Meet Our Staff

Below are brief bios from our incredible staff. If you are interested in joining our team, follow the link to learn more.

Teaching at Comer Middle School

 


6TH GRADE TEAM

Ms. Weininger - 6th Grade Math/Grade Level Lead, Dayton University

 Ms. Weininger is the current 6th grade math teacher at Gary Comer Middle School. She attended the University of Dayton in Ohio, where she studied Middle Childhood Education and specialized in math and science. Upon graduating, she taught sixth through eighth grade math as a Teach for America corps member in St. Louis, Missouri. After completing two years in St. Louis, Ms. Weininger decided to combine her love of travel and teaching by moving to Cordoba, Spain where she taught English to Spanish students in grades 4-10 for a year. She recently completed her Master’s degree in English as a Second Language: Curriculum & Instruction through Arizona State University. In her free time, Ms. Weininger enjoys reading, eating, traveling and spending time with friends and family. She is excited for another year here at GCMS to be surrounded by so many hardworking, enthusiastic and committed families, students, and staff!

Ms. Schulman - 6th Grade English Language Arts, University of Wisconsin-Madison

Ms. Schulman is a graduate of UW-Madison with Honors degrees in Journalism and Gender Studies. She’s grown up in a variety of cities across the Midwest, including Chicago and Columbus. Ms. Schulman is a corps member with Teach for America, an Americorps organization. She is especially excited to teach English on the 6th grade team because she’s passionate about the power of the pen and giving her scholars the tools they need to begin writing their stories and advocate for themselves. When she was in 6th grade, Ms. Schulman moved to a new school so she knows how challenging of a transition this is for scholars. She looks forward to bonding with scholars over this exciting change in their academic journeys and to a fantastic year of personal and academic growth. 

Mrs. VandeVanter6th Grade Science, Texas A &M University

Mrs. VandeVanter is the 6th grade science teacher at GCMS as well as a 7th grade advisor. She is from Houston, Texas and attended Texas A&M University to purse a degree in Education. She graduated from Texas A&M in 2014 and spent the three years after college in Dallas, Texas where she taught 8th grade science. She is most excited to build relationships with her scholars and advisees as well as get scholars interested and thinking like a scientist. Outside of school, Mrs. VandeVanter enjoys spending time with her husband, Jacob, and exploring their new city. Mrs. VandeVanter also enjoys being involved with her church and taking every possible chance to travel and explore the world. A few of Mrs. VandeVanter’s favorite things are the color purple, dark chocolate, crafting, being outdoors, photography, playing volleyball…and…science, of course!

 

Mr.Dunlap– 6th Grade Literacy Lab, Robert Morris University 

Jermaine Dunlap is a resident of Chicago where he was born and raised in the Englewood community. His passion for mentoring youth led him to work as a youth development professional at multiple non-profit organizations such as the Southside YMCA and Gary Comer Youth Center to name a few. Over the past year Mr. Dunlap has decided to increase his availability to the youth by becoming a teacher full time. He is currently in his 2nd year of teaching here at GCMS. He has an AA in Fitness & Exercise and a BBA in Business Administration with a Concentration in Management from Robert Morris University. He is currently planning to pursue is Master’s in Education. 

Ms. Walker- 6/7th Grade Reading, Univsersity of Wisconsin- Madison

Ms. Walker is a 6th and 7th grade reading teacher at GCMS and has a  7th grade advisory. She was born in Berkeley, California and moved to Wisconsin to attend the University of Wisconsin – Madison in 2007. Ms. Walker has been in the Midwest ever since. She has been teaching for the past four years in Gary, Indiana, but lived in Chicago. Ms. Walker is excited to be working in her city and creating change for the Greater Grand Crossing neighborhood! In her spare time, she loves to read, travel, cook and hang out with her friends and family. 


7TH GRADE TEAM

Mrs. Diaz- 7th/8th Grade Algebra/Grade Level Lead, University of Phoenix

My name is Mrs. Diaz and I am currently the 7th/8th grade Algebra teacher. After graduating High School I joined United States Army were I learned the meaning of discipline and hard work; after 4 years active and 2 years in the Texas National Guard I returned to school to pursue a lifelong dream of becoming a teacher.  I attended Cal-Poly, Pomona and graduated with a Bachelors in Liberal Studies. I then attended the University of Phoenix, in Pasadena California where I completed my Masters of Education.

After 21 years of services my husband retired from the United States Army and we finally returned home to Chicago. Last year I was very fortunate to have been given the opportunity to teach at GCMS after teaching three in half years in Bronzeville. I truly believe that every child deserves the best public education despite their social economic status.

 

When not busy at school my life is filled by my amazing husband Antonio who I have been married to for 21 years and my two amazing children. Allie who is 12 and a 7th grader at HMS and Antonio who is 20 and a junior at Northern Illinois University. I have recently found that I love working out by taking Zumba classes and enjoy long bicycle rides with my daughter.

Ms. Benjamin - 7th Grade English Language Arts, University of Kansas

Ms. Benjamin is thrilled to begin this year as the 7th grade ELA teacher, and be an advisor to the 6th grade girl Jayhawks!  She grew up in the southwest suburbs of Chicago, and then went off to the University of Kansas where she earned her degree in Middle School English Education. Prior to joining GCMS, Ms. Benjamin taught 6th grade ELA in Kansas City for two years. She is happy to be back in Chicago and cannot wait to hold scholars to the high expectations we have at GCMS. In her free time she enjoy traveling, being with friends, or cooking. 

 

 

Mr. Junk - 7th Grade Accelerated Math/8th Pre-Algebra, DePaul University

Mr. Junk teaches 7th and 8th grade Math at Gary Comer College Prep Middle School. He also serves as a 6th grade advisor. Although he is new to GCMS, Mr. Junk has been working in and around Urban Education for eight years. His prior experience includes three years of classroom teaching on the North Side of Milwaukee, WI and four years working as a volunteer and after school programs coordinator at the Kelly Hall YMCA on Chicago’s West Side.  Mr. Junk loves basketball and has coached for many seasons, and he hopes to get involved with the boys hoops squad at GCMS this season. Mr. Junk holds a Master’s Degree in Urban Education from Alverno College and a double Bachelors in Journalism and History from DePaul University. He is excited about representing the Blue Demons and the Vincentian tradition of service and justice with his advisory in the upcoming school year.

 

Ms. Tinsman- 7th Grade Science,  University of St. Thomas

My name is Sarah Tinsman and this will be my second year at GCMS. I teach  7th grade science and I am an advisor a great group of 7th grade girls. It’s so exciting to be a part of a community that values education and opportunity—plus, it’s so much fun! I’m thankful for my journey—Iowa to Minnesota to Texas, undergrad to grad school, the corporate world to education—because it’s led me to two incredible places…GCMS and Chicago!

Mr. Ford - 7th Grade Humanities, School of the Art Institute of Chicago

A native Midwesterner, Mr. Ford grew up in the northern suburbs and attended Southern Illinois University at Carbondale, where he earned his BA in English. After graduation, he moved to California, where he spent eleven years teaching 7th and 8th grade English and ESL in Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Oakland. Then, he lived in Tokyo, Japan, where he taught English to working adults. Upon his return to the U.S., he attended the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, where he earned his BFA in Studio Art. Most recently, Mr. Ford taught English to international students in Chicago.

Mr. Ford has traveled solo to Europe and Asia, including extended stays in Japan. In addition to being a teacher, he is also a practicing artist working in photography and writing.


8TH GRADE TEAM

Mr. Patel - 8th Grade Science/Grade Level Lead, Washington University-St. Louis

Mr. Patel is in his 3rd year at GCMS as the 8th grade science teacher.  He is part of the Teach for America program and previously worked at Perspectives Leadership Academy.  In addition to this, Mr. Patel taught at an after school program for 8th graders at Compton-Drew Middle school in Saint Louis.  While at Washington University in Saint Louis Mr. Patel studied Public Health and Biology.  He is excited to be working with such passionate staff and see his advisory graduate this year. In his free time, Mr. Patel enjoys rock climbing and cooking.

 

Mrs. Henning - 8th Grade English Language Arts, Eastern Michigan Universtiy

Savannah Henning is from Detroit, Michigan, she’s a Cass tech alum (high school) and she completed her undergraduate degree at Eastern Michigan University. She majored in Secondary Education and taught a semester abroad. Mrs. Henning began teaching almost four years ago and started her career as a volunteer with a  non-profit called 826michigan in Ann Arbor. While working with the company she co- authored two books with middle school students and after becoming a classroom teacher she invited 826michigan to her classroom to create publications annually with her scholars. Before coming to GCMS she worked for Wolverine Pathways, a program through the University of Michigan designed to increased diversity on campus. Mrs. Henning was one of the founding instructors for the program where she taught scholars from grades 6th-12th. Savannah enjoys bike riding, pizza, and cutting hair in her free time.

Ms. Pittman - 8th Grade Reading, Southern Illinois University- Carbondale

Ms. Pittman hails from East St. Louis, Illinois. She graduated from East St. Louis Senior High School in 2007 as a Golden Apple Scholarship awardee under the mentorship of Debra- Humphrey-Morgan and the Future Teachers Program. She attended Southern Illinois University Carbondale and earned a B.A. in English Literature with a Minor in Africana Studies. She earned her M.A. in Education at Lindenwood University- Belleville this past May of 2017. Ms. Pittman taught 6th -12th grade in East St. Louis for 4 years before relocating to Chicago to teach here at GCMS. As an African American woman, and first generation college student, she is genuinely passionate about serving youth and preparing them for success. Ms. Pittman is also a member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. Some of her interests are weightlifting, shopping, music, and female mentorship. Ms. Pittman is passionate about instilling discipline, confidence, and unity in her students. She is extremely family oriented, and credits her mother, Sherri Pittman for being the driving force behind her success through structure and tough love.  

Mr. Fisher - 8th Grade Geometry, University of Florida

Eric Fisher is a 9th-year teacher out of Gainesville, Florida. Mr. Fisher is a Geometry teacher and also serves as the advisor to the 6th grade Bethune-Cookman University Wildcats.  Prior to joining Noble, Mr. Fisher taught alongside some of his former teachers, in his hometown of Gainesville, FL at Gainesville High School.   In April 2005, Mr. Fisher graduated from the University of Florida with a Bachelor of Science in Packaging Science.  He would later earn a Masters in Educational Leadership from St. Leo University.  Mr. Fisher enjoys spending time with family, attending church, reading, traveling, dancing, and sports.

 

Ms. Briggs - 8th Grade Seminar, Dillard University

Ms. Briggs graduated from Dillard University with a degree in history. She then went to get a degree from National Lewis University in elementary education and a graduated degree in psychology.  She recently finished teaching abroad for three years in Abu Dhabi where she taught English to native Arabic speaking girls. Ms. Briggs has been teaching for 8 years and is very excited to be back home and the seminar teacher in 8th grade.

 

 


SPED TEAM

Ms. Gross -Case Manager Learning Specialist (ELA), Indiana University

Before working at GCMS, Chelsea Gross graduated from Indiana University Bloomington in 2013 with her Bachelors’ Degree in Special Education. The following year she taught at an elementary school in southern Indiana as a special education teacher. This is Chelsea’s fourth year at GCMS. She graduated the Indiana Hoosiers female advisory in 2017, and she has served as an ELA Learning specialist for 7th and 8th grade. Chelsea now oversees the special education department as case manager.

 

Mr. Bassett-  Learning Specialist (Math), University of Illinois- Chicago

Mr. Bassett was born in Indiana, but has lived in Chicago for many years.  He is the Co-Teacher for 6th, 7th & 8th Grade Math.  He started at GCMS in Jan., 2017.  Mr. Bassett has a Bachelor’s in Political Science from Northern Illinois University; a Master’s in Library & Information Science from Dominican University; and a Master’s in Education from the University of Illinois at Chicago.  Outside of school he loves to read and watch soccer.  He has four grown children, the youngest of whom was married this past summer.  Mr. Bassett is excited to see how much growth GCMS scholars can achieve this year.

Mr. Coleman - Learning Specialist (ELA), University of Illinois- Champaign- Urbana  

Mr. Coleman graduated from the Univerisity of Illinois in 2016 with a degree in organizational psychology. This is his second year at GCMS as an ELA Learning Specialist. Mr. Coleman grew up on the South Side of Chicago and attended Mount Carmel High School and is excited to be back in Chicago teaching. This year his advisory will be in 7th grade. 

 

 

Ms. Agosta- Paraprofessional, Bradley University

Ms. Agosta is a paraprofessional at Gary Comer College Prep Middle School.  This will be her 5th  year at GCMS. In addition to her duties as a paraprofessional, Ms. Agosta is also the campus’s external affair point person. As such, she maintains the school’s social media sites and works to build an active community of parents on campus.  Before joining GCMS, Ms. Agosta taught for 3 years in Indianapolis and completed a 6 month fellowship focusing on coalition building. Ms. Agosta graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in Social Work from Bradley University (2010) and received a Masters of Arts in Teaching from Marian University in 2012. Ms. Agosta has been fortunate enough to graduate 2 advisories, the Concordia Cougars (2016) and Fighting Illini (2017) and enjoys when they come back to visit. Outside of work Amy enjoys spending time with her friends, going to concerts and shows, reading for pleasure and traveling. Ms. Agosta has recently enrolled back in school to get her endorsement in Special Education.  

Ms. Buchanan  - Paraprofessional, University of Illinois- Chicago

Mrs. Buchanan has been affiliated and volunteered with Gary Comer Middle School since its inception. She has two scholars who have graduated from the middle school, one on the founding class and second class.  As a second year paraprofessional, she is dedicated to helping scholars be the best they can be.

 


SUPPORT TEAM

Ms. Bechler - Co-Dean of Instruction English Language Arts and  6th Grade Reading, Ohio State University

 Ms. Bechler is excited to begin another year as part of the Gary Comer Middle School team! This year, Ms. Bechler will be a co-Dean of Instruction of ELA and a 6th grade Reading teacher and advisor. This year marks Ms. Bechler’s 6th year working in education, and she has had the pleasure of teaching on Chicago’s West and South Sides before joining the GCMS team in April 2014 as an 8th grade English teacher. Ms. Bechler was born and raised in Dayton, OH and completed her Bachelor’s degree in Middle Childhood Education at The Ohio State University before moving to Chicago to complete her teaching licensure at Dominican University. When she is not at school, Ms. Bechler loves to watch Ohio State football, hang out with her dog, Winston, eat Mexican food, read, and spend time with her family and friends.

 Ms. Chrestopoulos - Co- Dean of Instruction- English Language Art/ 7th Grade Reading, Rice University

Ms. Chrestopoulos hails from Argyle, TX where she attended Argyle Elementary, Middle, and High School. In 2009 she began her college career at Rice University, where she ended up majoring in Sociology, Policy Studies, and Poverty, Justice, and Human Capabilities, after soul searching through every other major under the sun. She found that her heart was always in education, heavily influenced by her two parents who are music educators, and began working in school districts in and near the Houston area. She started her Chicago teaching career off in South Chicago and moved to teach at GCMS in the 2014-15 school year. She has been a 7th grade English and Reading teacher, cheerleading, cross country, and track coach, choir and yearbook club sponsor, and is now a 7th grade Reaching teacher and Dean of Instruction for the ELA department. She graduated the Rice Owl Boys advisory in 2017 and is now the Miami Redhawk ladies’ advisor!

Mr. Pruitt – Dean of Instruction-Math and Science, Miami University (OH)

I was born and raised in Lancaster, Ohio, where my family still resides. After graduating high school, I attended Miami University where I received a Bachelor’s degree in Zoology. Due to my love for science, I decided to pursue a career in science education, which took me to Las Vegas, Nevada, for my first teaching job. It was here that my love for teaching started. In Las Vegas, I taught 6th and 7th grade science for two years, and coached Girls basketball, and Boys and Girls soccer. While living in Las Vegas, I furthered my education and earned my Master’s degree in Education with a focus in Curriculum and Instruction. In 2012, I moved to Chicago and accepted a job as the founding 7th grade science teacher at GCMS. After Mr. Epley interviewed me in Las Vegas, I knew that GCMS was going to be a great experience and a fantastic place to teach. Six years later, after teaching science for three years, graduating an advisory, and being the Dean of Instruction for two years, I can easily say that I made the best decision in joining the Noble Family. The relationships I have built with co-works, scholars, and families is what keeps me motivated and passionate about the work I do here at GCMS.  Aside from school, I enjoy spending time with my wife, Meghan, and daughter, Finley. I also enjoy running, swimming, biking, playing basketball, and watching the Ohio State Buckeyes dominate each football season….and beating Mr. Epley in fantasy football J.

Ms. Norris – Dean of Discipline, Salisbury University

Ashley Norris is from Baltimore, MD, where she worked with youth in many different aspects, such as alternative schools, juvenile delinquent centers, and residential treatment centers. She prides herself on her ability to build relationships with youth beyond the classroom. Ms. Norris was a graduate from Salisbury University with a major in Social Work but was pulled back to education due to the struggle the youth she worked with had in school. She believes that the safety, success and confidence of her scholars in their education is the only way for her own success to be determined. Outside of school Ms. Norris loves seeing what new adventures that she can get into with her partner and son; whether it is finding a new ‘truck’ for Seamus to point at or a new part of the city to explore, as long as they are together Ms. Norris is at her happiest. 

Mr. Johnson – Dean of Operations, Illinois State University

Mr. Johnson is entering his third year as Dean of Operations at Gary Comer Middle School. His previous roles include four years of leadership team experience in operations and school culture and five years of teaching experience in grades 2-5. Mr. Johnson has a Bachelor’s in Acting from Illinois State University and a Master’s in Teaching from Dominican University. He is excited to be working in the high-expectation environment of a Noble school and to be working with such a talented team. Outside of work, Brad plays baseball with his older son, builds models with his younger son, and plays a little saxophone when nobody else is home.  

Mr. Moore - Asst. Dean of Discipline, Campbellville University