Staff

Karen Carney is the head of school. Karen’s career demonstrates a rich and diverse set of skills: project oversight, curriculum development, educator training and mentoring, and classroom instruction. Prior to coming to Chicago Friends School, she worked as a senior specialist in science curriculum for American Institutes for Research. Before this, she oversaw educational programming at the Adler Planetarium, first as its director of education and then as associate vice president for visitor experience and learning. She has also worked in instruction and teacher development at the University of Illinois at Chicago’s Learning Sciences Research Institute and has authored more than 20 scholarly papers, book chapters, and conference presentations.

Karen is an active, dedicated Friend (Quaker) and has held various leadership positions at the Evanston Friends Meeting. She enjoys baking, cooking, and painting and is a member of the Playmation improv comedy team.

Adrian Spencer is our middle school STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) specialist. Born in Illinois, Adrian moved back to the Midwest after earning a B.A. in psychology from Florida Atlantic University and a M.A.T. in elementary education from the College of Charleston in South Carolina. Adrian has taught students from PreK to eighth grade in a variety of settings, including public and charter classrooms, an after-school program, and weekend and summer programs for students identified as gifted.

Adrian enjoys swimming, reading, and exploring Uptown, Edgewater, and Rogers Park.

 

Alyssa Clemens is our middle school humanities specialist.  Born and raised in the western suburbs, Alyssa moved to Chicago to acquire her BS in Elementary Education at DePaul University. She pursued a Spanish language minor with a degree focus on adolescence and social sciences. Alyssa has taught many variations of grades 4-8 at both charter and Chicago Public school settings. Additionally, she has also worked for and volunteered at organizations such as Girl Scouts of America, Tutoring Chicago, and YMCA.
In her free time, Alyssa enjoys playing soccer, staying active, reading, traveling, and cooking with her fiancé.

 

Meghan Brtnik is a classroom teacher on the K-2 team. Originally from Toronto, Canada, Meghan was a substitute teacher at an international baccalaureate school in Toronto and at the Latin School of Chicago. She graduated from York University, Toronto, with a M.Ed. at the primary/junior level and completed an additional qualification course in special education. Meghan earned a B.A. from the University of Western Ontario in honors psychology, focusing on the psychological and social foundations in human behavior. In addition, Meghan has worked in a Montessori school, tutored students individually, and lived and worked at an all-girls boarding school.

For fun, Meghan loves traveling, trying out new restaurants, exploring new neighborhoods, swimming, reading, and walking.

Mooni Abdus-Salam is a classroom teacher for grades 2-3. Mooni is originally from Atlanta, Georgia. She received her BA in English from Roosevelt University and has worked in educational settings in Chicago Public Schools, not-for-profit organizations, and in Chicago City Colleges. While earning her MEd in English Language Teaching and Learning at Loyola University Chicago, Mooni transitioned to working in independent school settings. She completed the assistant teacher program at Latin School of Chicago in the Gold Coast and spent two years working in a mixed grade elementary classroom with a neurodiverse student population.

Outside of teaching, Mooni enjoys running, reading, writing, traveling, and learning new ways of advancing the literacy of linguistically diverse students.

Renata McAdams is our grade 3-4 classroom teacher. She has taught in a variety of public, charter, and independent schools, including a combined 3-5 classroom in Ann Arbor, Mich., for two years. Rentata graduated from Vassar College and received her M.S.Ed. from the University of Pennsylvania. She grew up in Oberlin, Ohio, and moved to Chicago from Philadelphia with her husband (then-fiancé) in August 2014.

In her free time, Renata enjoys singing, acting, dancing, and reading.

Susan Bondurant is the Marketing and Community Engagement Lead for Chicago Friends School. She recently served as Chair of the Board of Trustees for North Shore Country Day School in Winnetka, IL. Her 14-year board involvement included, marketing, communications, governance, and strategic planning for the school. Susan’s prior work included significant brand management experience from over a decade of headquarters and field roles with Gatorade and Pepsi-Cola Companies.

Susan was raised as a Quaker and attended Swarthmore Friends Meeting, in Swarthmore, PA where she also married her husband Scott. She enjoys travel, platform tennis, jigsaw puzzles and spending time with daughters Brooke and Cara. Susan has a BA from Skidmore College and an MBA from Duke University, Fuqua School of Business.

Ellen Searles, yoga instructor at Chicago Friend’s Schools. She has been a yoga teacher for just over a year and started teaching children yoga 9 months ago.  Ellen is very into health and wellness and wants to share her passion with children as well to help them start living healthy at a young age. As a Phyisician Assistant she believes the yoga practice is a great substitute to medicinal remedies as well as a way to practice self love and gratitude. She is enthusiastic about implementing yoga into kids lives to help them deal with stress and a way to get a little exercise during school.

Melanie Berlin joined our staff as classroom teacher on the K-2 team, but is transitioning to a role as our summer camp coordinator. Before moving to Chicago, Melanie lived in Philadelphia and worked for five years as lead kindergarten teacher at Mastery Charter Mann Elementary School. Previous to that, Melanie lived in the San Francisco Bay Area and taught at an independent school in Oakland, California. Melanie has her B.A. in psychology with a minor in urban education from the University of Pennsylvania. She earned her teaching degree from San Francisco State University with a focus on social justice in education.

In her free time, Melanie loves playing ultimate Frisbee, drinking coffee, playing board games, and spending time with her husband, baby son and preschool-aged daughter.

Nicole Nienow is our ceramic teacher from Lillstreet Arts Center. She graduated with a BFA from the School Of the Art Institute of Chicago, with a focus in ceramics, large scale sculpture, and puppetry. For the past six years, she has taught ceramics and various multi-media art classes to both children and adults at Lillstreet Arts Center. Nicole also works with various theaters around Chicago teaching puppet construction and set design. Although Nicole grew up in Skokie, she moved to Chicago for college and continues to live there as a practicing artist, craftsman, puppeteer and teacher.
Clay Class:
In these ceramics classes, we will be encouraging creativity by diving into different forms of making. From pinch pots and slab rolling to coil building and more, we will be exploring what clay is and what it can become. It’s not just about developing techniques, but also allowing students to utilize creative freedom in their projects.

Susan Slocum teaches Spanish to our K-2 students. A native of Venezuela and a grandmother of two Chicago Friends School students, Susan is a professor at Columbia College in Chicago. She treats students to a gentle, bilingual introduction to Spanish with a weekly Spanish storytime.

 

We Got Game provides Chicago Friends School’s gym instruction. We Got Game, LLC, established in 2006, specializes in providing youth athletic programming in the Chicago area. We Got Game and its experienced coaches are dedicated to helping children learn the joy of sports and encouraging them to maintain active and healthy lifestyles. We Got Game provides programs in Chicago area park districts, public schools, and private schools.