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Denise attended Concordia University Wisconsin for her undergraduate degree in Secondary Education Social Studies. While teaching, she obtained her Master’s degree in Special Education through Cardinal Stritch University. She has taught students in grades kindergarten through 8th, both in the general education and resources learning. She currently teaches in the resource room at Holy Cross, providing individual resources for growth and improvement in student’s learning.
Born in Fort Wayne and graduating from CLHS, she taught English, speech and drama at Concordia Lutheran High School for 15 years, worked on Paul Fischer’s production of On the Waterways as a research assistant, and was the director of drama at Trinity English Lutheran Church for 23 years. She taught composition at IPFW for 11 years and currently assists Chris Murphy, director of drama at CLHS and a former student of hers, with costuming and some directing duties. Mrs. Giannakeff has helped in several classes at Holy Cross as a substitute teacher and has assisted Mrs. Hobby with class projects, reading, and writing dramas for chapel.
“Most of my teaching experience has required me to assist students in finding research for the topics they have chosen upon which to write. I am very familiar with using the internet to find both non-scholarly and scholarly sources. I love libraries and all they offer, both in terms of enjoyment and education.”
In addition to a love of reading, Mrs. Giannakeff enjoys fishing (she lives on the lake with her husband), gardening and travel. Favorite trips include exploring Route 66 from Chicago to Santa Monica and a trip to Newfoundland, Canada. She also is a “pet parent” to five cats and a beagle named Henry.
Mrs Giannakeff adds, “I am absolutely looking forward to working with the teachers and the students for whatever needs they have where the school library’s resources can help them, as well as assisting in any capacity that will serve Holy Cross.”
Mrs. LaCroix has been serving in her current capacity at Holy Cross Lutheran School since 2000. A native of Minnesota, she received a Bachelor of Arts in Education from Concordia University in River Forest, IL. She received and continues to gain additional training in the child voice, conducting, and Kodály Certification at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, MN as well as Anderson University in Anderson, IN. She has operated a private flute and piano studio, taught music education at IPFW, Unity Lutheran School, and with Southwest Allen County Schools. She has also been on staff with the Fort Wayne Children's Choir since 1996 serving as director of the Apprentice Choir and Prep Choir.
Mrs. VanderHorst earned her undergraduate degree from Ball State University in psychology and interpersonal relations, but has always had a love of art. After working in social work and starting a family, she studied art education at IPFW and is currently working toward her master’s degree in painting and printmaking. For the past two years Mrs. VanderHorst worked as an art teacher at Central Christian School.
Mrs. VanderHorst feels blessed to be called to teach at Holy Cross and looks forward to continuing the cultivated art program, which aims at showing children God’s beauty through art from around the world, while teaching them the principles of art using different mediums.
“I love the unique teaching experience art allows, to guide students creatively to navigate their way through their own, unique work,” she adds. “Art class provides a safe place to bridge communication over the immense expanse of our differing perceptions and experiences.”
Besides being an award-winning artist, she is married and has two girls, Claire and Maebel, who attend Holy Cross.
Mrs. VanderHorst looks forward to inspiring students and fostering their creativity through art.
Jacob grew up in Belvidere, Illinois, where he attended Immanuel Lutheran School. From there he moved on to Rockford Lutheran High School. Upon graduating high school, he attended Concordia University-Chicago where he earned a Bachelor of Arts in Elementary Education. Jacob received a Call to Holy Cross in 2013 to teach 5th grade. He also coaches football and basketball along with participating in the Men’s Chorus. His wife, Nancy, is a math teacher at Concordia Lutheran High School.
“Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.” -Proverbs 22:6
Ethan Kesar grew up in Omaha, NE, and is a 2016 graduate of Concordia University Nebraska earning a B.S. in Elementary Education with a Technology Concentration.
Both of his parents are career Lutheran educators. He has one older married sister and two younger brothers. Mr. Kesar enjoys YouTube, comedy, listening to and playing music, and camping.
5's Class & Lead Preschool Teacher
5's Class Teacher
3's & 4's Class Teacher
Shelly holds a Bachelor's of Science degree from Ball State University and a CDA. She has been teaching preschool for over twenty years. She has been at Holy Cross since our Preschool program began. She and her husband have three children, all Holy Cross Alumni. She loves seeing the changes in these young children and feels privileged to serve in this ministry to young children and families at Holy Cross.
“I always keep the Lord in front of me. When He is by my side, I cannot be moved” -Psalm 16:8
Gayle feels blessed to be a former student of Holy Cross. After graduating from Concordia Lutheran High School, she earned her Bachelor of Science Degree in Elementary Education with a Kindergarten Endorsement from Indiana University. Gayle began teaching at Holy Cross in 2010. She is married with two children – one at Holy Cross and one who graduated from Holy Cross and attends Concordia Lutheran High School.
"For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life." -John 3:16
Paula has a BS in Music from Indiana State University. She has taught preschool since 1998 and began teaching at Holy Cross in 2014. She has two children, one who is a student at Holy Cross and one at Concordia. She feels privileged to be at a school that is called to share the love of Jesus with the students and their families and each other. She loves being a part of the ministry of our school and church.
“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all of your heart.” -Jeremiah 29:11-13
Kelli Leighty has been a life-long member of Holy Cross. She graduated from Concordia Lutheran High School and earned her degree in elementary education from Concordia University, River Forest. Kelli taught 5th-8th grade in Elmhurst, IL, 2nd grade at Holy Cross, and now 3 year old preschool. Holy Cross is her home and family!
Since first grade, she has wanted to be a teacher thanks to Mrs. Edith (Knake) Rodenbeck. Working with kids brings her much joy! She is excited to try some new ideas she has learned to help kids reach their highest potential.
Kelli and her husband Matthew of 15 years have 4 children. She stayed home for 9 years raising their kids. Three of them attend Holy Cross, and Kelli is home with their youngest when she isn't teaching. As a family, they enjoy playing games, walking, swimming, and being outside. Kelli loves to bake, read, and take walks when she has the time.
I praise You because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Your works are wonderful, I know that full well. - Psalm 139:14
Michelle was born in Akron, Ohio and attended Concordia Teachers College in Seward, Nebraska. She is married to her husband, Mark, and has 3 sons and a daughter. Michelle has taught since 1983, with most of her teaching life being spent in Kindergarten. She loves watching her student’s excitement as they realize their potential in learning to read!
"Rejoice in the Lord always! Again I say rejoice!" -Philippians. 4:4
Deb has been married since 2001 to her husband, Jason. They have 2 boys. Her boys love riding their bike and scooter, swimming, baseball, soccer, reading, math, and playing with Legos, looking at books, creating art and using their imagination. Some of Debs hobbies outside of school include reading, hiking, camping, jogging, bicycling, and baking. As a family they enjoy reading, hiking, biking, and camping.
She is originally from Warsaw where she grew up on a small beef farm. Deb graduated with a Lutheran Early Childhood degree from Concordia University Wisconsin in 2000. She started teaching at Holy Cross in 2001. Deb taught 1st grade for the first 2 years and the rest in Kindergarten. She loves teaching Kindergarten. The innocence and love of learning these young children bring everyday makes her job rewarding.
"For I know the plans I have 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
Jenny is a native of Fort Wayne and attended St. Paul Lutheran Grade School and Concordia Lutheran High School. She received her bachelor’s degree from Concordia in River Forest, Illinois. During her college years, she studied voice, performed in musical theatre, and was a four year member of the Kapelle choir. Upon her return to Fort Wayne, she received her master’s degree from IPFW. Her teaching career began at Holy Cross where she student taught in Mrs. Rodenbeck’s First Grade classroom. In 1987, Jenny received her first call to teach a first and second grade split class, coach volleyball and track, and direct the children’s choir at Emmanuel-St. Michael. In 2002, she received a position at St. John Lutheran School teaching K-8 Music and directing two children’s choirs. In 2010, Jenny began teaching First Grade at Holy Cross Lutheran School. She is married to Robert Hobby, who is a composer and the Director of Music at Trinity English Lutheran Church. They have three daughters: Hannah, Lydia, and Lizzie. She feels blessed to be on the staff at Holy Cross. She loves to share her passion for music and drama and continues to make it an integral part of her Christ-centered teaching.
“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” -John 14:27
Sarah Smith was born and raised in Fort Wayne, Indiana. She grew up in the Lutheran school system and was a 1997 graduate of Concordia Lutheran High School. Sarah received a Bachelor’s Degree in Science in Education from Indiana University in 2002. Since then, Sarah has taught elementary education for FWCS as a first grade teacher for the last fourteen of her fifteen years.
Sarah loves to laugh, travel, read and above all, spend time with her family. Sarah was married in 2003 to her husband Chris Smith at Emmanuel Lutheran Church. They have two children that are current Holy Cross students (Quinn and Madelyn).
Sarah feels blessed to join the Holy Cross family. She is excited for the opportunity to teach with a full heart and incorporate her love and passion of Christ.
Andrea Chandler has been married to her husband, Brian, since 1998. She has two children. She feels very blessed to be part of the Holy Cross family. Both of her children attend Holy Cross.
She started her teaching career in 1997. She taught many different grades, but is thrilled to be working in 2nd grade. Andrea came to Holy Cross in 2006. She enjoys sharing the love of learning with each student she has in class, especially the Good News of Jesus’ gift of eternal life for those who believe.
"I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me." -Philippians 4:13
Emily Hinton began teaching in 2008. She attended Wittenberg University and obtained her Bachelor’s degree in Early Childhood Education. She previously taught kindergarten and first grade, but has found her love to be second grade. Emily’s husband, Scott Hinton, is a firefighter and they were married in 2011. She and Scott have twin two year old boys and a Dalmatian. They are members of Holy Cross Lutheran Church.
“For I know the plans I have 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
Julie (nee Macke) Hale graduated from the University of St. Francis with a B.S. in Elementary Education/Exceptional Needs. She also has a Masters of Education from Indiana Wesleyan University.
Julie has 9 years of teaching experience at Lancaster Elementary in Huntington, IN. From 2007-2010 she taught 3rd grade. In 2010 she moved to 2nd grade. Her principal has deep appreciation for her strong work ethic, heart for kids, and desire to work as part of a collaborative team.
Julie attended Holy Cross from grades K-8. She and her husband Jeramiah were married here in October of 2007. They have 2 boys, Ethan who is 7 and will be in 2nd grade, and Carson who is 4 and will start preschool in the fall. She enjoys being outside with her boys and 2 dogs. Julie enjoys playing soccer and softball.
Amber Oedewaldt grew up in Southern California and graduated from Concordia University Irvine (CUI) in 2013 with a B.A. in Psychology. She went back to school at CUI to obtain her Elementary Teaching Credential and Lutheran Teaching Certificate, completing those programs in 2015. This past year Mrs. Oedewaldt taught second grade at Olive Branch Christian Academy in Corona, CA.
She and her husband, Zach, were married in November of 2015 and are relocating to the Fort Wayne area where Zach will be attending Concordia Theological Seminary this fall. Mrs. Oedewaldt enjoys doing crafts, reading, and traveling.
Rachel Malone grew up in Fort Wayne, Indiana where she attended St. Paul’s Lutheran School and Concordia Lutheran High School. She attended Indiana University and earned her B.S. in Elementary Education and her M.S. in Reading Education. Rachel has been an educator for seventeen years with teaching experience in public, private, Lutheran, and university settings. She has been a Reading Coordinator, Instructional Coach, Kindergarten Teacher, as well as a Fourth Grade Teacher in North Carolina and St.Phillip Lutheran School in Chicago. Rachel and her husband Ron have twin sons who attend Holy Cross. She and her family are Holy Cross partners.
Emily Johnson has accepted the Divine Call issued by Holy Cross during our voters’ meeting on June 11. She will be teaching 4th grade. Emily graduated from Concordia University Ann Arbor in 2008 with a B.A. in Elementary Education and earned a Master’s in Educational Leadership from Concordia University Portland in 2014. Emily just finished her 9th year of teaching most recently at Emmanuel Lutheran School in Ashville, NC.
She is originally from Indianapolis, IN where she attended Lutheran grade school and high school and where her parents still live. Emily is a sports fanatic and her blood runs thick for the Green Bay Packers! She enjoys playing and watching various sports, being involved in music, crafting, and traveling in her spare time. Emily is also a trained Stephen Minister.
Becky is a graduate of Concordia University-Chicago where she received a BS in Elementary Education, She taught 3rd grade in Marengo, Illinois, for a year and then married Kevin Schroeder (computer teacher here at HC). She moved to Fort Wayne in 1985 where she started teaching 2nd grade here at HC. Becky got her Masters Degree from IU here in Fort Wayne. She is finishing her 30th year of teaching this year. They have three grown children now and one grandchild. They enjoy being with their children and grandchild whenever possible.
"And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity." -1 Corinthians 13:13
Kelly Oliver is originally from Grand Rapids, MI. She graduated from Calvin College in 2010 with a degree in Elementary Education. For three years after graduation Kelly taught K-6 Spanish part time. Since then she has taught several different grades levels spending the last 2 years teaching 6th grade in Ypsilanti, MI. Kelly is excited to be teaching 5th grade at Holy Cross this year.
Kelly and her husband Jacob met while working at Camp Concordia, a Lutheran youth camp in Gowen, MI. They were married in 2015 and had their first child, Ezra, in October of 2017. They will be relocating to Fort Wayne where Jacob will be attending Concordia Theological Seminary. Mrs. Oliver enjoys the outdoors, scrapbooking, and loves basketball and baseball. Go Tigers!
Angi Goldey graduated from Ball State University in 1996 with a B.S. in Elementary Education. Angi has been teaching in Lutheran schools for 20 years. After graduating from college she served as a second grade teacher at Central Lutheran in New Haven, IN for four years. In 2000, Angi began her previous ministry at St. John Lutheran, Kendallville, IN where she was the Resource Teacher.
Angi attended Holy Cross from grades K-8. She says many of her fondest memories are from her childhood at Holy Cross. She has been married to her husband Josh for 19 years. They have two children. Ryan is 17 and finishing his junior year of high school. Libby is 12 and is finishing 6th grade at St. John’s Angi loves the outdoors, sports and boating.
James DeFrain is a life-long resident of Indiana, raised in Whitley County. James is a 2016 graduate of Indiana University, Purdue University, Ft. Wayne, earning his B.S. in Secondary Education, with concentrations in both Math and Science. James and his wife Nancy (Leighty) DeFrain have been married for twenty years, and they have one daughter. Hannah is thirteen and is an eighth grader at Suburban Bethlehem Lutheran School. James states, “I have always wanted to be a teacher, I love seeing that ah ha moment when a student finally gets it!” James enjoys spending time with his family, reading comics, and having friends over for bonfires. James looks forward to this new chapter in his life and being a positive influence to his students.
Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go. Joshua 1:9
Lauren Thom grew up in Ortonville, Michigan where she attended Brandon High School. She had a love for sports, art and nature growing up. She decided to pursue her love of science and softball while earning her Bachelor of Science in Biology on an athletic scholarship to Oakland University. While at Oakland University Lauren met her husband, Mychal. They will be celebrating 13 years of marriage this September. Lauren and Mychal have three children that share their love of sports and the arts. All three boys attend Holy Cross School (Jeremiah, Isaiah, and Malachi).
Lauren has worked for the Lutheran church for 9 years. She has taught for 4 years and has worked as Director of Communications for Promise Lutheran church for 5 years. Lauren discovered a passion for coding as an adult. When she is not fishing, running, or at a field or court watching her boys compete, you can find her at her computer playing with code or her next project.
Lauren is excited and honored to be part of the Holy Cross family. She is looking forward to building relationships with her students and watching them grow in knowledge and faith.
Middle School English
Donna has been teaching English at Holy Cross for 10 years. Before teaching full-time, she substituted at Holy Cross and Suburban Bethlehem. She attended Indiana University with a degree in Liberal Arts/Political Science. After graduation, Donna worked in the government for six years and then went to Taylor University where she received her degree in Education. She is a mother of four children and has been married for 36 years. She is a member of Trinity English Lutheran Church. Donna feels truly blessed to be able to teach at Holy Cross.
“For I know the plans I have for,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” -Jeremiah 29:11
Joshua grew up in the Detroit metro area, has been teaching since 2008, and also taught for six years at the same high school he attended. Joshua attended Concordia University Wisconsin where he played football for four years; played in the Jazz band; and was co-president of the Math Club. Joshua is married with three kids and has three dogs. He loves to read; watch movies; binge watch TV on Netflix; play with his kids outside; and play video games.
"For I know the plans I have 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
Sarah Weber graduated from Concordia University Nebraska in 2000 with a B.S. in Elementary Education with the Middle Level Endorsement. Sarah says, “My philosophy of education is that teaching the faith is the foundation and most vital part of education. My strengths include my love of teaching and the diverse ways in which I encourage students to learn. My enthusiasm for learning and helping students achieve goals is evident to my class and encourages them to want to learn”
After graduating from college Sarah spent a year in Macua, China teaching English to adults and high school students through LCMS World Mission. From 2002 - 2012 she taught at every grade level, except Kindergarten while serving Lutheran schools at St. Paul, Fort Dodge, Iowa; Zion, St. Libory, Nebraska and Zion, Decatur, Indiana. For the past four years Sarah has taught in her specialty area of middle school language arts at St. Peter-Immanuel, Decatur, Indiana.
Her husband John currently serves as Assistant Principal and Development Director at Central Lutheran School in New Haven, Indiana. They have three children, Hannah (11), Naomi (9) and Gideon (4).