Dedicated Professional Staff
Under the leadership of two Co-Executive Directors and a strong executive team that collectively represents over 120 years of experience at the School, the O-School blends key aspects of psychology, education and social work into a seamless milieu that is rooted in learning, relationships and safety.
Because the staff is so vital to the School’s milieu, standards have always been high, and a host of credentialed professionals support the O-School 24 hours a day, including experts in:
- Social Work
- Special Education
- Art Education
- Occupational Therapy
- Wellness and Nutrition
- Physical Education
- Nursing and Pediatrics
- Family Support
- Speech & Language Therapy
Together, the O-School’s highly trained educational and therapeutic team gives students the opportunity to develop a new emotional support structure, healthy relationships and life skills that put them on the path to success.
Diana is Co-Executive Director of the Sonia Shankman Orthogenic School and the Brooke Whitted Center. She shares lead administration responsibilities for both programs. Diana joined the O-School in 1995 as a teacher and served as principal before being named to her current post. Before the O-School, she opened the Therapeutic Day School at Children’s Memorial. Diana also collaborated on a variety of learning disability diagnostic clinics, A.D.D. centers, and programs designed to meet the needs of gifted learners. Early in her career, she gained invaluable experience working as the teacher for the Children’s Unit at Chicago Lakeshore Hospital where she first learned about the concept of milieu. She has since devoted much of her career to ensuring that these core values remain at the center of the work at the O-School. Diana has facilitated meetings and presentations with numerous schools and school districts across the country.
Diana is a strong advocate on behalf of students and young adults with exceptional need. Diana is active on a variety of local, state and national legislative forums and often is called upon to join research and recommendation commissions that serve to advise on special education across the state.
Diana holds a doctorate in education, a post-graduate degree in educational leadership, a graduate degree in curriculum and instruction, and an undergraduate degree in elementary education from National Louis University. She maintains Professional Educator Licenses in general administration, special education, secondary education and elementary education.
Pete is Co-Executive Director of the Sonia Shankman Orthogenic School and the Brooke Whitted Center, sharing lead administration responsibilities for both facilities.
Pete has spent most of his professional career at the O-School and has broad experience in a variety of diverse therapeutic environments. He began with counselor positions at the O-School, which led to him being named Assistant Director for Residential Services. He was appointed to his current post in 2008.
During his clinical training, Pete worked at a large intermediate care facility for chronically mentally ill adults, at Cook County Jail as a therapist, and at a large state operated facility in New York City that cared for 2,000 mentally ill adults. Additionally, he worked in a private psychological testing services office as a psychometrician; a local hospital emergency room as the crisis intervention specialist; and an outpatient clinic as a therapist and early childhood intervention specialist. Pete currently teaches at the School of Social Service Administration at the University of Chicago as a lecturer. He also serves as an Advisory Board Member for the Association of Children’s Residential Centers and is a Peer Reviewer for the Council on Accreditation.
Pete’s education and training is in clinical psychology. He holds a bachelor’s and earned his master’s at the University of Chicago, while working at the O-School. He earned his doctorate from the Illinois School of Professional Psychology.
Jerry began working at the Orthogenic School in 1983 as the teacher of a self-contained classroom. He has been a member of the administrative staff since 1983.
Jerry received a Bachelor of Science degree in education (with a comprehensive major in English) from Illinois State University. He received a Master of Arts degree in English Literature from the University of Illinois at Chicago. Jerry was certified in Special Education (with endorsements in Social Emotional Disorders and Learning Disabilities) through a program at National Louis University. He also received his certification in Educational Administration through National Louis University.
Prior to coming to the O-School, Jerry taught for five years in the public schools and for seven years at the Illinois State Psychiatric Institute. This year marks the beginning of his forty-fifth year of service in the field of education.
Jerry has found through the years that no two students are the same and that the creation of an educational plan for each student requires empathy and a willingness on the part of staff members to tailor their approach to meet each student’s social-emotional and cognitive needs.
Michelle started working at the Orthogenic School in 1997 as the Fine Arts teacher. In January of 2011, she took on the role of Academic Coordinator. Michelle holds a Master of Science in Education in Supervision and Administration from Bank Street College in New York City, as well as a Bachelors of Science in both Studio Art and Art History from Ithaca College. She received her teaching certification in Art Education in 1996 from Bank Street College and Parsons School of Design. Michelle works at the O-School because she believes passionately in the School’s mission and its ability to provide children with the education and care needed to help them through the challenges that they are facing. Each year spent at the O-School only reinforces her belief in the potential of its students and the impact the school can have on their lives.
Associate Director Residential Programs
Michelle is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker and has been the Associate Director of the Residential Program at the Orthogenic School since 2009. In this role, she provides clinical leadership and oversight of the residential program and directly supervises the Dorm Managers and Crisis Intervention Team.
Michelle began her clinical training at the O-School in 1995 when she started working as a dormitory counselor. After a few years, she transitioned to work in the classroom as a teaching assistant in the elementary classrooms. In addition to her work at the O-School, Michelle has worked extensively as a family therapist and a state wide consultant and assessor for young children in the child welfare system.
Michelle’s education and training is in clinical social work. She holds a Bachelors degree in International Relations from Carleton College and a Masters degree in social work from Loyola University of Chicago, School of Social Work. Michelle has recently completed a two year clinical certificate in Advanced Clinical Supervision and Consultation from the Smith School of Social Work in Northampton, MA.
Director of Admissions
Kristin Friesen joined the Orthogenic School staff in 2005 and is currently the Director of Admissions. She earned an undergraduate degree in social work from Goshen College followed by a master’s degree (MSW) in social work from the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill. She also holds a Clinical Social Work License (LCSW) in the state of Illinois. Kristin comes to the O-School with a strong background in community practice. Her experience includes living and working in an orphanage for abandoned children in Costa Rica, working with a community crisis intervention program in Chapel Hill, N.C., directing a micro-enterprise business for homeless and low-income women in Raleigh, N.C., and directing an urban service and education program for youth in Chicago. Kristin enjoys working at the O-School because of the family atmosphere and the unique partnership between the students, parents and staff.
Business Development and Admissions Marketing Associate
Norm Ostrum has been with the Orthogenic School for three years. Prior to the O-School, he spent 29 years at Starr Commonwealth School in Michigan, a private nonprofit organization. There, Norm worked in the Residential Program with court adjudicated youth. He also developed and implemented the Treatment Foster Care Program and the Supervised Independent Living Program. His final position at Starr Commonwealth was as Director of Admissions for the private pay programs, Montcalm School, and their Young Adult Program, which Norm was instrumental in developing and implementing.
Norm is very appreciative of the work our program staff does with our students. Our students feel safe and able to express themselves because of the strong relationships they develop with the program staff. Norm earned his undergraduate degree from Michigan State University and received his Masters degree in Educational Administration from Central Michigan University.
Director of Development
Tim Hammerly joined the O-School in February of 2016 to assist with the school’s communication, fundraising and outreach strategies. Previously, Tim served as the Director of Individual and Foundation Giving at The Global Foodbanking Network, the North American Major Gifts Officer for Bethlehem University in the Holy Land, and as the Director of the Give Hope Campaign for the Chicago Kroc Center. Tim brings fifteen years of experience within the non-profit sector as a direct program provider, administrator and fundraiser. Tim is originally from Peoria, Illinois. He graduated from Bradley University with degrees in Business Management and Economics. Tim is excited to be part of such a caring and committed community, and he looks forward to working with the O-School’s supporters to grow and develop the school’s education and therapeutic programs.