Faculty and Staff

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Grace Dickow

Founder and Principal

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Grace Dickow's passion is to introduce students to a deep, close relationship with Jesus Christ. As an educator and founder of Valeo Academy, Grace empowers teachers and students to experience their God-given potential. Receiving her teaching degree from the University of Illinois, her down-to-earth communication style quickly removes barriers, making it easy for people of all ages to receive God's unconditional love and limitless power for their lives.

Grace and her husband, Gregory Dickow, are also the Founders and Senior Pastors of Life Changers International Church. She considers her husband and five children (four of which have already graduated from Valeo Academy and one currently in junior high) to be the greatest blessings in her life.

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Dunia Baca

Vice Principal of Operations

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Dunia Baca has been a self-employed tax consultant for the past 20 years and has served at Valeo as a staff member for over 8 years, 3 years of which she has been Vice Principal. As well as employing her formidable administrative talents to the glory of God at Valeo, she's taught Spanish, health, economics, consumer education, mathematics, and in the fine arts. Three of her four children have graduated from Valeo and her fourth is currently a senior this year! She and her husband, Galo, are also on the Pastoral Support Team at Life Changers Church.

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Christine Jackson

Kindergarten, Lower School Faculty

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This will be Christine Jackson's 4th year as Valeo Academy's Kindergarten teacher. While attending Bible College in South Florida, she taught 3 - 4 year olds at a local church and worked as a nanny. Today, she has over twenty years experience in Life Changers’ children's ministry from nursery to elementary age and has over 5 years experience working with kids with special needs. Currently, two of her four children attend Valeo, with one Valeo alumni.  Her favorite thing about Valeo is having the liberty to teach all subjects with the Bible at the heart, and to her, a Valeo education for her children is of immeasurable value.

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Livi Nguyen

First Grade, Lower School Faculty

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Livi Nguyen received her Early Childhood Degree from Judson University and has taught at Valeo for 1 year. She enjoys how Valeo teaches biblical principles and how the curriculum here purposely involves God in every subject. She and her new husband attend and serve at Life Changers Church together. She enjoys reading for fun, eating out, and playing with their cat.

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Mao Her

Second Grade, Lower School Faculty

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Mao Her has been teaching at Valeo Academy for 11 years. She holds a Bachelors Degree in Elementary Education from Bethel University in St. Paul, MN. She is a firm believer and practitioner of the Principle Approach and has all four of her children attending Valeo Academy this fall.

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Karen Cleghorn

Third and Fourth Grade, Lower School Faculty

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Karen Cleghorn is in her 6th year teaching at Valeo Academy. One of the many things she loves about Valeo is how students are not only challenged in their character development and academics, but also inculcated in God’s abundant love for them. She has her Bachelor of Science degree in Elementary Education from the University of Illinois. She has been married to her wonderful husband, Neal, for 28 years, and they are blessed with five incredible children (two are currently enrolled at Valeo and two are alums)!

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Patsy Shackelford

Fifth and Sixth Grade, Lower School Faculty

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Patsy Shackelford has taught at Valeo Academy for 8 years.  She believes Valeo Academy is a school where students receive a high-quality education by a team that is united with the same mission to provide a standard of excellence in an atmosphere of unconditional love. She sought her Master's Degree in education in order to be a master teacher and impact her students effectively with the principles, knowledge, and skills that will prepare them for their future station in life.

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Suzanne Knoerr

K–12 Art Director, Junior Preparatory Literature & History

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Receiving her BFA in Painting and her MA in Art Education at the University of Illinois , Suzanne Knoerr has been teaching art and drama for the past 23 years. It has been a privilege for 14 of those years to be at Valeo Academy as its fine arts and drama director. One of our school's signature events is our annual Shakespeare Festival, which is a celebration for everyone to come enjoy. It not only showcases our students’ hard work and dedication, but also is our way of reclaiming theatre and the arts for the glory of God. She is blessed to share her Valeo experience with both of her children who are enrolled at the school and her husband, a teacher in the High School.

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Beth MacKinney

Junior and Senior Preparatory Math

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Beth MacKinney has a degree from Evangel University and this will be her 2nd year teaching mathematics at Valeo. She loves Valeo because of its commitment to awakening academic and spiritual greatness in students. Beth is married and has four children, with her youngest being a Valeo graduate.

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Paty Rodriguez

Junior and Senior Preparatory Spanish

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Paty Rodriguez has been the third and fourth grade teacher's assistant for 2 years, and this will be her 2nd year teaching Spanish to the Senior Prep students. She has been involved with Valeo since its founding in 2004. Paty loves Valeo’s commitment to academic excellence and excellence in character. Paty is married to her high school sweetheart and has three children. Her oldest graduated in 2017, and was one of two students who graduated having started in Valeo’s very first kindergarten class.

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Steven Knoerr

Senior Preparatory English and Literature

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This is Steven Knoerr's 6th year teaching English Literature and History at Valeo, where he shares his enthusiasm for beautiful writing, insightful thinking, and great storytelling. His background includes studying Social Epidemiology at the University of Illinois in Champaign–Urbana, working in the publishing business as an editor and proofreader for many years, and owning a small closed-captioning business that served TV producers and advertisers. Steven and his wife, Suzanne, have two children who attend Valeo and he is exceedingly proud of the accomplishments of his graduates.

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Marilyn Winters

Art Teacher, After Care Director, Specials

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This is Marilyn Winter's 5th year as the coordinator of the Extended Care Program and her 1st year teaching our K–4 art classes. All six of her children have attended and graduated from Valeo Academy, of which the youngest will graduate this year. She has a BS degree in Graphic Arts from the University of Wisconsin-Stout.  She loves Valeo Academy because parents can trust the staff to teach the students biblical truth, while demonstrating the never-ending love of God.

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Chandler Avila

5-12th Grade Physical Education, Athletic Director

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Chandler Avila is Valeo's 5th-8th grade physical education teacher and athletic director.  This is his 2nd year with Valeo Academy. He has a Bachelor's degree in Sports Management from North Park University. His favorite things about Valeo Academy are the students and the Principle Approach to learning.  He loves to coach track and field and to mentor young athletes.

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Joanne Duda

K–12 Music, K–4 Physical Education

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Joanne Duda teaches both music and physical education at Valeo Academy.  Holding a BA in Mass Communication, Theater, and Voice, and a BS in Commerce! She loves that the moment students walk into Valeo they are awakened to what the Bible says about their worth to God. She loves her two beautiful children, who are funny, witty, and love God. Her hobbies include tennis, the ukulele, and traveling.

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Talinda Iverson

School Administrator, Administrative Staff

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Talinda Iverson has been working at Valeo Academy in the administration office for 8 years. She loves to spend time with her family, exercise, and cook. She has been a part of Life Changers for almost twenty years and has served on many volunteer teams! Her favorite thing about working at Valeo Academy is being a part of shaping future generations, including her own two children.

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Norma Hernandez

Office Administrator, Administrative Staff

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Norma Hernandez started as a parent volunteer at Valeo Academy before joining the staff as the Administrative Assistant. She served in this role for 4 years before becoming the Senior Prep Coordinator & Assistant to the School Administrator 2 years ago. She loves Valeo's commitment to building up the students in character and excellence and also the rigorous curriculum. She has three children with her eldest having graduated in 2017, who was also one of two students that graduated having started in Valeo's very first kindergarten class.

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Kim Wheaton

Administrative Assistant, Administrative Staff

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Kim Wheaton is the administrative assistant at Valeo Academy.  This will be her 4th year working at Valeo. She has been a Valeo parent for the past 10 years.  She loves Valeo's commitment to character development, as well as, academic excellence. She has seen the fruit of Valeo in her children's lives, as four of them have spent time at Valeo, and one is a senior this year. Kim loves spending time with her 5 children.