We are delighted to introduce CHA’s new Faculty and Staff, as well as announce internal role changes for 2021-22. God is good and faithful to the CHA community and we love to see who He brings through the doors!
Mrs. Leslie Cornwell – Learning Resources (K-5) & ESL Teacher
Mr. Stuart Davis – Fifth Grade Teacher
Mrs. Betty Lee – Middle School Teacher (English & Social Studies)
Miss Joan Okamoto – Early Education and Lower School Principal
Miss Robin Russell – Curriculum Coordinator
Mrs. Sheri Scalero – Administrative Assistant to Academics, Purchasing Coordinator
Mrs. Eileen Swanson – Instrumental Music (6-12), Choral Music (4-12), 8th Grade Girls Bible Teacher
Mrs. Cindy Weber – Instructional Coach
NEW OR RETURNING ADMINISTRATORS, FACULTY, & STAFF:
Mr. Joseph Torgerson
Middle and Upper School Principal
Mr. Torgerson graduated from Bethel University in St. Paul with a history degree, and he earned his Master’s in Education at the University of Missouri. After teaching high school humanities for nine years at college prep schools in St. Louis and Taiwan he became a K-12 school principal at an international school in Kaohsiung, Taiwan. After moving back to the U.S., Mr. Torgerson spent two years doing Ph.D. coursework and working in Student Life at Trinity in Deerfield. He and his wife have three children who will be attending CHA this year. Mr. Torgerson loves athletics, outdoor adventures, music, and board games. He grew up in Hong Kong and is always ready to eat dim sum.
Mrs. Rebecca Bonica-Wilson
Middle and Upper School Teacher (Art, Bible)
Mrs. Becca Bonica-Wilson graduated from Indiana Wesleyan University with a B.S. in Visual Art Education and a B.S. in Christian Worship. In 2019, she co-launched Bonica Design, a branding and web design studio, and has been working as an illustrator and production designer for Bonica Design while also furthering her personal studio practice in ceramics and painting. She is actively involved in worship ministry at her church, Harvest Bible Chapel, and she is passionate about the rich connections between worship, fine arts, and understanding theology and the Bible. She is eager to teach Art and Bible, and to watch students grow creatively and in their love for God.
Mr. Brennan Bowman
Middle and Upper School Bible Teacher & Student Discipleship Coordinator
Mr. Bowman is husband to Destiny and a father to Marie. He holds a Master of Divinity as well as a Master’s in Educational Ministry from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School and has served extensively as a leader in mentoring, evangelism, and discipleship ministries. For six years he served with the National School Project where he trained and mentored high school and middle school students in reaching their schools for Christ and growing as Christian leaders. Mr. Bowman has also had various church ministry roles including being a children’s ministry director, mission trip leader, and small group leader. He is passionate about helping students experience a personal call of discipleship to Jesus and to discover how God has created them to play a unique role in His mission.
Mrs. Susan Fischer
Upper School Spanish Teacher
Dr. David Noell
Middle and Upper School Teacher (History, Communications, Speech, Yearbook, Podcasting)
Dr. Noell holds a Ph.D. in Communications from Columbia University, an M.A. in Media, Culture, and Communication from New York University, an M.S. in Journalism from Northwestern University, and a B.A. in Communication from Wheaton College (IL). He has experience as a teaching assistant at the Columbia University Journalism School, as well as at New York University. Dr. Noell is excited to teach history, communications, and speech, and to create a new course – podcasting. He is passionate about helping his students become better critical thinkers and communicators, both as writers and public speakers. He and his wife, Hannah, recently welcomed their first child to the world, Leah. In his free time, Dr. Noell enjoys working on his history podcast, running, and hanging out with friends and family. He prays that he will help his students love the Lord and grow in spiritual maturity.
Mrs. Rani Nolan
Middle and Upper School Math Teacher
Mrs. Nolan received her B.S. in Mathematics and Education and her M.A. in Educational Research Methodology from Louisiana State University. Prior to moving to the Chicago area nine years ago, Mrs. Nolan lived in Texas, where she taught high school mathematics, and served as a mentor teacher, curriculum coordinator, and the School Year Director for Breakthrough Houston, a non-profit educational program for at-risk kids co-funded by her school. Mrs. Nolan’s three children, Hadley (Grade 7), Waverly (Grade 5), and Grant (K), have been a part of the CHA family for the past nine years. She has served in a variety of volunteer parent positions in and around CHA. This past fall, Mrs. Nolan also served as a long-term math substitute teacher for CHA. She and her husband, Ben, serve as Children’s Ministry Directors and Head Bible Quiz Coaches at their local church. She is also an adoption advocate with New Beginnings Adoptions and speaks at various events sharing their God-led adoption story of their son, Grant. She is also passionate about global missions, as after university, she served as a missionary/teacher in 2003-2004 in the country of El Salvador. Rani prays she can be a blessing to CHA as CHA has been a blessing to her family for the last nine years.
Mrs. Wendy Skotnikov
Middle and Upper School Science Teacher
Mrs. Skotnikov graduated with a Master’s degree in Curriculum and Instruction and a Bachelor’s in Biological Sciences with certification in grades 6-12 science education. For over 15 years, she taught biology, chemistry, and anatomy and physiology in public school settings and previously at CHA. Mrs. Skotnikov has served as an AWANA teacher, Sunday school teacher, and Community Bible study assistant teaching director and homeschool youth teacher. Her passion is to get students excited about learning science from a biblical perspective and looks forward to serving the Lord at CHA. She and her family attend CityLine Bible Church in Niles.
Mr. Erik Campbell
Learning Resource Specialist (6-12)
Mr. Campbell is a graduate of Western Illinois University with a Law Enforcement degree and also a graduate of National Louis University with a Master’s in Special Education and a Type 75 Administrative degree. He has endorsements in Learning, Behavioral, and Emotional Disabilities. For the past 20 years Mr. has taught Special Education at Stevenson High School as a resource teacher and case manager. He has also taught freshman English, Algebra, and Earth Science. Mr. Campbell is passionate about building relationships and rapport with students, parents, and co-workers. Mr. Campbell and his family attend Prince of Peace Lutheran Church in Palatine where he is a communion assistant, reads scripture during service, and is a singer in the praise band. He also used to teach Sunday school to kindergarten children. (Ask him about his funny story!) In his free time, Mr. Campbell enjoys training for triathlon races by swimming, biking, and running. He is humbled and blessed for the opportunity to teach at CHA and to make an impact in students’ lives!
Mrs. Lisa Wickell
Guidance Counselor, Middle and Upper School Teacher (Bible, College & Career Prep)
Mrs. Wickell was born and raised in Chicago, Illinois. She graduated cum laude from Northeastern Illinois University with a B.A. in Elementary Education/Physical Education. Since that time, she has acquired advanced Masters’ degrees in Reading Education, Counselor Education, as well as Administration and Supervision. She taught middle school Science in the Chicago Public School system for over 10 years and also served there as a Reading Specialist. She later transitioned to an Elementary Counselor position in CPS before accepting an administrative job in Waukegan District #60. She was an Assistant Principal at an elementary school, and then a High School Guidance Counselor. In all, she has served 35 years in public education. She is thrilled to be joining the staff at Christian Heritage Academy. She believes that the Lord has called her for such a time as this. Mrs. Wickell is married with two sons, two daughters-in-law, and three precious grandchildren. She loves spending time with family and friends. She is an avid sports fan with the Chicago Cubs and Chicago Bears being her favorite teams. It is her passion to pour into students to nourish their academic and spiritual growth. Her love for Christ is what defines her life and what drew her to Christian Heritage Academy.
Dr. Heather Mirous
Fourth Grade Teacher
Dr. Mirous and her family have been at CHA for six years. She and her husband, Brian, have two boys at CHA. Before moving to Chicago, Dr. Mirous lived in Ohio, graduated with an Elementary Education degree (B.S., The University of Akron) and taught fourth grade there for seven years. She left the classroom to pursue graduate education in cognitive psychology and neuroscience (Ph.D., Northwestern University), investigating the ways in which emotional states influence cognitive processes inside and outside of the classroom. From there, God turned her attention to the field of trauma and recovery. She has had the opportunity to write and teach on this topic, as well as co-lead a support group at her church. Prior to serving as a long-term substitute teacher in spring at CHA, she was a very active volunteer through PVO. Dr. Mirous and her family attend Willow Creek North Shore. Some of her interests include writing, reading, running, and playing tennis. She has also coached dance and cheerleading.
Miss Emma Herrmann
Third Grade Teacher
Miss Herrmann graduated in May 2021 from Wheaton College with a degree in Elementary Education and an endorsement in Special Education. Throughout her education, she was able to work in classrooms ranging from kindergarten through fifth grade. She completed her student teaching at a Christian school in the fall of 2020. At Wheaton, she was awarded the Ann Haskins scholarship from the Education department, which was decided based on merit and potential for professional contribution. Miss Herrmann attends The Orchard Church in Arlington Heights, and in her free time she loves to sing, dance, and go on walks with her family. She is very excited to teach third grade at CHA and to collaborate with the wonderful parents and staff to help her students grow.
Mrs. Jordan Gudeman
Second Grade Teacher
Mrs. Gudeman has recently joined the CHA team this year and will be teaching Second Grade. She graduated with her Bachelor’s in Elementary Education and ESL Endorsement from the University of Missouri St. Louis. Mrs. Gudeman and her husband have recently moved to the Chicago area and attend The Bridge Church in Des Plaines. Her passion is to pour into children through creative and effective teaching methods and to make learning a process in which all students can achieve their greatest potential. She also strives to fully equip her students to know, trust, follow, and have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. Mrs. Gudeman’s prayer is for God’s continued guidance, blessing, and impact on CHA and its families.
Mr. Ryan Fitzpatrick
General Music (K-8) & Instrumental Music (4-5) Teacher
Mr. Fitzpatrick holds a B.A. in Music and Political Science from Wheaton College and certification in Music Education from Eastern University. Last year, Mr. Fitzpatrick served as a conductor for Chicago Children’s Choir, directing choral programs in 12 schools throughout the city. He has also served as musical director for several musical productions in Illinois and Pennsylvania, where he enjoyed fostering students’ musical talents and love of performing. Mr. Fitzpatrick loves helping students discover the fun in singing and using music to worship God.
Mrs. Jenny Chan
After going on a mission trip to Belize the summer after her freshman year in college, Mrs. Chan felt the Lord directing her to become a nurse. She graduated from the University of Illinois at Chicago with a B.S. in Nursing and worked at Northwestern Memorial’s Prentice Women’s Hospital in Chicago for eight years caring for mothers and babies on a postpartum unit. She became a stay-at-home mom for six years after her second child was born, raising five children with her husband, Jalon, who is pastor of Chinese Christian Fellowship Church in Wilmette. This past year, Mrs. Chan homeschooled her four older children and they are thankful to have the opportunity to return to CHA this year. Mrs. Chan is excited to blend her nursing skills, compassionate care, and 15+ years experience with children to serve the Lord and with God’s help, to be a blessing to the CHA community. In her free time, Mrs. Chan loves spending time with her family, church family, and friends, often over a delicious meal. She is an avid baker, cake decorator, and party planner.
Mrs. Isabella Nogueira
Financial Services Associate
Mrs. Nogueira graduated from the University of Missouri-Kansas City with a B.S. in Accountancy. Over the past decade she has dedicated her career serving churches and faith based non-profits in the area of accounting and financial services. She enjoys good coffee and spending quality time with her loved ones. Mrs. Nogueira and her family attend Village Point Church in Elk Grove Village where she sings on the worship team and her husband serves as senior pastor. They have four children new to CHA this year: twins Isaac and Caleb (grade 6)), Ana (grade 2), and Sarah (preschool). Mrs. Nogueira is humbled by God’s goodness in leading her family to CHA.
Mrs. Amber Smith
Front Desk Receptionist
Mrs. Smith is excited to join the CHA community! She has a Master’s in Spiritual Formation and Discipleship from Moody Theological Seminary. She lives in Chicago, where her husband Brenton is a church planter with Park Community Church in Norwood Park. They have six children and have been part of the Safe Families program for the last 13 years, providing respite housing for many children in need. Mrs. Smith has a passion to teach God’s word, a heart that cares deeply for the city, and a longing to see people take steps toward maturity in Christ. She is looking forward to using her love for people as well as her love for details to support the mission and work of CHA.
Mrs. Ana Branda
Teacher Assistant & Lunchtime Supervisor
Mrs. Branda is excited to return to CHA. She has worked as a preschool assistant for two years both in private day care and at CHA. She’s the happy mother of a 12-year-old boy and attends the Romanian Baptist Church of Chicago where she serves as a Sunday school and music teacher. She loves children and working with them brings her joy. She’s glad and blessed to be part of CHA!
Mrs. Ike Dickson
Teacher Assistant & Lunchtime Supervisor
Mrs. Alfreda Grace
Ms. Grace graduated from the University of Illinois at Chicago with a B.S. degree in Biological Sciences. At the College of Medicine, she served in several programs to mentor youth and to increase their awareness of careers in the healthcare field. She has served as a children’s ministry director, a Sunday school teacher, and a youth Bible study leader at her church. She has served as an administrator, leading ministries at Worldlight Revival Ministries such as the finance ministry and media ministry. Ms. Grace enjoys spending time with fellow believers after church services, worshiping in the music ministry, and producing and editing Christian content for the media. She looks forward to serving God at CHA.
Mrs. Lisa Neumeyer
Teacher Assistant & Lunchtime Supervisor
Mrs. Neumeyer graduated from the University of Missouri-Columbia with a B.A. in Political Science and a Minor in Spanish. She then pursued her M.S. in Occupational Therapy with a specialization in Pediatrics from Towson University. She worked as an Occupational Therapist for about 10 years, mainly with children in public and private school settings, as well as at St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis, TN. Upon having her second child, she took time off to raise her girls, which included eight years of homeschooling, teaching various subjects in the co-ops her daughters attended. She also has participated in various volunteer roles within the church, mainly in the children’s ministry. Due to being a military family, Mrs. Neumeyer, her daughters, and husband are quite good at diving in with the hopes of leaving each place God leads them better than they found it. She and her family are members of Christ Church in Lake Forest and they are excited to be a part of the CHA community, along with her youngest daughter.
Mrs. Julie Shaffer
Mrs. Shaffer received her B.A. in Elementary Education from Cedarville University in 1998 and began teaching third, fifth, and sixth grades in Downers Grove and Oak Park. She took a step back from full-time teaching to raise her three girls in Chicago. In 2011, she was called into ministry and began serving as a Children’s Coordinator for Park Community Church. Even though she loved ministry, she missed being in the classroom and that’s when God led her to CHA. She was impressed by the academic growth and spiritual impact that CHA had on her daughter when she began attending last year and wanted to be a part of it. Mrs. Shaffer is looking forward to making an impact on student’s lives and serving the teachers in this amazing community!
Mrs. Karla Swalve
Teacher Assistant & Lunchtime Supervisor
Mrs. Swalve graduated from Moody Bible Institute with a Bachelor’s in Bible Theology. She has been a stay home mom for the past 10 years to her two girls, Mia and Zoe, and a CHA parent for the past three years. She loves creativity, thinking of fun ways to engage kids and teach biblical truth, coffee, dancing, kids’ books, and people who don’t take themselves too seriously. Mrs. Swalve says she loves CHA’s heart for discipleship and joy in the Lord, and that she is thrilled to join the staff and display the joy of walking with Jesus.
Mrs. Amie Tallacksen
Mrs. Tallacksen is a native of the Philippines and moved to the U.S. to marry the love of her life almost 15 years ago. She holds an Accounting degree from Ateneo de Davao University, but her passion is to serve others with her gifts of hospitality and service. She has 22 younger nieces and nephews and therefore has a lot of practice with the care of children. She currently serves as the Children and Youth Director for the Chicago Metro of Community Bible Study and for many years has lovingly taught preschool kids at First Evangelical Free Church of Chicago of which she is a long-time member. She has been a parent volunteer of CHA for almost eight years. Mrs. Tallacksen and her husband, Dan, have a beautiful and amazing daughter, Audrey, who is a student at CHA. When she has spare time, you might find her in the kitchen whipping up an amazing creation.
Mrs. Gabriela Tap
Teacher Assistant & Lunchtime Supervisor
Mrs. Tap is a mom of four kids: Rahela (26), Andrei (21), Darius (18), and Andrea (13). She has been married to her husband Daniel for 28 years. They currently live in Niles and attend Elim Romanian Pentecostal Church. Most recently she was a house manager for a family in Chicago. Mrs. Tap enjoys going on walks in the forest near her house, as well as knitting.
Mrs. Tiina Vierimaa
Mrs. Vierimaa graduated from Dominican University, River Forest, with a B.S. Degree in Nutrition and Dietetics. Her years of volunteering with children in elementary school PTO, Awana, and the church nursery helped her realize that she wanted to work with children. She acquired an Advanced Early Childhood Education Certificate from Oakton Community College, Des Plaines. She has worked with preschool children in childcare settings as a teacher assistant and loves to share her faith with children and see them grow and develop as individuals. She attends the The Orchard Arlington Heights and cherishes the time with her husband and daughter.