Staff Profiles

Karen Carney is our 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 this position, she worked as a senior specialist in science curriculum for American Institutes for Research. She previously oversaw educational programming at the Adler Planetarium, first as its director of education and then as associate vice president for visitor experience and learning. Karen oversaw a $2-million portfolio involving education, public programs, and media outreach. She has also worked in instruction and teacher development at the University of Illinois at Chicago’s Center for the Study of Learning 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 joined the curriculum committee at Chicago Friends School in 2014.

 

Meghan Brtnik

Meghan Brtnik is our K-1 classroom teacher at Chicago Friends School since moving to Chicago from Toronto, Canada. Previously, Meghan was a substitute teacher at the Latin School of Chicago and at an international baccalaureate school in Toronto. 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. Meghan is excited to teach the latest K-1 classroom and to get to work with both the children and their families.

 

Melanie Berlin is our grade 2 classroom teacher. 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 and daughter.

 

 

Renata McAdams is our 3-4 classroom teacher. She has taught in a variety of public, charter, and independent schools, including a combined 3rd-5th grade classroom in Ann Arbor, MI for two years. She graduated from Vassar College in 2007, and received her M.S.Ed. from the University of Pennsylvania in 2013. She grew up in Oberlin, OH, and moved to Chicago from Philadelphia with her husband (then-fiancé) in August 2014; she’s thrilled to be back in the midwest. In her free time, Renata enjoys singing, acting, dancing, and reading. She is very excited to be joining the Chicago Friends School, and looks forward to a lot of interesting projects with her students.

 
Alex Randhava teaches grades 5 and 6. He has a degree in history from Kenyon College and a Masters in Education from National Louis University.  He taught reading, social studies and language arts in Evanston’s public schools, and history at Francis W. Parker.  He created and taught courses in physics, chemistry and engineering to middle school students at Northwestern’s Center for Talent Development.  Alex also has a Learning and Behavior Specialist certification and worked as a one-on-one instructor to students with cognitive or learning disabilities. Before earning his degree in education, Alex worked in the development of engineering startups.  He holds two U.S. patents, and has received grants to fund design-phase engineering work from the USDA and NASA. Alex has two children, ages 7 and 10.  In spring and summer he pursues his passion for baseball as their little league coach.

 

 

Sarah Bylander Montzka

Sarah Bylander Montzka, the music teacher at Chicago Friends School, is a graduate of Northwestern University (M.Mus.) and The Cleveland Institute of Music (B.Mus.). She is the associate director of the Suzuki program at the Music Institute of Chicago and a registered Suzuki teacher trainer. She currently chairs the board of directors of the Suzuki Association of the Americas. Also a Dalcroze and early childhood music specialist, Sarah is a frequent clinician at workshops and institutes from Duluth to Tanzania. Previously, Sarah taught in the Jacksonville Symphony Youth Music Program — designed to reach young musicians of all backgrounds. She has also worked in the administrative field as coordinator of education programs for the Jacksonville Symphony and associate director of the Colorado Suzuki Institute. Sarah has performed as a section violist in orchestras, including the Jacksonville, Charleston, and Savannah Symphonies.

 

Kelly VanderBrug

Kelly VanderBrug teaches art at Chicago Friends School. She grew up in rural, west Michigan, continuously playing outdoors, developing and connecting her imagination with a respect for the natural world. These twin interests of nature and imaginative fancy continued in her twin interests of biology and art making which eventually came together in her paintings, drawings, and prints. After receiving her M.F.A. in 2001 at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri, she moved to Chicago to teach at North Park University, where she now serves as Art Department Chair. She began teaching at Chicago Friends School in 2012, when she and her husband enrolled their oldest child into kindergarten.

Kelly loves developing art projects in response to all the interesting projects the children work on in their classrooms, whether making weavings like Celeste the mouse in A Nest for Celeste or creating a large mural of fresh water plants and animals based on the 2014- 15 theme, water. She intentionally explores a wide variety of materials and artistic techniques with the children, exposing them to the expanse of artistic possibility. She also introduces the older children to techniques for observational drawing, especially giving attention to line, shape, eye level, and tones. Besides teaching and making art, Kelly enjoys spending time with her husband and two sons, gardening, reading, playing outdoors, and building community.

 

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.

 

 

Jill Carey teaches yoga at Chicago Friends School.  Jill is a co-founder of Mission-Propelle, a program serving girls and feminist boys in over 70 local schools through yoga, storytime and values instruction. Jill has always had a heart for making the world a kinder, fairer place. While studying journalism and political science at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, she directed her focus toward developing solutions to educational inequity and gender inequality. Jill’s studies led her to the south side of Chicago, where she taught second grade. In addition to delivering award-winning literacy instruction, she served as the school’s math coordinator. In this role, she composed standard-aligned lesson plans and test materials for three grade levels. As a seasoned yoga practitioner, Jill can testify to the life-giving benefits of the discipline. In addition to fostering physical health, yoga clarifies the mind, fosters gratitude for one’s body, and generates a deep, transcendent stillness.

 

Faith V. Gately teaches Spanish in our grades 3-6 classrooms. She has a BA from Beloit College 1980, and an MS in Community Health Education (Department of Public Health) 1989.  She serves as bilingual health educator at the Lurie Children’s Hospital. Faith is a member of Northside Friends Meeting (Quaker) and has served on many of Northside’s Committee’s, including two years as the Clerk.

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.