education from Loyola Marymount University in California. Ms. Haque is fluent in Bengali.

Art Teacher

Eliza Karaza

Eliza Karaza, (aka as Ms. K) is a multilingual, gifted and talented professional artist who has traveled throughout the Middle East and South Asia. She taught art in a private school in Mumbai. She reinvents denim jackets and sweaters decorating them with colorful, hand painted depictions of the art and history of Asia. Her hand painted denim jackets have been featured in Cosmopolitan.

Music Teacher

Kedgrick Pullums

Kedgrick Pullums is a gifted and talented professional musician, composer, and arranger. Mr. Pullums teaches vocal and instrumental music. This is his second year at Children of Peace. A graduate of Curie Metropolitan High School, Mr. Pullums has a Bachelor’s degree in Music Performance from the University of IIlinois at Chicago. Mr. Pullums plays several instruments including the piano, drums,

saxophone, and the flute.

P.E. Teacher

Elizabeth Luszczyk

Elizabeth Luszczyk is a certified P.E. teacher, certified to teach P.E. to children from kindergarten through high school. In addition to teaching P.E. classes, Ms. Luszczyk is an interpreter for the deaf. She has a Bachelor’s degree in Physical Education Teaching and Coaching from Northern Illinois University and she studied interpreting at Columbia College.



1900 W. Taylor Street
Chicago, IL 60612

Phone: 312-243-8186
Fax: 312-243-8479


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