Meet the Administrators, Teachers & Support Staff
Mrs. Alison Noakes
Mrs. Gabrielle Holston
Director of Operations & Marketing
Miss. Gianna Haller
Mrs. Summer Burks
Maestra Maribell Alvarez (Miss. Bell), CDA
Maestra Sarah Castro
First Grade Immersion
Maestra Militza Mendoza, BA
Third Grade Immersion
On September 20 2017, Maestra Mendoza left her classroom to try and contact her family in Puerto Rico, which had just been devastated by Hurricane Maria. Not having any luck and close to tears she returned to the classroom, sat down and let heave a sigh. Connecting her sigh with the the recent natural disaster, a blond boy in the third row immediately slammed his book and proclaimed, “That’s it, time for me to pray.”
This moment gave birth to the school’s hurricane relief effort and launched the third-grade class’s pen-pal program with her sister’s school in Puerto Rico. In one letter exchange, a student proudly wrote his pen-pal that his teacher was teaching them “Puerto Rican Spanish.” Relationships like these have strengthened her students’ awareness not only of Spanish, but of the lives of children like themselves in other parts of the world.
Despite being a territory of the United States, learning English was difficult for Maestra Mendoza in Puerto Rico due to the low numbers of English teachers. She first came to the United States with the intention of returning an English teacher, but her plans changed when she was asked to become part of the Bilingual Department in South Bend. While at the department she sought the mentorship of Maritza Robles, the director of the bilingual Department at the time. Robles fostered Maestra Mendoza’s desire to be a better teacher by pushing her to hone her educational skills, ultimately encouraging her to receive further training to help to a better resource to the kids. She enjoyed her time working for the public school system, but she has never felt more comfortable teaching than she does at Covenant Christian School.
But she’s not only a Covenant teacher—she’s a Covenant parent, too. She notices that her son thrives in the rich environment at Covenant. He previously attended a Montessori school, where he was content learning at his own pace. But he flourished academically after moving to Covenant Christian thanks to the challenge of the classroom and an environment that celebrates his family’s culture.
Maestra Mendoza loves working with the third grade students because they have grown up together through the Immersion Program. Since the students know each other well, they have already developed the awareness and skills to help each other and are open to learning as much as possible.
Mrs. Darcy Burns
Middle School Immersion
Mrs. Sandra Zylstra, BA, MA
Mrs. Zylstra and her family have been with Covenant Christian School since its humble beginnings in the old building of the First Christian Reform Church. While her four children attended school, she began helping as a preschool aide. Today she teaches music, leads reading remediation classes, and continues to serve on the education committee.
Mrs. Zylstra came to South Bend when her husband got a job working for Bosch allied-signal. They had met while on a mission trip to Winnipeg during their time as students at Sterling College, in Kansas. Mrs. Zylstra laughs when asked about why she went into teaching. Like most teachers she enjoys working with children, so teaching was a natural path. Aside from working at Covenant two days a week, Mrs Zylstra also works at Brandywine High School and Middle School as an accompanist and offers private piano lessons in the area.
As a parent who has watched her four children excel academically at Covenant Christian School and beyond, she has no doubt that Covenant’s academically rigorous education laid the foundation or her children’s success in the classroom. But what makes Covenant Christian School particularly special is it’s intimate family environment and commitment to Christian faith. This combination nurtures students intellectually and personally, preparing them for a rich life beyond the classroom.
Mrs. Kristi Blank
Mrs. Janelle Foster, BA
Second Grade English
An overhead projector is an unlikely inspiration for a teaching career. But when Mrs. Foster saw her first grade teacher in Fresno, CA using one, she knew she wanted to do the same. Born in Saskatchewan Canada, Mrs. Foster first attended school in Fresno and then Paso Robles before her family settled in Goshen. Even as a student, she realized many of her friends hated school. But Mrs. Foster wanted to grow-up to be the teacher who made learning fun, the teacher who inspired students to explore and discover and learn about the world God has made.
After graduating high school, Mrs. Foster worked at Le Petite Daycare Center and Success Academy in South Bend, but she wanted something more. After earning her BA in Elementary Education from Bethel College, she followed the promise of endless summer to Yuma, AZ where she taught third grade. But in 2015, languishing in the desert heat and missing Michiana winters, she returned to Mishawaka, taking at job at Covenant Christian School and becoming active at Harvest Bible Chapel.
Mrs. Foster deeply appreciates Covenant’s small classes, education grounded in a love for God and creation, and diverse community that allow her to succeed as a teacher. And how does Mrs. Foster know she’s succeeding? Her students don’t want to go on Christmas or Spring break!
Mrs. Libby Foldesi, BA
Fourth / Fifth Grade English
Libby Foldesi uses Robert Frost’s poem “The Road Not Taken” as an analogy to how she ended up at Covenant Christian School. She and her husband Brian were looking for a new school for their daughters Erin and Kara. Her search on the internet had taken her all over the Michiana area, and after touring several schools she still hadn’t found the right fit. While returning from another dead-end school visit, she stopped at the lights on the corner of Fir and Day. She saw Covenant Christian School and specifically noticed how small and intimate it looked. When she walked through the doors on a scheduled visit the following day, she knew this apparently seldom-trod road was the one she wanted to travel. Other schools she visited had large gymnasiums and lavish lunchrooms. Covenant had neither but clearly valued education.
After ten years at Covenant Christian, Mrs Foldesi explains that the tangible atmosphere of valuing education comes from valuing the day-to-day experiences that shape a student. Sometimes this looks as simple as letting students encounter Edgar Allen Poe for the first time. Mrs Foldesi explains she never grows tired of watching as a light switch turns on in a student’s imagination through literature, and they suddenly feel empowered, wanting to read and write and share their views about the world.
Mrs. Foldesi graduated from Ball State University, earning a degree in Elementary Education with a kindergarten endorsement. She came to Covenant Christian School in 2005 as a parent and as a teacher in 2007. She is the lead teacher for “Project Lead The Way” for the STEM initiative and has already trained two sets of teachers at Covenant. Reminiscing about her first year working with STEM, she reflects that teaching a class of fifth graders robotics drove home the reality that failure is not only a part of life but a tremendous learning experience.
Mrs. Melissa Horvath
Middle School English
Sra. Angélica Zeider
Kindergarten Immersion Teacher
Maestra Bixis Colina, AA
Second Grade Immersion
Sra. Colina’s transition from Maracaibo in Zulia, Venezuela to the upper-midwest involved more than a little culture shock. From the language, to the abundance of resources, to the way colleagues relate at work, everything was different. Because learning English was her first priority, Sra. Colina headed to Caribbean to hone her language skills. But she didn’t stay long since the accent and manner of speech on those white sand beaches is quite different from American English. After her stint in the Caribbean, Sra. Colina moved to the upper Midwest, where she studied English and Education at Lake Michigan College. While studying she worked at a Panera in Mishawaka, which also provided her ample opportunities to perfect her English. But her plan was never to stay in Michiana. Originally she planned to learn English, return to Venezuela, and become an English teacher. But as she says herself, “plans change.” Instead of teaching English at home, she found a job working at a daycare in Michigan.
After working in daycare, Sra. Colina began working in a bilingual program in the public schools, teaching kindergarten for four years, then first and second grade for 5 years. But she really wanted to teach in a Christian school. One day, during a short conversation with a member of her church, Sra Colina found that there was a position at Covenant Christian.
Sra. Colina loves her 2nd grade immersion class because “they are on the edge of fantasy and reality, you need to take advantage of this age and encourage exploration.” She encourages this imaginative exploration through rotating activity centers for the kids. Sra. Colina knows from her experience that, no matter how rowdy the children are, they enjoy and respond best to creative structure in the classroom.
Maestra. Luz Phipps
Fourth / Fifth Grade Immersion
Mrs. Ruth Weber, BA, MA
Remediation, Academic Support
Ruth Weber comes to Covenant Christian with experience both in the U.S.A. and abroad. She began her teaching career in California after graduating from Biola University with a BA in Elementary Education and an MA in Education from Azusa Pacific University.
She taught for five years in California before she and her husband followed God’s call to be missionaries in Quito, Ecuador. There they raised their four children while working at a missionary radio station and planting two local churche
She taught third grade for several years and noticed a growing population of struggling learners in the school. She had a desire to help these students, so the school sent her to be trained to be an Educational Therapist through NILD (National Institute for Learning Development). She was certified to use the educational therapy that this training provided and worked one-on-one with students for three years.
Ruth and her family then returned to the U.S.A. to live and settled here in Indiana where they continue to be missionaries with SonSet Solutions, in Elkhart. After substitute teaching in the area for a year, she was hired to teach at Covenant Christian School. She is glad that God has called her to this school because it has been a good fit for the skills and abilities that God has given her. She can both use her experience with struggling learners, as well as her fluency in Spanish to work with the Spanish immersion students.
She really enjoys helping students who struggle to improve their reading ability, as well as working closely with the teachers to best help these children.
Mrs. Nan Schuur, BA, MA
Kindergarten & 1st Grade English
Mrs. Schuur’s intense desire to teach is what makes the 40 minute drive from her home in Dowagiac, Michigan to Covenant each day worthwhile.
There was never a moment in Mrs. Schuur’s life that she didn’t want to be a teacher. After receiving a Bachelor’s degree in elementary education from Indiana University, South Bend, she completed a Masters degree at Western Michigan, also in elementary education. In addition to these degrees, she has pursued specialized training in reading, writing, math, early childhood literacy, and teaching art to children. While she enjoys keeping updated on the newest educational practices for early elementary students, the students are what really drive her passion for teaching. Mrs. Schuur, who teaches the English Kindergarten at Covenant, explains that her students are at a rich developmental moment where everything is new and interesting, making the classroom a constantly changing, exciting place to be.
Mrs. Schuur and her husband are active at First Christian Church in Dowagiac, MI, where he is a worship leader. At First Christian, Mrs. Schuur enjoys her involvement in a Bible study and teaching Sunday School. The ministry of First Christian empowers her to better serve the children, families, and staff of Covenant Christian School.
Miss. Jennifer Knisley, BA, MA
Third Grade English
Visitors to Miss. Knisley’s room are sometimes surprised by her unorthodox classroom pets. She has two cockatiels which fly about the room at will. She says the students enjoy interacting with the birds, particularly during their impressionable early years. And having the birds loose teaches the students a bit more responsibility because they learn to look out for other creatures. At the end of the day, the students are the reason Miss. Knisley teaches—“without the students, the class is just a room.”
Miss. Knisley knew she wanted to teach at a Christian school since she was a little girl playing school with her brother and sisters. Raised in South Bend, she earned her Bachelor’s degree in education from Bethel College, and an Associate’s degree in writing and Masters in education from IUSB.
Before joining the Covenant faculty in 2014, Miss. Knisley taught third grade and directed school plays at Corpus Christi for eight years. Although Corpus Christi was a rich Christian environment, she wanted to teach in an multi-denominational institution, and Covenant Christian kept coming up. Her roommate was on staff at Covenant. A close friend’s children attended the school. When her roommate told her that there was a vacancy at Covenant, her interest was piqued and she applied.
Miss. Knisley came to Covenant Christian well prepared. Besides extensive elementary school experience, she’s also taught at her church, Faith Community Church, where she works with the children’s ministry and plays the piano on her worship team. And she continues to bring children’s theatrical ambitions to life, directing the school plays Covenant Christian just as she did at Corpus Christi.
Mr. Charles Minx, BA, MA
History, Geography, Bible, Gym
Mr. Minx doesn’t just teach history, he’s lived it. After graduating from Adams high school, Mr Minx briefly attended Holy Cross College (then a two-year institution) and Ball State University, where he earned a BA in History. But the wide world was calling. During the 80’s Mr Minx moved between Connecticut and California, eventually settling in Connecticut long enough to earn his Social Sciences teaching certificate from the University of southern Connecticut. He began substituting around his Connecticut town but remained restless. He moved back to California, worked as a Telecom Test Engineer in Silicon Valley, earned his teaching license, and eventually began teaching in Lompoc, California. His second time in California proved an eventful chapter in his life—he met his wife, Laura, in Santa Barbara in 1991, joined the Army Reserve in 1992, married Laura (twice—once by a rabbi and once by a priest) in 1993, and became a father in 1996. But in 2003 he felt drawn back home to South Bend.
Mr. Minx loves his sixth grade class for a variety of reasons, but he was especially touched one day when his class asked if they could pray for his wife, who has MS. Taking a break in class to pray, Mr. Minx was reminded of how Covenant’s Christ-centeredness inevitably teaches the students to be considerate of others—not only to other cultures, but to the people around them everyday.
Mr. Minx felt the call to teach no matter where the road took him. Once in South Bend, he found the calling to teach was taking him home, which is how he describes the feeling of teaching at Covenant Christian School. With his traveling experience and his love of history and social studies, Mr. Minx has extended his education to earn a Masters in Liberal Studies. to better bring his experience and perspective to the subject he teaches.
Sra. Teresa Swart
Remediation, Academic Support