Faculty & Staff

We are pleased to introduce the members of the 2018-19 Faculty and Administrative Team. They guide the academic, spiritual, moral, and character formation of your children.   

Mrs. Hanretty (Head of School) earned a B.S. from DePaul University in Business Administration and Marketing. She has worked as a Consultant in employee benefits and served as Director of Development during the renovation and rededication of St. Mary of the Angels church. She and her husband have eight children with their six oldest children already graduated from Embers.

Mrs. Thursby (Assistant Head of School) holds a B.A. in English Literature and English Writing from
St. Mary’s College (Notre Dame); an MBA in Marketing Communications from DePaul University; and a M.Ed. in Instructional Leadership from the University of Illinois. Mrs. Thursby and her husband have four children.

Mrs. Dabe (Preschool Director: PK3 and PK4; Physical Education) holds a degree in Early Childhood Education from Elmhurst College.  Mrs. Dabe founded the Embers Preschool Program. She now offers a full-day, five-day option for both PK3 and PK4 classes. She also serves as gym instructor for Kindergarten through Fifth. She and her husband have two children. She loves to ride her bike and take walks with her dog. She also loves to exercise, read, and bake.

Mrs. Fernandez (Preschool Aide: PK3 and PK4) serves as the Teacher Aide in Mrs. Dabe’s PK classroom. Mrs. Fernandez earned her Bachelor’s degree in Legal Studies from Universidad Juarez, Durango, and did Masters work in International Commercial Law at the Instituto Técnico de Monterey. She has three children: one is an Embers alum; two are current students.

Mrs. del Rosario (Preschool Teacher: PK3 and PK4) is teaching our new second sections of PK3 and PK4 this year. Mrs. del Rosario holds a B.S. in Early Childhood Education from the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign and a M.A. in Curriculum and Instruction from Concordia University. She has 16 years of teaching experience in both the PreSchool and Kindergarten settings. Mrs. del Rosario is impressed with the way the Catholic faith is not only a subject that is taught at Embers, but is put into practice by the students, teachers, staff, and parents through their efforts to live and work as Christian examples. One of Mrs. del Rosario’s strengths is her desire to know and recognize her students’ personalities in order to create activities that will engage and challenge them. Mrs. del Rosario enjoys singing and dancing with her husband and three children. Her oldest son Francis will be entering PK4 this Fall.

 Mrs. Hastings (Preschool Aide: PK3 and PK4), mother of six children and grandmother of nine, comes to Embers with 18 years of experience teaching in the PreSchool setting. Mrs. Hastings serves as the Teacher Aide in Mrs. del Rosario’s PK classroom, and brings an infectious joy and passion for teaching young children.  She believes that children need love, understanding, patience and, most of all, FUN in a structured setting, where every day is a new opportunity for their minds and souls to grow in grace.  Mrs. Hastings believes that she is blessed to be at Embers and looks forward to waking up every morning saying, “Yes! I get to go to work today!”  Some of her favorite things in life include children, camping, singing, dogs, the ocean, and adventures.

Mrs. Ullman (PreK Enrichment Program Coordinator) is a graduate of Catholic University of Ecuador and has extensive experience in Early Childhood education. She is a certified Level 1 catechist for the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd program and shares this gift with our PK students.

Ms. Cyran (Kindergarten) has an Elementary Education Degree from DePaul University and a Master’s Degree in Education with Endorsements from National Louis University. Ms. Cyran also teaches young students at a Polish language school and works with youth in a folklore dance group. She is a world traveler having visited Poland, France, Spain, Italy, Egypt, Dominican Republic and Mexico. Her next destination is Cuba! Her favorite book series is the Narnia series. 

Mrs. Brizzolara (Kindergarten Asst. Teacher) is a graduate of St. Xavier College, holds a Masters in Special Education and Early Childhood from Northeastern University. Prior to joining Embers, she taught at Prince of Peace, St. Paul of the Cross, and Our Lady of Ransom, for a total of 32 years of primary school experience. She loves to travel!

 Mrs. Lakowski (1st Grade Teacher) has four young boys and will be teaching 1st grade this school year.  Mrs. Lakowski holds a Masters in Elementary Education from DePaul University and has experience teaching young children. Teaching and working with children is her passion and brings her great joy. She believes that every child is a unique person and strives to teach the whole child, respecting each one’s individuality.  Mrs. Lakowski is thrilled to have the opportunity to teach at Embers Academy, as well as have three of her four sons join our family of Sparks.  She is impressed by the strong, faith-based community that is present at Embers.

Ms. Stride (2nd Grade Teacher) graduated in 2018 from High Point University with a B.A. in Elementary Education, (cum laude). Ms. Stride’s teaching philosophy includes hands-on learning and incorporating the arts into the classroom on a daily basis.  She believes that learning should be something that kids love to do!  Ms. Stride is impressed with how much Embers fosters a sense of community while providing an incredible education centered in the Catholic faith. Ms. Stride is an avid Chicago sports fan and enjoys spending her free time with friends and family. She also loves singing and is continually trying to improve her guitar skills and teach herself sign language.

Ms. Zavacki (2nd Grade Teacher) holds a B.A. in Elementary Education from DePaul University. She is excited to be teaching at Embers and is overwhelmed by the welcoming support and sense of community. In the classroom, Ms. Zavacki hopes to inspire her students to be creative thinkers and life-long learners. In her free time, Ms. Zavacki is a teacher and dancer at Picture Us Different Dance studio in Park Ridge, and is looking forward to sharing her dance experience at Embers this year.

Mrs. Black (3rd Grade Teacher) holds a degree in Education from Northeastern Illinois University with Endorsements in Language Arts, Math, Science, and Social Studies. She strives to foster in her students a love of God, kindness to others, and a desire to be life-long learners. Mrs. Black, who is an alum of The Willows Academy, has six children. She loves to read, travel, and spend time with her family.

Ms. D’Amico (3rd Grade Teacher) obtained her B.A. in Elementary Education from Ave Maria University in 2017. She taught 2nd grade in Florida last year, and moved back home to the Chicago area this summer.  Ms. D’Amico has experience in teaching diverse groups of children and received the 2017 Ave Maria University Elementary Education Award.  Ms. D’Amico’s thoughtful and nurturing approach to teaching is a perfect fit for the learning environment that we cultivate at Embers.

Ms. Beccaloni (4th Grade Teacher) holds a Master of Education in Elementary Education from DePaul University and a Master of Arts in Theology from Loyola University of Chicago. She taught middle school Religion, including Confirmation prep class, at Sacred Heart parish school in Winnetka. Ms. Beccaloni has served as DRE at St. John Cantius parish for several years. Her favorite author is Charles Dickens, and all-time favorite movie is “Lord of the Rings.”

Mrs. Ptacek (5th Grade Teacher) comes to Embers with 12 years of teaching experience, primarily in 3rd, 4th, and 5th grades.  She holds a B.A. in Education from Benedictine University and a M.A. in Curriculum and Instruction from National Louis University. Mrs. Ptacek believes that every child can achieve more than they would ever imagine, and it is her goal to guide them along the way, including giving support and challenging them in a respectful, nurturing, and welcoming learning environment. Mrs. Ptacek and her husband have two boys; one is attending Embers PK4 program this year, and the other is two years old.  She loves spending time with her family, preferably in the outdoors. The warmth and sense of family that she has experienced at Embers is her favorite part of Embers.  Mrs. Ptacek is excited to be a part of the Embers family as both a parent and a teacher.

Mrs. Wasserman (Art Teacher) received a B.A. in Elementary Education from the University of Nebraska, Lincoln in 1991.  After teaching full-time in Catholic schools in both Nebraska and Chicago, Mrs. Wasserman married and home schooled her two daughters from Kindergarten through 8th grade. One of her daughters now attends Willows Academy and the other is at the University of Notre Dame. Mrs. Wasserman believes that students learn in very different ways and that everyone has gifts. She seeks to reach every student, helping each one to discover and use his or her own unique gifts. Mrs. Wasserman grew up on a farm and loves the outdoors, traveling, cooking and reading.  She especially loves Art and children and is excited to be teaching Art at Embers.  Mrs. Wasserman served as the Teacher Aide in our First Grade classroom last year, and has been impressed by the kind welcome given by everyone, especially the enthusiastic students!

Mrs. Wessel (Learning Specialist) holds a M.A. in Teaching, with a Special Education Professional Educator License and a Learning Behavior Specialist Endorsement, from National Louis University.  Mrs. Wessel supports our classroom teachers in helping all of our students learn to the best of their abilities.

Mrs. Kestler (Advanced Math Teacher) received a B.A. in Psychology from DePaul University. She also completed post-graduate work in Elementary Education and Business. Mrs. Kestler’s experience includes teaching Business Math at Lexington College; Math and Religion for seven years at Kingswood Academy; and ten years teaching 4th and 5th grade at Embers, specializing in Math and Religion. Before focusing her attention at Northridge Prep working alongside her husband in fundraising, Mrs. Kestler also taught 8th grade Theology at Willows Academy. She is a mother of six and grandmother of 13. She also finds much joy volunteering at Lutheran General Hospital and is happy to be working at Embers, again.

Ms. Brochu (Music Teacher) holds a Bachelor of Music degree and a Bachelor of Music Education degree from the University of Illinois: Urbana-Champaign.  Mrs. Brochu is a graduate of The Willows Academy and has recently served as the Music Director for school productions there. In addition to teaching weekly Music classes to each grade, Ms. Brochu heads up Embers ‘Notables’ Choir and Drama Club.

Mrs. Fernandez (Spanish Teacher: 4 – 5) teaches Spanish to our Fourth and Fifth Grade students. Mrs. Fernandez earned her Bachelor’s degree in Legal Studies from Universidad Juarez, Durango, and did Masters work in International Commercial Law at the Instituto Técnico de Monterey. She has three children: one is an Embers alum; two are current students.

Mrs. Carpenter (Spanish Teacher: K – 3) is very excited to be teaching Spanish to the Kindergarten, 1st, 2nd, and 3rd grade classes.  Señora Carpenter holds a Bachelor of Arts in Foreign Languages and International Studies, with a minor in Philosophy, from Gannon University in Erie, PA.  She was blessed to work in a Mexican grammar school, La Escuela Morelos, teaching English and basic computer skills while volunteering with the Canossian Daughters of Charity in Chihuahua, Mexico for a little over a year.  A long-time Spanish substitute teacher for Embers, Mrs. Carpenter and her husband have two sons – an Embers alum and a current student – and the family enjoys music, family walks with their dog, camping, Balderdash and backyard baseball.

School Administrative Team

Mrs. Casaletto, School Office Manager

Mrs. Donado, Office

Mrs. Brinckerhoff, Marketing & Communications