Meet Our Staff

I work at Noble because the high expectations and the structures that are in place for our students and staff allows me to be successful as a practitioner. In addition, I work at Noble because there are dedicated staff members who work hard to ensure that students are provided with high quality education so they can be accepted into top-ranked universities.”   - Shika Rosario, Hansberry College Assistant Principal

Yashica Adams, Administrative Assistant

I was born and raised in Chicago once lived in San Antonio, Texas but moved back to Chicago where my heart is. I worked for a non-profit organization over 9 years advocating for homeless women transitioning into permanent housing. This gave me the drive to pursue a career in the field of administration over 6 years ago. It created a family environment with students while setting high expectations for their success. I received many certificates pertaining to mental health and management through Truman College. As a wife and mother of three in my spare time I love entertaining my family and making a mark in world. I share in the desire of many parents who want the best for their family. I am very optimistic to make everyone who enters Hansberry feel as though they have made the best choice for their children, because I am very NOBLE!!

Charles Alexander, Director of College Planning

Charles Alexander was born and raised on the Southside of Chicago, IL. Charles attended college at Southern Illinois University, Carbondale (SIUC). While at SIUC he earned both his Bachelors and Masters degree in Speech Communication. Charles was greatly involved in many organizations on the campus of SIUC. He was the President of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity Inc., SIUC chapter and he revitalized the Black Male Roundtable. Upon graduating from SIUC, he began working at Saint Xavier University as an Academic Advisor, Retention Coordinator and Communication Professor. In 2011, Charles founded a non-profit organization titled, “Speak HOPE”. Speak HOPE focuses on uplifting impoverished communities in the Chicagoland area by providing necessary resources. Additionally, Charles has a special interest in assisting the educational progression of underrepresented students and those that are marginalized in our society. He believes aiding students that need distinctive attention is a profession created for him. 

LaShana Alexander, Adminstrative Assistant

I was born and raised in Chicago! I attended Richard J Daley College and graduated in 2009 with an associates degree in Elementary Education. I am currently pursuing a bachelor's degree in Business Administration with a concentration in Human Resources. In my spare time, I like to do arts & crafts and food projects with my children and husband. I am very excited about working for Noble and making an impact in the lives of our youth!

Moneera Awadallah, Math Instructor

Moneera Awadallah attended East Carolina University in North Carolina for both her undergraduate and graduate degrees.  She received a Bachelor's in Speech and Hearing Sciences with a minor in Psychology. She also received her Master's degree in Education.  Mrs. Awadallah believes that with dedication and hard work, all scholars can attain their highest potential and succeed in anything pursued. She thinks education is the key to success in life. In her free time, Mrs. Awadallah enjoys spending time with family and friends and engaging in activities such as rock-climbing, kayaking, and traveling to new, exotic places.

Liz Ayala, Dean of Operations

My name is Elizabeth Ayala and I was born in Mexico City, Mexico. I emigrated from Mexico in 1980 at the tender age of three and have lived in Chicago ever since. I graduated from Lane Tech High School with a major in Art. I then went on to attend Wilbur Wright College to earn credit hours before transferring to Robert Morris College to earn an Associates Degree in Graphic Design. In November of 1998 I began working at American Girl Place where I took on several roles before becoming Operations Lead. I became a proud  mom to Izzy in November of 1999. In my spare time I love going to Six Flags Great America with my son and riding roller coasters all day! I also enjoy scrap booking! Yep! Scrap booking!

Ann Baltzer, Science Instructor

I grew up in Bismarck, North Dakota where I loved playing sports for my high school and spending time outdoors with my family.  After high school graduation, I attended Macalester College in Saint Paul, Minnesota where I was the captain of our college basketball team. More importantly, college helped me discover my love of learning and passion for social justice which led me into the field of education. After graduating from college, I joined the Teach For America program and taught high school physical science for two years in St. Louis while coaching the boy’s soccer team and earning my Masters Degree in Secondary Education from the University of Missouri Saint Louis.

Lamitra Barnes, Learning Specialist

I grew up on the Southside of Richmond, Virginia where I enjoyed performing in plays and hip-hop dance competitions with a local group. I left Richmond to pursue my passion for Theatre and Cultural Communication Studies at James Madison University in Harrisonburg, Virginia. During the second semester of my Junior year, I developed a strong interest in the program Teach for America. I realized at that moment that education was something I was super passionate about. My passion for working with students developed through my three summer experience as an Intern Coordinator for Partnership for the Future in Richmond, VA. As I approached my senior year of college, I decided to apply for Teach For America where I was accepted as a 2014 Chicago Corps Member. In May 2014, I walked across the stage as a first-generation college student who received a full ride from James Madison University with a Bachelor or Arts Degree in Theatre. Before moving to Chicago in June 2014, I had only visited the Midwest once but I am excited to call this my new home! 

Sherman Benton, Culture Specialist 

I was born in the northern suburbs and raised in the southwestern suburbs of Chicago.  I grew up playing sports, which to this day is one thing that I have a passion for.  Junior high through college I played organized sports.  I was a member of the Morehouse College football team, where I also earned my B.A. in Business- Administration specializing in Marketing. Aside from working with the Noble Network, I am currently self studying, to become a Multi- media Artist.  

Janelle Brown, Dean of Instruction 

After growing up in small towns west of Chicago, Janelle is excited to finally be living in the city and is thrilled to be joining the Hansberry team. She graduated from Taylor University in 2010 with majors in history and English literature, and then joined Teach for America to teach middle school ELA and social studies at an Indianapolis start-up charter school.  During her sojourn in Indianapolis, she also earned her Master of Arts in Teaching, ran (survived) a half-marathon, and adopted a six-pound Yorkie named Sadie, who may or may not occasionally try to eat her students’ homework. Janelle returned to Chicago in June, 2013, to serve as a Leadership for Educational Equity summer fellow at the Illinois State Board of Education.

Mason Brown, Science Instructor

Mr. Brown grew up in the west suburbs of Chicago and attended Loyola University Chicago where he received a BS in Theoretical Physics and Applied Math. After graduating he gave a year of full time service through City Year Chicago serving at Chicago Vocational Career Academy in Avalon Park. Mr. Brown is excited to be starting his second year of teaching Physics and Computer Science at Hansberry. In his free time, Mr. Brown enjoys reading, cycling, and playing percussion and piano.

Porscha Brown, Math Instructor

I was born and raised on the south side of Chicago. I graduated from Morgan Park High School. While there, I was on the math team and played soccer. I graduated from MPHS in 2011 and also received the International Baccalureate Diploma. I left Chicago to major in Mathematics at the University of Iowa. My undergraduate activities included tutoring calculus, working at the library and volunteering at cultural events. I was initiated as a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Incorporated in the fall semester of 2012. My hobbies include watching marathons of Law & Order and either crocheting or knitting.

Jamie Bryant, English Instructor

I was born and raised in Denver, Colorado. I earned a Bachelors Degree in English Literature from the University of Colorado at Denver. After graduating, I went on to get my teaching license and Masters Degree in Curriculum & Instruction at the University of Denver. In my free time I love playing music, reading, and traveling. I am very excited to be in Chicago to experience a new city and be a part of the Hansberry College Prep community!

Stella Cho, Math Instructor

Hello! I was born in Chicago and grew up in the northwest suburbs with my older brother. I love to travel, read, hike, and watch Blackhawks games. I attended Northwestern University and graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in Biomedical Engineering. Shortly after, I joined the Peace Corps and spent twenty-seven months in northern Uganda as a volunteer teacher at a girls’ secondary school. Through my experiences working with Ugandan youth, I became passionate about education and youth development. After returning from my time abroad, I applied to graduate school, and I am currently completing my Master of Education degree at DePaul University College of Education. I am really looking forward to joining the Hansberry College Prep team in the work they are doing to bring more equality to schools in Chicago. 

Jeffrey Cicurel, English Instructor

I was born and raised in Lincoln Park on the north side of Chicago. I attended high school at Francis Parker where I played basketball for four years. After Parker, I attended Duke University where I majored in English and minored in Journalism. There, I spent four years tutoring various kids in Durham Public Schools and developed a passion for education. Outside of the classroom, I enjoy playing basketball and listening to music. As a 2015 Teach For America Corps Member, I’m excited to return to Chicago and teach in the city I love.

Tiffany Vann-Cole, Dance Instructor 

Originally from Florida, I obtained my Bachelor of Fine Arts from the Juilliard School in 2004.  Upon graduating I went on to dance with such companies as, Ballet Memphis, Dayton Contemporary Dance Company II, and Hubbard Street Dance Chicago.  I was a member of the ballet faculty at Hyde Park School of dance, and during the last three years, I directed an after-school dance company for 9th-12th graders at a Chicago Public High School. In my spare time, I enjoy teaching and practicing both Pilates and Yoga.

Jeremy Cragin, Physical Education Instructor

I was born in Spokane,WA and grew up in beautiful Post Falls, ID. After graduating high school, I attended North Idaho College and transferred to the University of Idaho (Go Vandals!) to study Exercise Science and Health. During this time I worked for the men’s basketball team and was blessed with the opportunity of traveling to Manama, Bahrain and completing an internship with Navy and Child Youth Programs as a Sports Camp Counselor. After graduation, I moved to Chicago, began teaching middle school science in Hammond, IN, and started my graduate coursework at Marian University. I am extremely excited to join the HCP team as the 9th/10th Grade Physical Education Instructor and Boy’s JV Basketball Coach!

Maria Cruz, History Instructor

I was born in Oceanside, CA and raised in Riviera Beach, FL. I attended Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University where I majored in Political Science with a concentration in International Relations. There, I worked with elementary and pre-kindergarten students in an enrichment program to inspire young minds. After I graduated, I returned to my hometown of Riviera Beach to teach AP World History to 9th and 10th grade, head a non-profit women’s organization, as well as coach the school step team. Outside the classroom, you can find me painting, reading a novel, or satiating my taste buds with worthy food indulgences.

Elizabeth Cushing, Paraprofessional

I am excited to be joining the team at Hansberry College Prep! I was born and raised in Evanston, IL, I am the oldest of four siblings, and came from an extended family of almost forty first cousins. I graduated from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign with a Bachelors in Social Work. During my time at UIUC I had the opportunity to study abroad in Cape Town, South Africa, where in addition to getting to know the city of Cape Town, I traveled outside city limits and met locals from some of the more remote towns in South Africa, Botswana, and Zimbabwe. My time abroad was one of many experiences that have helped to further validate my passion for working with adolescents. Over my years of experience in working with children, I have been driven by the quotes “People will forget what you said. They will forget what you did. But people will never forget the way you made them feel,” and “Don’t underestimate the power of even your smallest actions.” As I begin my journey at HCP, I am looking forward to working with our students each day, getting to know them, and helping them to discover their unlimited potential for success.

Dwayne Dean, Culture Specialist


Katherin Duprey, IB Language Arts

Katherin was born and raised in Chicago. She was a part of the first graduating class at Rauner College Prep. Katherin attended Northeastern Illinois University where she received a Bachelor's Degree in Elementary Education. In her free time, she likes to watch Netflix marathons and spend time with her  family. Katherin is very excited to be joining the Hansberry community! She is looking forward to getting to know her students and colleagues as the year continues.  



Victoria DeFinis, College Counselor

I was born and raised by a very Italian family in northern NJ, about 45 minutes outside of NYC. I attended Loyola University Maryland in Baltimore, where I majored in biology, studied abroad in Copenhagen, and participated in lots of events both on and off campus, such as Relay for Life and alternative spring break. I’ve always been blessed to have access to a great education and want every student to have that same opportunity, which is why I joined Teach for America. I taught Physics and Biology in Fort Worth, TX for two years and returned home to teach in Newark, where I’ve been for the past 3 years. I am so excited to begin a new chapter in Chicago can’t wait to get to know all of the students and staff at Hansberry!

Rachel Dordal, Teaching Resident 

Rachel Dordal was born in the Chicago area but moved to Southern California during high school. After graduating, she went to Muhlenberg College in Allentown, PA, where she studied biochemistry and sociology. She is currently working towards her masters in teaching with the Relay Graduate School of Education. For the past two years, Rachel has been a full-time math tutor at Harlan Community Academy, and she is passionate about education in Chicago. In her free time, Rachel does aerial silk acrobatics.

Kate Edwards, Math Instructor

I was born in New Jersey, but grew up mostly in Virginia.  I am the second-oldest of five children, and I love singing and playing volleyball.  While earning my Bachelor of Science in Mathematics from Haverford College, I developed dual passions for teaching and math.  I spent this year student teaching in a Boston public high school, and I am currently finishing up my Master of Education degree at Harvard Graduate School of Education.  I am very excited to move to Chicago and join the Hansberry College Prep team!

Jaime Enge, Dean of Culture

Mr. Enge was born and raised on the south side of Chicago. He graduated from John Hope College Preparatory High School, where he became the first male in his family to graduate from high school with honors. After high school, he continued his studies at Alabama State University, majoring in Computer Science.  After the internship, he decided to move back Chicago to finish what he started out doing; obtaining a college education. During that summer, he decided to work for College Summit, a national non-profit organization that helps high schools from low-income communities raise their college enrollment rates by building college-going culture, where he became a Certified Youth Facilitator. From his experience from College Summit, he decided that serving youth is where he passion lies and he decided that Computer Science was not for him. He then enrolled at Harry S. Truman College, where he graduated with an Associate of Arts Degree in Social Science and Associate of Sciences in Psychology. Afterward, he attended Eastern Illinois University where he earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Family Services.  During his time at Eastern Illinois University, he held several positions from different organizations and became a member of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc. Mr. Enge have over seven years of working with inner city youth from Chicago, New York, St. Louis and D.C. just to name a few.  In December 2013, he will be graduating from Northeastern Illinois University with a Master’s of Education Degree in Inner City Studies Education.  He's looking forward to working with Hansberry College Prep.

Ingrid Ermon, Administrative Assistant

Ingrid Ermon has worked in the administrative/clerical field for over 20 years.  She received her Associate Degree in Applied Science with a concentration in Administrative Secretary in 1990 from Robert Morris College.  Ingrid has utilized her administrative skills, experience and knowledge in medical and manufacturing research.  She worked for University of Illinois at Chicago Medical Center for over 4 years collectively and IIT Research Institute for 4 years.  Ingrid also worked for a local worship assembly as Church Clerk/Administrator for over 10 years while working as a stay-at-home Mom.  Ingrid reentered the workforce as a Building Secretary for Calumet City School District 155 in 2012.  She has now joined the Hansberry College Prep family and looks forward to the adventures, challenges and interactions with staff and students.

Lauren Fifolt, Dean of Specialized Services

I am a Learning Specialist at Hansberry College Prep. I hold a Bachelor’s degree in English with a minor concentration in Spanish from the University of Michigan. During my undergraduate studies, I worked with students in Detroit Public Schools as a literacy tutor. Prior to joining Hansberry College Prep, I pursued a Master’s degree in Urban Special Education in Milwaukee where I taught Special Education as a Teach For America corps member. Working with students in Chicago has been a long-term goal of mine so I am eager to get started.

Kristina Franchi, Spanish Instructor

Originally from the suburbs of Chicago, Miss Franchi received her B.S. in Elementary Education with focus on middle school math in 2009 from the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign. During her college career she studied abroad at the Universidad de Deusto in Bilbao, Spain earning her a minor in Spanish Language. She also joined Sigma Kappa sorority and remains as an active volunteer as Advisory Board Chairman for Theta chapter. Miss Franchi just recently got accepted to the Teach for America program as a 2013 corps member. She begins her two year commitment on staff at Hansberry College Prep as a 9th grade Algebra teacher along with being assistant volleyball coach! 

Gabrielle Gazzola, Learning Specialist

Hi! My name is Gabe Gazzola. I grew up just outside the Twin Cities in Minnesota. I went to school at Gustavus Adolphus College where I majored in Psychology and minored in Coaching and Music with a piano performance emphasis. I am a part of the 2015 Teach For America corps. Some of my interests include music, swimming, and coloring. I am excited to join the Hansberry College Prep team!

Delisa Greene, Physical Education Instructor 

Ms. Greene was born and raised on the Southside of Chicago, she received a bachelor’s degree in Business Administration from Robert Morris University in Chicago, where she was also a 4 year student-athlete. After her completion, she began to coach high school basketball, working at the Chicago Park District and for many non-profit organizations across the city. This is where she learned that working with youth was something that she was truly passionate about. Since then, her passion for working with youth in the inner-city has continued to grow.  Sports and physical fitness have always been a big part of her life and she is excited about continuing to teach and coach students to healthier, more fit lifestyles. 

Erin Greer, History Instructor

Ms. Greer was born and raised in Kalamazoo, Michigan and is a very proud alumna of the University of Michigan where she earned her B.A. in Political Science and Spanish with a minor in Criminal Justice. During her time at U of M, Ms. Greer worked with students in Detroit Public Schools as a college prep tutor and led literature circles at a local juvenile detention facility. Before coming to Hansberry, Ms. Greer taught World History in Gary, Indiana as a Teach for America corps member where she helped kick-start her school’s Student Council. When she is not in her classroom, Ms. Greer enjoys trying out new recipes, running along the lake shore, and yelling at her TV while watching Chicago sports. Ms. Greer is proud to call Chicago home and could not be more excited to build the next generation of leaders as part of the Hansberry family next year!

Tracy Peterson-Haden, Bilingual Coordinator/Teacher at Large

I am a proud native of Kansas City, Missouri (go Chiefs and Royals!).  After graduating from St. Teresa’s Academy, I went on to the University of Missouri (go Tigers!) where I received bachelor’s degrees in Business Administration, International Relations and Spanish.  I began my professional career working as a financial planning associate at a well-respected wealth management firm in St. Louis, Missouri.  While I really enjoyed my work, I did not enjoy the cubicle lifestyle and left the company in August of 2013.  I always knew I wanted to teach so I enrolled in the MA Education program at University College Dublin in Dublin, Ireland.  I lived in Ireland for two years and was fortunate to travel extensively across Europe during this time.  Following my graduation, I taught Spanish I & II at my alma mater St.Teresa’s Academy.  This experience solidified my love of teaching young adults and I am so excited to continue that work at Hansberry.  I feel privileged to work in an environment focused on creating successful individuals and having colleagues so devoted to that goal.  In my spare time, you can find me running, traveling, reading or planning my wedding this December!

Christine Holthus, Learning Specialist

I grew up an hour Northwest of Chicago, in a suburb called Elgin and graduated from Burlington Central High School.  I then attended the University of Wisconsin-Parkside (Kenosha, WI) where I double-majored in History and Psychology, while also earning a Museum Studies Certificate. During my time at Parkside, I was also an NCAA Division II college athlete and played center field on the Softball team.  After graduating from Parkside, I continued my studies at Marquette University (Milwaukee, WI) where I earned a Master’s Degree in History. I am a 2015 Teach for America Chicago Corps Member and am very excited to start my teaching career at Hansberry College Prep!

Jeanette Hoyt, Part-time Music Instructor 

Ms. Hoyt brings 15 years of large ensemble teaching experience and over two decades of small ensemble and private music lesson expertise to Hansberry College Prep High School. Previously a General Manager and Intermediate Orchestra Director of Hyde Park Youth Symphony and String Ensemble Director at Guerin Prep High School. Jeannette is presently Director of the South Shore Swing Orchestra and is an adjudicator for Illinois High School Music Association District Contest and Illinois Music Educators Association Contest. As guest clinician, Jeannette has worked with the Schaumburg Youth Symphony, the Englewood Youth Symphony Orchestra, Chicago's All-Star Orchestra, and has hosted "String Fest!", a one day festival for string students enrolled in Chicago's Catholic School System. Originally a string music major and piano minor, Jeannette enjoys sharing her love of music and especially piano with her students.
In recent years, Jeannette has embarked on a new direction in her life, studying acupuncture and Oriental Medicine and pursuing a Master’s Degree in Public Health at Chicago State University. Jeannette is also Assistant Editor of the Oriental Medicine Journal, has served as a grant reviewer for the Patient Centered Outcomes Research Institute, and participated in the development of Healthy Chicago 2.0 by being part of the Education Equity Team.

Molly Hudson, Math Instructor

Molly Hudson graduated from St. Bonaventure University in 2015 with a Bachelor’s of Science in Elementary and Special Education. She is from Cazenovia, New York and is very excited to be working at Hansberry! Ms. Hudson believes that all of her students are capable of so much, and can experience growth in academics through hard work and dedication. Prior to working at Hansberry, Ms. Hudson worked with students in a small group setting on various math topics. She enjoys teaching math and helping her students realize their potential in the subject. In her spare time, Ms. Hudson enjoys reading and exploring new places. 

Francisco Huerta, History Instructor

My family immigrated from Mexico in 1992 and has lived in Chicago for twenty years. I grew up on the northwest side of Chicago where I still live today. I am an alum of Henry D. Lloyd Elementary, Pulaski Fine Arts Academy, Rauner College Prep, and on May 18th I will be an alum of Wabash College graduating Cum Laude. I would not be where I am today if it were not for the great support I received from my parents and Noble family. It is thanks to great education I received at Rauner College Prep that I was able to attend Wabash College on a full-ride scholarship. I am a member of the Phi Gamma Delta fraternity and was elected to serve two one year terms on my Chapter's executive board. At Wabash I was also a photographer for the school newspaper and a member of the Wabash College Sphinx Club (Junior-Senior Honor Society). I was an assistant soccer coach at the local Boys & Girls Club and a member of Psi Chi (International Honor Society in Psychology). I hope to spend the majority of my life in the education system helping kids fight for their dreams. I am a loyal individual who is always willing to lend a helping hand to those around me. Please do not hesitate to reach out to me if you have any questions!

Jane Hutchinson, History Instructor

Born in the South Side, raised in the suburbs, and formally educated in the North Shore, I am a thoroughly metropolitan Chicagoan. After earning my BA in Art History from Northwestern University in 2007, I left my beloved Windy City for the Big Apple so I could attend New York University’s Institute of Fine Arts. As much as I loved researching postwar American art, I soon found my true passion to be teaching. So, shortly after earning my Master of Arts in Art History and Archeology, I enrolled in the University of Southern California’s on line Master of Arts in Teaching program. I am thrilled to be joining the Hansberry College Prep team, and I cannot wait to share my love of the social sciences and art with the Bengals.

James Kerr, English Instructor

My name is James Kerr and I graduated from Purdue University in 2011 with a Bachelors Degree in English Education. After graduation I worked as an Academic Advisor at Ivy Tech Community College in Bloomington, Indiana. I soon moved to Atlanta, Georgia where I taught English and coached Football for two years at Dunwoody High School. My wife and I moved to Chicago in the Summer of 2015 and we are both excited to come home to the Midwest and join the Hansberry College Prep family.

Lindsay Knight, History Instructor

Lindsay Knight is a 10th grade History Instructor and 9th grade Advisor. For the past year, Lindsay worked at the Center for Data Science and Public Policy, where she managed projects on social impact, civic analytics and workforce development. Prior to this work, she spent the five years at a youth-centric nonprofit (Blackstone Bicycle Works at Experimental Station) in Woodlawn. In this role, she founded and managed a multitude of initiatives—including a comprehensive college prep and career and vocational training—for the program. She is committed to figuring out how the intersection of theory and practice best fits together, and is particularly interested in the challenges posed to educational equity by structural racism, urban poverty, crime, food and housing insecurity. Concurrent to her non-profit work, Lindsay taught the history of social and political thought to college and graduate students at the University of Chicago. In her spare time, Lindsay races bikes competitively, is a mentor in the Institute of Politics’ Women in Public Service program, and a mentor with Chicago Scholars. She holds a BA, MA, and PhD in Political Science, all from the University of Chicago. 

Sarah Kohtala, Interim Principal

Ms. Kohtala grew up in Duluth, Minnesota on the shores of Lake Superior.  After graduating from Denfeld High School, she attended Coe College in Cedar Rapids, Iowa where she studied History and Philosophy.  While attending Coe,  Ms. Kohtala studied abroad in both London, England and Florence, Italy, which ignited her love for travel.  After completing her baccalaureate degree, Ms. Kohtala entered the JET (Japanese Exchange and Teaching) Programme, and moved to Takaoka, Japan to teach English to high school students.  Upon her return from Japan, Ms. Kohtala became an Americorps/VISTA volunteer at North Kenwood-Oakland Charter School and ran their tutoring program.  This led her to seek a Masters Degree and teaching certification in Education through the Glenview/DePaul Clinical Model Teaching Program.  Upon earning her Masters Degree in Education, Ms. Kohtala became an urban educator and taught 6-8th grade ELA, History and Science at CICS Basil Charter School for four years.  Ms. Kohtala still loves to travel, and is also a professional DJ in her spare time.  

Michael Kovanda, Paraprofessional

I was born and raised in Batavia, Illinois, and went on to attend the University of Wisconsin, where I studied political science.  After graduation I moved to Bloomington, Indiana to pursue a graduate degree in political theory.  I'm passionate about developing empowering student-teacher relationships and excited to have the opportunity to do so at Hansberry.

Mariah Lewis, Learning Specialist

Ms. Lewis is a native of Gurnee, IL and received her B.S in Natural Resources and Environmental Science at the University of Kentucky focusing on Conservation Biology, Environmental Education, and Field and Lab Analysis. During her time at UK, she was the Student Programming Coordinator of the Office of Sustainability where she directed sustainability and environmentally focused programs campus wide, through this role she founded an environmental education program for college freshman called UK Eco Reps. She begins her career as a corps member for Teach For America-Chicago where she will be a Science Learning Specialist for Hansberry College Prep.

Sean Liston, Learning Specialist                                                                    

Mr. Liston grew up outside Chicago in Downers Grove, Illinois and graduated from Downers Grove South High School.  He then attended Indiana University in Bloomington, IN where he earned a dual degree in English and Secondary Education. While in college Mr. Liston also studied abroad in London, England. He joined Teach For America in Milwaukee, WI shortly after graduation where he taught as a Special Education teacher and pursued a Master’s degree in Urban Special Education.  Mr. Liston has long dreamed of coming back to Chicago and is supremely excited to be a member of Hansberry College Preparatory. In his free time Mr. Liston enjoys running, traveling, and being an avid follower of Chicago sports and Indiana University Men’s Basketball.

Kiara Logan, Math/Science Instructor

I received my bachelors in health science from DePaul University. I previously worked at another Noble school supporting special education.  In my spare time I run a non profit organization called Rise which is an upward bound program that helps high school students with tutoring, college admissions and scholarships. I also enjoy spending my time with my daughter. 

Benjamin Louis, Learning Specialist

Mr. Louis was born and raised in Akron, Ohio and studied at Walsh University where he graduated with a double major in secondary education and history.  After graduating from Walsh, Mr. Louis went off to South Korea on a Fulbright Grant where he taught ESL at an all-male public high school.  Upon returning to the States, he moved to Arkansas to work at an all-male college prep boarding school.  Mr. Louis is very excited to return to the Midwest as a Teach for America corps member and a Learning Specialist here at Hansberry College Prep!  In his free time, he enjoys reading, traveling, cooking, eating, CrossFit, and exploring Chicago.

Victoria Luna, Assistant Dean of Culture

I am from Cicero, Illinois and graduated from J. Sterling Morton East High School. I attended Lewis University where I earned a bachelor’s degree in Criminal Justice. While in college I was part of a cold case investigation team lead by a retired homicide detective. We investigated multiple homicides and the team was able to solve many old cases. I also worked as an intern with the Joliet Police Department during my last semester in college. During that time I rode with patrol officers as they responded to calls.  My background may be in security and loss prevention, but I am very excited to see where this new role takes me.

Jodimae Lyttle,  Learning Specialist/Athletic Director                                                              

Originally from Miami, Florida, I received my Bachelor’s degree in Family, Youth and Community Sciences from The University of Florida. Go Gators!  I went on to obtain my Masters of Science in Marriage and Family Therapy from East Carolina University, in Greenville, North Carolina.   After a year of working as an in-home family therapist, I joined the 2011 Teach for America Corps in New York City.  I taught Self-Contained Math, ELA, Science and Social Studies for 7th and 8th grade and two 8th grade Co-taught Math courses.   I also led the Step Enrichment Cluster for 6th-8th grade.  I absolutely love teaching and working with students and their families.  I am absolutely thrilled to join Hansberry College Prep in the fall and look forward to working hard with staff, families and students.

Meenu Matthew, Dean of Instruction 

Meenu was born in India and moved to North Carolina when she was three years old. She attended Marquette University and earned her Bachelor's in Chemistry and Education. She moved to St. Louis to start her teaching career with SLPS. It was there that she attended Washington University and received a Masters in Biology with a focus on Curriculum and Instruction. After a few years Meenu decided to move to Chicago to be closer to friends and family. She taught all subjects of science for eight years. Working at start up schools helped her to discover her passion for working with teachers and began a career as an Instructional Coach. Work is super important but she also love her free time. Meenu stays active by playing soccer and doing Bikram yoga. She loves to travel, try new restaurants, watch reality shows and nothing beats curling up on the couch with a great book. 

Shiree McGee, Paraprofessional

I am a Chicago native. I began my career in education in 1997 as a paraprofessional at Pace Elementary School. I left the educational field and went to Corporate America in pursuit of change. I was very successful but realized my true passion lies in education. I returned as a paraprofessional in 2010.  I have since had the roles of paraprofessional and teacher in private, public, and charter schools. I also work with children and teenagers in my spare time. I currently attend Grand Canyon University where I have completed my Associates Studies in Early Elementary and Special Education and I am currently pursuing my Bachelors. I absolutely love spending time with my family and friends having lots of fun! 

Chelsea Meiners, Spanish Instructor

I grew up in Rochelle, IL, which is about 2 hours west of Chicago. I then went to Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee where I graduated with a Bachelor's of Science in 2011 in Human and Organizational Development and Spanish. After an internship with the Education Department at the Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce my junior year of college, I became interested in teaching and ensuring that all students receive an excellent education. I decided to apply to Teach for America and have spent the past two years teaching Spanish 1, 2 and International Baccalaureate at Hunters Lane High School in Nashville. While at Hunters Lane I also had the opportunity to coach the high school's colorguard squad, which is an activity I participated in during high school and college as well.


Bryson Naylor, Biology Teacher

Mr. Naylor was raised in South Florida before heading north to attend college at New York University.  After graduating with a B.A. in Politics and Spanish, Mr. Naylor made the journey to Los Angeles to join Teach For America's 2012 cohort.  He taught all subjects in Los Angeles, but mainly focused on middle school math and science.  During his time with TFA, Mr. Naylor also earned a Master's degree in Urban Education from Loyola Marymount University.  He has recently moved to Chicago for a new adventure and is very excited to be joining the Hansberry family as a 9th grade Biology teacher!

Samantha Nidenberg,  IB Biology Instructor 

Growing up in Evanston, Illinois I always loved music and sports. In high school I played the trombone in 4 different musical groups, was on the water polo, volleyball and swim teams. I received my Bachelors degree from Wellesley College, where I discovered my love of teaching. After graduating I worked with teens developing leadership and community programming in the Boston area. Then I spent 4 years teaching at a Big Picture high school in Providence, Rhode Island. Where I worked with students to develop empirical, social, and quantitative reasoning, as well as real world learning skills.  I am very excited to return to the city I love and join the Hansberry College Prep team to learn and teach with both the staff and the students.


Matthew Notarberardino, Math Instructor

I was born in Columbus Ohio and primarily grew up in the suburbs of Cleveland Ohio. I played almost every sport growing up but primarily spent my time playing hockey or running cross country. After high school I went to the University of Chicago where I studied mathematics for my bachelors degree and secondary mathematics education for my masters degree. I have lived in Chicago for the last eight years. 

Megan Occhino, Teacher at Large 

Megan was born and raised in Green Bay, Wisconsin. She attended Lawrence University, a private liberal arts college in Appleton, Wisconsin. After receiving her BA degree in Psychology, she decided to finish her education certification with the Chicago Center of Urban Life and Culture.  With the Chicago Center Megan completed her student teaching with CPS, at King College Preparatory High School, and fell in love with Chicago. Megan can’t get enough of running near the lake, or exploring the diverse neighborhoods Chicago has to offer. Although she does not plan on becoming a Bears fan anytime soon, she's excited to learn more from the Chicago community and the Hansberry community!

Herika J. Panduro, Assistant Dean of Operations

My name is Herika J. Panduro, I was born in Chicago and raised in Mexico. I came back to Chicago at 14 years old and on my return, I attended a private all-girls high school, which, at times, was a struggle, but I worked hard to overcome all obstacles. As time passed, I changed jobs and went to work as a Case Manager for Pilsen Little Village and Alternative Healthcare Services. These organizations were funded by the Chicago Aids Foundation and I oversaw a case load of 25 to 30 clients every month. In November 2004, I moved to Cicero and also worked for the town of Cicero. I worked for the Senior Services Department, assisting seniors with all kinds of home repairs and transportation.  Three years later, I was given the opportunity to oversee an entire department, a job I readily accepted. As the head of the Immigration Citizenship Department, I knew I could change thousands of people’s lives. I ran the department by myself for almost three years handling program registrations, budgets, teaching adults civics history, and advocating for clients at the Department of Homeland Security. This program grew to assist residents in many areas, all dealing with immigration issues. During this time, I was also going to school part-time to finish my education. I earned my Bachelor’s Degree in Criminal/Social Justice. After working 11 years with the town of Cicero, I realized that in order to grow, I would need to leave this position. Through an intensive search for the perfect opportunity, I found Hansberry College Prep. This is a wonderful opportunity and I appreciate being a member of this work family. 

Khushbu Patel, Social Worker

I have grown up outside the Philadelphia area, and spent my undergraduate years studying at Drexel University in Philly. There, I earned a bachelor's degree in Psychology. At the university, I volunteered with the Nezu Stress and Coping Research Lab, as well as worked at the Drexel Writing Center. My experience in urban education began during my postgraduate work with the Violence Prevention Initiative at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, where I co-facilitated an aggression intervention in the School District of Philadelphia. I have developed a passion for working with young students of color, and am currently pursuing a Master's in Social Work from the University of Chicago. I'm so thankful to be working alongside a strong team of students and staff at Hansberry! 

Nina Phillips, History Instructor  

I was born and raised on the Westside of Chicago. I graduated from Providence St. Mel High School where I played Basketball, Volleyball, and ran Track and Field. I graduated from Western Illinois University with a B.A. in Journalism. At WIU I ran the 4X1, 4X2, and 100 Hurdles. I was also an Opinions Columnist at the Western Courier, an assistant multimedia specialist for the WIU athletic team, and involved in the Black Student Union. After I graduated from WIU, I gained several positions as an Online Magazine Writer. Being a writer was not rewarding enough for me, so I resigned from my writing positions and become a Paraprofessional at an Elementary School. I fell in love with teaching my students how to read, so I decided to get a Master's in Teaching at Concordia University Chicago. I graduated from CUC and obtained my first teaching and coaching position. I transitioned from Clark to Wentworth Elementary as an English/Language Arts Middle School teacher. Now I am here at HCP and I am looking forward to this school year!

Corrie Potter, Learning Specialist

 I was born and raised in Southern California, as the youngest daughter of a family of four. I graduated from Santa Margarita Catholic High School and have spent the last four years at Duke University, where I I’ve pursued my passions for psychology and history. I fell in love with teaching two summers ago while I was working at Freedom School in Bennettsville, South Carolina and am excited to spend the next few years as a part of the Hansberry College Prep family! Although, I’ve only ever been to Chicago once, I have heard incredible things and cannot wait to get to know the city and its people.!


Maisia Reid, Paraprofessional 

Maisia was born and raised on the Southside of Chicago. She attended college at The University of Missouri-Columbia (Go Tigers!). There she earned a Bachelors of Health Sciences degree. After graduation Maisia moved back home to do a year of service with City Year Chicago working with students at Schurz H.S. It was during this year her push to continue to work with youth grew. She then went on to work for a non-profit working to connect families to the proper resources for their children. She is excited to join the Hansberry family.

Leah Rietveld, College Counselor

Leah is originally from suburbs of Cleveland, Ohio. She earned her B.A. in Psychology from Ohio Wesleyan University and her M.A. in Biological and Social Psychology from University of Chicago. While studying and student teaching at University of Chicago, Leah fell in love with teaching and with Chicago. To be able to work with students and inspire a love of science and higher education, she earned her teaching certificate in secondary science education at Northwestern University through Chicago Teaching Fellows and then taught Chemistry and Environmental Science in Chicago Public Schools for three years. Leah then worked with a high school internship program for three years where she focused on counseling current interns and alumni of the program on college and career attainment.   She now lives in Chicago with her husband, Beagle, and two Bengal cats.  In her free time she enjoys running and completed the Chicago Marathon for the first time last fall. Leah is looking forward to helping the first graduates of Hansberry College Prep find their perfect college and career.

Brooke Robinson, Learning Specialist

I was born and raised in Jacksonville, Florida. I received a Bachelor of Science in Psychology and a Bachelor of Arts in International Affairs as well as a minor in Family and Child Sciences at Florida State University. I came to Chicago as a 2015 Teach for America Corps member and could not be more happy to be here. I have a strong passion for social justice and international peace. In my free time I enjoy yoga, going new places and spending time with my cat Sherlock. 

Tarshika Rosario, Assistant Principal

My name is Tarshika L. Rosario. I was born and raised in Chicago, IL. I am the oldest of four children and I graduated from South Shore-School of Technology as the class Valedictorian. I was accepted into twenty-one colleges and universities around the world but fell in love with Spelman College where I earned my Bachelor of Arts degree. At Spelman, I majored in International Studies and Spanish and I had the opportunity to travel all over the world including Africa, Spain, Costa Rica, and Dominican Republic for six months. After graduating from Spelman, I taught 9th-12th grade Spanish at Lighthouse College Prep Academy as a Teach for America 2011 corps member.  After having worked in Gary, Indiana as the Director of School Culture, I am ecstatic to be returning back to my hometown of Chicago working as the Dean of Discipline at Hansberry College Prep. In July of 2014, I will be graduating from Walden University with a Masters in Public Administration.  In my spare time, I enjoy traveling, reading, and spending time with family and friends. I look forward to bringing my skills to Hansberry to ensure there is always a strong culture of achievement.

Claire Schuette, Social Worker

I was born and raised in a small town in northern Illinois with my three younger sisters. I attended the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign where I earned a dual degree in Spanish and Psychology. After graduation, I served as an AmeriCorps Community Service Fellow with a long-term preventative dropout program working with youth in Denver, and then moved to Chicago to work as a community organizer surrounding issues of college access and retention on the city’s West side. Recently, I earned my Master’s in Social Work from the University of Chicago. When I’m not “social-working,” I love to draw, read, and surround myself with positive people. I’m excited to be a part of the Hansberry community and look forward to a great year!

Sabrina Shelley, Manager of Student Recruitment

Sabrina is from Chicago but grew up in Bolingbrook, IL.  She attended Romeoville High School and earned a Bachelor's of Science degree from Chicago State University.  Sabrina has been involved in youth programming and development both as a volunteer and professionally in the Auburn Gresham community for 10 years.  Sabrina joined Hansberry College Prep as an Administrative Assistant for the 2013-2014 school year and was recently promoted to Manager of Student Recruitment.

Roland Smith, Dance and Physical Education Instructor

Born in Indianapolis, IN and graduate of Tennessee State University with a Bachelors in Commercial Music and Performance. Roland started his dance career in college both performing for regional and local theatre companies in the area. During his career he has been in off broadway productions of Dream Girls, Guys and Dolls and the Wiz just to name a few. Roland currently lives in the south community of Chicago where founded Spiritual Feet Dance Company where he has been working to generate affordable dance workshops for the community as well as create an additional opportunities for artist seeking for advancement in the industry. After just 3 years in the Chicago community his company has grown to service over 300 dancers through workshops and classes, has produced and up and coming dance company and has secured partnerships with the Chicago Park district and major churches in the Southside community.  Roland is honored to become apart of such a cohesive team and hopes to build both futures and family within the Noble Network.

Chantel Subaitis, Science Instructor

I was born and raised in the south suburbs of Chicago.  I attended Marquette University and earned my degree in Biomedical Sciences.  After college I moved to New Orleans and joined the HealthCorps to help rebuild part of the health care system in New Orleans.  During that time I became very interested in teaching so I moved back to the Chicagoland area and joined the Chicago Teaching Fellows.  I taught Biology at Harper for a year and then Integrated Science at Youth Connections Leadership Academy for three years.  I am very excited to be joining the Hansberry team this upcoming year. 

Ruth Tekeste, English Instructor

Ms. Tekeste was born in Chicago but moved to Lincolnwood (northwestern suburb) where she attended Niles West High School. She then completed her undergraduate degree at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, where she majored in Psychology and studied abroad in Japan and Singapore, igniting her love of travel. She started her career in education by joining Teach for America and teaching 9th and 10th grade English in Miami for two years, while also earning her Masters in Education at the University of Miami. Ms. Tekeste is happy to come back to her roots and teach in the city that drew her to education in the first place!

Tamika Thomas, Director of Pre-College Programming 

Tamika was born in Chicago and raised in Bolingbrook, IL.  She attended Bolingbrook High School where she was involved in cheerleading, student council, peer mediation and the National Honor Society.  She graduated high school with honors and attended Central Michigan University in Mount Pleasant, Michigan on an academic scholarship.  Throughout college she was involved in various Christian and business organizations and worked as a multicultural advisor where she helped minority students acclimate to college life and educated students on various areas of diversity.  Tamika graduated from Central Michigan University, Cum Laude, with a Bachelor’s degree in Business Administration. 

For the last several years, Tamika has worked in the financial services industry at Northern Trust Bank where she held various positions in operations, management, client services, and financial planning/education.  In her free time, she enjoys spending time with her family, dancing, shopping, and travelling.  Tamika is looking forward to assisting the next generation of leaders to be successful in their future collegiate and professional endeavors.

Collis Underwood, Culture Specialist

He was born and raised in Chicago. Graduated from Northern Illinois University with a Bachelor of Science in Criminology. Collis worked as a substitute and Gym teacher, out of college, until he went to the Chicago Police Department. Though he was highly decorated he wanted to challenge myself and try out the Federal government and become an agent. Life and circumstance caused him to leave and he has become an independent personal trainer. Now, he's here to help provided structure and a positive example. Hoping to be part of the reason a few kids' path is headed in the right direction. Collis enjoys working out, sports and playing with his son and daughter.

Tilda Wagner, Paraprofessional

I was raised in the northwest suburbs of Chicago. I was a dancer my whole life and I also had a passion for working with others. After high school I went to Western Illinois University where I received my bachelors in social work. Right after college I went back to school at the Jane Addams College of Social Work at the University of Illinois at Chicago for my masters in school social work. During graduate school I did an internship at an alternative high school working with students with emotional disabilities. While attending UIC I also had the opportunity to accompany my professors to Osaka, Japan where we visited many at-risk schools and learned about the school social work system. Working with adolescents has always been an interest of mine and I am extremely excited to continue my work at Hansberry College Prep!

Tyler Walker, Resident Special Education Instructor 

Tyler Walker was born in Columbus Ohio and grew up in a small suburb on the northeast side. In high school his interests included track, football, band, choir, and theater. He matriculated to the University of Chicago in 2012, where he received general honors and a Bachelor’s Degree in history in 2016. Tyler is thrilled to be working with HCP and with the Relay Graduate School of Education to continue his education while getting the opportunity to work in a school that maintains high academic standards. He teaches 11th grade history of the Americas and 12th grade African American history. He and his roommate can be found performing music gigs all around Chicago. 

Kameshia Ward, Theory of Knowledge Instructor

From Jamaican roots I am a first generation American, born in Queens, NYC. Although raised in rich culture and diversity I decided to attend a Howard University in Washington, DC, a Historically Black College/University. Majoring in Political Science with a concentration in Pre-Law and minoring in Administration of Justice, I graduated in 2004 with my Bachelor of Arts. Upon graduation I moved to Chicago to serve as a Corps Member in City Year, an Americorps program allowing members to complete 1700 service learning hours within a 10 month period. It is in this program the seed of passion for education was planted. I spent some years working in both a legal and educational capacity and beginning my family. After a small break from the workforce, I have decided to plant seeds of encouragement, aspirations and success in the hearts and minds of our youth using education as the tool. I am proud to join the Hansberry family and be a part of greatness.

Becky Welch, Learning Specialist

Hello my name is Becky Welch. I have been living in California for the past seventeen years, but I am excited to be moving back home to the Mid-West.  I attended University of the Pacific, where I received my Education Specialist Credential.  For the past three years I have been teaching in San Francisco.  My experience teaching in San Francisco has cemented my interest and passion for urban education.  In my free time, I enjoy running and training for half-marathons.  I am also looking forward to exploring the city of  Chicago.  I am very excited to be joining the Hansberry team! 

Destonie Williams, Special Projects Coordinator

I was born in Chicago partially raised in Detroit, and then later moved back to Chicago. I attended Moraine Valley Community College and graduated in 2009 with an Associates Degree in art. I continued on and graduated with Honors from Chicago State University with a Bachelors of Psychology.  I am an active member of The Kingdom of Christ Baptist Church.  I am excited about working with the Noble Family!

LaShaun Williams, Culture Specialist

Ms. Williams was born and raised on the southside of Chicago. She graduated from Chicago Vocational Career Academy. She later attended Richard J. Daley College and obtained her Associates degree in Criminal Justice. Ms. Williams went on to attend Chicago State University to receive her B.A. In Criminal Justice. She later moved to Farmington, Missouri where she was offered a position as a Correctional Officer. Ms. Williams moved backed to Chicago where she was offered a position at Hansberry College Prep as a Culture Specialist.

Sabrina Williams, History and Reading Instructor

Sabrina was born and raised in Chicago, Illinois. She attended Pomona College and Stanford University, where she graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Africana Studies and a Master of Arts in Secondary Education, respectively. Last year, she was the Founding 8th/9th Grade Social Studies Teacher at Monument Lighthouse College Prep in Indianapolis, Indiana. Sabrina is excited to continue serving students from diverse backgrounds and experiences and hopes to be a great asset to the Hansberry team.

Kristin Witcher, English Instructor

I was born and raised in Toledo, Ohio with dreams of living in a big city.  As a product of Toledo Public Schools and emerging from a family of teachers I was destined to have a career within an inner-city school district. I began my journey of becoming an educator in 2008 by moving to Columbus, Ohio to attend Ohio State University.  There I earned a bachelor’s degree in English Education and a Masters of Education in Secondary English. I visited Chicago several times during my collegiate career and declared that I would begin a new chapter of my life here upon graduation. I kept my promise and moved to Chicago in October of 2013.  Shortly after the move I obtained a position here at Hansberry College Prep. Aside from my love of students and education I also enjoy sports. I have played every sport that you can imagine, however my favorite sport is basketball and I have played organized basketball for the past 12 years.  I also enjoy cooking and spending time with my dearest friends and family!  I have fallen in love with the city of Chicago and I am so excited to be part of the Hansberry’s staff. I cannot wait to see what the newest chapter of my life has in store for me!

Michelle Yelaska, Math Instructor

I am extremely excited to join the Hansberry family! Growing up in a family of teachers in suburban Chicago, I have always been 100% invested in education. I pursued a Bachelors Degree in Mathematics Education and a minor in Psychology at Boston University. Infected by the travel bug and in love with all things British, I completed my student teaching in London, England, where I taught mathematics to grades 6-12. Through diverse classes and DREAM, a mentorship program for urban students, I was exposed to the realities of economic inequality and the educational gap. After these eyeopening conversations, I knew I wanted to commit to help all students surpass their potential through the enhancement of mathematical critical thinking skills. In my free time, I enjoy playing cello, discovering Indie music, and cheering the Cubs and the Blackhawks.   

Erika Zocher, Teacher at Large 

Greetings! Originally from Branford, Connecticut, Erika made her way to the Midwest in 2011 to pursue a degree in geology. It was an amazing journey learning about the planet while exploring a new part of the country. She has grown to love this region for its lakes, culture, and community. Erika is very excited to be here in Chicago and especially to be joining the team at Hansberry. Most recently, she worked at the Museum of Science and Industry followed by Greenpeace. Before moving to Chicago, she completed her B.S. in environmental geoscience with an emphasis in geology and a minor in biology at Northland College in Ashland, Wisconsin. She then studied Earth sciences at Dartmouth College in Hanover, New Hampshire where she worked on geochemistry research. In addition to her passion for science and teaching, she also enjoys art, music, dance, and spending time in nature.