New Teachers to CHS!

A Warm Welcome to Our New Duneland Members

Gracelyn Perrine and Olivia Kumar



Kayla McKendry


Before CHS: I taught my first year out of Illinois, that’s where I’m from. I taught 5th graders, so it’s definitely a big change, but I’ve always wanted to teach high school so I’m excited. 

Education: I went to Loras college which is in Dubuque, Iowa; it’s actually right on the Mississippi river. I had a double major in secondary education and English Literature. 

Favorite Movie: My favorite movie is The Other Guys; it stars Will Ferrell and Mark Wahlberg and they are my favorite!

Favorite Sports Team: I watch all sports, I’m a big sports fan! But for baseball I like the White Sox, and for football I like the Chicago Bears. I’m a big Blackhawks fan for Hockey, and then I love Michigan Football.  

Advice for Students: Get involved in the school because you are going to meet all your friends that way, and just enjoy your time here. 


Rachael Travis


Before CHS: I am from Texas and I was teaching there with a math interventionist and I taught algebra. Then when I first came here, I taught at Portage. 

Education: I graduated from Texas A&M University with a degree in multiple sciences to get my initial Science certification.

Favorite Movie: I was really resistant to the Twilight movies; I didn’t watch them for a long time but when I did, I loved them. But my favorite class movie is probably Gone with the Wind. 

Favorite Sports Team: This is going to make everyone mad, so let’s go with the Astros. 

Advice for Students: Look into the Project Lead the Way classes that we have in BioMed and Engineering because they are problem based and amazing classes to take!


Amy Snyder

School Counselor

Before CHS: I was a school counselor at Bailly Elementary for the last 5 years. 

Education: For undergrad, I went to Greenville College in Illinois; it’s a small liberal arts school. My bachelor’s degree is in sociology and I went back to school in my 30’s for my masters degree in education for school counseling. I did that through Purdue Northwest. 

Favorite Movie: The Princess Bride

Favorite Sports Team: I don’t have a favorite sports team. I like watching the Olympics, but I am not a sports person. 

Advice for Students: Do your homework! Try to get involved in something, and connect with the school in a way that’s not just your classes to get the full high school experience. 


Crystal South


Before CHS: I taught math at CMS.  

Education: BS in Secondary Education; mathematics!

Favorite Movie: Any romance movies!  No favorites!

Favorite Sports Team: Not big in watching sports, but more of a Colts fan than anything.

Advice for Students: Be kind to others and always do your best!  


Andrew Trevino

Physical Education

Before CHS: I’ve been a teacher now for 24 years. 

Education: I went to Indiana University, and I have a degree in kinesthesiology and physical education. 

Favorite Movie: The Karate Kid

Favorite Sports Team: As a P.E teacher, you probably find this funny, but I don’t watch very many sports, but I like the Chicago teams. 

Advice for Students: As freshmen, if you come in and really have a plan I think your high \school career will go well. Also, get involved in something!


Matthew Wagner

Strength and Conditioning Coordinator

Before CHS: I was an assistant strength and conditioning coach at the University of Indianapolis for the past 6 years.

Education: Bachelor of Science in Exercise Science at the University of Indianapolis & Master of Science in Strategic Leadership & Design at the University of Indianapolis.

Favorite Movie: 300

Favorite Sports Team: Indianapolis Colts

Advice for Students: Work hard now so down the road things become easier. Don’t be afraid to ask questions and communicate. 


Andrew Willis


Before CHS: I grew up in Indianapolis, and moved up here to northwest Indiana in 2015 after meeting my (now) wife in college. She actually attended CHS and showed me around the area and I fell in love with this part of the state. I’ve spent the past 6 years of my career teaching High School Art at Boone Grove High School south of Valpo, but I am so excited to be here!

Education: I received my BAE (Bachelors of Art Education) from the Herron School of Art & Design in Indianapolis.

Favorite Movie: Pulp Fiction

Favorite Sports Team: Chicago Cubs

Advice for Students: Try to build yourself a life that is fulfilling. Happiness is important!


Michelle Wise

Special Education

Before CHS: Before CHS, I worked in the mental health field for over 10 years. I have actually been here for four years, just switched departments.

Education: I am a Purdue girl through and through!  I earned both undergrad and graduate degrees from Purdue.  

Favorite Movie: This one is a toss up between Dead Poets Society and Bridesmaids

Favorite Sports Team: Packers

Advice for Students: When we say we are here to help you, we mean it!  Ask questions, get SRT passes, get help!  


Stephanie Joll

Academic Interventionist

Before CHS: I worked at the Valpo Schools for many years. 

Education: I have a degree in business, a degree in teaching, and a speciality in mathematics. 

Favorite Movie: The Shining

Favorite Sports Team: I guess I would say the White Sox, they’re killing it. 

Advice for Students: Be involved and do your best. Try hard and do the best you possibly can!


Mary Lute-Brown  


Before CHS: I’ve been teaching for 20 years and was a substitute for CHS. I taught full time at portage for 8 years, and then at PNW as a student advisor. I also taught at Laporte High school for 30 years. 

Education: I have an undergraduate in secondary education at Indiana University and a masters in English at Denver University. 

Favorite Movie: Jo vs the Volcano

Favorite Sports Team: The Chicago Bulls 

Advice for Students: Tough times are temporary but a positive mindset doesn’t have to be.  


Danielle Gingrich


Before CHS: I’m a first year teacher. 

Education: I have a bachelor’s degree in science and a marketing degree at Purdue. 

Favorite Movie: The Princess Bride

Favorite Sports Team: The Cubs, the Steelers, and the Chicago Red Stars

Advice for Students: Always try your best and remain positive. 


Melissa Healy


Before CHS: I worked at Porter County Education Services in Preschool Assessment, Indiana University South Bend in Career Services & Internship, as well as the Office of Admissions.

Education: I have a Bachelor’s degree in Journalism from Ball State University and a Masters degree in Education, Counseling and Human Services from Indiana University.

Favorite Movie: Holiday Inn  

Favorite Sports Team: The Chicago Cubs and CHS Trojans, of course!

Advice for Students: I encourage students to consider doing an internship your senior year of high school.  It’s a wonderful opportunity to get out in the workforce and explore an area that you have interest in. An internship can help you determine your major in college, technical or trade school, or what it is you’d like to do after graduation.


Laura Basich


Before CHS: I started my career by spending two years teaching for Michigan City Area Schools, and teaching special education at Knapp Elementary School and Michigan City High School before spending the last fifteen years teaching social studies at Kesling Middle School in LaPorte. 

Education: I earned a B.S. in Social Studies Education from Indiana University Bloomington and an M.A. in Educational Psychology from the University of Alabama.

Favorite Movie:  My favorite movie is the Princess Bride (although I love Marvel movies and have also watched the Hobbit and Lord of the Ring trilogies more times than I should probably admit)

Favorite Sports Team: I love the Cubs and the Hoosiers, even when they break my heart. And of course, the Alabama Crimson Tide, who tend to break my heart a little less frequently. 

Advice for Students:  Progress, not perfection. None of us is perfect, no matter how hard we try, and that should never really be our aim. I think that’s the point of education, and of life, really- striving and progressing toward a goal, with each day moving that much closer to achieving success. It’s ok to fall short as long as you continue moving forward. 


Jennifer Breitzka


Before CHS: I taught at Castle High School in Kaneohe, Hawaii for two years, followed by one year at New Prairie High School in New Carlisle, Indiana. I had wonderful experiences at both of my previous schools!

Education: I attended PNW back when it was still Purdue North Central, and Purdue Calumet. I have a degree in Secondary English Education from Purdue Calumet.

Favorite Movie: Forgetting Sarah Marshall 

Favorite Sports Team: Colts strong!

Advice for Students: Know what you know; know what you need to know. Nobody is good at everything, and that’s okay! So give yourself a bit of grace. You’ve got this!


Letitia Gray


Before CHS: I was an English teacher at Hobart Middle School for 14 years

Education: I got my bachelors and masters degrees in English education at IUN. 

Favorite Movie: I’d have to say either The Conjuring or The Shining.

Favorite Sports Team: Chicago Cubs

Advice for Students: Stay on top of assignments and get them completed. Make sure you are organized in all aspects of your life.


Johanna Hess

Guidance Counselor P-S 

Before CHS: I worked at Crown Point High school as a college and careers counselor and an admissions counselor at  Campbell University. 

Education: I got my bachelor’s degree for business admissions at Campbell and Northern Michigan university. I received my graduate’s masters degree in school counseling at Purdue Northwest. 

Favorite Movie: Field of Dreams

Favorite Sports Team: All Purdue athletics and the White Sox. 

Advice for Students: It’s ok not to know something but it’s not ok not to try. 


Jill Balcerak


Before CHS: I worked at Chesterton Middle School as the Registrar for 5 years before coming to Chesterton High School as the Registrar. 

Education: I attended Indiana University and Medical Careers Institute many years ago and got a degree in ultrasound technology. I also worked at St. Catherine Hospital and Methodist Hospital as an Ultrasound Technologist for 5 years, and then taught post secondary educational courses at Allied Health Institute and Purdue University for 8 years.

Favorite Movie: The Hunger Games

Favorite Sports Team: The Bears 

Advice for Students: Success is always a process, never an event. Failure is always an event, never a person.