Mrs. Holly Lake has more than two decades of experience in education. She received her Bachelor’s Degree and teaching certificate with Reading Endorsement from Aquinas College (1996) and then a Master’s Degree with an Early Childhood Endorsement from Aquinas in 2000. She spent 23 years teaching at Saint Thomas the Apostle Catholic School where she was also a teacher coach for the last two years. Holly is currently finishing her Administrator’s Certificate and second Master’s Degree from Cornerstone University. She loves sharing her Catholic faith in the amazing Catholic schools of Grand Rapids! Holly has been married to Dennis for 15 years and they have two children, Benjamin and Allison.
photo credit Julie Balgavy
Colleen is the Secretary and the Marketing and Recruitment Director at Immaculate Heart of Mary School. She has been a part of the school staff since 2000 and holds a BA in Telecommunications from Michigan State University (1983). Colleen’s professional career includes: her role as a Television News Producer at WZZM-TV13 where she met her husband, Jay Lowe, Development Director for the American Cancer Society, Project Manager for the Greystone Group, Managing Editor for CityBeat Magazine, Advertising Sales and Marketing for City Publishing, as well as one-time local Publicist for Ringling Bros. Barnum and Bailey Circus! Colleen is a cantor and choir member at Immaculate Heart of Mary Church. Jay and Colleen delighted in raising two young men; Nathan and Mitchell. Both sons are alumni of Immaculate Heart of Mary School, Grand Rapids Catholic Central High School, and the University of Notre Dame.
Mrs. Karen DeChant graduated from Aquinas College with majors in Business Administration, Education, and German. Although the majority of her work experience was in the corporate setting, she always found time to be in a school by way of tutoring, being a room parent, working in the library, and most recently as a preschool aide. Karen has twin boys, Nicholas and Harrison, who are proud graduates of Catholic Central and are currently studying at Denison University. She enjoys travel, baking, skiing, and spending time with family and friends. Her hope is to have a positive impact on the education of our children.
Kara Ziedins earned her Bachelor of Communications and Master of Social Work in Community Organizing from the University of Michigan. Prior to staying home to raise her three children, Kara worked at the University of Michigan as program manager of several service-learning programs including the Good Neighborhoods Initiative, UM-Detroit Initiative, and Community-based Research Fellowship Program, where she enjoyed working with college students and facilitating partnerships between university programs and communities in Detroit. She is excited to work for and serve IHM school and community. In her free time, Kara enjoys being outdoors, reading, cooking new recipes, volunteering, and most of all – spending time with her family.
Mrs. Meredith Tallman began teaching at Immaculate Heart of Mary Preschool in 2008. She attended the University of Michigan where she received her degree in Education with an Endorsement in Early Childhood Education. She then attended Grand Valley State University and received her Master’s in Early Childhood Education. Prior to teaching at Immaculate Heart of Mary she taught for six years at Corpus Christi Catholic School in Holland, Michigan. There she taught 4th and 5th grades. Mrs. Tallman has two daughters attending IHM and enjoys reading, being with family and friends, and anything U of M – Go Blue!!
Ms. Karen Gawronski has attended Catholic schools all her life. She graduated from Aquinas College where she majored in mathematics and earned an Early Childhood Endorsement. While at Aquinas, she studied abroad in Ireland. Ms. Gawronski completed her Masters of Education with an emphasis in Educational Differentiation from Grand Valley State University. She enjoys reading, traveling, and spending time with her family.
Mrs. Lauren Sombati is a graduate of Grand Valley State University and has a Bachelor of Arts Degree in English Language Arts and Elementary Education. She recently went back to Grand Valley where she earned her Early Childhood Education Endorsement and is pursuing a Master’s Degree in the same field.
She grew up in Catholic Schools on the east side of the state before making her home in Grand Rapids with her high school sweetheart. She has spent the last 7 years at home with her 3 daughters whom all attend IHM, and she is so happy to be back in the classroom where she can put her faith into action. In her spare time, she enjoys long days by the lake with her family, reading with her girls, and crafting!
Mrs. Cummings’ first experience with Catholic school was when her oldest daughter started at IHM preschool in 2009. It was such a welcoming and spirit-filled place she began volunteering as much as possible to get to know the IHM family. She and her husband are native to Michigan’s U.P. They enjoy visiting family there, as well as fishing, hunting, hiking, and sight-seeing. She also enjoys watching her children play sports and perform in their various extra-curricular activities. Cooking, crafts and reading are some favorite activities that she also shares with her kids. Her favorite part of getting to be a part of the preschool building is getting to know all the new IHM-ers and see them excited to graduate to the “big school”.
Mrs. Jennifer Aagesen is a graduate of Aquinas College with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Elementary Education and Language Arts. She also earned an Early Childhood Endorsement. She grew up on the east side of the state and attended Catholic schools since preschool! After taking time away from teaching to raise her three children, she is thrilled to join them at IHM. Mrs. Aagesen enjoys being active with her kids, reading and spending time with family and friends.
Mrs. Lauren Host is a graduate of Saint Mary’s College, Notre Dame where she received her Bachelor of Arts in Elementary Education. In addition, she earned her Masters in the Art of Teaching with a Language Arts endorsement from Aquinas College.
She began her career at Immaculate Heart of Mary in 2006 and has taught both 2nd and 3rd grade. She is thrilled to currently be part of the kindergarten team! Mrs. Host is a lifelong parishioner and attended IHM as a child. She is excited to have all three of her own children now at school right alongside her. Mrs. Host enjoys spending time with friends and family, reading, and staying active.
Mrs. Sova attended Western Michigan University and received her degree in Elementary Education with a minor in Creative Arts in 1998. She also has her Early Childhood endorsement. She earned her masters in Literacy Studies (otherwise known as Reading), again from Western Michigan University, in 2008. She started teaching at Immaculate Heart of Mary in the fall of 1999. She taught 2nd grade for four years and part-time 4th grade for one year before beginning to teach Kindergarten. She enjoys reading, running, scrapbooking, and spending time with her family.
Debbie Sremba attended IHM and Catholic Central as a child. She graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in Elementary Education from Grand Valley State University. After staying home with her children, she joined the IHM staff as a kindergarten aide. She has been a member of St. John Vianney parish for 20 years. She loves reading, bookstores, knitting, and watching Lions games with her family!
Mrs. Dawn Stockholm is a graduate of Grand Valley State University. She has a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Elementary Education and an Early Childhood Endorsement. She attended St. John Vianney and Catholic Central High School. She loves to read, garden and spend time with her family!
Ms. Monica James is a graduate of Aquinas College with a Bachelor of Arts in Elementary Education and Language Arts. She grew up in the Mitten State attending Catholic schools and is a graduate of West Catholic! Ms. James is overjoyed to be part of the IHM faith community and feels privileged to be an educator. She spends her free time reading, taking adventures to Lake Michigan, and making memories with family.
Mrs. Simon has taught at Immaculate Heart of Mary since 2014 after returning to Michigan following three years in the Golden State of California. She is a fully credentialed teacher from Central Michigan University with specialties in mathematics and reading. With over 10 years of experience in Catholic education, she is excited to be a part of our faith community. Mrs. Simon enjoys running outdoors, fishing, reading, and spending time with her family. She also enjoys participating in the community of the Church by singing in the choir and teaching religious education classes.
Gretchen Flynn is from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. She has attended Catholic schools from kindergarten through college. She is a graduate of the University of the Dayton (Go Flyers!) and has 15 years of teaching experience in Catholic schools. Gretchen has two boys in the Grand Rapids Catholic School system, a middle schooler at St. Stephen and a high schooler at Catholic Central. Gretchen enjoys spending time with her family and friends and is happy to be a part of the IHM community.
Mrs. Karen Pettinger has previously taught 1st, 4th and 5th grades. She earned her B.A. in Elementary Education from the University of Louisiana at Lafayette and her M.A. in Education from Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota. She also has her certificate in Gifted Education.
Mrs. Pettinger was born and raised in South Louisiana. She is the youngest of seven children, six being girls! She was born in New Orleans but moved to Lafayette, the heart of “Cajuns”, when she was seven. After college, she moved to North Carolina to work as a Youth Program Director for the YMCA, where she met her husband, a native of Fargo. In 1994, they moved to Minnesota where they lived for 20 years. They have lived in Grand Rapids since 2015. She has two sons, and she enjoys reading, swimming and traveling. Her household would not be complete without her cat, Stardust.
Her mantra is Give me a fish, I eat for a day; teach me to fish, I eat for a lifetime.
Mrs. Soda received a Bachelor of Science and Masters of Education from Western Michigan University. She has almost two decades of years of experience in grade levels preschool through seventh grade. Carey loves spending time with her family, camping, gardening, reading, and watching her kids play sports. She has a strong faith and is excited to be a part of our community.
Miss Abby Fatum is a graduate of IHM and Catholic Central and has been a member of our parish her whole life. She graduated from Grand Valley State University with a double major in Education and Mathematics and a double minor in Spanish and Elementary Certification. During her time at GVSU, she had the opportunity to study abroad in Bilbao, Spain for a semester which began her love for traveling. Her other interests include swimming, reading, and spending time with family and friends.
Mrs. Kathy Menno graduated from the University of Notre Dame with a Biology degree and a passion to teach. She pursued a Masters of Secondary Education and gained two years of teaching experience through the Providence Alliance for Catholic Teachers (PACT) program in Providence, RI. Next, she taught biology, chemistry, and integrated science at an all-boys Jesuit high school in Cincinnati, OH for six years. After returning to her hometown of Grand Rapids, MI, she enjoyed staying home to raise her three young children before heading back to the science classroom at IHM in 2018.
Josephine Savillo has been teaching at IHM since 1995. She graduated from Grand Valley State University with a Bachelor of Arts Degree in English Language and Literature/Elementary Education. She completed her Master of Arts Degree in Reading Education from Western Michigan University. Ms. Savillo is deeply dedicated to her Catholic faith and a member of Immaculate Heart of Mary Parish.
Mrs. Perry is a graduate of Central Michigan University and Grand Valley State University. She has her bachelors of Science in Education from CMU. From GVSU she earned her Masters in Education with a History emphasis. Mrs. Perry has been teaching since 1999 and has been a member of the Immaculate Heart of Mary staff since 2005.
Mr. Gus Wasinski is a lifetime parishioner at IHM and an Aquinas College graduate, where he earned majors in Elementary Education and Learning Disabilities. He has taught special education math at Caledonia High School and has been a teacher at IHM since the 2017-2018 school year. Mr. Wasinski loves playing ultimate frisbee, running, camping, working with his hands and exploring his faith.
Mrs. Kuzma has been working at Kent District Library in youth programming working with children from infants/toddlers up through teens for the past six years. Wendy graduated from college with a degree in elementary education and has taught both preschool and third grade. She loves working with children of all ages and feels so blessed at IHM as your school librarian!
Wendy has been happily married to her husband, Steve, for almost 30 years. They have four beautiful daughters, Shelby, Faith, and twins, Abigail and Natalie. In addition to being an avid reader, in her free time, Wendy enjoys traveling, singing on the praise team at her church, and doing crafts. She and her daughters recently discovered the joy of quilting and have made eight quilts since December.
Mrs. Quyên VanHouten has a rich history with IHM, being a parishioner since 1996! She is an alumna, having graduated in 2003. She and her husband were married at IHM in 2015 and had their daughter, Esther, baptized in 2016.
Accredited in Gordon Music Learning Theory and having been trained in various methodologies including instrumental music, Quyên has taught in the public school sector after graduating from Grand Valley State University with her Bachelor of Arts in Vocal Music Education in 2012.
Quyên is thrilled to be in the school that was instrumental to her growth as a Catholic musician and excited to make continue making music with the students!
Ms. Kelly DeVries began teaching at IHM in 2010. For the past seven years, she has been teaching computer class and in 2014, she transitioned to the role of technology coordinator. Ms. DeVries is a Google Certified Educator with a Bachelor of Science degree and a minor in Elementary Education from GVSU. In addition to teaching, Ms. DeVries loves gardening, watching baseball, reading and keeping up with her four-year-old son.
Mrs. Debbie Dymowski attended Michigan State University and received her degree in Elementary Education with minors in English and Spanish. She also has her Masters from Aquinas College, with an endorsement in ESL (English as a Second Language). She is originally from Sao Paulo, Brazil and speaks Portuguese and Spanish fluently. In her free time, Debbie enjoys spending time with her family, traveling and reading.
Mrs. Davis began directing the IHM child care program after school in 2008 and has helped it to grow into the full-time program currently offered. She received her Bachelor’s Degree in Early Childhood Education from Concordia University in Irvine, CA. Her teaching background includes: preschool, preschool and child care, pre-kindergarten, preschool music, Mommy and Me art classes, homeschooling, and now in child care at IHM. She enjoys walking (especially on the beach), bike riding, yoga, reading, crafts, and spending time with her husband and two children.