FACULTY

Grace Dickow
Principal & Founder

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.

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, 6 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.

Ashley Hines
Vice Principal of Marketing and School Administration

Ashley Hines, a passionate and dedicated educator, brings over thirteen years of teaching experience in history, civics, and economics at the secondary level. In 2023, she made a seamless transition to the administrative team at Valeo Academy. With a teaching degree in history from Old Dominion University and a Masters in School Administration from Grand Canyon University, Ashley is committed to fostering a thriving academic environment while guiding students towards nurturing a deep connection with God. Her unwavering dedication to leading students in character development and instilling habits for lifelong success makes her an invaluable asset to the Valeo Academy community.

Beth MACKINNEY
Fourth Grade, Lower School Faculty, Junior and Senior Preparatory Math

Beth MacKinney has a degree from Evangel University and this will be her 4th 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.

Kathi Goliszewski
Kindergarten Teacher

Kathi Goliszewski is excited to be starting her second year as our Valeo Kindergarten teacher. She has a passion to share God’s love and the Word with young children. She has been married for 25 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 28 years and has served in Kids Town with preschoolers and in the nursery for 27 years!

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.

Mao Her
Second Grade, Lower School Faculty

Mao Her has been teaching at Valeo Academy for 14 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.

Patsy Shackelford
Fifth Grade, Lower School Faculty

Patsy Shackelford has taught at Valeo Academy for 11 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.

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 17 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.

Paty Rodriguez
Office Manager, Administrative Staff

Paty Rodriguez is an integral part of Valeo Academy as our Office Manager. 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.

Steven Knoerr
Senior Preparatory English and Literature

This is Steven Knoerr's 9th 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.

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 4th 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.

Joanne Movsessian
K–12 Music, K–4 Physical Education

Joanne Movsessian 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.

Norma Hernandez
Junior & Senior Prep Spanish Teacher

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 5 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.

Mel Islas
Third Grade, Lower School Faculty, Social Media Manager, School Newspaper Sponsor

Mel Islas is a creative and passionate educator. She has brought her teaching experience to our elementary students and our Senior Prep students. Mel has a Bachelor’s Degree and an LBS1 Endorsement from Judson University. She has worked in a trauma-informed school and with students of different backgrounds, including students with disabilities. Mel is committed to creating a welcoming and loving environment for her students, while reminding them of their worth and calling. She has helped strengthen our school’s student engagement by working with our Senior Prep on the release of our school newspaper, The Valor Report. Her love for growth and connection is also reflected as she works behind the scenes with our social media team and our yearbook committee. Mel has also been a faithful servant of Life Changers Church since 2018. She is dedicated to connect with people, and be reflection of God’s love to people of all ages from in Life Changers Kids, Champion Youth, and HIYP.

Sabeeha-Shariff
Senior Prep Science

Mrs. Shariff holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Biology and Psychology from the University of Illinois, as well as a Master of Science in Molecular Biology/Biochemistry from Northeastern Illinois University. Furthering her education, she obtained a Masters in Education and an MBA from Robert Morris University. With an impressive 15 years of experience in Cancer and Neurobiology research, Mrs. Shariff transitioned into teaching after privately tutoring various subjects for over 40 years. Currently, she has been teaching at the College of DuPage for ten years and concurrently serves as an educator at Valeo Academy teaching both Biology and Chemistry.

Barry Lapping
Senior Prep Math

Mr. Lapping, in his second year at Valeo Academy, brings a wealth of educational expertise and experience to our community. He received his Masters of Arts in Math Education from DePaul University as well as Bachelors degrees in both Mathmatics and Economics from Illinois State University. He has seventeen years of teaching experience as well as thirty-five years of expereicnce in private tutoring. Mr. Lapping is dedicated to fostering a positive and effective learning environment for students at Valeo Academy.

Maria Aguilar
Pre-K4

Mrs. Maria Aguilar is a wonderful part of Valeo Academy, serving as our Pre-K4 teacher. She became a member of the Valeo Academy community in 2021 and has elevated our Pre-K4 program to be the best in the Chicagoland area. For Mrs. Aguilar, teaching at Valeo is more than a job; it is a calling from God to establish a strong foundation rooted in His principles, benefiting her students for life. Mrs. Aguilar considers it an honor to invest in future leaders and share her passion for Jesus with them. She possesses the knowledge and understanding that God has great plans for each of her students, and she feels privileged to be one of God’s special vessels in their education throughout the formative years of the precious students here at Valeo Academy.