• Administration and staff

    • Katie Cahnmann
      Title I Academic Coach

      Katie Cahnmann

      Title I Academic Coach

      Katie Cahnmann is committed to helping children reach their maximum academic potentials. Through her work with Catapult Learning, Mrs. Cahnmann coaches Title I students at four schools – including Pilgrim – to improve their executive functioning skills.  These skills, which range from organization and time management to learning strategies and test preparation, translate to greater success in the classroom.

      For more than a decade, Mrs. Cahnmann has been providing social and emotional assistance to Chicago students. She served as Director of Social Support at ACE Technical Charter High School for eight years, during which time she also organized most school-wide events and managed both the student council and cooking club.  Additionally, Mrs. Cahnmann counseled students at Carter G Woodson Elementary, and provided special education instruction in English language arts and math to LEARN Excel Elementary School students in kindergarten through second grade.

      A true “Jane of All Trades,” Mrs. Cahnmann also tutors, manages websites, conducts email marketing, hosts trivia contests and serves as a caretaker – primarily for pets. In addition, she recently completed training to become a Sandy Hook Promise Leader to help educate about and reduce gun violence in schools.

      Despite her many professional pursuits, Mrs. Cahnmann makes it a priority to travel and spend time with her family and friends.

    • Chris Comella

      Chris Comella


      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).

    • 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

      Kristian Johnson


      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.

    • Valerie Carlson, Jessica Santana, Crystal Boice

      Valerie Carlson, Jessica Santana, Crystal Boice


      Valerie Carlson, Jessica Santana and Crystal Boice are the lunch helpers.

      Lunch is often the busiest time of Valerie Carlson’s day. During the noon hour, Ms. Carlson helps to make sure Pilgrim students eat nutritious meals that will fuel them through a busy afternoon of learning and play.  “I love being around the kids and hearing the silly things they say!” she says.  Born and raised in Chicago, Mrs. Carlson has an entrepreneurial spirit.  She has owned Valerie’s Pet Service for nearly 30 years, and also is an owner of Kangaroo Kids, an upscale children’s consignment boutique in the North Center neighborhood.  Mrs. Carlson’s daughter is an eighth grade student at Pilgrim.  


      “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.


      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 lunchroom and feed students every Thursday and Friday.


    • 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

      Sandra Gorney


      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.