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Debbie Suhajda

School Administrator

Mrs. Suhajda is happy to be back at Pilgrim in this administrative role. She has 18 years of experience teaching Kindergarten and 7th-8th grade at Pilgrim Lutheran School and was the Director of Special Education and Principal at Rhodes Elementary School for 22 years. She holds a B.A. in Elementary Education with a focus on literacy and a M.A. in Leadership and Administration. She is also a current Pilgrim church member.

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Doris Knuth

School Administrator

Mrs. Knuth has been a part of the Pilgrim community for many years, and is happy to return to the school in this administrative role. She has 20 years of experience teaching Early Childhood and grades 1 & 2 at Pilgrim. She was also an administrator at Concordia University Early Childhood Education Center for 17 years. Mrs. Knuth holds a B.A. in Elementary Education, a M.A. in Early Childhood Education with a concentration in Administration, and a M.Ed. in Curriculum and Instruction with a concentration in Staff Development. She is a proud member of Pilgrim Lutheran Church.

Pastor Pilgrim Lutheran School

Kristian Johnson


Pastor Johnson has been serving Pilgrim Lutheran Church and School since November 2012.

Originally from Minnesota, He graduated from St. Olaf College in Northfield, MN as a Music Major and received his M. Div from the Lutheran School of Theology in Chicago.

Before coming to Pilgrim, he served as a youth minister on the north side of Chicago for five years. He has spent significant time learning and serving among Christians in Tanzania, East Africa and El Salvador, Central America. He served his first call at First Lutheran Church/Iglesia Luterana Mi Salvador in Inglewood, CA. During his six years there, he helped the congregation triple in size and start a ministry in Spanish.

Pastor Johnson’s wife, Anna is also an ordained minister in the ELCA. They are blessed with three children, Hope, Emanuel, and Xavier.

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Heather Sexton

Communications Administrator

The 2021/22 school year marked Heather Sexton’s first year as Pilgrim’s Communications Administrator. As the Communications Administrator, Heather develops communication materials for Pilgrim Lutheran Church and School. She also assists with marketing activities and manages Pilgrim’s social media channels. She studied English and International Studies at Illinois Wesleyan University, and spent many years working in corporate public relations. 

Both of Heather’s sons, Will and Henry, are currently students at Pilgrim. Heather has enjoyed serving as a parent volunteer with both the church and school in various capacities over the years. She has also served as the co-chair of the Marketing Committee and as a member of the Parish Life Committee. Heather also plans the annual PilgrimFest block party. 

In her free time, Heather loves exploring Chicago with her kids, taking photos, trying new restaurants, and being an extremely competitive member of her pub trivia team. 

Earlybird and After School Program Leader Pilgrim Lutheran School

Arlene Calderone

Early Birds and PAS Director

Arlene Calderone leads the Earlybird and After School programs. In this role, she hopes to provide a safe and welcoming environment to Pilgrim students.

Facilities Manager Pilgrim Lutheran School

Dave Emery

Facilities Manager

Dave Emery is happy to serve as Pilgrim’s Facilities Manager. He works behind the scenes to keep Pilgrim operating smoothly. Students often find him opening the door for school in the morning or setting up for events. He is the proud father of his two sons, both graduates of Pilgrim.