Ms. Daczyszyn has been our 2nd/3rd grade teacher for nearly 10 years. Prior to that, she taught philosophy at the university level. She clearly enjoys cultivating young minds. "I believe we should use our own curiosity for learning to challenge children to grow in their understanding of themselves and our world," she says.
Ms. Daczyszyn has been married for 28 years and has two teenage sons, both of whom graduated from Pilgrim. Her hobbies are reading and gardening.
Beata Halter, our kindergarten teacher, has 30+ years of classroom experience. She has taught 1st, 2nd, 4th and 5th grades as well, but is happiest teaching small children. "Young children are explorers and active learners," she says. "I strive to discover their strengths and identify needs. My goal for each child is to enhance growth in their love of learning, love for themselves and others and their love for their Lord."
Mrs. Halter is married to a fellow teacher, and has two sons: one teaches high school English in Iowa and the other is an up and coming stand up comic in Chicago. Mrs. Halter describes herself as a “very slow” runner and an “average” bridge player.
"All 6 and 7 year olds need to see and experience that learning is FUN!" says 1st/2nd grade teacher Miss Huelskoetter. "And I strive to teach to the whole child—incorporating a ‘brain building’ classroom experience and strategies."
She adds that "children need to discover that learning never stops-- not even for a teacher. I want to facilitate a classroom where we all learn from each other."
Now in her 19th year at Pilgrim, Miss Huelskoetter has a total of 32
years of teaching experience under her belt. In addition to reading,
math and other homeroom duties, she teaches music to the primary grades and directs the children's choir. She's also a big basketball fan, and staff representative for grade 5-8 boys' and girls' teams.
Miss Huelskoetter graduated from Concordia University in River Forest, IL, and underwent graduate work at DePaul University and Vandercook College. In her spare time (yes, she claims to have some), she may be found teaching or playing piano, gardening, bike riding or quilting.
His duties are almost too numerous to list. He teaches at least one subject in seven different grade levels. His vast experience (31 years in the teaching field) qualifies him to teach everything from math to music.
In his spare time, Mr. Knuth serves as Music Director for Pilgrim Lutheran Church, gives private piano lessons, and with his wife, Doris, works on remodeling their 101-year-old house. He is a member of five professional associations, including the American Guild of Organists and the American Orff-SchulwerkAssociation.
"Learning is a lifetime venture," Mr. Knuth says. "I am most interested in helping each child discover their interests and learning style and then guiding them as the magic unfolds."
The Knuth family has deep roots at Pilgrim. Not only did both Knuth children graduate from the school but Mr. Knuth's wife is a former Pilgrim teacher who now directs the Early Childhood Education Center at Concordia University.
Beth Ruppe, Principal
As Mrs. Ruppe begins her 12th year at Pilgrim she leaves the preschool room for the principal’s office. Mrs. Ruppe holds an undergraduate degree from Purdue University, an M.A. in Early Childhood Education from National Louis University and a second Masters in School Leadership from Concordia University .
Mrs. Ruppe has been married for 27 years and has two children, both Pilgrim graduates. Her daughter graduated from Purdue University in 2008 and works in marketing. Her son is a senior at Denison University and plans to become a school counselor. Mrs. Ruppe says, “I truly believe that Pilgrim has the right educational philosophy. We believe that children need to do more than be able to memorize and repeat facts to be successful in school. Having opportunities to question, experiment, problem-solve and think in a safe and nurturing environment will allow students to really learn what they need to succeed academically, socially and emotionally."
Cheryl Saiki, our learning disabilities teacher, has spent 25 years in the teaching field. She has a Master’s degree in special education.
"I want children to experience success with what they learn, and I structure lessons and homework with that in mind," she says. Working with children in small groups in a resource room, she uses a "multi-sensory structured language approach" when working with children who have reading disabilities. The approach utilizes phonics but also includes practice with sight words. For children with math disabilities, Mrs. Saiki encourages the use of manipulatives and other aids.
In addition to working with children in groups, Mrs. Saiki assists in the regular classroom, observes students, administers screening tests and completes the necessary paperwork for full case study evaluations.
Married for 17 years, Mrs. Saiki has two children attending Pilgrim. She is a member of the International Dyslexia Association and enjoys reading and scrapbooking in her spare time.
Shannon Andreen is the newest teacher at Pilgrim. She teaches the 5th and 6th grade classes. Mrs. Andreen graduated from Louisiana State University where she earned a B.A. in Literature. She has 7 years of teaching experience.
She also is married and has two children that attend Pilgrim. She enjoys spending time her family and friends and is an avid reader in her spare time.
Rhonda Petersen is excited to be the new science and technology teacher at Pilgrim. She graduated from East Carolina University in Greenville, NC and has master degrees from ECU and Hollins University in Roanoke, VA. She has experience as an elementary and college instructor as well as experience in journal editing and corporate communications in the healthcare field. Mrs. Petersen works to cultivate a love of learning in her students, make learning fun, and keep students engaged with hands-on activities.
Mrs. Petersen is married and has a son, Ryne, who attends Pilgrim. In her spare time, she enjoys hanging out with her family, reading, and traveling (especially to the beach).
Sara Chenery, the preschool teacher, is one of the newer members of Pilgrim staff. She graduated from Indiana University in 2007 with an Elementary Education degree and a minor in Art. She spent her first two years teaching fourth grade at Chiang Mai international School in Thailand, and then another year of fourth grade at the International School of Indiana in Indianapolis. She then spent a year teaching preschool classes through a therapeutic program here in Chicago. She's been the preschool teacher at Pilgrim since 2011.
One of her favorite aspects about teaching preschoolers is their genuine curiosity of the world around them and the funny comments they make throughout the day. She enjoys watching the three and four year-olds grow in their independence throughout the school year and is constantly amazed at what questions they ask at such a young age. When she’s not covered in finger paint or cutting out shapes in construction paper, you can usually find her and her husband Raef out on a walk or enjoying ice cream at Margie’s.
A relative newcomer at Pilgrim, Mrs. Tighe is our 4th and 5th grade homeroom teacher. "I try to instill a joy for inquiry and learning in my students," she says. "We work hard at developing strategies for solving questions and problems with creativity."
Mrs. Tighe received her teaching degree from Northwestern, after which she taught in the public schools system. She came to Pilgrim five years ago.
She has been married for 30 years, and has a 28-year-old son as well as a 16-year-old daughter, who attended Pilgrim and now attends Loyola Academy. In her spare time, she enjoys reading and gardening.
Debra Fanning is homeroom teacher for the 7/8 classroom. She is also the newest addition to the Pilgrim Staff. She graduated from Northeastern University with a Masters in Reading.
Mrs. Fanning is really active in helping out in various activities and helping the 7/8 graders prepare for high school.
In addition to being a teacher, Mrs. Fanning is married and has two children attending Pilgrim. In her spare time, she enjoys spending time with her family, reading, and walking and talking with her friends.