Elle Morton is originally from Philadelphia and has degrees from Washington University in St. Louis (BA in Drama) and George Washington University (MA in Speech-Lanuage Pathology). She has maintained the ASHA CCC-SLP since 2009 and previously worked in the Virginia public schools. Elle has been active on the A.R.T.S. PTO for 6 years and is the PTO President this year. She lives in Oak Park with her husband Josh, 3 kids, and kitty Eloise. Julian is in Upstairs A.R.T.S., and Penny and Olive are A.R.T.S. alumnae (Olive still dances). This is Elle's second year working in the A.R.T.S. program.
Nathalie Yanguas has an MA in Egyptology from the University of Geneva, Switzerland. Before moving to the US in 2015, she taught French for 11 years, working primarily with adults and teenages, in particular immigrants and refugees. Last year she started teaching French in the Upstairs A.R.T.S. program and is excited to continue this year. Nathalie lives in River Forest with her husband and daughter Rose, who is an Academy alumna.
Corey Blackwell is a native of Massachusetts and a graduate of Southern New Hampshire University. Prior to moving to Chicago in 2007, Corey worked in sales and in 2004 founded Therapy Beauty Bar, a luxury beauty boutique located in Providence, R. I. She is married and has two children. Her daughter Easton is a recent graduate of the Academy. This will be Corey's fourth year working at the Academy.
Rebecca McLane taught at Pilgrim Community Nursery School from 1990 to 2015 and has been the music teacher for Upstairs A.R.T.S. since 2015. She earned a BFA from the The School of the Art Institute of Chicago and a MEd in Child Development from Erikson Institute in Chicago. She has also trained in the Musikgarten and Orff music education approaches. She sings with the Heritage Chorale, plays with the Oak Park Recorder Society, and is a founding member of Recorder Disorder. Rebecca has lived in Oak Park with her husband Paul Jacobson since 1982. Paul taught music at Lincoln Elementary School in Oak Park and their son Evan is currently the music teacher at Hatch Elementary School. Their daugher Anna teaches Exceptional Wiggle Worms for children with special needs at the Old Town School of Folk Music.
Wachter, Anja Riis
Anja Riis Wachter is orginally from Denmark. Anja studied construction and design before earning an MA in English Literature and Language, with a minor in History, from the University of Arhus, Denmark. Prior to moving to Chicago in 2003, she was an editor with an educational publishing company, a career she continued in Chicago while simultaneously operating her own design and dressmaking business. Anja lives in Oak Park with her husband, two daughters, and very large dog. In her spare time, she tries to squeeze in some running and yoga, she is on the board of directors of Pro Musica Youth Chorus, she volunteers with her daughters' schools and after school activities, and she enjoys creating design and sewing projects. Anja started at the Academy as an aide, then Art Teacher, and is thrilled to continue as Director of Upstairs A.R.T.S.
Jen Enriquez graduated from Georgetown University (Washington, DC) and Georgetown Mason University School of Law (Arlington, Virginia). Jen's two children, Luke and Helena, both attended the A.R.T.S. program from the age of 22 months through kindergarten, both spent two years in the upstairs program. Jen is passionate about teaching children skills and giving them tools for finding peace in themselves and bringing peace and kindness to their world, and runs Peace Camp for kids in the summer. She is also Director of Children and Youth Formation at St. Christopher's Episcopal Church in Oak Park, and maintains a small solo law practice from her home. Jen and her family live in La Grange with their two dachshunds, Felicia and Roxie.
Melissa Taub graduated from Columbia College with a B.A. in film/video and also has a Travel Certificate from C.O.D. This is Melissa’s eleventh year at the Academy. She was working in Advertising until her children were born. This led to a change in careers when her children, Jane and Maxwell attended the Academy. While her children attended the Academy, Melissa was a reading volunteer Downstairs and a parent volunteer Upstairs. This lead to becoming a floating aide in the Downstairs program and moving to the Upstairs program the following year. Upstairs she was an art aide and a physical fitness aide. This is Melissa’s 6th year teaching Creative Movement and Physical Fitness Upstairs, she has been working in the Upstairs Friday program for 11 years. Melissa was in the snack area for 9 years, last year she taught Science on Fridays and this school year she will move over to the Montessori/Practical Life area. This is Melissa’s 5th year teaching Creative Movement in the Downstairs program. She first was an aide in the Downstairs Physical Fitness room starting in 2012 and moved over to Creative Movement. Melissa has been incorporating the “Brain Dance” theory into her classes and has taken it’s workshop. She has taken dance lessons through the Academy and Intuit. Melissa has been co-teaching “Little Peacemakers,” with Jen Enriquez for the last 2 years. She is also the Math Add-on teacher and aiding the Words and French Add-on classes. She has been a Reading Buddy at Longfellow School for 10 years and is currently attending Triton College for an Early Childhood Education degree. In the Spring of 2019, Melissa attended a paraprofessional training at Seton Montessori, as well as taking continuing workshops through the Early Childhood Collaboration, which included a 7 month training on, “Equity in the Early Childhood Classroom.”
Ruth Tazelaar was married for forty-three years and is the mother of four children and grandmother of sixteen. When she became a mother, she chose to remain at home. Before coming to the Academy, for the last 37 years, she has helped raise many children as a home day care giver. She has also taught at Church schools, taught a dance class, cooking classes and has had a catering business. Through her life experiences and learning, Ruth feels she can teach much to the children at the Academy. She has been at the Academy for twenty four years, beginning as an aide and moving to the Creative Movement Room in Downstairs A.R.T.S. before becoming the art teacher. Ruth attended Triton College and Trinity Christian College.
Caroline TeDesco began her dance training at the Academy when she was 4 years old. She joined the Academy's resident dance company MOMENTA at age 10 and accompanied them on their first tour of Austria through Tanszomer in 2003. Caroline continued her training through the Milwaukee Ballet School, Ruth Page Dance Center, Lou Conte Dance Studio, River North Chicago and then on to Point Park University's Conservatory of the Performing Arts. Caroline began teaching dance and working as a teacher's aide in the Academy's A.R.T.S. program in the summer of 2005 and became a full time faculty member at the Academy in 2007. In the dance program Caroline has taught ballet, jazz and tap dance and is co-director of the junior ballet recital. In 2010 she was honored to receive the Orrin Kayan Award for excellence in teaching. In the A.R.T.S. program Caroline has worked as a hallway aide, Upstairs aide and teacher (Dance), Downstairs aide in the Creative Movement and Physical Fitness classes. In addition to her experience at the Academy, Caroline has taught at the Dance Center of LaGrange and in Hatch Elementary School's after school program.
Maureen Fahey joined the Academy family as in 2004 when her two sons began attending preschool. In 2009 when her daughter started preschool she became the Practical Life teacher in the Art/Music/Montessori room. She enjoyed learning more about the Montessori Method and introducing the children to new ideas each week at the Practical Life table. Maureen loves the unique preschool experience that the A.R.T.S. program offers families in the community. She studied Family and Consumer Science at Eastern Illinois University and worked in management and consumer relations after college. In her free time Maureen enjoys reading, yoga and spending time with her family especially outside in nature! Maureen lives in Oak Park with her husband and 3 children and is excited to begin her fourth year as Downstairs A.R.T.S. Director.
Judy Bianchi has been on staff at the Academy since 1999. She began as an aide for the Physical Fitness class and has emerged through the Academy programs. She has taught Physical Fitness, Downstairs Montessori and Upstairs Friday Montessori. She has also experienced the Creative Movement class. Judy is married and has three daughters. Her daughter Talia was a dancer at the Academy and Judy is now taking dance classes and yoga at the Academy as well. As a student Judy was a gymnast. She competed in many competitions and has performed many routines. Floor Exercise was her specialty. Judy has also learned the art of Rhythmic Gymnastics. Judy has taught teens Floor Exercise at summer camps at Maine East H.S. in Park Ridge. She also has volunteered at Whittier Elementary School as a classroom aide helping children better develop their reading skills and comprehension skills. Judy truly enjoys working with young children and is very happy and gratified to have the opportunity to work in all of the creative programs at the Academy. Judy now is a grandma of four and her granddaughter attends the Academy A.R.T.S. program, her grandson is an Academy alumna.
* Clemens, Stephanie
Stephanie Clemens “founded” the Academy in 1971 in her Oak Park living room when she rolled up the rug and began giving dance lessons to neighborhood children. Since that time the Academy has grown into a real village Institution, home to approximately 900 students: 150 families in the A.R.T.S. preschool program, the rest in dance and music classes. Stephanie studied dance at Juilliard and took a B.A. in Physical Anthropology at U.C.L.A. where she did research on the evolution of the human locomotor system. Stephanie spends her time at the Academy teaching in the dance division and has developed the Introduction to Ballet program for preschool age children. She is the Artistic Director of MOMENTA, the Academy’s resident performing company. She has three grown sons, Jason and Justin Prost and JP Tenuta, all of whom have been students at the Academy. Her youngest son teaches ballet at the Academy.