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.
Alyssa Vejendla is the middle school social science. She is 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.
Renata McAdams is our Grade 3-5 lead teacher and Dean of Students. 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. Renata 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.
Clara Rose Thornton is our Grade 3-5 associate teacher and she brings two decades of experience to Chicago Friends School, having
educated and mentored youth across multiple nations, demographics, and academic philosophies. Born and raised on Chicago’s Southside, she resided on both coasts following graduation from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, where she earned her Bachelor’s in Philosophy. During the post-collegiate decade, her academic career followed the trajectory of tutor, assistant teacher, and lead teacher within the preschool through collegiate levels, including Montessori and Reggio Emilia’s academic models. While living in Vermont as an artist colony resident writer and teaching at a Montessori elementary, Clara Rose facilitated youth literature workshops and guest lectured at colleges across New England. To this day, lecture topics include diversity education, the arts’ intersection with sociopolitics, and issues of feminism. Tutoring expertise includes French, philosophy, phonics, written composition, and reading comprehension.
In 2012, Clara Rose relocated to Europe for seven years, where she lived primarily in Ireland and France — writing, broadcasting, performing spoken word poetry, and workshopping in diverse settings. During this time she facilitated workshops across South Korea, Bosnia, Croatia, Ireland, and France, examining identity politics, interculturalism, and self-expression.
Repatriating to her hometown in 2019, Clara Rose worked as a Title I teacher for underprivileged ELL students at a Catholic Northside elementary, imparting an intensive K-8 curriculum in the language arts and math content areas. Now remotely earning her Master’s in Creative Writing and Literature from Harvard University, she is excited to nurture the minds and imaginations of CFS students within her care!
Ilsa Bradley is our Grade K-2 co-teacher. Originally from Madison, Wisconsin, Ilsa became interested in education through her first job working in a Philadelphia Public School as part of City Year AmeriCorps. Ilsa then moved to Boston, where she earned an M.Ed in elementary education while gaining experience student teaching in both a third and first-grade classroom. She has worked in various school settings as a pre-k and kindergarten after-school teacher, a leadership specialist, and a first-grade teacher in Boston.
Ilsa earned a B.A. in Gender Studies from Earlham College (a Quaker institution), where she first became interested in Quaker practices and principles. Ilsa is thrilled to be joining the Chicago Friends School community and moving to the vibrant city of Chicago. In her free time, Ilsa enjoys painting, reading, and discovering delicious restaurants.
Elizabeth DeVries is born and raised in South Florida and has a degree in Elementary Education from Indiana University Bloomington and has pursued licensure with a focus in K-8 literacy. Upon graduating from IU Bloomington, Elizabeth moved to Chicago and taught both 3rd and 4th-grade students in Skokie, Illinois. During her experience in Skokie, Elizabeth had the opportunity to co-teach in a combined general education/special education classroom. This experience has helped her truly understand the learning, growth, and acceptance that can occur when students of varied skills and abilities come together as one classroom community.
Elizabeth enjoys baking, exploring nature, reading, and taking long walks in the neighborhood in her free time.
Laura Ryan is our Piano Instructor. Laura makes it a practice of positively engaging students through an approach of joyful inspiration while maintaining a strong foundation of technique and theory. She has taught for several years at the Natalia Huang Piano Studio in New York City. Since she recently relocated to Chicago, Laura has taught for The People’s Music School and Oak Park School of Music.
As a performer, she has toured the United States several times and Europe twice. Laura holds a Master of Music in Performance from Boston University.
Chicago Friends School is able to offer piano training and guidance through the ABRSM exam process by piano teacher Laura Ryan. Her students exclusively earned ‘Merit’ (at least 120 out of 150) scores in the most recent 2021 video submission process.
Kaye Viecelli our School Clerk and Business Assistant. Kaye grew up in the northwest suburbs and then attended Indiana University for her bachelor’s in education; during which time she started her career in early childhood education at a local non-profit preschool. After returning to Chicago, she taught preschool for many years and then eventually was promoted to Director of a private preschool in River North. Kaye attained her Masters in Child Development from the Erikson Institute and became an adjunct professor for Aspen University. After her school was acquired seven years later, Kaye moved on to coaching, training, and supporting quality improvement for DuPage and Kane County early childhood programs. She also managed the early childhood grant funds for those counties. Currently, she works in grant and quality compliance for the Illinois State Board of Education’s Prevention Initiative Program.
Kaye is passionate about progressive and quality education programs. She is so excited to support the Chicago Friends School community because she knows small schools can do big things.
André Gill is the Director of Admissions and Enrollment Management who has 18 years of admissions and enrollment management experience. He began his admissions career at the University of Michigan, and shortly after completing his MBA, he began working for Stratus Group Consultants. André was instrumental in improving the diversity climate of several significant institutions by providing services to students, faculty, and staff through surveys, workshops, recruitment initiatives, and other innovative strategies that promote diversity and inclusiveness. Then, André moved to Boulder, Colorado, where he worked at the Leeds School of Business and developed undergraduate and young professionals outreach programs, marketing, and communication plans, in which he achieved 100% enrollment for all programs. While living in Chicago, André worked for GCE Lab School as Director of Admissions and Enrollment, and currently, he is the founder and owner of APG College Admissions Consulting, LLC.
André recently married his beautiful wife in 2018, and they have a daughter. Lastly, he holds a B.A. in History from the University of Michigan in History and an M.B.A in Finance from Lawrence Technology University.
Isabella Suárez is one of the before/aftercare and recess monitors. Isabella grew up in the western suburbs and now lives in Chicago. She attended Saint Ignatius College Prep for high school and is now in her third year at Loyola University Chicago as a Bilingual/Bicultural Elementary Education major. In the years 2014-2018, Isabella assisted in teaching CCD for 3-5yrs old, 3rd, 4th, and 6th grade. From a young age, Isabella has also helped her mom occasionally, as her teacher assistant when she was off school, in her toddler’s Montessori classroom. Prior to working at Chicago Friends School, Isabella has volunteered as a teacher assistant at Markham College, a bilingual international school in Lima, Peru in the summer of 2018. Since 2018, she has tutored for a reading and homework program with Living Works, in Rogers Park, which works closely with Joyce Kilmer Elementary School. In January and February of 2020, she student taught and then volunteered as a teacher assistant at Colegio Montaigne, a bilingual school in Sevilla, Spain. While in Spain, she also tutored children in English and in Spanish.
Isabella enjoys sewing, playing water polo, swimming, reading, and learning about new cultures in her free time.
Latin Heroes brings language to life so children can develop a new language naturally. Our native-speaking teachers immerse students in the language through our curriculum, games, and other engaging activities, making our classes fun and exciting. Latin Heroes provides Spanish programs to Chicago Friends School as well as other private schools in the Chicago area. To learn more, visit Latin heroes.com
Merit Music in Communities is a program provided by Merit School of Music to create in-school music education programs for Chicago-area schools. This program provides high-quality music education through group instruction in strings, band, choir, piano, guitar, early childhood, and general music. In addition to year-long courses, multi-week general music residencies are available where Merit teaching artists collaborate with students and classroom teachers to creatively enhance reading, language, and critical thinking skills through music. Looks great. To learn more about Merit School of Music, visit www.meritmusic.org.