Wendy Baldwin - Principal
My name is Wendy Baldwin and I serve as the Village School Principal.
I graduated from Andrews University in 1993 with a Bachelor’s of Science degree in Elementary Education and two minors, Science and Reading. My graduate work was completed in 2004 with a General Masters in Education from Capella University.
I have been involved in several professional activities throughout my 19 years of service in Adventist Education. My experience ranges from small schools to K-10 Junior Academy facilities. I was extended the offer to come to the Village Adventist Elementary School in June of 2010 as the new principal. My family relocated to Berrien Springs in July of 2010 from Charlotte, NC, where I was serving as a full time principal of a K-10 school. Prior to Charlotte, I served as a principal/teacher in the Wisconsin Conference.
I enjoy spending time with kids, working passionately to promote Adventist Education, reading, speaking, spending time with family and friends, fishing, and camping.
It is my greatest desire to see each student we serve at the Village School in heaven someday.
Linda Grzybowski - Administrative Asistant
I graduated from Andrews University with a BS in Elementary Education. I am currently working on my Masters in Special Education and expect to be done in the Spring of 2013. I was in the teaching field for 10 years before becoming a stay at home mom. I began working at Village School as the Administrative Assistant when my daughter started Kindergarten; she is now a freshman in Academy. I also have a son who is a freshman in college.
I have been blessed beyond measure working at Village School the past 10 years. It is very exciting to watch all the children grow physically, mentally, and spiritually. I have a great passion for Adventist education and providing our children with the tools they need to be successful here on earth and in heaven.
Outside of work I enjoy walking, reading, animals; I have two cats Andy and Apolo and spending time with my kids is my number one priority.
Sarah Kurtz - Treasurer
I attended SWMC and have a background in accounting. I have worked as manager of a large styling salon and for a local physician.
I have been married for 21 years to Marty Kurtz and we are blessed with 3 daughters, Katie, Mollie and Emilie. We live in Eau Claire.
After nearly 10 years as a stay-at-home mom, I returned to work full time in the fall of 2010 here at the Village School. I’m very excited to be working here, the dedication of the staff in providing a quality Christian education for our kids is something that I’m very thrilled to be a part of.
I’m also involved with the Home and School committee and look forward to seeing you at the many fun events we have through out the year!
Please stop in my office or call with any questions or concerns you might have.
My hours are generally:
MONDAY - THURSDAY: 7:30 to 3:00 (I help in the drop off line from 7:30-7:50 and I’m in the lunch room from 10:45 to 12:30)
FRIDAY: 7:30-3:00 (out of the office at the same times listed above)
I do step out to the bank from time to time or sometimes leave at 3:15 to make that stop on my way home. If you have a very specific time you plan to stop by, call ahead and I will be sure to be here if I possibly can. I also try to leave any changes in my hours on both my answering machine and on my door
Have a great school year!
Cheryl Finkbeiner - Pre-K & Kindergarten Teacher
I graduated from Grand Canyon University in Phoenix, Arizona with a B.S. degree in Elementary Education. I have taught 2nd grade in Phoenix, Arizona and 3rd grade ESL in Palmdale, California.
I feel privileged to be part of the Village Adventist Elementary School family. This is my 4th school year here at Village although I have taught for 15 plus years. I currently teach in the Kindergarten classroom. It is such a blessing to work in a Christian environment where God’s presence is felt. It is my prayer that each student in my class will grow in their relationship with Jesus and know that they are “precious in His sight.”
My hobbies include spending time with family and friends, walking, reading, and cooking. My family includes my husband Barry and our 6 children – Rodney, Will, Megan, Corey, Chelsea, and Zack. We also have 2 very spoiled and loved cats named Tiger and Callie.
Beth Stevenson - First Grade Teacher
Since studying Spanish in Spain in 1998, I have enjoyed introducing my students to Spanish in first grade. Last year, Lina Gorris and I developed and piloted a semester long Spanish curriculum in first grade. I'm not sure whether the kids had more fun with it or I did! I'm thrilled that this has led to a formal Spanish program for the lower grades with a Spanish teacher. I continue to provide extra Spanish instruction and practice to first graders so that they establish a strong vocabulary and pronunciation skills to boost their fluency.
God has planted in me a passion for health ministry which led me to write a hands-on nutrition curriculum for elementary schools. Doors have opened for me to train teachers and church health ministry leaders from across the U.S. and around the world over the past 5 years. Information is power and that is seen clearly every time a child learns to make informed choices about eating for optimal health.
I enjoy travel and cultures more than almost anything else. My husband and I love to use scuba diving to explore the hidden world beneath the waves. We also have a passion for missions and often participate in church and orphanage building projects. Our hearts are forever intertwined with the children of Hope Village in Tanzania which we helped build and which has become a sister school, of sorts, for Village School as we've raised money to build the dorms and supply food, clothing and care. We are currently working to furnish them with basic school equipment so that children who have never before held a pencil, can someday soon write their stories as well.
Each morning I look forward to greeting the line of smiling faces outside the classroom door. It is an immense privilege and responsibility to spend my days with precious hearts and minds that Jesus died for and will soon return to claim as his own. As partners for eternity, I am blessed to work with parents on behalf of their children. When your play is your work, you are truly blessed. And so it is that I consider myself ultimately blessed!
Wendy Wineland-Pherson - Second Grade Teacher
It is a privilege for me to introduce myself as the second grade teacher at the Village Adventist Elementary School! I have been an educator for 22 years. I am a Michigan girl through and through as I was born and raised in the beautiful lake town of Grand Haven, Michigan. This is the area I still claim as "home" and dream about returning to someday!
Prior to the 13 years I’ve enjoyed teaching second grade here at the Village school, I spent 9 years teaching k, 3rd, and 4th grades for the Edwardsburg Public Schools. My passion is kids, which is the reason I am a teacher! In my classroom my greatest desire is for students to know without a doubt that I love them, but more importantly that Jesus loves them. I want my classroom to be a place where students feel good about being and learning. A place where learning goes beyond just the academics to encompass spiritual, emotional, physical, and social.
My educational background includes attending the Grand Haven SDA elementary, Cedar Lake Academy, and Andrews University where I received my B.S. in Elementary Education with a major in Language Arts. I also hold a Masters Degree in Curriculum and Instruction with an emphasis in Reading from Grand Canyon University.
Along with my passion for my teaching career, I am passionate about my husband Brett and my beautiful daughters Serena and Brenna. My greatest joy comes from spending time with my family. My personal time is spent running/walking with my pup Sasha, reading, learning about computers, being at the beach, and enjoying time with family and friends.
Ann-Marie Reichert - Third Grade Teacher
I was born in Colchester, England. My mum was a teacher and vice-principal at the boarding academy that my sister and I attended. My dad was the youth director for the South England Conference. When I was 14 years old my family moved to Sri Lanka as missionaries. I completed my academy years there at the English Overseas Children's School in the city of Colombo. It was in Sri Lanka that I also gained an invaluable insight into another way of life. I then came to Andrews University where I completed my B.A. in Elementary Education and English.
I began my teaching career in the fifth and sixth grade room at South Bay Jr. Academy in Torrance, California before returning to Berrien Springs to teach third grade at the Village School. Third grade was my home for seven years, at which point I completed my MA in school counseling and became Village School counselor and vice-principal. I held this position for seven years. The Lord then led me back to the third grade classroom where I am beginning my 27th year in education, 25 of which will have been here at the Village School.
I have been married for over 26 years to my husband John, who is the P.E. teacher at Andrews Academy. We have a son, Nic, who is 23, a senior at Andrews University, and pursuing his own career in education – teaching secondary English. My free time is spent traveling, reading, and spending time with my family. We enjoy looking back over our lives to see where the Lord has been at work, blessing our lives as we serve Him.
I love seeing the smile on a child’s face when they master something that they have been struggling with for a long time. Even more exciting is seeing a student’s friendship with Jesus develop and grow. Watching the Holy Spirit at work in my room as the children learn that their friend Jesus loves them, He is leading in their lives, and they can trust Him with everything, is priceless! It is why I walk into my classroom every day.
Pam Curry - Fourth Grade Teacher
I graduated from Andrews University with a Bachelor’s of Science degree, receiving a double major in Elementary Education and Special Education. Later, I completed an M. A. T. from Andrews with an emphasis in Reading.
I am currently teaching 4th grade. My first teaching job was in Majuro, an atoll in the Marshall Islands, where I taught 2nd grade as a member of Adventist Volunteer Service Corps. Before coming to Michigan I taught at Helen Hyatt in Lincoln, Nebraska and prior to that at Hinsdale Academy in Hinsdale, IL. What a privilege it has been to be part of the Village Adventist Elementary School family for twenty-one years now. I certainly have found my niche as I have spent all but one of those years in 4th grade.
What a joy to teach in a school that promotes a personal relationship with Jesus and one in which I can weave Christian principles throughout the curriculum.
Each new school year presents a classroom of unique and diverse learners. My aim is to create a risk-free environment where children feel safe to express their ideas and learn to cooperate with others who have different points of view.
Each year my students reveal to me a new way to look at something. This gives me an opportunity to model my own love of learning and opens my mind and heart to new ideas.
I strive to provide a literature-rich classroom in which students are motivated to read for pleasure and to nurture a life-long love of reading.
My hope is that my students leave my classroom not with just “book knowledge” but also a desire to be more Christ-like.
During my leisure time I enjoy reading, flower gardening, biking, and going on outings with my family and friends. I get great satisfaction from serving on the Board of Directors of the Humane Society of South West Michigan and as a volunteer coach for the local area Special Olympics.
Seana Dent-Krick - Fifth Grade Teacher
I received a Bachelor of Science degree in Elementary Education from Andrews University as well as a Masters degree in Curriculum and Instruction from Loma Linda University.
While this is my third year at Village school, I have previously taught 6th grade in California and in multi-grade classrooms in Michigan and Illinois.
It is my strong desire to encourage each student to collaborate with others and to be lifelong learners who are building a lasting friendship with God.
My husband Edwin and I enjoy the adventures of our three children - Sophia (13) Harrison (11) and Ava (7). Our family has fun with our energetic dog Biscuit, many amazing cats and two ponies. I love to read, ride horses, bake treats to share and to spend time outdoors experiencing the beauty of God's design in nature..
Jess Swackhamer - Sixth Grade Teacher
My name is Jess Swackhamer, more commonly known around VAES as Mr. Swack, and I am the 6th grade teacher. I am currently in my twelfth year of teaching here at the Village SDA School. I have taught 5th and 6th grades during that time.
I graduated with my BA in History with Elementary teaching certification. I completed a Master's degree in Educational Administration in the spring of 2001. My beautiful wife, Rachelle, and I have been married for just over 13 years, and we have been blessed with two awesome children, Kayleigh (age 9) and Carson (age 7).
I enjoy watching sports on television, playing golf, playing basketball, reading, and going to baseball and football games. Along with a few friends, I am involved in the slow but sure journey of touring all of the Major League Baseball stadiums. Looking forward to a great year here at Village School!
Aaron Koleda - Seventh Grade Teacher
My name is Aaron Koleda, and I teach 7th grade here at VAES. In addition to teaching the 7th graders full time I also teach 8th grade Science and P.E. I am entering my 4th year of teaching, all of them have been here at VAES. I graduated in May of 2009 from Andrews University with a Bachelor of Science degree in Elementary Education.
My wife Lyndsay, who works as a Cosmetologist in Stevensville, and I have been married for 5 years now. We have been blessed with 2 wonderful boys. Kamden, who is almost 2 and Keaton, who is 2 months old now.
I really feel as though God has lead me and my family here to Village School. I love to work with my students every day, teaching them book skills as well as important life skills. I know God has put me in each student’s life during a very important time in their development. I know that He has a plan for me and well as all of the students. Thank you for all of your support and prayers.
Barry Marden - Eighth Grade Teacher
I graduated from Southern College with secondary endorsements in history, physical education and religion. I received my M.A.T. in elementary education from Andrews University. Before coming to Village School, I taught in Grand Rapids and Akron, Ohio.
I enjoy playing golf in my free time. My goal is to shoot consistently in the low 80’s. Unfortunately, that has been my goal for the last decade. My wife, Derise, works in human resources, and we have two daughters.
My prayer is that each student leaving eighth grade has the assurance of salvation, secure in the knowledge that he/she is a child of God. Thank you for your prayers and support.
José Cruz - Music Teacher
After completing my BA in Music Education at Antillean Adventist University in my home country of Puerto Rico in 1995, I pursued a masters degree in music education from Andrews University, which, of course, brought me to Berrien Springs.
Upon completion of an MA degree in 2000, I joined the VAES staff where I teach, classroom music, beginner and advanced band & guitar, strings and choir.
My beautiful wife, Littney, and I have two children, Daniel and Janielly. My hobbies include basketball, volleyball, and frisbee golf. My daily prayer and desire is to be an instrument in the hands of the Master, Jesus Christ.
Samuel Villamizar - Technology Teacher
I graduated from Ivy Tech College (1993) with a AAS in Electronics Technology and from Andrews University (1997) with a BS in Computer Science. While at Andrews I met my beautiful wife Angelica and got married in 1998. We have two very active and curious children, Angelisse and Ilan.
Right after graduation I worked for a telecommunicatons company designing and implementing wide and local area networks, installing digital telephone systems and maintaining their wired and wireless networks and servers. It was a great learning experience that prepared me to serve here at Village Adventist Elementary School.
I started to work for Village School in 2002 and it has been a wonderful experience, just the fact of worshiping together every morning with all the staff makes a huge difference in the outlook of the day ahead. It is a great privilege being able to help not only the students but also the staff to integrate technology into their curriculum and apply it to their every day lives.
Lina Goris - Spanish Teacher
I was born and raised in the island of Puerto Rico. I graduated from the University of Puerto Rico with a B.A. degree in Secondary Education with a major in Biology. I also completed the required coursework to be certified as an elementary school teacher. Later, I graduated from the Inter American University of Puerto Rico with a Master’s degree in Education with a major in Administration and Supervision.
I have worked as a teacher in Puerto Rico, Texas and Indiana. I have taught PK, K and First grade. Last year I had the opportunity to work as a volunteer in different areas at Village Adventist Elementary School. This year I will be teaching Spanish in first, second and third grades; I will also be helping in extended education.
My family and I moved to Michigan in July of 2000. My husband José is a Professor of Management at Andrews University and my son José Isaac is a freshman at Andrews Academy. José Isaac attended VAES from kindergarten until his graduation from 8th grade.
I enjoy being surrounded by children and love to teach them. In my free time I like to ride my bike, walk, do scrapbooking and spend time with my family and friends. I also enjoy going camping and traveling.
Dawn Wales - Reading Resource Teacher
My educational background includes a B.S in elementary education, hearing impaired (k-12) and a minor in speech pathology & audiology from Ball State University. I also have a graduate degree in special education from Western Michigan and 3/4 of my early childhood endorsement completed from Grand Valley State
My career began as an itinerent k-12 hearing impaired teacher in Illinois. After getting married I moved to Berrien Springs and taught in a k-6 special education resource classroom in Dowagiac. I remained in this position until my son was born at which time I began teaching part time in a state-funded program for at-rick preschool students.
After 17 wonderful years as a stay-at-home mom, I have returned part time here at Village school as the Reading Resource Teacher. My passion and desire is for all students to become successful readers and truly enjoy the gift of reading. It is such a joy and delight to see the eyes of a child twinkle because he/she can read and really love it.
I have been married for 24 years to my husband Dana and we have two amazing children, Cody (20) and Kailey (18). What is more important to me? My Family!! My greatest joy and pleasure comes from spending time with my family. I also enjoy walking, reading, helping others, spending time with friends, traveling and above all serving Christ through various forms of mission/outreach projects and trips.
Cheryl Hoover - Food Services Director
I grew up in Ft Wayne, IN, and came to Michigan to attend Andrews University where I met my husband, Mike. We’ve been married now for 36 years. We have two great kids, Aaron & Rachel, both alumnus of VAES. I got my nursing degree from Southwest Michigan College. I worked in St Joseph for a doctor’s office for a number of years.
After having children I came to work at the Village School. I was part of Home and School and a room-mom the whole time my kids were attending here. I have been the Food Service Director for 20+ years and also work as the school nurse and an Extend Ed supervisor. My hobbies include reading, knitting, watching sports, the great outdoors, and animals of all kinds. I’ve loved my time working at VAES. Especially the kids! It’s a very rewarding job. The students always remember the food they got at the Village, especially the bread!!
Diane Bell - Food Services Assistant
It is a pleasure to be part of the VAES Food Service staff and being able to make a difference in the lives of our students by providing them healthy meals every day.
Meleta Hart - Food Services Assistant
It is a pleasure to be part of the VAES Food Service staff and being able to make a difference in the lives of our students by providing them healthy meals every day.
Nancy Schmidt - Extend Ed Director
I’m a Hoosier by birth, but Michigan is my home now for over 30 years. I graduated from Andrews University School of Technology and worked for the Berrien County Courthouse for 20 years. Though my husband David and I both were living in Berrien County, we met at a wedding in central Illinois. David & I have been married for 23 years. When our son, Alex was five, I quit working to home-school. As a family we are passionate about camping, hiking and biking. My hobbies include quilting and knitting, and reading old JMV books.
I spent a couple of school years volunteering in the Kindergarten room. When I needed to return to work, the Lord blessed me with a job as Extend Ed Director, which my friend of 40+ years, Mrs Hoover, got for me. I never knew you could have a job that you love this much! This is my fourth year at VAES. It’s so much fun watching the kids play and grow! They all know me as “Miss Nancy”.
Sarah Disterheft - Extend Ed Supervisor
I’m Sarah Disterheft. I have two boys, both attended Village K-8th. I have worked at the school as an Extend Ed Supervisor for about 9 years now. I love being with the kids, especially the little ones. My husband Danny and I have a farm and sell at markets in Chicago, Spring through Fall. My hobbies include drawing and cooking. I count it a blessing to work at Village.
Jan Steele - Custodial Services Director
My name is Jan Steele and I have been involved with the Village School for many years. I have had four girls graduate from VAES, and currently have 2 granddaughters in school. I became involved with the Home and School Association about 12 years ago, and have been the leader off and on. Right now I co-lead the H&S with Rick and Sharon Moore. We love to plan school events that bring our families together for fun and fellowship.
I also serve the school as their custodian, and have been doing this for about 6 years. Keeping the school clean and looking great is my passion!
My career is also a service related field. I am a Medical Social Worker for Lakeland Homecare and have been serving the community for 20 hears in this capacity.
Bruce Hayward - Pastor
It is a great privilege for me to be a part of the VAES staff by providing its students with insigthful devotionals that get them closer to our Savior and redeemer. I always look forward to Tuesday mornings when I get to share Jesus with the students at VAES.
César Perozo - Pastor
My name is Cesar deJesus Perozo and I am married to an incredible woman named Cara. We have a creative son named Isaac and an amazing daughter named Eden. It is a privilege to be the youth pastor of the Village Church.
I was born and raised in Stoneham, MA. After high school I had the opportunity to manage a nutrition store for 3 years. In 1999, we moved to Texas, during our time there I had the privilege of serving as a student pastor for the Cleburne and Joshua churches for 3 years. In 2003, I received a B.A. degree in Theology from Southwestern Adventist University and was blessed by receiving a call from the Oklahoma Conference to minister in the panhandle. In 2008, we moved to Berrien Springs and I was able to complete the Master of Divinity degree in 2010.
I have a passion for encouraging young people to closely walk with Jesus. God has given me the privilege of sharing the gospel in Brazil, Yap Islands, Mexico, Peru, Ecuador, Dominican Republic and Honduras. At VAES, I enjoy sharing devotions, serving lunches, teaching baptismal classes, leading out in book discussions, and working with 7th & 8th graders in community service.
My hope is that we can encourage each other until Jesus returns.