Lisa Rademacher has been teaching for over 20 years in Rome, New York, and all sides of Chicago. She has taught in non-profits working with refugee communities, private schools, and at Chicago Public Schools. She has taught 3-year-olds to adults and has loved it all, although her niche is early childhood. She has a B.S. in Religious Studies and Music from Edgewood College in Madison, WI. She received an MA in Theological Studies with a concentration in Peace and Justice from the Maryknoll School of Theology in New York. She has an MA in Teaching in Early Childhood from National Louis University. She founded and lives in the Sophia Community in Hyde Park with her husband, two daughters, and many others. She is passionate about co-creating a joyful community of learners in which inquiry and creativity are fostered.
DeeAnn Reed was born and raised on the sunny coast of California, and enjoyed running bare foot through the redwood forest and diving head first into the giant saltwater waves of the Pacific Ocean. She says the earth was her teacher and she was an enthusiastic student. She has held on to this joy for learning and brings it into the classroom. She earned her bachelor’s degree from UC Santa Cruz, where she studied Art and Early Childhood Education. She has traveled to the colorful land of Guatemala and eaten fresh sushi on a little island in Japan. She is also the mother of two very unique young ladies who are both Free School students. They inspire creativity and patience. DeeAnn is honored to serve the children of Chicago at Chicago Free School.
Simone Wesley is our PreK/K aide and joined us at the beginning of the 2016-2017 year. In addition to bringing the smiles and positive vibes to our youngest class, she is a lifelong Chicagoan and a mom of four kids.
1st/2nd grade homeroom
Saengjun (Waew) Luse, grew up in a rural community in Thailand about five hours northeast of Bangkok. During her childhood she recalls collecting rain water in jars, living under grass roofed houses, and hand-making many of their household items – like beds, tools, and furniture. Waew received her B.E. in the teaching of Chemistry from Nakon Sawan Rajabhat University in Thailand. After graduating, she worked at an elementary school in Sumut Prakarn province near Bangkok for 3 years. She then participated in a Cultural Exchange Program in the US for two years, having had the opportunity to improve her English skills, make friends with other students from around the world, and learn about their cultures. She recalls it as one of the greatest experiences she has ever had in her life! After the exchange program, Waew learned extensively about child development and how children learn through play during her time working for Baby Ph.D. and operating her own daycare. It was, however, the birth of her own daughter which made her truly question the purpose of education and the available models which best suit an individual’s needs and development. Waew believes that Free School allows children the space necessary to develop their own interests and abilities – and hence a love for learning – a community, versus an isolated teaching space, and a humane system of discipline that treats children like people. She is thrilled to be the parent of a student at CFS and now also a teacher!
2nd/3rd grade homeroom
Yolanda Herrera joined our team for the 2019-2020 school year. Yolanda is a graduate of the Urban Teacher Education Program at the University of Chicago. She previously worked as a 1st grade teacher and a K-4 math specialist. She is passionate about creating creative, hands-on projects for students incorporating social justice themes, and fostering a love of reading and math in her students.
4th/5th grade homeroom
Meosha Thomas, affectionately known as Ms. Moe, is a teacher in the 1st/2nd homeroom as well as our Aftercare Coordinator. Before coming to CFS in 2016, she served 10 years active duty in the United States Navy and has lived in many countries due to her military travels. She started teaching in 2008 while still serving through the Troops to Teachers program. Meosha prides herself on being a lifelong learner and feels every moment can become an opportunity to learn, explore, and create. She holds 4 degrees and various certifications to include Early Childhood Education. Her passions are art, community service and teaching. She describes herself as “an artist and an advocate” who believes that youth voice and choice is the key to creating a world of more compassionate, understanding leaders who are motivated by service and justice for all.
Lauren Beitler taught middle-school math for six years in the Woodlawn, North Lawndale, and Englewood neighborhoods of Chicago before leaving traditional school teaching to work on founding Chicago Free School. Before becoming a teacher she got her B.A. in Mathematics and her M.A.T. from the Urban Teacher Education Program at the University of Chicago. She spent the 2012-13 school year teaching at the Free School in Albany, NY, a democratic free school that has been serving a diverse group of learners in downtown Albany since 1969. Because she attended a democratic school as a child, she knows firsthand the joy in learning that students can experience when given responsibility and freedom. She advises the 4th/5th grade homeroom and facilitates newspaper club, social studies group, and science group with grades 3-8.
6th/7th/8th grade homeroom
Joe Ochiltree joined our teaching staff as our middle school teacher for the 2016-2017 school year. This year at CFS will be his 12th year of teaching. He has taught 7th-12th grades in New York City, Mexico City, and Chicago. Joe likes to integrate games and projects into his teaching and has been excited to join the dedicated and creative community at CFS.
Keyierra Collins rotates among all of the classes stepping in for teachers so that they can have their lunch breaks, so she interacts with each and every CFS student. She writes,
“My name is Keyierra Collins and I am very excited to join the community here at Chicago Free School. Originally from Columbus, Ohio I moved to Chicago in 2011 attending Columbia College Chicago; graduating in 2016 with a BA in Dance. As a dancer, teaching artist, and choreographer, I have collaborated with a number of Chicago choreographers as well as artists from various countries including Nigeria, Haiti, Rwanda, France, etc. As a freelance artist I create my own artistic projects exploring how dance and movement can be used to heal trauma, particularly the collective and individual trauma experienced by people of the African diaspora. Part of my artistic passion includes working with children for the past eight years. Outside of being an artist I am also a nanny, children’s dance teacher, and I have experience developing class curriculum plus using dance to implement lesson plans. What makes Chicago Free School so great is the difference in guiding children to become their best selves versus directing their path. There is something very special about this school and I look forward to working and growing in this space!”
“Teaching has always been a part of who I am. As the oldest of 9, I was one of my siblings first teachers. As a mom of 4 daughters, I was their first teacher and advocate. I continue to provide insight and encouragement. Throughout my career, as an accountant, I have volunteered as a tutor; arts, crafts, and STEAM instructor; camp counselor, mentor and literacy coach. I have served on Local Sschool Councils, Parent Advisory Councils and Boards of organizations that support children and their families in different capacities and continue to do so.
Over the past three years I have transitioned from accounting to teaching, having worked with After School Enrichment Solutions as a Drama Instructor and Chess Scholars as a Chess Instructor in Private, Catholic and Chicago Public Schools. I am CPR and First Aid Certified and a Mandated Reporter. Being a life learner, I actively seek out opportunities to enhance my knowledge and I remain enthusiastic about sharing that with others in creative ways. I am excited about the opportunity to learn more about the practices and goals of Chicago Free School and support students, parents and colleagues.”
Board of Directors
Carissa Ábrego-Collier is VP of the Board and parent to two kids, and has been a Free School parent for 4 years and counting. In her professional life, personal life, and on the board, she’s passionate about fostering communication and community. She works at the University of Chicago, where she and her husband were also live-in residence life staff for 4 years. In her free time, Carissa likes to cook, read, and make music.
Leanne Beaudoin Ryan serves as Board Secretary. She is the Associate Director of Research at Erikson Institute, the premier independent institution of higher education committed to ensuring that all children have equitable opportunities to realize their potential. Leanne earned her Ph.D. in Developmental Psychology at the University of Chicago in 2012. When she’s not working, Leanne is a yoga enthusiast and avid knitter, who enjoys spending time with her husband and two young sons.
Kendra Burbank researches neuroscience and teaches statistics at the University of Chicago. She has been a CFS parent since the school’s opening, but has been interested in democratic education since attending a public democratic high school while growing up in Ithaca, NY. Kendra’s son will be in first grade in 2018-19.
Sara Volk de Garcia is Board President and mom of a fourth-grade student at CFS. Her background as a biologist first connected her to CFS when she helped us rescue a baby squirrel at the park! She brings her energy and commitment to the board with a goal of supporting stability and growth at CFS while developing a long-term vision.
Lauren Beitler and Meosha Thomas are the staff representatives on the board.