Curriculum

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.

Departments

English

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.
Email:
Biography:

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 www.gildajoyce.com 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
Email:
Biography:

Ms. Brysiewicz became a teacher because she thinks it’s essential for students to learn to communicate their ideas clearly and effectively. Also because she loves talking about literature and writing. Her favorite classroom moments include when a student’s eyes get wide because her mind has opened to a new idea. At Woodlands, she loves the warmth and support of the community, the curiosity of the students, and the trust and freedom teachers are given to shape what and how they teach. She has been at Woodlands since 2008.

Ms. Jessica Campbell

Titles: English Teacher
Degrees: MEd, University of Texas at Rio Grande Valley
Email:
Biography:
Ms. Campbell knew in high school she would pursue a career in education because she likes working with adolescents and wanted a job that would be different every day. She most enjoys the opportunity to explain to her students that they will be the leaders of the future and have the power and responsibility to decide how to make this world a better place. While teaching at our sister school Duchesne Academy in Houston, Ms. Campbell completed a ropes course with a student and found it to be a profound experience—supporting each other in a vulnerable moment 30 feet in the air! The mission of the Sacred Heart speaks to Ms. Campbell’s soul and allows her to be the best teacher she can be. Prior to teaching in the United States, Ms. Campbell spent five years teaching in Singapore. Ms. Campbell has worked at Woodlands since 2017.

Mr. Matthew Nuccio

Titles: English Teacher, Social Studies Teacher, ESL Support and Theatre Director
Degrees: BA, University of Illinois, Chicago
MA, University of Chicago
Email:
Biography:
With nearly twenty years in the classroom, Mr. Nuccio chose a career in education because he enjoys working with young people. Additionally, he loves books and ideas and relishes that his job is “socially constructive.” Each year he delights when a student who is unsure of herself in the beginning begins to grow in self-confidence and takes on a more vocal role in class. At Woodlands, he is most proud to be a part of a school that has created an environment that prioritizes the holistic wellness of its students while still maintaining the highest academic standards. Mr. Nuccio has worked at Woodlands since 2018.

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

Mr. Kevin Burrow

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

Mr. Burrow became a teacher because he wanted to share the same musical experiences that he encountered in high school with my own students. He continues to be a teacher who nurtures students into well rounded human beings that possess a knowledge and appreciation for the musical arts in their lives. His favorite teaching memory includes when he took his first choir group to Chicago, which included a clinic experience at Northwestern University, a short concert in the lobby of the Field Museum and attending a performance of Wicket at the Cadillac Palace Theatre. Those students, who are now in their thirties, still reminisce about the trip. Mr. Burrow greatly admires how the Woodlands staff and administration create an educational environment that is truly student-centered. He has worked at Woodlands since 2018.

Mr. William Gabaldon

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

Mr. Gabaldon teaches to share knowledge as well as keep learning himself. He relishes the moment a student gets excited about understanding a concept. He enjoys the many great people who make up the community at Woodlands Academy. Mr. Gabaldon has worked at Woodlands since 2016.

Ms. Lauren Moldenhauer

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

An accomplished musician herself, Mrs. Moldenhauer loves working with young musicians to impart her knowledge on the next generation of musicians. Her favorite teaching moments include bearing witness to the faces of pure elation on her students’ faces when they receive awards/trophies at the annual national music competition Woodlands’ students take part in. At Woodlands, she finds the way the girls support each other an their enthusiasm to be truly unique. Mrs. Moldenhauer was named to the principal flute position in the Lake County Symphony Orchestra in 2017. Mrs. Moldenhauer has worked at Woodlands since 2013.

Ms. Jamie Tuttle

Titles: Photography Teacher
Degrees: BFA, Kansas City Art Institute
MFA, The School of the Art Institute of Chicago
Email:

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, Center for Global Studies
Degrees: BA, Macalester College
MA, Marquette University
Email:
Biography:

Ms. Perlick became a teacher to share her love of the Spanish language and open new worlds to her students. As a former exchange student in high school, she loves the opportunity to send Woodlands students to other Sacred Heart schools all over the world through the exchange program. She most enjoys working with wonderful, inquisitive young women who want to change the world. She has twice been the recipient of the Sr. Frances de la Chapelle Excellence in Teaching Award. Ms. Perlick has worked at Woodlands since 1999.

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
Email:

Ms. Teal McCartney

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

Profe McCartney felt called to the role of teacher because she is not only passionate about the Spanish language, but about giving all students a voice and building their confidence. She finds that learning a foreign language is a perfect vehicle for this endeavor because it enables and encourages students to take healthy risks in a safe environment. Profe McCartney has implemented an organic, student-driven, wholly immersive curriculum for her students of Spanish. She has most enjoyed watching the girls bring their own topics to the table to learn and discuss. At Woodlands, she finds a community of values and sisterhood that gives girls the confidence to speak out in the classroom and feel empowered to take charge of their learning. She feels privileged to have the opportunity to implement a creative and innovative curriculum. For her, every day is like teaching in her own home. Profe McCartney was the 2007 recipient of the Heart of the School Award: Rising Star from the Archdiocese of Chicago. Profe McCartney has worked at Woodlands since 2013.

Ms. Julia Sands

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

Ms. Sands found her love of teaching while working with adult ESL students in Rome where she found great joy in helping them learn to express themselves in a new language. She thinks that the relationship created between teacher and student is incredibly important. Her favorite teaching moments are when a student shares that she understood something in French and it made her feel happy. At Woodlands, she admires the atmosphere of kindness and civility created by the administration. She finds that it sets the tone for the school and makes her work a pleasure. Ms. Sands has worked at Woodlands since 2018.

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
Email:
Biography:
Ms. Stewart became a teacher to share her love of learning—a love that was cultivated during her time as a student at Woodlands. She loves when students can talk about what they are learning in other classes in Spanish in the case of her Spanish classes or English in the case of her ESL classes. Ms. Stewart enjoys that Woodlands students are engaged, excited and willing to push their own boundaries in the classroom. Ms. Stewart has worked at Woodlands since 2015.

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

Titles: Mathematics Teacher, Educational Technology Support
Degrees: BS, Northern Illinois University
Email:
Biography:

Mr. Coffey pursued a career in teaching because of his high school Algebra teacher, Mrs. Highstone. Up until then, he had not been a successful math student. He cites her positive, no-nonsense attitude and willingness to connect with him individually at what helped him recognize his ability in mathematics. Now as a teacher in his own right, Mr. Coffey particularly enjoys teaching the order of operations, which he approaches as GEMS (Grouping Symbols, Exponents, Multiply and Divide, Subtract and Add). He loves that this method usually provides great insight due to a frequent misunderstanding of the PEMDAS acronym. Mr. Coffey finds it easy to come to work and do his best every day, because students at Woodlands have a contagious vitality and energy. They also strive to always do their best and articulate an appreciation for their teachers. Mr. Coffeey has worked at Woodlands since 2013.

Mr. Rocco Gargiulo

Titles: Assistant Principal. Mathematics Teacher
Degrees: BS, University of San Francisco
BBA, Grand Canyon University
MAT, Grand Canyon University
Email:
Biography:
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

Titles: Mathematics Teacher
Degrees: BS, Illinois State University
Email:
Biography:
Ms. Pomije always wanted to be a teacher and she loves working with math every day. Her favorite teaching moment includes forming a bond with a student who was doing poorly in her class and he eventually became one of her top performing students. At Woodlands, she values the community—the friendly faculty, staff, parents, and, of course, the students. Ms. Pomije has been at Woodlands since 2018.

Dr. Valerie Rickert

Degrees: BS, Mundelein College, Chicago, Il
MA, Dominican University, River Forest, Il
PhD, Loyola University of Chicago
Email:
Biography:
Dr. Rickert became a teacher after some prompting from her sons. She remembers a time when her students articulated that they knew the material better after participating in a video math scavenger hunt—that same group then created their own video which placed in the top twenty out of 300 for a video competition. At Woodlands, Dr. Rickert loves the welcoming atmosphere, friendly and motivated students, and small class size. She has served as the Chair of the Application Committee for the Blue Ribbon School, received a Presidential Award Nomination for Science as well as the a Presidential Award Nomination for Math. Dr. Rickert has served on the Archdiocesan math curriculum committee and has worked at Woodlands since 2018.

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

Degrees: BS, University of Illinois at Chicago
MS, George Williams College
Email:
Biography:
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.

Ms. Briesch has worked at Woodlands since 1973.

Mrs. Christine Ohlwein

Titles: Physical Wellness & Health Teacher
Degrees: BA, Illinois State University
Email:
Biography:

Ms. Ohlwein finds that teaching allows her to watch students succeed at both simple and complex tasks. She feels that no matter what a student’s passion is, she should be given the opportunity to succeed. Ms. Ohlwein has twice been named the Illinois School League’s Coach of the Year and earned recognition as coach of the year by the Illinois Basketball Coaches Association. Ms. Ohlwein has worked at Woodlands since 2007.

Science

  • 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
Email:
Biography:

Ms. Black enjoys working with high school students to pass on her love for chemistry. At Woodlands, she most enjoys the single-sex environment, the small class sizes, and her opportunity to form close bonds with students and their families.

Mrs. Cheryl Breckinridge

Degrees: BA, Dominican University
MS, Dominican University
Email:
Biography:

In her 30 years of experience teaching biology, Ms. Breckinridge aims to institute a respect for life at all levels from the smallest cell to the largest ecosystem. She has worked at Woodlands since 1995.

Mr. John Denman

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

Mr. Denman became a teacher to make science a fun and enjoyable experience, which he does on a daily basis at Woodlands. His favorite teaching moments include when students find connections between the material in class and everyday phenomena. He finds Woodlands to be an environment that embodies a love of learning. Mr. Denman was the 2017 recipient of the Frances de la Chapelle Excellence in Teaching Award. He has worked at Woodlands since 2014.

Ms. Devon Mann

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

In addition to her passion for marine invertebrates, Ms. Mann found her passion for teaching when, after much “bench-work” at the University of Chicago, she began instructing biology courses at a community college. What excites her most is witnessing students make the connections between complex scientific concepts and their own personal experiences. At Woodlands, she loves the pedagogical autonomy she is granted as well as the progressive teacher philosophy and supportive administration. Ms. Mann has taught at Woodlands since 2018.

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
Degrees: BA, University of Rhode Island
MA, George Mason University
Email:
Biography:

Mr. Cashman has a deep love for history. He also feels a responsibility to help create knowledgeable, kind, and responsible citizens. The teaching moments he most loves include watching his students fully engage in and take ownership of whatever task is at hand independent from his direct involvement. At Woodlands, he loves that the environment fosters the ability to interact with students not as a superior, but as an equal in the process of learning and discovery.

Mr. Matthew Nuccio

Titles: English Teacher, Social Studies Teacher, ESL Support and Theatre Director
Degrees: BA, University of Illinois, Chicago
MA, University of Chicago
Email:
Biography:
With nearly twenty years in the classroom, Mr. Nuccio chose a career in education because he enjoys working with young people. Additionally, he loves books and ideas and relishes that his job is “socially constructive.” Each year he delights when a student who is unsure of herself in the beginning begins to grow in self-confidence and takes on a more vocal role in class. At Woodlands, he is most proud to be a part of a school that has created an environment that prioritizes the holistic wellness of its students while still maintaining the highest academic standards. Mr. Nuccio has worked at Woodlands since 2018.

Mrs. Amy Perry

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

Mrs. Perry became a teacher because of a particularly passionate psychology teacher in high school. Going onto college, Mrs. Perry initially started in the study of Psychology but soon learned that she most wanted to shape the lives of students through sharing her love of learning. She finds great satisfaction when students return from college and share with her stories of success—such as knowing all the material in a Psychology class and being the “go-to student” to whom others come to for help. Mrs. Perry most loves Woodlands students’ inquisitive natures and that they feel comfortable asking questions. She finds that they always want to learn more and continually challenge her to be the best teacher possible. Mrs. Perry has been named the ISL Field Hockey Coach of the Year. She has worked at Woodlands since 2010.

Theology

  • 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: BA, Loyola University
    MEd, Creighton University
    Email:
    Biography:

    Ms. Otter greatly values her own education and the teachers she had who she found to be passionate and caring people—she wanted to pass that same zeal onto future generations. Her favorite teaching moments always occur outside the walls of a classroom when learning by experience whether doing service together, going on a field trip, or traveling the globe, those are the moments that stand out most. At Woodlands, Ms. Otter loves the opportunity to really get to know her students and that they can get to know her. She also finds the all-girls atmosphere special. Ms. Otter has been at Woodlands since 2017.

    Mrs. Christine Zapf

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

    Ms. Zapf became a theology teacher because she is passionate about sharing the faith and creating opportunities for her students to experience the joy of loving and being loved by God. Her best teaching moments include witnessing when a student’s natural curiosity and passion for learning motivate her to make new connections and discoveries. Ms. Zapf experiences Woodlands to be an amazing, supportive, learning community where each person is respected, cared for, challenged, and appreciated. She was the recipient of the St. Benedict Preparatory School Teacher of the Year. Ms. Zapf has worked at Woodlands since 2017.

    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
    English
    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