Faculty and Staff

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Grace Dickow

Founder and Principal


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


Dunia Baca has been a self-employed tax consultant for the past 21 years and has served at Valeo as a staff member for over 10 years, 5 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. All four of her children have graduated from Valeo! She and her husband, Galo, are also on the Pastoral Support Team at Life Changers Church.

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Kathi Goliszewski

Kindergarten Teacher


Kathi Goliszewski is excited to be entering our 2020-2021 School teacher as our new Kindergarten teacher. She has a passion to share God’s love and the Word with young children. She has been married for 24 years to her husband Jeff and has two children, who will be attending Valeo Academy again this year.  She has been attending Life Changers for 26 years and has served in Kids Town with preschoolers and in the nursery for 25 years!

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Zaminee Bates

First Grade, Lower School Faculty


Zaminee Bates has been a part of our staff and team for
three years and is looking forward to her second year as Valeo
Academy’s First Grade teacher. She loves Valeo’s unique
learning culture because it allows learning and teaching to feature
student’s individuality. Zaminee received her Bachelor’s from Rust
College and has served and worked with children for more than
16 years. She has been married for 17 years and is the mother of
four beautiful children who also are attending Valeo Academy.

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Mao Her

Second Grade, Lower School Faculty


Mao Her has been teaching at Valeo Academy for 13 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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Christine Jackson

Third Grade Teacher, Lower School Faculty


This will be Christine Jackson's 6th year as a Valeo Academy 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, one of her four children attend Valeo, with two 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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Karen Cleghorn

Third and Fourth Grade, Lower School Faculty


Karen Cleghorn is in her 7th 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 29 years, and they are blessed with five incredible children (one is currently enrolled at Valeo and three are alums)!

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Patsy Shackelford

Fifth and Sixth Grade, Lower School Faculty


Patsy Shackelford has taught at Valeo Academy for 10 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


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 25 years. It has been a privilege for 16 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, one who is entering 6th grade and one who just recently graduated Valeo, as well as and husband, a teacher in the High School.

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Paty Rodriguez

Junior and Senior Preparatory Spanish


Paty Rodriguez has been the third and fourth grade teacher's assistant for 4 years, and this will be her 4th 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


This is Steven Knoerr's 8th 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 one who currently attends Valeo and one who has graduated. He is exceedingly proud of the accomplishments of his graduates.

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Samantha Morris

Junior and Senior Preparatory Math and Science


Samantha starts her third year with us as the Jr & Senior Prep School Math and Science teacher. She studied Math and Science at Judson College in Elgin, IL. She has a passion for teaching and gives her best to each of her students on a daily basis.  Samantha and her husband have 3 wonderful children all who are currently students at Valeo.

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Chandler Avila

5-12th Grade Physical Education, Athletic Director


Chandler Avila is Valeo's 5th-12th grade physical education teacher and athletic director.  This is his 3rd 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


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,  love God, and are currently both enrolled at Valeo Academy. Her hobbies include tennis, the ukulele, and traveling.

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Talinda Iverson

School Administrator, Administrative Staff


Talinda Iverson has been working at Valeo Academy in the administration office for 10 years. She loves to spend time with her family, exercise, and cook. She has been a part of Life Changers for 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


Norma Hernandez started as a parent volunteer at Valeo Academy before joining the staff as the Administrative Assistant. She served in this role for 6 years before becoming the Senior Prep Coordinator & Office Administrator 4 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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Ann Vang

Pre-K Teacher, Lower School Faculty


This is Ann Vang’s first year serving at Valeo Academy, and she is excited to be teaching K4.  She received her Bachelor’s Degree in Elementary Education from the University of Illinois at Chicago and has worked with young children for more than 13 years.  She loves sharing God’s word with young children, and there is no better place to teach than at Valeo!​