Meet Our New John Mills Faculty for the 2018-19 School Year — Welcome!

John Mills New Faculty Members

Our new faculty members are, from left, Kathryn Anderson, Ashley Mech, Lilia Paredes, Lisa Runge, Carol Swann and Nicole Warren. Not pictured: Matthew Rivera. (District 401 photo by Dave Porreca)


With the school year in full swing, you've probably noticed a few new faces among the John Mills Elementary School faculty.

We have seven teachers, in fact, who are officially new to our school for 2018-19, although two of them — Ms. Carol Swann and Ms. Ashley Mech — taught here for portions of the previous school year.

Besides Ms. Swann and Ms. Mech, our new faculty are Ms. Kathryn AndersonMs. Lilia ParedesMr. Matthew RiveraMs. Lisa Runge and Ms. Nicole Warren.

In case you haven't met them yet, here's an introduction to our new teachers in alphabetical order. Welcome to John Mills!


Kathryn Anderson, Physical Education Teacher


Kathryn AndersonYour hometown and high school? Elmhurst; York Community High School.

College(s), major(s) and degree(s)? Carthage College, bachelor's degree in physical/health/adaptive education.

Years of teaching experience? This will be my fifth year teaching.

Previous teaching jobs? East Aurora High School for three years and Ridgewood High School for one year.

Your Mills job? Part-time physical education and adaptive physical education.

Why education as a career? I had two amazing teachers as a student, and I wanted to have that kind of impact on others. 

Challenges and rewards of being an educator? I love working with students with IEPs and find it extremely rewarding when students find some form of physical activity that they love. 

Why Mills? I've heard so many good things about the District, and I'm really looking forward to teaching at the elementary level. It's also a bonus that I moved just a few blocks away last winter. 

Your impression of Mills so far? Everyone seems so supportive and enthusiastic. I think in no time Mills will feel like home. 

Your goals for the year? I want to develop a comprehensive adaptive PE program that will allow students to improve fitness levels, skills and confidence. 


Ashley Mech, 4th- & 5th-Grade ELA Teacher


Ashley MechYour hometown and high school? Naperville; Neuqua Valley High School.

College(s), major(s) and degree(s)? University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, B.S. in elementary education 

Years of teaching experience? Six years: four in the classroom and two as the associate center director at Lindamood-Bell Learning Processes.

Previous teaching jobs? I've taught 3rd grade in Morris, Ill., 4th grade in Joliet, and 5th-grade science and social studies at John Mills. 

Your Mills job? I will teach 4th- and 5th-grade English language arts. 

Why education as a career? I've wanted to be a teacher since I was in 3rd grade. My 3rd-grade teacher helped me to overcome a challenge, and I wanted to help kids do the same. 

Challenges and rewards of being an educator? Every student learns differently — one of the challenges is tapping into each child's individual learning style to ensure success throughout the school year. One of the best rewards is learning new things from my students each day and watching as they grow academically and personally.  

Why Mills? I subbed in the District and fell in love with the community!

Your impression of Mills so far? Everyone is so friendly and welcoming, it's truly like a family. 

Your goals for the year? To have fun while helping each child to reach his/her goals.  

Anything miscellaneous you'd like to share about yourself? I studied abroad in Sydney, Australia, for five months. 


Lilia Paredes, 2nd-Grade Spanish Bilingual Teacher


Lilia ParedesHometown and High School? Chicago; Bowen High School.

College(s), major(s) and degrees(s)? University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, bachelor of arts in Spanish literature and bachelor of science in physiology; Keller School of Management, master of public administration.

Years of teaching experience? Two.

Previous teaching jobs? Many years ago at Octavio Paz Charter School.

Your Mills job? I teach 2nd-grade bilingual education.

Why education as a career? Education inspires and empowers. As educators, we have the opportunity to affect change to improve our society.

Challenges and rewards of being an educator? Some challenges facing bilingual education may be the shortage of bilingual teachers, students prematurely exiting the program, and perpetuated myths and misconceptions about bilingual education. Bilingual education prepares students to achieve higher educational goals and improves their options on entering the diverse workforce. It actively engages students from other cultures while retaining their own cultural identity through bilingual participation. 

Why Mills? An excellent opportunity presented itself. 

Your impression of Mills so far? Culturally diverse student body, professional and concerned educators, and attentive support staff.

Your goals for the year? To actively engage students in academic achievement and self-expression; to welcome and encourage parent-teacher dialogue regarding student progress and concerns; to facilitate an open exchange of ideas and information with staff on how to best serve bilingual students; to encourage bilingual students to hone their critical thinking skills and elaborate on concepts utilizing both English and their dominant language; to close the achievement gap.


Matthew Rivera, 6th-Grade ELA & Math Teacher


Matthew RiveraYour hometown and high school? Born and raised in Elmwood Park; Elmwood Park High School alumnus.

College(s), major(s) and degree(s)? Northeastern Illinois University, bachelor's degree in elementary education; Triton College, associate's degree in elementary education.

Years of teaching experience? This will be my second year teaching.

Previous teaching jobs (when and where)? I taught 6th-grade English language arts (ELA) and social studies in Acero Charter Schools, Brighton Park Elementary.

Your Mills job? I will teach 6th-grade ELA/math. 

Why education as a career? I had some really meaningful teachers during my education, and it made me want to instill that passion for learning in others as well.

Challenges and rewards of being an educator? One of the bigger challenges of teaching is remembering so many new names! The biggest reward of teaching is watching meaningful progress in students and guiding them to success. 

Why Mills? I had a very positive learning experience in District 401, including John Mills, and I wanted to give that experience back to the community.

Your impression of Mills so far? Very welcoming group of educators, and a tight-knit work environment!

Your goals for the year? To grow as an educator while helping learners grow as students.


Lisa Runge, EL Resource Teacher


Lisa RungeYour hometown and high school? Downers Grove; Downers Grove North High School.

College(s), major(s) and degree(s)? B.S. in elementary education, Spanish concentration.

Years of teaching experience? Five years.

Previous teaching jobs? Center City Public Charter School, Washington, D.C.

Your Mills job? I am a bilingual resource teacher, working with EL students of all backgrounds. 

Why education as a career? I have always enjoyed working with children, even when I was one. So many of our society's problems take root with our youngest members, and teachers have a chance to encourage strong leaders from the beginning. As Fredrick Douglass said, "It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men."

Challenges and rewards of being an educator? The biggest reward for me is watching students make discoveries about themselves and their capabilities. My biggest challenge is all of the donuts that are constantly available to me.

Why John Mills? The EL department at Mills is doing great work, and I wanted to be a part of that. I will be able to use both my Spanish and teaching skills to support classroom teachers. When I was a classroom teacher, I valued the support of resource teachers so much, and I am excited to do the same for others.

Your impression of Mills so far? Mills is a great place for both teachers and students. Everyone has been so welcoming. And, wow, we celebrate everything. With donuts.

Your goals for the year? I am looking forward to orienting myself to my school and getting to know the teachers and students. I want to support my cooperating teachers so that they can have the resources to support all learners, particularly those who are learning English.


Carol Swann, Music & Choir Teacher


Carol SwannYour hometown and high school? I grew up on the North Side of Chicago — Go Cubs! I attended Lake View High School and transferred to Amundsen High School, where I graduated from.

College(s), major(s) and degree(s)? Roosevelt University, bachelor of music; Northwestern University, master of music. 

Years of teaching experience? Twenty-plus years.

Previous teaching jobs? I've taught K-12 vocal music, general music and band in several Illinois districts, including Waukegan, Wilmette, Lake Bluff and Chicago. I was also a teaching artist for Ravinia, Old Town School of Folk Music and for my own company, "Swann Music." 

Your Mills job? I will be teaching General Music K-6 and Choir.

Why education as a career? My sister, Betty, was an amazing 3rd-grade teacher and inspired me to become a teacher. 

Challenges and rewards of being an educator? One of the challenges of education is bridging the gap between school and home and providing many opportunities to get to know the families of our students. There are many rewards of being an educator, such as sharing the joy and love of learning!

Why Mills? Great staff and students! Everyone works together to create a great learning environment.

Your impression of Mills so far? John Mills staff and students are so kind, inclusive and dedicated. 

Your goals for the year? I would like to lead the students in creating a learning space in the music classroom that is creative, collaborative and fun!  

Anything miscellaneous you'd like to share about yourself? I have a wonderful husband who is also a music teacher, two amazing daughters and a very naughty kitty cat, Nova!


Nicole Warren, Special Education Teacher


Nicole WarrenYour hometown and high school? Lake Orion, Mich.; Oakland Christian High School.

College(s), major(s) and degree(s)? B.S. in special education from Northern Illinois University.

Years of teaching experience? First year!

Your Mills job? Special education English language arts co-teacher.

Why education as a career? I have wanted to be a teacher since I was just in 3rd grade! I love learning!

Challenges and rewards of being an educator? Being a role-model and making a difference in a child’s life!

Why Mills? Great opportunities, positive energy and a wonderful staff with a great working environment!

Your impression of Mills so far? Amazing! So fun and welcoming; these teachers really care!

Your goals for the year? Build positive relationships with my new students and help them learn and grow!


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