Kindergarten Faculty Spotlight


KINDERGARTEN KICKOFF EVENT: Visit your child's home school on May 20 for our Kindergarten Kickoff for the 2021-22 school year! Click below for details:


With the closing of the Early Childhood Center, District 401's kindergarten instruction is now housed at our two elementary schools, John Mills and Elmwood. We are delighted to introduce you to our kindergarten teachers at both schools!


Elmwood Elementary School


► CHRISTINA FERRUSQUIA


Christina FerrusquiaHow long have you been in District 401?
I have been in District 401 for eight years.  

What are you most looking forward to in 2020-21? 
I am looking forward to having my own classroom and teaching kindergarten. This will be my first experience with my own classroom. I am sure that the students and I will learn many new things together. I can't wait!  

What other grades have you taught, and where?
I have been teaching as an English Learner/bilingual teacher for every grade level. I worked at John Mills, ECC, EPHS and Elm Middle School as the EL support teacher in each building. I traveled to all these schools from Elmwood Elementary.

What motivated you to become a teacher?
I was motivated to become a teacher when I worked as an aide for 15 years, and I went back to college to finish my teaching degree. I knew that teaching was for me when I was able to teach, learn, support and grow as an educator. My passion is to teach students to the best of my ability and watch them grow as individuals.  

What can parents do to help their children succeed in school?
I want parents to know that education is very important for their children. As an EL/bilingual teacher, I would advise parents to continue using their native language, ask for support and be involved in their child's learning development.     

Is there anything else you would like to share about yourself — for example, anything about your family, your interests outside of school, where you're from, etc.?
I am married and have three boys, a dog and a turtle. I enjoy cooking, knitting, reading and dancing. I love Dia De Los Muertos skulls, Frida Kahlo and (DIY) arts/crafts. I enjoy going to festivals, museums, concerts and baseball games. I travel to many states to watch a baseball game. I am a Mexican American born and raised in Chicago and speak Spanish/English. My motto: I learn something new every day.


► MARTYNA HUDSON


Martyna HudsonThis is your first year in District 401. What attracted you to the position?
I am passionate about early education. The first few years of a child's schooling are the foundation for their futures. While I've taught half-day kindergarten, teaching full-day kindergarten has always been a dream of mine! Also, I have heard great things about the Elmwood Park community and am so excited to become a part of it!

What are you most looking forward to in 2020-21?
I look forward to meeting my students, families and the staff at Elmwood Elementary School! I am excited to see how the full-day kindergarten program enhances our students' learning and prepares them for first grade.

What college degrees do you have, and where did you earn them?
In 2014 I graduated from North Central College in Naperville with a B.A. in elementary education with a minor in English language learners. Then, in 2017 I earned my master's degree as a reading specialist from Olivet Nazarene University.

Where else have you taught, and what grade level(s)?
I taught in Des Plaines for six years. I was a 4th-grade teacher and then taught kindergarten.

What motivated you to become a teacher?
In high school, I attended a mission trip to Jamaica. I taught in an afterschool program. That is when I realized how important education and the teacher's role is in the lives of young learners.

What can parents do to help their children succeed in school?
I always tell parents that they are the key to student success. Reading to your child (in English or your native language), completing homework together and conversing about school are great ways to get involved in your child's education and show them how important their education is to you.

Is there anything else you would like to share about yourself — for example, anything about your family, your interests outside of school, where you're from, etc.?
I was born in Poland and moved to the United States when I was 8 years old. I was an English language learner myself, as I only knew one word in English before moving here. My husband and I live in nearby Elmhurst with our two dogs. I enjoy spending time with them, reading books and exercising!


► SANDRA KATSANTONES


Sandra KatsantonesHow long have you been in District 401?
I have been in District 401 for 28 years.

What are you most looking forward to in 2020-21?
Kindergarten is a very special time for many children and parents. I look forward to creating a positive and nurturing learning environment for the children to grow and learn as they transition to school full time. I am most excited to make connections with my students and families and build a relationship with them.

What other grades have you taught, and where?
My teaching career has all been in District 401. I have taught kindergarten and 1st grade at John Mills. I have taught 6th grade and the last 22 years in 2nd grade at Elmwood.

What motivated you to become a teacher?
I was motivated to become a teacher because I love learning and consider myself a lifelong learner. Sharing knowledge with others is very rewarding to me. I want to instill that passion for knowledge in my students. I love to help young people reach their greatest potential through motivation, support and mentoring.

What can parents do to help their children succeed in school?
My advice to parents to help their child succeed in school would be to establish routines such as homework time, dinner time and bedtime. Also to read to their child daily. Read everything from books to the cereal box and discuss what they are reading. Limit screen time as that time could be spent talking, reading or actively learning through play.

Is there anything else you would like to share about yourself — for example, anything about your family, your interests outside of school, where you're from, etc.?
I grew up in Elmwood Park. I attended John Mills and EPHS. I currently live in Chicago. Outside of school, I like to travel, read, shop, garden and spend time with family and friends.


► LISA MARZILLO


Lisa MarzilloHow long have you been in District 401?
This will be my 14th year in the District.

This is your first year teaching kindergarten. What have you found to be some of the biggest rewards of teaching kindergarten students?
Watching the light bulb click. Seeing them learn each letter and sound and knowing we will start putting those sounds together to be a reader is so exciting. I also enjoy their spunk and excitement for learning (even remotely). 

What other grades have you taught, and where?
I student taught in 2008, and then subbed and did an FMLA in the District in 2009. I taught 11 years in 1st grade at Elmwood — this my first year in kindergarten.

What motivated you to become a teacher?
I always have had a passion for learning and connecting with children. I don't think anything motivated me to become a teacher; I think it is part of who I am. I couldn't even think of another career option for myself. Growing up attending schools here in Elmwood Park, I had many influential teachers whom I have connected with. School was always a happy place, and I want to inspire other kiddos to be great people when they grow up! 

What can parents do to help their children to succeed in school?
Be supportive, patient and kind! Kind to yourself, your child and the teacher. Read with your children every day, talk with them about their day. Mistakes are OK because we learn from them.

Is there anything else you would like to share about yourself — for example, anything about your family, your interests outside of school, where you're from, etc.?
I was born and raised in Elmwood Park and truly love the town. Both my husband and my family still live here. I have two children: Stella, who is 7, and Charlie, who is 4. Mrs. Marzillo plays on a softball and volleyball team with her friends. We love to travel when we can. I love to go to concerts and spend time with my family.


John Mills Elementary School


► ALYSSA BLACK


Alyssa BlackHow long have you been in District 401?
This will be my second year in District 401.

What are you most looking forward to in 2020-21?
I am looking forward to meeting my new kindergartners and getting to know each of them and their unique personalities! Developing community in the classroom is so important, and my favorite part of teaching.

What other grades have you taught, and where?
Kindergarten three school years in a row! Before Elmwood Park (at the Early Childhood Center last year), I taught kindergarten in the Ann Arbor public school district. 

What motivated you to become a teacher?
Education has always been a big part of my life. I went to both Lithuanian school and American school, taught abroad and then continued on to higher education. When I chose to pursue a career in teaching, I wanted to instill a love for learning, cultivate curiosity and provide equitable learning experiences for my students, the same way my teachers had done for me. 

What can parents do to help their children succeed in school?
My advice for parents is to lend support to your child. I always say that teaching is a team effort between teachers and parents. When a child feels supported academically, socially and emotionally both at home and in the classroom, we see our students take more risks and become more successful throughout. 

Is there anything else you would like to share about yourself — for example, anything about your family, your interests outside of school, where you're from, etc.?
I come from a family of four: Mom, Dad and a younger brother. My family is very spread out. Half of my family live in Arizona, and the other half is split between Illinois and Michigan. While I grew up in the southwest suburbs, I moved to Michigan and lived there for the past seven years. When I am not in the classroom, I enjoy spending time at the lake with my family and traveling.


► VINCENT FIORE


Vincent FioreThis is your first year in District 401. What attracted you to the position?
First and foremost, John Mills Elementary seems like a wonderful school in a wonderful community. It is an honor to be invited as part of the team. Secondly, teaching kindergarten has really become one of my life's passions. Teaching kindergarten at John Mills will be a real honor to me.

What are you most looking forward to in 2020-21?
I am most looking forward to meeting my new students and getting to know them all as well as their families. I anticipate witnessing my students' academic and social emotional growth throughout the school year!

What college degrees do you have, and where did you earn them?
I earned my bachelor's degree in early childhood education at Dominican University.



Where else have you taught, and what grade level(s)?
I have taught pre-kindergarten, transitional kindergarten and kindergarten at the KinderCare learning center in Elmhurst.

What motivated you to become a teacher?
My two inspirations for becoming a teacher are my 1st-grade teacher and my cousin who taught at the elementary level for many years. Also, my love for creativity and working with young children has motivated me to become a teacher myself.

What can parents do to help their children succeed in school?
I would advise ongoing parent and teacher communication as one of the key components for parents to guarantee their child's success in school. Practicing the concepts taught at school with your child at home as well as reading with him or her on a daily basis are very important, especially at the kindergarten level.

Is there anything else you would like to share about yourself — for example, anything about your family, your interests outside of school, where you're from, etc.?
I’m very artistic and I enjoy drawing as one of my hobbies. I’m also a big Disney fan! I am an uncle to my niece and two newborn twin nephews.


► CANDICE KONCZAL


Candice KonczalHow long have you been in District 401?
I was with District 401 from August 2016-May 2017 and came back November 2019

What are you most looking forward to in 2020-21?
I am looking forward to all the cool fun activities I get to plan for kindergarten.

What other grades have you taught, and where?
I have taught 5th grade for three years for Chicago Public Schools at Nixon Elementary. I have taught 7th-grade math and 7th-/8th-grade Spanish for a year in District 401 at Elm Middle School. I taught 6th-grade math and social studies for District 401 at John Mills for half a school year. Now I am moving to kindergarten at John Mills.

What motivated you to become a teacher?
My mother became a teacher's aide when I started kindergarten. I was always around all the activities she participated in, such as after-school programs to help students, PTA meetings, book fairs (she was very crafty), softball and basketball games, Special Olympics, etc. She did this for 23 years. My stepfather started off as a PE teacher, then became assistant principal and finally retired as principal. I had decided in 4th grade I would be a teacher. I loved the all the activities and I loved my teachers. My parents and teachers were an inspiration to me, and I wanted to inspire others to reach for the stars too. 

What can parents do to help their children succeed in school?
My advice to parents is: Be present. Be available. Be proactive. 

Is there anything else you would like to share about yourself — for example, anything about your family, your interests outside of school, where you're from, etc.?
I was born and raised in the city of Chicago and still live there. My mother came from Indiana. She is Native American, German, Irish, French and Dutch. My dad immigrated from Greece. He came to this country in his early 20s after serving in the Greek army. I have my own little family now. I have two stepdaughters, 12 and 15, and my own daughter is 16 months old. I love to travel. I have been to several other states, but I have only been to a few other countries. I have been to Greece, Canada, Mexico twice, the Bahamas and Iceland. We have a timeshare in Wisconsin Dells, and my stepdad has a condo in Florida. We love to go to these two places often. I can't wait to show my baby girl the world.


► ESTELA RIVERA


Estela RiveraThis is your first year in District 401. What attracted you to the position?
I really enjoy working with kindergarten students. I have been working with preschool and kindergarten students for the last three years and love celebrating all of their successes.

What are you most looking forward to in 2020-21?
I am excited to begin this new school year. I look forward to getting to know my students and coworkers and embark on a fun journey.

What college degrees do you have, and where did you earn them?
I have a bachelor's of science in education with a bilingual/bicultural endorsement from Illinois State University.

Where else have you taught, and what grade level(s)?
I was an English Learner resource teacher for preschool and kindergarten from 2017 to 2020 in Rhodes School District 84.5, and I was a teacher’s aide from 2011 to 2017.

What motivated you to become a teacher?
My 4th-grade teacher challenged and motivated me to love learning. That experience made me want to motivate and support students to be their best.

What can parents do to help their children succeed in school?
I think that reading with your child is a great way to help your child succeed in school. Two ways of doing this are to read the words in the story, or you and your child can make up a story based on the pictures in the book. It's also a great way to spend time with your child and develop a love of reading.

Is there anything else you would like to share about yourself — for example, anything about your family, your interests outside of school, where you're from, etc.?
I have two children and two fur babies — a son in college, a daughter in middle school, an 8-year-old furry chihuahua mix and a 2-year-old dwarf hamster. We love to travel and try to visit somewhere new every year. We then settle in a small town in Mexico for the remainder of the summer. Along with speaking Spanish I also know American Sign Language and recently took a class to begin learning Polish.


► BRITTANY SWIFT


Brittany SwiftHow long have you been in District 401?
I have been in District 401 for four years!

What are you most looking forward to in 2020-21?
I am so excited and looking forward to full-day kindergarten. I am most excited to see growth from August to May. It is one of the most rewarding experiences to see students in August know a few letters and numbers, and at the end of the year read books, write stories, and add and subtract!  

What other grades have you taught, and where?
I taught reading in Bensenville for one year. I have taught 3rd-grade ELA at John Mills for the last three years. 

What motivated you to become a teacher?
I was motivated to become a teacher because I have always wanted to help students learn and grow. I find so much joy in watching students become readers, writers, scientists, mathematicians and historians! To see a student solve a problem at various complexity levels because of their increased ability level is rewarding

What can parents do to help their children succeed in school?
My advice to parents on helping their children to succeed in school would be to read every day. Read to your child or let your child read to you. Help your child know how to write, read, and say their first and last name. Work on number and letter identification. Practice cutting, tracing, coloring. Encourage your child to share and take turns. 

Is there anything else you would like to share about yourself — for example, anything about your family, your interests outside of school, where you're from, etc.?
I am married to Mr. Swift, and we have a dog named Prince! My absolute favorite book ever is "I’ll Love You Forever" by Robert Munsch. My Favorites: the color pink, iced coffee and candy! I graduated from Elmhurst College! Go Bluejays! Fun fact: My dad and I have the exact same birthday, Christmas Day!