Meet the Administrators, Teachers & Support Staff
I earned a BA from Calvin College in Grand Rapids and have my JD from Valparaiso University and served as Principal of Battle Creek Christian School, 2001-2008. I have also taken the educational leadership classes at WMU, participated in the Indiana Principal Leadership Academy and was asked to join the CSI Leadership Institute which allowed me to work with other CSI administrators. These past years I have been the CSI jurisdictional rep to the the INPEA, our non-public advocacy group, that keeps our faith based schools in front of the state legislature. My current readings and research are about developing grit (perseverance) in children. I am very interested in what makes some kids handle the tough stuff and how we can better cultivate it in all of our kids. My husband and I have three grown children, all Christian school graduates K-12. We are active members of Westwood Christian Reformed Church where I have served as an elder and been in charge of adult education. Our passion for Covenant goes way back to the beginnings of the school when we were involved early on. It is a special place.
I am originally from Holland, Michigan, graduating from Holland Christian Schools and Calvin College. Having taught in Hudsonville, MI; Lakeview, South Dakota; Detroit, MI; Doon, Iowa; and Steger, IL, I moved into administration in 1998 after finishing my MA in Educational Administration at Governors State University. I completed doctoral classes in Educational Leadership at Loyola University, Chicago, while I was an administrator in Flossmoor and Steger, IL before going to Crown Point Christian, St. John, in 1999.
I retired in June, but when I heard of Covenant’s need for some administrative help, I knew this was God’s call for me. It’s been a blessing to be able to serve in many ways, from greeting students during drop-off and pick-up to assisting with individual academic needs. I also serve as a consultant to teachers who need ideas to help with instruction or discipline. In a busy place like Covenant Christian, it’s easy to find ways to serve!
On my days off I enjoy spending time with my 5 grandchildren and enjoying my home on Cedar Lake. I am a member of Faith Church in Cedar Lake.
Director of Operations & Marketing
Bio coming soon!
Bio coming soon!
Bio coming soon!
Ms. Zielinski, BA
Ms. Zielinski loves working with the littlest children, teaching the English preschool class and in the aftercare program at Covenant Christian School. Born and raised in South Bend, Ms. Z, as she is affectionately known, attended St. Joseph’s Catholic school and earned her degree in elementary education at IU, Bloomington. But she didn’t move straight from college into the classroom. After graduation, she and her husband moved to Chicago, where she managed several rental properties. During this time, she was also at home with her three daughters. As a stay-at-home mom, her love for—and aptitude with—small children blossomed.
In 1995, she returned to South Bend and finally began her teaching career. rejoining her childhood parish of St. Pius, where she taught catechism classes to 5-8 year olds and taught second grade at Corpus Christi. While at Corpus Christi, she met a then faculty member who told her about Covenant Christian. After substitute teaching at Covenant, she took over the vacant preschool position in 2016.
Ms. Z loves welcoming children—and their parents—into her class, drawing on parents’ expertise to enrich her students’ learning. One of her favorite parent-partners is a florist who volunteers during the holidays and special occasions, helping students create beautiful projects with plants. With her motherly love, and years of teaching experience in both school and parish settings, Ms. Z brings Christ’s love into the classroom, embodying the mission of Covenant Christian School.
Maestra Rivera, CDA
Children in Maestra Rivera’s class frequently end the day with a small, round sticker on their forehead that they cherish throughout the day. The stickers are unimpressive and hardly seem worthy of the pride with which students wear them…that is, until one sees how they are awarded. The stickers are given and received with the reverence of a blessing. When the students answer a question or use Spanish in class, Maestra Rivera crouches down on the student’s level, looks the student in the eyes, and places the sticker on the child’s forehead with her thumb, saying, “Bien hecho.”
As a ten-year old in Zacatecas, Mexico, Maestra Rivera was charged with looking after her brothers and sisters. This early responsibility inspired her to become a teacher and laid the foundation for her teaching. She explains that she teaches with a sisterly instinct, coming alongside the students in her immersion preschool class as they first encounter the Spanish language.
After receiving her degree in education from La Universidad de Zacatecas, she taught elementary school in Mexico. In 2001, she and her husband came to South Bend, so he could pastor a church here. Maestra Rivera taught at Zeeland Christian School, which was one of the first schools in the nation to work with add.a.lingua on implementing their full-immersion program. The Spanish Immersion program was one of the main reasons she and her husband eventually chose Covenant Christian School for their daughter. Even though their daughter was already fluent in Spanish and took classes in English, having both languages in the same school created an atmosphere of respect and comfort with other cultures and languages. Maestra Rivera and her husband believed this dual-language environment would help their daughter easily adjust to American culture without feeling she had to give up her identity.
Maestra Rivera describes Covenant Christian School as a place where teachers teach with love and playfulness combined with a high level of professionalism. She loves working with preschool because immersion at this early stage is fundamental for the children to receive the gift of being bilingual.
Mrs. Schuur, BA, MA
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.
Sra. Gutierez, BA
During a tumultuous time for her country Mrs. Gutierrez fled her hometown of Barquisimeto, in Lara, Venezuela. Relations between the government and its people were deteriorating, which made jobs, education, and food difficult to acquire. Her sister had previously moved to South Bend, so Mrs. Gutierrez and her son followed, moving to South Bend in 2014. But her sister was responsible for more than her move to the United States; she brought Mrs. Gutierrez to Covenant Christian as well. Although her sister moved to another school, Mrs. Gutierrez continues to be relentlessly committed to Covenant.
Before migrating to the United States, Mrs. Gutierrez received her degree from La Universidad Fermin Toro in Lara, Venezuela. Originally, she wanted to use her degree to become a psychologist. Her mother opposed these plans because being a psychologist would have required Mrs. Gutierrez to leave town. Respecting her mother’s wishes, she decided to put her psychological training into practice through education..
In her Kindergarten Immersion class, Mrs. Gutierrez prides herself in having learned all her students names, since many have Anglophone names that sound very similar to her! As she and her son have adjusted to life in a new place, Mrs. Gutierrez is thankful for the opportunity to teach at a school like Covenant Christian where learning is fostered by a warm, family environment and supported by abundant resources.
Mrs. Foster, BA
First 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!
Maestra Wilson, BA, MA
First Grade Immersion
Whether babysitting, tutoring, or providing daycare, Sra.Wilson has always worked with children. Originally from Mexico City, she worked in the New York public schools for 8 years before moving to Indiana in 2004. Once in South Bend, she earned a BA in Early Childhood Development and an MA in Education at Bethel College. Although she first learned about Covenant in 2004, it wasn’t until 2014 that she joined the faculty.
As an immersion teacher, Sra. Wilson enjoys watching parents grow and develop during the school year. Since the first grade is the last year a student can enter the immersion program, many parents begin the year anxious about their child’s adjustment to an all-Spanish classroom. But after a few weeks the children become comfortable and confident, learning to speak the language and growing in their creativity, resourcefulness, and tenacity. Eventually, the parents’ fears give-way to amazement as they grow comfortable and confident in their children’s abilities!
Miss. Knisley, BA, MA
Second / 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.
Maestra 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 Mendoza, BA
3rd Grade Immersion / 4th Science
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 brown-haired 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 training to work with children with Autism Spectrum Disorders. 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. 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.
Mr. Angula, BA, MA
Fourth / Fifth / Sixth Grade Immersion
Mrs. Sill, BA
6 / 7 / 8 Grade English, 7 / 8 History
Flipping through Chicken Soup for the Soul, Mary Sill discovered a poem she wrote as a gift for her mother—a poem that she never knew had been published! Years earlier, she’d given a copy of the poem to her wedding party. The poem had moved from a friend to a pastor and eventually found its way to a publisher’s desk. Surprised by the new life of her poem, she contacted the publisher and established her authorship. Providentially, while Mrs. Sill was transitioning away from Queen of Peace, Covenant Christian School was looking for someone who loved writing to teach their language arts classes. In her conversation with the Principal, Mrs. Sill said, “if you hold that position, I’d love to come and interview for it!” Mrs. Hesselink did and the rest is history.
Mrs. Sill graduated from Bowling Green State University where she double majored in Early childhood development and elementary education. Her first teaching gig was in Yuma, AZ where she taught sixth grade for 3 years in a public school, but she returned to her beloved Midwest to bring her passion for writing to her new home of South Bend. She is qualified to teach any grade from preschool to ninth grade but knows that the development period at sixth grade is particularly critical because it is the age when writing skills really begin to develop.
Knowing that not every student will grow-up to be a professional writer, Mrs. Sill works hard to expose her students to a variety of stories so they have a vision for what writing looks like in modern life. She frequently brings in people from her Challenge Board to speak to the class about the adversity they’ve overcome on their way to success. This year she brought in John Jessop, a man who had made the decision at the early age of 14 to amputate his leg, which was causing him difficulties due to a birth defect. Despite this amputation, he was captain of his Lacrosse team in high school and leads a normal life. Previously, she’s brought in L.M Elliot whose book Annie Between the States has been praised as an outstanding work of historical fiction. She hopes that hearing divers and interesting stories will motivate her students to explore fields they would not have discovered otherwise.
Mrs. Prusinski, BA, MA
5 / 6 / 7 / 8 Grade Math
Mrs. Zuzi, BA, MA
Mr. 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.
Mrs. Alvarez (Miss. Bell), CDA
Immersion, Gym, Art
Mrs. 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. Weber, BA, MA
Remediation, Academic Support
Mrs. Navarro, BA
Soccer & Basketball Coach