Pilot Light celebrates the work of its inaugural cohort of teachers and thanks them for their commitment to bringing food education to their students.
Mr. Nana Amponsah, 4th Grade
My name is Kwame Amponsah and I am a fourth year social studies teacher at John M. Smyth IB World School. My fondest memory of school is seventh grade and my language arts teacher and track coach, Mr. Converse. I adore this person because he fostered a love for reading and health that has remained with me to this day.
Prior to coming to Smyth, I worked as an Assistant Language teacher for the French Ministry of Education in the Department of Aquitaine, Bordeaux for two years and as an English Language teacher for the Gimhae Board of Education in South Korea for one year.
I completed my undergraduate course work at Oberlin College in Ohio where my majors were African American Studies and International Politics. My graduate coursework was completed at the University of Illinois at Chicago where I graduated with a Masters Degree in Elementary Education.
My overarching goal with Pilot Light is for my students to be cognizant of what they consume and to understand that healthy food choices are the first step on the journey to a better life.
Ms. Maria Barksdale, 4th-6th
My name is Maria Barksdale and I am an upper elementary teacher (4th-6th) at The Montessori School of Englewood. This will be my 10th year teaching, my 5th as a Montessori educator.
Ms. Meghan Dolan, 3rd Grade
Hello everyone! My name is Meghan Dolan. This is my 15th year of teaching. I am a 3rd grade teacher at Palmer Elementary. I have also taught in Iowa and Missouri. In the past, I have taught both general education (2nd, 3rd) and special education (K-4th). I was born and raised in Iowa. I love traveling home whenever I can. I also enjoy reading, boxing, playing tennis, shopping, and organizing! Pilot Light brought much excitement to my classroom this year. After the students studied the Titanic, they made a recipe from the 1st class Titanic menu. They also studied the importance of fish in the ocean and then made a fish stew.
Ms. Vickie Drewa, 4th Grade
My name is Vicki L. Drewa. I have been an elementary teacher for 17 years and have taught every grade, except third. My favorite subjects are science and math. Outside of teaching, I like sports, doing art, and writing.
Ms. Kristie Friar, 5th Grade
I grew up in Michigan where I attended Spring Arbor University and completed my degree in Education. My family is all still in Michigan, so we visit often. I love music. Singing and playing piano are passions of mine. I have 3 children who all attend the school where I teach. Time with good friends and/or church gives me energy to get through grueling work weeks. I recently completed coursework for an ESL endorsement and middle school endorsement. I taught music for 12 years before moving into my current position as a 5th grade math teacher. I serve on my school’s “Understanding by Design” and “Language Matters” teams. I have a Masters in Curriculum and Instruction and an endorsement in music.
Mrs. Chandra Garcia-Kitch, 3rd Grade
My name is Chandra Garcia-Kitch and I am a third year Pilot Light teacher. I have been teaching for 21 years and have taught every grade from Kindergarten through 8th grade, with a focus on Science and Social Studies. I currently teach 3rd grade at Ray School in Hyde Park. Previously, I taught in Dallas, Texas, and in the Chicago neighborhoods of Englewood and East Garfield Park.
I am originally from Dallas, Texas but adore Chicago, especially during the summer! My favorite things to do when I am not teaching are garden, cook, bake and spend time with my family and dogs.
Ms. Jamie Knight, 4th-6th Grade
This is Jamie Knight’s first year teaching 4th, 5th, and 6th graders at the Montessori School of Englewood. She previously worked as a teacher in Philadelphia and the Chicago suburbs, and as an attorney in Washington, D.C. She loves to cook and is excited to offer cooking and nutrition work in her classroom this year!
Ms. Eleni Lemberis, 5th Grade
Hello! My name is Eleni Lemberis and this is my second year as a Pilot Light teacher. I hold a bachelor’s degree in business from DePaul University, and a master’s degree in education from the University of San Diego. I have taught in elementary schools in both San Diego and Chicago. I have been working at Ray Elementary School since 2012, and currently teach 5th and 6th grade. In my free time I enjoy being active and traveling. I love exploring different parts of the world and bringing those experiences back to my classroom.
Mrs. Aileen Lopez, 3rd Grade
Hello! My name is Aileen Lopez. I am the youngest of four children, born in Chicago and raised in the Pilsen neighborhood. I attended John A. Walsh Elementary School in Pilsen from pre-k through 3rd grade. Then, when I was in 4th grade my family and I moved to the suburb of, Burbank, IL. where I graduated from elementary and high school.
I attended and received my bachelor’s degree from the University of Illinois at Chicago and received my Master’s degree in Elementary Education from National Louis University.
I have been a teacher with CPS for 13 years. I am a 3rd grade teacher at John M. Smyth IB World School located in University Village and have taught here for 6 years. I taught 4th grade at Ana Roque de Duprey Elementary School in the Humboldt Park neighborhood for the first 7 years of my career.
I am very dedicated, loyal and hardworking. I enjoy gardening, traveling, jogging, watching movies, listening to music, and spending time with my family and friends!
Ms. Amy Peterson, Instructional Coach
Amy Peterson, known to her students as “Miss Peterson,” is the new instructional coach at the Kedvale Campus at Disney II Magnet in Old Irving Park. In the last years, she was a mathematics teacher, teaching 4th, 5th and 6th graders. She has had many roles at Disney II; however, her latest endeavor was creating a mathematics lab that now focuses on small group instruction and individualized learning plans.
Her background includes an undergraduate degree from the University of Iowa in Elementary Education and minors in business administration and mathematics. Later she earned her Master’s Degree in teaching and leadership and in reading education, becoming a reading specialist. These degrees were earned from Saint Xavier University and Concordia University respectively. Recently, she received a middle school math endorsement through Greenville University and Instructional Coaching lessons through the University of Chicago’s UTEP program.
When Miss Peterson is not molding the young minds of America’s youth, you can find her baking in her kitchen or spoiling her niece that arrived early in August of 2015. Pilot Light gives her a wonderful, unique opportunity for her to coach her teachers using food in the classroom and seeing that there are many avenues to teach content. Pilot Light has allowed the teachers at DII see teaching curriculum in a new way!
Mrs. Alicia Peshel-Schoenbeck, 4th Grade
My name is Alicia Peshel-Schoenbeck. I am going into my 27th year of teaching at Mitchell School. I am married and have two wonderful teenage daughters. I enjoy reading and relaxing in my pool. Just recently, I have started fishing and I LOVE it!