Staff

  • Administration and staff

    • Chris Comella
      Principal

      Chris Comella

      Principal

      Chris Comella has served as Principal of Pilgrim Lutheran School since July 2013.  Mr. Comella has over 35 years of experience in professional education, both in the classroom and in administration.  Mr. Comella started his teaching career in private faith-based schools in Chicago in 1982; in 1999, he became an assistant principal and later a principal in Zion, Illinois, a small urban school district in Lake County.  Mr. Comella has a bachelor’s degree from Wabash College in English and Classical Greek and a master’s degree from Northeastern Illinois University in educational administration.  Mr. Comella has also studied at Concordia University Chicago, DePaul University, the University of Aberdeen (U.K.) and the Goethe Institut (Berlin).  Mr. Comella is an alumnus of the Fulbright Teacher Exchange Program, having taught English in Wilhelm-Hoffmann-Gymnasium in St. Goarshausen (Germany) during the 1997-98 school year.  Currently, Mr. Comella serves on the Board of the Evangelical Lutheran Education Association (ELEA).

    • Meagan Mesirow
      Social Worker

      Meagan Mesirow

      Social Worker

      Ms. Mesirow spends her days meeting with students, teachers, and parents as another support service and spending time in the classrooms and places where the students at Pilgrim are social. Students might see her at lunch, recess, resource periods, and in their classrooms. Right now, she is working on meeting everyone and helping students and parents get organized and ready for the school year. She feels lucky to have found a job at such a welcoming place!

      Ms. Mesirow began working with kids at a summer camp in Minnesota. She was a director there for multiple years and fell into a social work type of role helping kids, parents, and counselors through social and emotional issues. The elementary years are such an important age for learning how to make friends and navigate social situations. It is also important for kids at this age to start learning about emotional identification and self-care. She wanted to translate her work at camp into a school setting so she decided to become a school social worker!

    • Ashley Waxman
      Title 1 Academic Coach

      Ashley Waxman

      Title 1 Academic Coach

      My name is Ashley Waxman and I am the Title 1 Academic Coach this year! I am originally from Cleveland, Ohio and recently graduated from DePaul University with a Master’s Degree in Education, specializing in School Counseling. I am excited and honored to be joining this outstanding team of educators and staff. I am really looking forward to helping the student(s) succeed to meet their own personal goals for this school year and beyond.

    • Dave Emery
      Facilities manager

      Dave Emery

      Facilities manager

      Dave Emery is our facilities manager and you might find him opening the door for school in the morning, or you might see him at lunch hour, or setting up for events at school.  He works behind the scenes to keep Pilgrim church and school operating smoothly.  Both of his 2 sons are Pilgrim graduates.

    • Kristian Johnson
      Pastor

      Kristian Johnson

      Pastor

      My family and I love it here at Pilgrim! I’ve been blessed to serve as Pastor here since November of 2012. Originally from Minnesota, I graduated from St. Olaf College in Northfield, MN as a Music Major and received my M. Div from the Lutheran School of Theology in Chicago. Before coming to Pilgrim, I served as a youth minister on the north side of Chicago for five years, and have spent significant time learning and serving among Christians in Tanzania, East Africa and El Salvador, Central America. I served my first call as Pastor of First Lutheran Church/Iglesia Luterana Mi Salvador in Inglewood (Los Angeles) CA for six years, and helped the congregation triple in size and start a ministry in Spanish.

      I am blessed with an amazing family! My wife is also an ordained Pastor in the ELCA named Pastor Anna-Kari Langseth-Johnson. We are blessed with three kids: my daughter Hope, son Emanuel, and son Xavier.

    • Halley Williams
      Office manager

      Halley Williams

      Office manager

      “I love that my children are cared for by the staff and that they love going to school, “ says Halley Williams. She first came to the Pilgrim community when her son attended kindergarten. In 2015, she transitioned to be an integral part of the administrative team at Pilgrim.  She works half-time in the school office as communication and office manager.

      Halley received a B.A. in Criminal Justice from the University of Miami and a Master of Social Work from Loyola University Chicago. As a Licensed Clinical Social Worker, she worked in community mental health in the Lakeview neighborhood for over 20 years.

      Two years ago, Halley led the accreditation team, which is a massive study every 7 years that Pilgrim Lutheran School uses to re-examine and reevaluate our teaching practices and helps us set long range goals for the School.

      When not in the office, Halley enjoys exercising and spending time with family and friends.

    • Crystal Boice, Jessica Santana
      Lunch

      Crystal Boice, Jessica Santana

      Lunch

      Crystal Boice and Jessica Santana are the lunch helpers.

      Crystal Boice‘s culinary career has taken her on a journey from the East Coast to the Midwest. After graduating from the Pennsylvania Culinary Institute, Mrs. Wendell worked in the kitchens of The Homestead Resort in Hot Springs, Virginia – which has hosted 22 United States presidents since the 18th century.  Upon arriving in Chicago, she whipped up delicious dishes at Hot Chocolate Restaurant and Dessert Bar and The Signature Room at the 95th floor of the John Hancock Center.  Joking that her ultimate culinary challenge is cooking for her family, Mrs. Wendell is skilled at creating gluten-free and dairy-free meals for loved ones. Her husband also claims that her “best carrot cake ever” helped to spark a marriage proposal. Mrs. Boice is thankful for God’s providence in guiding her to Pilgrim, where she helps to manage the lunch program.

      “Anything is possible, when you create foods made out of love for the ones you love,” says Jessica Santana. At home, this philosophy guides her to transform “regular” dessert recipes for her two food-allergic sons – and she brings that same creativity and caring to her role as lunchroom assistant at Pilgrim. A Chicago native, Mrs. Santana studied nutrition at Wilbur Wright College, and is a graduate of Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts – specializing in French Patisserie. In addition to her love for food, Mrs. Santana’s interests include fashion, health and fitness.  Her sons, Max and Lucius, both attend Pilgrim.

    • Renee Stuedemann
      Church administrator

      Renee Stuedemann

      Church administrator

      You’ve probably seen Renee Stuedemann’s friendly face if you’ve visited the Pilgrim Lutheran School office, although she actually works part-time developing weekly bulletins, announcements and other materials for the church. 

      After graduating from Iowa State University with a bachelor’s degree in education, Mrs. Stuedemann attended the Harrington Institute of Interior Design.  She subsequently enjoyed a lengthy and fulfilling career in corporate interior design and project management.  

      Mrs. Stuedemann is enjoying the change of pace that her administrative role at Pilgrim brings.  She embodies the Pilgrim philosophy of faith development by volunteering on various church committees, hosting a women’s bible study in her home and taking part in the church’s annual El Salvador mission trip to feed the hungry, build homes and churches and deliver medical supplies.

    • Sandra Gorney
      Tutor

      Sandra Gorney

      Tutor

      Sandra Gorney works as teacher with Catapult Learning, the vendor approved by Chicago Public Schools to work with Pilgrim to provide Title I funded tutoring services. Ms. Gorney has been a professional tutor for almost 10 years and has served at several different schools.  During the past few years Ms. Gorney had taught at Bethesda International Academy and has run an after-school program for another school.  All schools where Sandra has served have enjoyed having her part of the staff.