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 Upper Elementary & 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 Upper Elementary & Middle School Humanities Teacher. 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 our K-2 Classroom Teacher. 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.
Renata McAdams is our 2-4 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.
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 is 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 Admissions Lead 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 major institutions by providing services to students, faculty, and staff through surveys, workshops, recruitment initiatives, and other innovative strategies that promote diversity and inclusiveness. 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.
John Carpenter is the K-4 Assistant Teacher. Prior to college, he spent a year in service with Americorps as a teacher’s assistant at George Washington Carver Middle School. After, he earned his Bachelors in Liberal Arts from Antioch University LA. He has spent his summers as a Kids Camp Counselor; leading sports, art, and STEM activities.
He has also spent three years mentoring children and teenagers with special needs in schools, homes, and therapy centers. John comes from a sports background and enjoys playing soccer in his free time.
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.