Faculty

Bianchi, Judy
Physical Fitness and Montessori (Downstairs)

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 grandson is attending the Academy A.R.T.S. program, with his sister soon to follow.

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Blackwell, Corey
Aide (Upstairs)

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 first year working at the Academy.

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* Clemens, Stephanie
Director of the Academy of Movement & Music

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.

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Dillon, Mindy
Aide (Downstairs & Upstairs)

Mindy Dillon has an MA and BA in English from University of Notre Dame. Mindy and her husband live in Oak Park and have four children. Her youngest daughter, Rory, will be attending dance classes at the Academy this year. Mindy has worked in the elementary schools in Berwyn, Forest Park, and Cicero. This is Mindy's second year as an aide in the A.R.T.S. program.

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Enriquez, Jen
Upstairs Aide

Jen Enriquez graduated from Georgetown University (Washington, DC) and Georgetown Mason University School of Law (Arlington, Virginia). Jen and her family relocated from Arlington, Virginia to Illinois in September of 2011. Her two children, Helena and Luke, participated in the Academy A.R.T.S. preschool. She and her husband chose the Academy “because of the diversity of the school, the philosophy of incorporating arts into preschool and the beautiful facility.” Jen has been an attorney for 24 years, practicing part-time from home since 2008 when her first child was born. The first preschool Helena and Luke attended (in Virginia) was a cooperative preschool and Jen loved being in the classroom and involved in various education opportunities from the first day. Jen has always loved cooking and became even more interested and adventurous when Helena developed many food sensitivities and the family learned husband Tony was affected by these sensitivities as well. Jen was licensed as an Illinois attorney in June 2013 and has a small solo practice. Jen is also Director of Children's Formation at St. Christopher's Episcopal Church in Oak Park. Jen is passoniate about foreign language education and obtained a grant in 2013 to start a Spanish preschoolers program in her community. Other members of Jen’s family include two dachshunds, Willow and Felicia.

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Fahey, Maureen
Downstairs A.R.T.S. Director, Music

Maureen Fahey joined the Academy family as a floating aide in 2004 when her sons started preschool. Maureen became the Practical Life teacher in 2009 when her daughter started at the Academy. She has really enjoyed learning more about the Montessori Method, planning the Practical Life activities, 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 customer relations for retail and health care companies after college. Outside of the Academy, Maureen enjoys reading, being outside enjoying nature and spending time with her large extended family. Maureen lives in Oak Park with her husband and 3 children and is very excited to take on new challenges as the Downstairs A.R.T.S. Director this year.

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Lucy Hunter-Bry
Downstairs Aide

Lucy Hunter-Bry grew up dancing and demonstrating at the Academy. She has choreographed for theater companies in the Oak Park area. Lucy volunteers at Ann and Robert H. Lurie Children's Hospital of Chicago and is attending Concordia University as a Pre-Art Therapy major. This is her sixth year working as an aide in the Downstairs A.R.T.S.

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McLane, Rebecca
Music (Upstairs)

Rebecca McLane taught at Pilgrim Community Nursery School for 25 years and this is her 2nd year at the Academy. 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 for 33 years with her husband Paul Jacobson and their two children, Anna and Evan. Paul taught music at Lincoln School in Oak Park. Evan is currently the music teacher at Hatch School, and has taught at several other District #97 schools. Anna teaches Wiggle Worms for special education at the Old Town School of Folk Music in Chicago.

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Mullen, Kaitlin
Downstairs Practical Life, Montessori

Kaitlin Mullen is back for her fourth consecutive year after a few years' hiatus. Kaitlin worked in the A.R.T.S. program for 3 years previously and is an Academy dance alumn. She is married now and the mother of Grace who is an A.R.T.S. alumn and attends ballet class at the Academy.

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Nelson, Molly
Downstairs Aide

Molly Nelson is a fourth generation OPRFHS graduate. She received her Associates Degree from Triton College, studied Early Childhood Education at Concordia University, and is working on her last semester at Eastern Illinois University. Molly worked as an aide at Concordia University's Early Childhood Center for one year. She also worked at Midtown Athletic Club as a childcare attendant for three years. This is Molly's second year and she is happy and excited to be working at the Academy.

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Preston, Linda
Montessori Directress (Upstairs)

Linda Preston directed the Montessori environment in the Kinder A.R.T.S. program (predecessor to Upstairs A.R.T.S.) and taught in the Art/Music/ Montessori classroom in the A.R.T.S. program for 8 years, from the mid-80’s to the early 90’s. Linda’s son Elisha (35) spent a year in the Kinder A.R.T.S. program and now attends the “Everybody Can Dance” program on Sundays. He thinks of the Academy as home. Linda obtained a Bachelor’s Degree in Sociology and Education from Beloit College in 1967 and a second Bachelor’s in Judaic Studies in 1978. In 1985 she completed her Montessori training and received a Montessori Pre-Primary Certificate. After teaching at the Academy, Linda worked at the University of Illinois Circle Campus teaching adults with developmental disabilities. Linda received a Master of Arts from DePaul University in 2002. In addition to her duties in the Montessori section of Upstairs A.R.T.S., she works many hours advocating for her son, and helping people to sign up for healthcare coverage.

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*Pries, Donna
Upstairs A.R.T.S. Director, Cultural Awareness, Literature, Prop Production

Donna Pries received a B.A. from North Central College in Elementary Education and Religion. Upon graduation, she spent the summer as a playground director in Santa Cruz, New Mexico, then taught 4th grade for 5 years in Naperville. She took oil painting and pottery classes. When Donna quit teaching to raise her children, Adam (43) and Rebecca (41), she made stoneware plaques and mirrors to sell at art fairs. The Pries family came to the Academy when they lived in Cicero. Adam and Rebecca were taking ballet, but Donna wanted a school where other boys were also taking ballet. Rebecca teaches ballet, preschool Spanish and in Upstairs A.R.T.S. at the Academy and has worked in the office. Adam and Rebecca were both involved with MOMENTA. Adam was a professional ballet dancer for six years and now teaches High School Art in Tinley Park. Donna also took dance classes – ballet, tap and jazz – here at the Academy. Donna also is the Backstage Children’s Coordinator and Costume organizer for the June Ballet Recital at the Academy. She has been involved with the Academy for 39 years. As well as teaching at The Academy, Donna is a director of a Sacred Dance Troupe, and teaches workshops in area churches and retreats. In 1996, Donna was nominated for the Kohl-McCormick fellowship for Early Education and in 1998 and 2013 she received the Orrin Kayan Memorial Excellence in Teaching Award. Donna has attended seminars on both the Montessori and Reggio Emilia methods of early childhood education. Donna now lives in Naperville and is the proud grandma of Adams’ son Anderson and daughters Fiona and Felicity, and Rebecca’s twin son Nicolas and daughter Natalia. Rebecca's twins have attended the A.R.T.S. program for 4 years and will be in kindergarten at Longfellow this fall.

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Pries, Rebecca
Dance, Friday Dean/Staff Coordinator (Upstairs A.R.T.S.)

Rebecca Pries has a B.A. in Latin American Studies from Washington University and a M.S. in Early Childhood Education from the Erikson Institute. Rebecca began attending ballet classes at the Academy when she was five years old. She continued to study ballet through college, but chose a professional career working with children. After graduating from Wash U, she lived and worked in Chile, where she met her husband. Upon returning to the United States, she worked as Director of the School Age Program at Casa Central in Chicago for five years. After completing her M.S. with Type 04 teaching certificate from the Erikson Institute, Rebecca taught in the Chicago Public Schools’ bilingual Head Start program. Rebecca has taught ballet at the Academy since 1999. This will be her seventh year in the A.R.T.S. program working with her mother, Donna Pries. Her children, Nicolas and Natalia, will start Kindergarten this year.

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Seiler, Julie
Downstairs Aide

Julie Seiler has had the good fortune to work Upstairs, as well as Downstairs. After graduating with a B.S. in Communications from Loyola University, she worked for many years in the dental/medical field. Her son , Richard, is an A.R.T.S. alumnus. This is Julie's eighth year at the Academy.

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Taub, Melissa
Creative Movement, Physical Fitness (Downstairs & Upstairs)

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 eighth year at the Academy. She started out as a floating aide in the Downstairs program, as well as a reading volunteer while her children attended the Academy. She worked in the Upstairs program as an aid in Art and Physical Fitness before moving to the Downstairs program. This will be her 3rd year teaching Creative Movement and Physical Fitness in the Upstairs program. Melissa has been in the Upstairs Friday snack area for the past 8 years. Melissa has spent four years in the Downstairs Physical Fitness room as an aide. This will be her first year teaching creative movement in the morning and her second in the afternoon Downstairs A.R.T.S. program. Melissa is also a classroom volunteer at Longfellow School and a RE volunteer at Third Unitarian Church in Chicago. Her two children, Jane and Max are A.R.T.S. alumni.

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Tazelaar, Niki
Downstairs Aide

Niki Tazelaar has a B.S. with a concentration in Graphic Design and Painting from Bradley University and a B.A. from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. After graduating from Bradley University Niki worked in graphic design and fine art reproduction, and taught mural painting class to high school students for 2 years. She studied landscape painting in Italy while working on her B.A. at S.A.I.C. After graduation from S.A.I.C. Niki worked in graphic design for seven years. After marrying Ruth Tazelaar’s son and having three boys, she worked from home designing invitations and painting portraits. This is Niki's sixth year working at the Academy.

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Tazelaar, Ruth
Art (Downstairs)

Ruth Tazelaar has been 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 36 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 two 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.

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TeDesco, Caroline
Physical Fitness and Creative Movement (Downstairs)

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 and has been teaching Physical Fitness in the afternoons since 2011. Caroline is excited to be teaching both Physical Fitness and Creative Movement this year! 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.

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Wachter, Anja Riis
Art (Upstairs), Upstairs Aide

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's experience with design and tailoring has given her an ease with arts and crafting projects, while her academic and editorial backgrounds provide well-rounded knowledge of world cultures, traditions, and narratives. Anja lives in Oak Park with her husband, two daughters, and her big, silly dog. She tries to stay active with running and yoga, and when she has the time, she enjoys sewing stuffed toys, hair accessories, and costumes for kids. After having been an aide to Donna for the past year, Anja will be teaching Art on Mondays, which is something she looks very much forward to. She will continue as an aide on Tuesdays through Fridays and is excited to meet the Upstairs class.

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