Consistent with the Goals and Criteria for Sacred Heart education, Woodlands Academy’s academic program seeks to instill in our students a deep respect for intellectual values, academic integrity, and a lifelong passion for learning.

Faculty at Woodlands instill in our students a lifelong love of learning and a commitment to social responsibility and spiritual growth. 89% of our faculty have advanced degrees in their fields. More than half of Woodlands’ full-time instructors take on the dual role of advisors, meeting daily with students to provide insight and support. Our faculty also serve as moderators for clubs, oversee extracurricular activities, join students on retreats, and participate in the school’s numerous service activities.



The English department provides a comprehensive education grounded in Goal II, a deep respect for intellectual values. Four years of coursework are required to graduate, and each year, skills are progressively expanded and refined through an increase in rigor and expectation.

  • Explores text from the most ancient, The Epic of Gilgamesh, to the most contemporary.
  • Focuses on the processes of written and oral expression as an extension of one’s thinking.
  • Introduces students to and emphasizes metacognition’s role in the writing process.
  • Emphasizes close reading of texts, development of claims and crafting of textually supported analytical responses.
  • Students are encouraged to write and re-write, and many of them have won writing awards.

English Faculty

Ms. Jennifer Brostrom

Titles: English Teacher
Degrees: BA, University of Michigan
MFA, American University, Washington, D.C.

Before becoming a published author under the pen name "Jennifer Allison," and setting out for 14 years traveling the country as a visiting author and writing teacher, Mrs. Brostrom taught English and served as the Writing Center Director at Connelly School of the Holy Child in Potomac, MD. Mrs. Brostrom has also worked in the educational publishing world and as a journalist, as well as working as a writing instructor at the University of Baltimore and American University. She is the recipient of many writing awards for her work as a poet and children's author. Visit for information on her two children's series, The Gilda Joyce mysteries and the Iggy Loomis chapter books.

Mrs. Erin Brysiewicz

Titles: English Teacher
Degrees: BA, Lake Forest College
MSEd, Northwestern University

Mrs. Jessica Campbell

Titles: English Teacher
Degrees: MEd, University of Texas at Rio Grande Valley

In addition to her teaching responsibilities, Ms. Campbell is responsible for professional development, guiding curriculum mapping, leading our upcoming ISACS accreditation process, and planning a mentoring and orientation program for new faculty and staff. Ms. Campbell taught at our sister school Duchesne Academy of the Sacred Heart in Houston, Texas for five years. Before that, she taught overseas in Singapore as well as in her home country of Canada.

Mr. Matthew Nuccio

Titles: English Teacher, Social Studies Teacher, ESL Support and Theatre Director
Degrees: BA, University of Illinois, Chicago
MA, University of Chicago

Mr. Nuccio spent ten years teaching middle school language arts, Spanish, and third, fourth, and fifth grades at East Lake Academy, as well as five years as a middle school reading and math specialist at Chicago International Charter School, Bucktown campus and a year teaching fifth grade at McKinley Park Catholic School. Mr. Nuccio also served as an instructor teaching the novels of Jane Austen at the University of Chicago Graham School of Liberal and Professional Studies.

Fine Arts

  • Course offerings provide learning opportunities in both analog and digital photography, allowing students to have a strong foundation from which to build.
  • Students participate in at least two exhibition opportunities within the immediate and neighboring communities. Notable Women in the Arts professionals visit each year to exhibit their work, give presentations and meet with students one-on-one.
  • Ceramics studio features two electric kilns and one Alpine gas kiln, 10 electric wheels,three kick wheels, a slab roller, and an extruder. Space and equipment are available for glaze formation, hand-building, slip casting and mold making.
  • Sixty-three percent of the student body is active in some level of the music department either through our five ensembles or private lessons. Students can be involved in the instrumental and choral programs at the same time. It also is possible to participate in music, sports and drama simultaneously.
  • Several opportunities for leadership positions exist: Music Ministry, Microscope and Music Leadership Honor Society.
  • Intro to Dance and Movement includes foundational learning of different forms of cultural dance and dance composition as well as ballet, tap, hip hop and musical theater dance.

Fine Arts Faculty

Ms. Roberta Brickman

Titles: Piano & Voice Teacher
Degrees: BM, University of Michigan

Mr. Kevin Burrow

Titles: Music Teacher
Degrees: BAMus, Carthage College
MMEd, Northwestern University

Mr. Burrow brings with him many years of teaching experience at Prospect High School, Deerfield High School, New Trier Township High School, and Wilmot Union Hight School (WI). He also served as Director of Music Ministry at St. James the Apostle Catholic Church, St. Anne Catholic Church in Pleasant Prairie, WI, and has worked at several other churches. Mr. Burrow is an accomplished choir director, with an expertise in girls' choirs, and has accompanist experiences too numerous to list.

Mr. William Gabaldon

Titles: Art & Ceramics Teacher
Degrees: BFA, University of New Mexico
MFA, University of Pennsylvania

Ms. Lauren Moldenhauer

Titles: Orchestra Teacher
Degrees: BM, Northwestern University
MM, Catholic University of America

Ms. Jamie Tuttle

Titles: Photography Teacher, Co-Chair STEAM Departments
Degrees: BFA, Kansas City Art Institute
MFA, The School of the Art Institute of Chicago

Global Education

More than 60 percent of students are involved with the global exchange program. This includes being an exchange student, day host, evening host or boarding school host.

  • Students with a keen interest in global issues get the coursework, internships, exchange and service experiences to be global leaders in the 21st Century and can be a part of the Global Scholars Program.
  • Students can participate in a 12-day group exchange to Vienna, Austria, every year, or a two-week summer program (2016 in Nantes, France) with Sacred Heart students from all over the world. Students can go on exchange to 20 different Sacred Heart schools on five continents.
  • Woodlands welcomes about 25 exchange students a year from Sacred Heart schools all over the world.

Global Education Faculty

Mrs. Amy Perlick

Titles: Director of Global Education
Degrees: BA, Macalester College
MA, Marquette University

International Language

  • Woodlands offers one AP Spanish class and one AP French class, as well as the national French and Spanish exams each year.
  • English as a second language students have success getting into select colleges.
  • We are passionate about life and learning. Our professional passions include: poetry analysis, linguistics, Spanish/Latin American literature, teaching 17th Century theater and 20th Century French literature.
  • We integrate technology into our classroom, including: online textbooks, YouTube videos, iPad apps for voice recording, online games and practice sites, and virtual class shares with international Sacred Heart schools.

International Languages Faculty

Mrs. Bev Adamczyk

Titles: Latin Teacher
Degrees: MA, of Ancient Greek

Ms. Teal McCartney

Titles: Spanish Teacher, Director of Student Activities
Degrees: BA, Clarke College
MAT, Clarke College

Ms. Julia Sands

Titles: French Teacher
Degrees: BA, Indiana University at Bloomington
MA, The American University of Paris
MEd, Loyola University of Chicago

Most recently, Ms. Sands spent two years teaching secondary French at Senn High School in Chicago. She has also worked as a course instructor at Groupe INSEEC in Chicago and an ESL Instructor at Interlingue in Rome.

Ms. Katherine Stewart

Class of 2006
Titles: Spanish Teacher, ESL Teacher
Degrees: Woodlands Academy of the Sacred Heart
University of Minnesota
Saint Louis University in Madrid, Spain

Mathematics & Computer Science

  • AP scores are outstanding. In 2016, each student passed, and the average score in AP Calculus was 4.5 (national average is 2.86); the average score in AP Statistics was 4.0 (national average was 2.80).
  • ACT math scores are consistently above state and national standards.
  • There are three college-level courses – AP Calculus, AP Calculus BC, AP Statistics, and students have the opportunity to “double up” in math by taking two math courses in one year. Most take pre-Calculus and AP Statistics.
  • For the past four years, 100 percent of students have taken four years of math, though only three are required to graduate.
  • We induct students into our math honor society, Mu Alpha Sigma, each year. They have completed five years of mathematics with an average of B or better during their four years of high school. About 20 percent of each year’s graduating class completes this feat.

Mathematics & Computer Science Faculty

Mr. Elliot Coffey

Mathematics Teacher, Educational Technology Support
BS, Northern Illinois University

Mr. Rocco Gargiulo

Assistant Principal. Mathematics Teacher
BS, University of San Francisco
BBA, Grand Canyon University
MAT, Grand Canyon University
Mr. Gargiulo became a teacher to influence adolescents in a positive way. He appreciates the “ah-ha” moments that occur every day with his students. At Woodlands, he most values that students and adults care deeply for one another and push each other to do their best. He has taught at Northwestern University’s Center for Talent Development and has scored AP exams for the College Board. Mr. Gargiulo was named Master Teacher of the Year from the Mathematics Teachers Association of Chicago and its Vicinity. In 2013, he received the Sr. Frances de la Chapelle Excellence in Teaching Award.

Ms. Courtney Pomije

Mathematics Teacher

Ms. Pomije comes to Woodlands after three years teaching math at Huntley High School, where she was also involved in coaching cheerleading and running the police explorer's club, among other things.

Dr. Valerie Rickert

BS, Mundelein College, Chicago, Il
MA, Dominican University, River Forest, Il
PhD, Loyola University of Chicago

Dr. Rickert served as a chemistry instructor at the College of Lake County for many years and has most recently completed fifteen years teaching middle school math, science, literature, and religion at St. Gilbert Catholic School. Her previous experience includes time as a sixth-grade teacher at St. Joseph School, a teaching assistant teaching General and Physical Chemistry Labs at Loyola University, and a Chemistry Instructor at Mundelein College. Before entering the education field, Dr. Rickert worked as an analytical chemist at TEI Analytical and a post-doctoral appointee at Argonne National Lab. She has published works for NCTM and created math curriculum for the Archdiocese of Chicago.

Physical Wellness

  • Coaches and athletes have been named Independent School League Coach of the Year or Athlete of the Year in various sports 15 times.
  • Teams have won 12 IHSA regional championships and have had five individual state qualifiers.
  • Two new athletic fields are included in our expanded campus.
  • Physical fitness assessments are done quarterly and students work in the fitness center for part of each class period.
  • Health education is an integral part of the Physical Education program and is taught at all levels.

Ms. Rosemary Briesch

BS, University of Illinois at Chicago
MS, George Williams College
Ms. Briesch has worked at Woodlands since 1973. Ms. Briesch pursued a career in education because, as a student, she loved school, her teachers, and her coaches. Ms. Briesch’s favorite teaching and coaching moments include witnessing a student have a “light bulb moment.” At Woodlands, she most appreciates the tight-knit sense of community. Coach Briesch has earned the distinction of Volleyball Coach of the Year five times and Softball Coach of the Year nine times from the Independent School League. The Illinois Coaches Association recently honored Ms. Briesch with a Coach of the Year Award. She is also the recipient of the Illinois Association for Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance (IAHPERD) Quarter Century Award, awarded to a member who has dedicated 25 years of more to the profession.

Mr. Syed Iftekaruddin

JV Tennis Coach

Mrs. Christine Ohlwein

Physical Wellness & Health Teacher
BA, Illinois State University

Mr. Mark Wax


  • Seventy-five percent of the student body takes four to five years of science though three are required to graduate.
  • Students graduate as citizen scientists of the world with a strong foundation in how the universe works and the ability to analyze, evaluate and draw logical conclusions.
  • Science curriculum is augmented by STEM extra-curricular activities such as Robotics Club, Chemistry Club, and Science National Honor Society. Classes incorporate an environmental awareness at their heart.
  • Historically, many of our students pursue a career in science or engineering.
  • Teachers are members of the National Science Teacher Association and incorporate Next Generation Science Standards.

Science Faculty

Mrs. Kristen Black

Titles: Science Teacher
Degrees: BA, Knox College
MAT, National Louis University

Mrs. Cheryl Breckinridge

Degrees: BA, Dominican University
MS, Dominican University

CHERYL BRECKINRIDGE, science teacher, has worked at Woodlands since 1985. She earned her B.A. and her M.S. from Dominican University. In her 30 years of experience teaching biology, she aims to institute a respect for life at all levels from the smallest cell to the largest ecosystem.

Mr. John Denman

Titles: Science Teacher
Degrees: BS, Illinois Institute of Technology

Ms. Devon Mann

Titles: Science Teacher
Degrees: BS, University of Oregon
MS, University of North Carolina
MEd, Concordia University

Ms. Mann serves as a school board member at the Prairie Crossing Charter School. Ms. Mann has several years of experience as a biology teacher in the adolescent program at the Montessori School of Lake Forest and has worked as adjunct faculty at the College of Lake County in the Department of Biology and Health Sciences. Ms. Mann also has experience as a staff researcher at the University of California, Irvine and an Instructor and Naturalist at the Orange County Marine Institute in Dana Point, CA, as well as other places.

Social Studies

  • In 2015, all students who took the AP U.S. history test passed. Sixty-eight percent received a score of 4 or 5. The national average for students scoring a 4 or 5 was 27 percent.
  • In United States history, students learn the foundational principles and values of our nation, the many changes and challenges that have faced this country and how the United States has interacted with and impacted the world.
  • In AP European history, 50 percent of students who took the AP European history testscored a 5, compared to 10 percent nationally.
  • Each December, The Woodlands Academy Model United Nations team participates in the Chicago International Model United Nations Conference. Students are assigned a country, which they represent at the conference and work with other students from around the nation and the world, coming together to discuss and resolve the most pressing problems facing the world today.
  • The two-year World Studies curriculum is an in-depth, global examination of human society. After completing the course, students have a deep knowledge of global history, culture, and the connections and interactions between societies across the world.

Social Studies Faculty

Mr. Peter Cashman

Titles: Social Studies Teacher, Co-Chair Humanities Departments
Degrees: BA, University of Rhode Island
MA, George Mason University

Mr. Matthew Nuccio

Titles: English Teacher, Social Studies Teacher, ESL Support and Theatre Director
Degrees: BA, University of Illinois, Chicago
MA, University of Chicago

Mr. Nuccio spent ten years teaching middle school language arts, Spanish, and third, fourth, and fifth grades at East Lake Academy, as well as five years as a middle school reading and math specialist at Chicago International Charter School, Bucktown campus and a year teaching fifth grade at McKinley Park Catholic School. Mr. Nuccio also served as an instructor teaching the novels of Jane Austen at the University of Chicago Graham School of Liberal and Professional Studies.

Mrs. Amy Perry

Titles: Social Studies Teacher
Degrees: BA, Indiana University
MEd, National Louis University


  • We strive to arouse enthusiasm in our students for the study of theology.
  • The World Religions class studies diverse faith traditions. A highlight of the course is a field trip to area houses of worship including a mosque, a synagogue and a Hindu temple.
  • Social Justice students enjoy a warm relationship with grade school students at St. Malachy School in Chicago and interact on a frequent basis.
  • Guest speakers from the business, medical and social service communities visit our Ethics and Social Justice classes often to appraise students of ethical and justice issues in their realms.
  • Our pedagogy addresses the intellectual aspects of theology and also encourages students to develop their own unique personal spirituality.
  • Theology Teachers

    Ms. Melissa Otter

    Titles: Theology Teacher, Campus Minister
    Degrees: MEd, Loyola University

    Mrs. Christine Zapf

    Titles: Theology Teacher
    Degrees: MAPS, Loyola University
    BA, University of Notre Dame

    Graduation Requirements

    Woodlands Academy is committed to educating the whole child. In addition to the academic graduation requirements outlined below, students complete annual service, retreat, and Global Odyssey commitments.

    Department Required Recommended
    4 credits 4 credits
    Fine Arts 2 credits 2 credits
    International Languages 3 credits (in one language) 4 credits
    Mathematics & Computer Science3 credits 4 credits
    Physical Wellness4 years 4 years
    Science3 credits4 credits
    Social Studies3 credits4 credits
    Theology3 credits3 credits
    Elective3 credits3 credits