Teri Lyn Mannes (Principal and 4th Grade)
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Mrs. Mannes has been a lifelong member of St. John’s and earned her masters in Early Childhood Special Education from Northeastern Illinois University.
Mrs. Mannes completed her bachelor’s degree at Concordia University in River Forest. She was baptized and confirmed here, and also attended St. John’s school from kindergarten through 8th grade. She worked in Extended Care while in high school; has taught preschool and kindergarten Sunday School; and served on the KidFaith committee. St. John’s has always been a part of her life, and she is thrilled to be a part of the faculty, and now principal. Mrs. Mannes says, “What a privilege to be a part of educating young children the same way that I was! I am so glad that God called me to St. John’s.”
Mrs. Mannes lives in La Grange Park with her husband, Patrick, stepson, Jordan and their two dogs. She enjoys bike riding, gardening, baking and traveling.
Kendall Knafl (Preschool 3 year olds)
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Mrs. Knafl has been teaching Preschool 3’s since 2021, but has been substitute
teaching at St. John’s since 2015. Kendall graduated with her Bachelor’s Degree from
Concordia University River Forest in 2013. After college, she decided to stay at home with her
children before continuing her career.
Mrs. Knafl enjoys centering her teaching around the Christian faith because it gives the students
a solid foundation for all learning and growth that can be used throughout life.
Outside of school, she spends her time with her three children (Landon, Amelia, and Michaela)
and husband Aaron doing outdoor activities and spending time with extended family. Her
favorite hobby is traveling and seeing new places each time.
Mrs. Knafl is a native of the Chicagoland area, currently living in Berwyn, IL. She is also a
proud Veteran of the United States Navy, serving from 2006-2009.
Sue Cappa (Preschool 4 year olds)
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Mrs. Cappa attended Concordia University, River Forest, where she received her Bachelor’s degree in 1989. She began teaching four year-old preschool at St. John’s in 2007. In 2013 she received her Master’s degree in Early Childhood Education.
Mrs. Cappa became a Lutheran School Teacher to serve the Lord with the talents with which she has been blessed. Christian Education lets her share both her knowledge and her faith with others.
Outside of school she enjoys scrapbooking and crafting with friends. Mrs. Cappa also enjoys spending time with her husband Vince, and family night with her two sons and extended family.
Melissa Roberts (Kindergarten)
Melissa Roberts began teaching Kindergarten at St. John’s in 2019. She received her B.A. in Elementary Education and Psychology at the University of Richmond in Richmond, Virginia. She did her student teaching in Kindergarten and 5th grade at Bensley Elementary School in Chesterfield County, Virginia. She then taught 4th Grade for several years at the same school. The Lord then redirected her path to Albuquerque, New Mexico where she took a hiatus from teaching and worked as a real estate closer.
She met her dear husband, Ben, in Albuquerque. Melissa decided to stay home when her daughter, Grace, was born. Melissa’s passion for early childhood education was truly ignited when she became a mother! The Roberts family relocated to St. Louis, Missouri in 2003 for Ben to attend Concordia Seminary. Over the years of raising her children, Grace and Owen, and moving to multiple locations, Melissa has worked in a variety of occupations part-time, including childcare, preschool teacher, preschool aide, substitute teacher, church secretary, and wellness consultant. All the while, she was and continues to be actively engaged as a wife and mother. She always made time to volunteer weekly in her children’s elementary school classrooms. In addition, she has served as a MOPS coordinator, a MOPS mentor mom, a VBS director, and as an early childhood Sunday School teacher.
Melissa’s husband, Ben, was called to be the Senior Pastor of St. John’s in August of 2017. She loves being back in the midwest as she was born in this area. In her free time, Melissa enjoys cooking, reading, walking the family dog, sports, helping others live a healthier lifestyle, volunteer work, and spending time with her family. Melissa most recently worked at St. John’s as a preschool aide and 4th grade teacher. Melissa’s true passion is teaching Kindergarten! She feels truly blessed to work here at St. John’s, and is thankful to God who continues to guide, direct, and bless her life.
Holly Hackelberg (1st grade)
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Mrs. Hackelberg has been teaching first grade at St. John’s since 1994. Mrs. Hackleberg earned her bachelor’s degree in elementary education from Concordia, Chicago (then River Forest) in 1982. She earned her M.A. in Curriculum and Instruction from National Louis University in 1999.
She feels it is a privilege to teach at a school where the teachers are committed to excellence. It is very motivating to teach with such dedicated and supportive colleagues and they make her want to continue to improve. She has been blessed to teach at St. John’s and is thankful that God led her here.
Mrs. Hackelberg enjoys working with 6 and 7 year olds because, in spite of the routines, every day is different. Each child is a special gift from God and brings his or her unique personality to the class as a whole. She encourages her students to accept and care for each other.
Many influences led to her becoming a teacher in a Lutheran school. While attending a Lutheran school, she experienced the support of an extended Christian family. She knew that God was calling her to teach young children and he has affirmed that decision by blessing her with a love of teaching.
Mrs. Hackelberg makes her home in Woodridge. Her adult children, Kate and Paul, are proud graduates of St. John’s. She enjoys reading and quilting and shares both of her hobbies with her students in the classroom.
Katie Pece (2nd grade)
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Ms. Pece earned her Bachelor’s Degree in Elementary Education from Valparaiso University in 2004. After Valpo, she taught Kindergarten for six years at Oak Brook Christian School. In 2007, she also received her Master’s Degree in Curriculum and Instruction from Concordia University Chicago. In 2015 Ms. Pece completed the Colloquy Program.
Ms. Pece began teaching Second Grade at St. John’s in 2010, and she feels very blessed! She sees each student as a unique Child of God and loves being part of the learning and growth that takes place in the early childhood years. Ms. Pece has coached multiple sports and loves being active! Ms. Pece is thankful for the privilege to be part of the St. John’s community, and strives to promote a loving, Christ-centered classroom environment of learners to best individually meet each student’s needs.
Ms. Pece lives in Darien, IL. She enjoys spending time with family and friends, and has many hobbies that include exercising, traveling, cooking, shopping, reading, and Chicago sports!
Ms. Pece enjoys being active at St. John’s serving in Women’s Ministry and Vacation Bible School. She has also taught Sunday School, been a Youth Group Leader, and has attended four LCMS National Youth Gatherings. Ms. Pece believes it is a joy to be a Christian educator, Serving the Lord with gladness (Psalm 100), and “Always giving thanks to God the Father for everything.” (Ephesians 5:20)
Julie Strasser (3rd grade)
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Mrs. Strasser earned her undergraduate degree in Elementary Education at the University of Iowa, and her masters degree in Language and Literacy at National Louis University. She completed her colloquy training at Concordia University in preparation to be a Called teacher in a Lutheran school. She is working on an endorsement as a learning behavior specialist.
Mrs. Strasser grew up in LaGrange and was involved in church youth activities, sports, and music. Later she spent almost ten years in Las Cruces, New Mexico, raising her family, and helping plant and grow a Lutheran elementary day school at Mission Lutheran Church.
She has a variety of teaching experiences with which God has blessed her. She taught one year as an instructional assistant in 5th grade at Prospect School in Clarendon Hills. She went on to teach 5th grade at Fourth Street/ Coultrap Elementary School in Geneva, Illinois, for four years, and 4th grade for two years. After taking time off to stay at home with her children, Mrs. Strasser returned to teaching at Mission Lutheran School in Las Cruces, New Mexico where she taught a combined 2nd-3rd grade class, and combined 2nd-3rd-4th grade class, part time. She has been blessed to be teaching 3rd grade at St. John’s since 2008!
Mrs. Strasser’s hobbies include anything active that involves her family, friends, or serving God by helping others through teaching in Vacation Bible School, participating in Bible study, packing meals at Feed My Starving Children, reading, traveling, going to Ravinia, running, swimming, and attending theater productions.
She loves teaching and sharing in the learning process, and especially enjoys taking classes and workshops to help her grow. As children of God, and it is a special privilege to be able to share our faith journey together, through the gift of the Holy Spirit, with the people God places in our lives. “For God knows the plans He has for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11
Laura Grisafe (Physical Education)
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Biography Coming Soon
Vicki Wykert (5th grade)
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Mrs. Wykert has been the fifth grade teacher since 2016. She received her B.A. in Elementary Education at Concordia University in River Forest with a science specialization in 1990. She taught third and fourth grade at Tabor Lutheran School in Chicago for one year. She then married her husband Thomas in 1991. Together they took a call to Christ Our Savior in Coppell, Texas where Mrs. Wykert taught first and second grade for 3 years. At that time, Mrs. Wykert stayed home to raise 3 children. She has been blessed with part time teaching of fifth grade and instructional aiding at St. John’s since 2010. In December of 2011, she completed a Masters Degree in Reading and Literacy through Benedictine University. All learning begins with reading and children are successful when this area is strengthened.
Mrs. Wykert loves to go for walks, especially with her husband Tom. Family time is important. Along with seeing their children in their various activities, the Wykert family loves the fellowship and growth that occurs in their church life. Rebecca, Peter, and Rachel are graduates of St. John’s who reap the benefits of a top notch religious institution that prepared them for the intellectual challenges of high school, college, and career.
Mrs. Wykert loves to give her time to helping students discover the world that God has given them and the plan He has for them. We are training children to use the strategies developed in school to help them make great discoveries in the world. Also knowing how Jesus died for us, by the Holy Spirit we learn how to be the hands and feet of Jesus. What a blessing to be a small part of guiding the children toward Him, so that they can use their gifts to further His Kingdom.
Tom Wykert (6th grade)
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Mr. Tom Wykert is the sixth grade home room teacher and has been teaching at St. John’s since 1995. In addition to teaching sixth grade religion and math, he teaches seventh grade math, pre algebra, and social studies and eighth grade algebra and social studies. He is also the athletic director.
As athletic director, he supervises all the sport seasons, coaches several, and hosts an invitational basketball tournament. He helps maintain and improve our technology at St. John’s by updating Renaissance Place, Sycamore, Google, and our website. He also assists our IT person whenever possible.
Tom graduated from Concordia University in 1991 with a Bachelor of Arts degree. He earned his masters in education from St. Xavier University in 2002.
He lives in Lyons, Illinois with his wife, Vicki. He has three grown children Rebecca, Peter, and Rachel who are all graduates of St. John’s. He likes to take walks, ride bikes, read, and go on family vacations to national landmarks. His three special interests are the Chicago Cubs, Star Wars, and the I & M Canal.
Tom has a great desire to share his faith with children and their families. He also enjoys using humor in his teaching because we need to learn to be able to laugh at ourselves and enjoy the world around us.
AnnLaura Tapia (Assistant School Office Manager | Music, grades 5-6)
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Mrs. AnnLaura Tapia studied for her Bachelor of Music, Harp Performance, at the Cleveland Institute of Music and the University of Toronto. She then completed her Performance Diploma at the Royal Conservatory of Music, Toronto. Mrs. Tapia has performed as a soloist as well as with many orchestras and chamber ensembles, including her flute and harp duo, Abellimento. She continues to perform, and teaches private harp and piano lessons.
Mrs. Tapia teaches 5th and 6th grade music classes, and conducts Jubilee and Joy handbell choirs. She enjoys performing science experiments and going to the zoo with her two children, both of whom attend St. John’s. She also enjoys reading, knitting, and cooking.
Elise Dalton (7th grade)
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Biography Coming Soon
Renee Hull (8th Grade)
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Renee’ Hull has over 30 years of experience in Christian education. She obtained her bachelor’s degree from Concordia University in River Forest in 1982, with her concentrations in math and physical education. She began teaching at St. John’s in 2017.
Renee’ has taught at a variety of grade levels, and has great experiences teaching in the middle school as department teacher in Science. She has also been blessed to be part of school ministry teams using God’s gifts in areas such as an assistant principal, athletic director, department team leader, and coaching.
Her school year is filled with developing engaging lessons especially in the area of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) to meet the needs of her students.
Her summers are filled with spending time with her family and enjoying her garden, reading, traveling to Michigan and spending time outdoors.
Renee’ resides with her husband in Oak Forest. She has four grown children and five grandchildren.
Kristen Stapleton (Art and Music)
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Mrs. Stapleton teaches 4th grade art and 6th – 8th grade art, and is the director for the Junior Choir and Echoes of Praise. She holds a bachelor’s degree from Valparaiso University, majoring in Fine Arts. Besides concentrating in drawing, painting and photography, she has had extensive training in voice and piano. She began piano lessons before age 4, and eventually studied for 9 years at Wheaton College Conservatory. During high school, she also began taking private voice lessons, and continued studying through college and beyond. Her past vocal teachers included faculty members from Northwestern University and Juilliard School of Music, and she has sung in several choirs in the Chicago area, including Grant Park Symphony Chorus. Her greatest joy is to use music and art to praise God.
Besides her artistic endeavors, Kristen enjoys sewing, cooking and entertaining. Her husband, Mark, serves as the Assistant to the Pastor at St. John’s. Together, they are the caregivers and primary handlers for Angel Comfort Dog. They have two grown children and four grandchildren.
Pastor Mark Stapleton (Religion)
Pastor Mark Stapleton teaches 8th grade religion and serves as the Associate Pastor at St. John’s. He earned his Bachelor’s degree in Education from Western Illinois University. After teaching middle school for seven years, he became a certified real estate appraiser, and still continues to work as an independent appraiser. In 2006, he decided to enroll in the Lay Ministry program at Concordia Mequon, Wisconsin. He graduated from the program in 2010 and was installed as a Commissioned Minister of Religion at St. John’s Lutheran Church. In 2018 after completing his colloquy program, he became ordained and was installed at St. John’s as Associate Pastor. With his wife, he oversees the Comfort Dog ministry at St. John’s and is primary caregiver/handler for Angel. They have two grown children and four grandchildren
Pastor Ben Roberts (Religion)
Pastor Ben is a disciple of Jesus Christ. a husband and father, a pastor and missional thinker, and encourager and a big fan of movies and sports. He was born in Denver, Colorado and lived in the cities of Evergreen, Colorado, Santa Fe, New Mexico and also in Albuquerque.
In 2003, Pastor Ben began his pastoral formation at Concordia Seminary in St. Louis, Missouri. His one-year vicarage internship was served at Trinity Lutheran Church and School in Sawyer, Michigan. He has previously served as sole pastor of Grace Lutheran Church and School in Corona, California, sole pastor of Our Savior’s Lutheran Church in Pueblo West, Colorado and associate pastor of small groups and family life at Summit of Peace Lutheran Church in Thornton, Colorado. He has been serving St. John’s and the La Grange community since August of 2017.
Pastor Ben received a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of New Mexico in May of 1995, majoring in English with a concentration in Creative Writing and minoring in Film Studies. He received a Master of Divinity degree from Concordia Seminary in May of 2007. He was one of ten students out of 165 in his graduating class during the 2006-2007 academic year at Concordia Seminary to receive the Reverend Marvin E. Kuhlmann Homiletics Endowment award for excellence in preaching. Pastor Ben and his wife Melissa have also completed the Leadership Essentials cohort of the Pastoral Leadership Institute.
Pastor Ben loves to preach and teach God’s Word, to encourage and equip God’s people and to creatively and strategically think of ways for God’s people to engage the surrounding community and culture in a post-Christian world.
Pastor Ben currently lives in La Grange Park with his wife, Melissa, and their two children, Grace, who attends Lyons Township High School, and Owen, who attends St. John’s Lutheran School.
Pastor Ben loves hanging out with family and friends, reading, writing, cooking, watching good movies and television shows, exercising, getting outdoors and folding origami. His favorite sports teams are the Denver Broncos, the Colorado Rockies, the St. Louis Cardinals, the Chicago Bears and the Chicago Cubs.
Stephanie Johnson (Director of Admissions & Marketing)
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Mrs. Johnson graduated from University of Illinois in 1998 earning her Bachelor’s Degree in Sports Management. Soon after graduation, she pursued a Sports Marketing career. She worked for the Chicago White Sox for 12 years before deciding to stay home with her three children, Ryder, Gavin and Avery.
Stephanie and her family became members of St. John’s Lutheran Church and School in 2005. Since Ryder and Gavin currently attend St. John’s School, Mrs. Johnson was thrilled at the opportunity to become a part of the school’s staff where she could be more involved with the school and the daily activities of her children. She believes in Christian education and has enjoyed watching her children learn and grow at St. John’s.
Stephanie and her husband, Todd, reside in Chicago with their children. They are passionate about sports, fitness and nutrition. In her spare time, she is a Crossfit Coach where she enjoys helping others reach their fitness goals.