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.
Kindergarten/1st 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
Raven DiMichele joined our team for the 2021-2022 school year. Raven says: “I was drawn to the Free School Model as a believer in collaborative teaching environments, in students having personal connections to learning and creating alternatives to hierarchy based schooling systems. I am in awe of the commitment the CFS community has shown to students since it was started, and especially in the most recent school year. I look forward to learning from and being inspired by the entire CFS community.”
4th/5th grade homeroom
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
Ephran Ramirez’ teaching background is based in informal and alternative STEM education and mentoring. He taught science, technology, and social justice at an out-of-school program for the last five years and studied Math and Science Education at Northeastern Illinois University. Besides this, he has been involved in various community organizing and social justice movements since he was in high school. It was through this work that he discovered the free school model and chose to work in education. Though a lifelong Chicagoan, Ephran visits his family in Puerto Rico often and has visited the Middle East and Scandinavia to participate in environmental and social justice work. He is dedicated to youth empowerment, racial, LGBTQ, and environmental justice, feminism, and decolonization. He is excited to be a part of the CFS community!
Staff Support/Aftercare Team
Juliah Pious, also known as Ms. Julz has served as one of CFS Teacher Aides for the Prek/K classes. She began working in the Aftercare program in January of 2020 and interacts with students of every grade level. Juliah also served as a substitute teacher and accompanied teachers on field trips. She writes:
“I am a self taught artist who will assist classrooms in different areas and strive to maintain the health of each student in class and around the school. I was also accessible as a Aftercare Instructor but due to Covid-19 have shifted my role to maintain CFS health policies and have done so for various schools. My goal is to make the learning environment for the children safe and as creative as possible. Because this is my first full year with the Chicago Free School, I look forward to interacting with the children a bit more and getting one on one time with them as well. I promise that I will encourage the little ones to be their true authentic selves and create what they desire because even the sky isn’t the limit.”
Demi White joined CFS as a substitute teacher’s aide last school year and is now a permanent part of the team. Demi says, “I was born and raised in Chicago and grew up in Hyde Park. As a child I loved to help people, I believe that’s what has drawn me to work at the Chicago Free School. I’m a person who loves to connect with people and talk. I’ve worked with children in the past and I’ve always had a good time in a work environment with children. I’m here to help my team members and students with whatever they need. I’m excited to connect with the children and really get to know them this school year.
Zachary Weil joined CFS as a long-term substitute last year and is now a permanent part of the team. Zachary is a longtime Chicagoland resident, spending his childhood growing up in the Northern suburb of HIghland Park before migrating to the city in the early 2000’s for college. He earned his B.A. in Secondary English Education from the University of Illinois at Chicago, but pursued creative avenues, both in music performance and teaching, in the time since. A world traveller and a lifelong student, Zachary has devoted his life to continuous self-improvement trying his hand at everything from writing, to coding, to cooking. He is a proud caretaker to his beloved pit-bull Blanche alongside his partner Olivia, an ardent vegetarian (but he is not annoying about it!), and a lover of 70’s progressive rock and jazz. He loves working at the Chicago Free School, the kind of place he dreamed of attending when he was a kid even though he had no idea it existed.
Brenda Pious joined our after-care team in September 2019 after working at CFS during summer camp 2019 and in March of 2020 was hired as our Administrator. While supporting the school in Aftercare, Brenda stepped in as Interim Administrator when a need arose. She worked with the auditor, managed the day to day financial role and taught literacy in Englewood from November 2017 until February, 2020. She writes:
“While serving in the role of Interim Administrator, I realized I could best serve CFS in the Administrator role full-time because of my 25 plus years of experience in accounting, non-profit management, payroll and human resources management. Having worked as a substitute teacher, summer camp art instructor, aftercare support and interim administrator, I have familiarity with the needs of students, parents and the teachers and the capacity to affect positive change. I intend on enhancing the administrative practices and being a consistent resource for our families and staff. While I will miss interacting with our students regularly, I know I will get to see them from time to time. I am excited about the future of CFS!“
Administrative Assistant/Aftercare Coordinator
Keyierra Collins began with CFS as a Teacher support for all grades, then stepped into an Teacher Aide role for the Prek/K classes last year. She writes,
“I am very excited to continue working in 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!”
Board of Directors
Ariel Swift, President
Ariel has been working with pregnant populations and new parents for 9 years as the owner of Doulas of Chicago, and is now the Outreach & Education Coordinator for the Birth Center of Chicago. Her family has a 3rd grader at CFS and a 3-year-old at home, and has been with the school for 2 years.
Thomas Gaulkin, Vice president
Thomas is a multimedia journalist, currently serving as an editor of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists. He previously worked in communications at the University of Chicago and as a producer at WBEZ radio. His son Emrys first enrolled at CFS four years ago for the first year of pre-K, and is enjoying his second year with Ms. Yolanda’s class. Thomas’ daughter is currently a junior in Chicago Public Schools at Jones College Prep downtown.
Laura Tharsen, Treasurer
Laura has been a CFS parent since the school was founded and served on the inaugural board for the first two years of the school. She is the Executive Assistant to the Dean of the Social Science Division at the University of Chicago and holds Master’s degrees in International Studies and in Public Administration. She has seen her two children thrive at CFS and is committed to helping support the school and CFS community.
Leanne Beaudoin Ryan, Secretary
Leanne 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.
Maureen is a veteran education journalist, and currently serves as a senior writer/editor at Brightbeam, a nonprofit network of education activists demanding a better education and brighter future for every child. She and her daughter, a CFS middle-schooler, live in Chicago’s Back of the Yards neighborhood, where she also serves on the board of the Su Casa Catholic Worker, a house of hospitality for families in need.
Cari is a mother of two, and a first year CFS parent.
Lauren Beitler (4th/5th grade homeroom)
Lauren 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.
Ephran Ramirez (6th/7th/8th grade homeroom)
Ephran’s teaching background is based in informal and alternative STEM education and mentoring. He taught science, technology, and social justice at an out-of-school program for the last five years and studied Math and Science Education at Northeastern Illinois University. Besides this, he has been involved in various community organizing and social justice movements since he was in high school. It was through this work that he discovered the free school model and chose to work in education. Though a lifelong Chicagoan, Ephran visits his family in Puerto Rico often and has visited the Middle East and Scandinavia to participate in environmental and social justice work. He is dedicated to youth empowerment, racial, LGBTQ, and environmental justice, feminism, and decolonization. He is excited to be a part of the CFS community!