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Instructor Bios

Instructor Bios

At the Park District, we pride ourselves on providing our residents with quality programs taught by competent and enthusiastic instructors, many of whom are Oak Parkers themselves! Click on a name to learn more about that instructor.

Mary Susan Chen

Since 1998 Mary Susan has been dedicated to educating and enlivening people through non-traditional movement practices. She is a licensed Physical Therapist (1985) and certified Feldenkrais teacher (2000), and sees her work for the Park District as providing a bridge between traditional health care and exercise and an individual’s personal growth. Studying body-based learning methods has been an evolution for Mary Susan, and she continues to grow along with her students. She has also studied and taught Tai Chi, meditation, and QiGong. A lifelong learner herself, Mary Susan Chen is committed to helping people live healthier lives by experiencing themselves as whole living beings.

Mary Susan Chen teaches Posture Alive. Register here

Tiffany Courtois 

Tiffany tried yoga on a whim, and wasn't quite sure during that first class that she actually liked it. She felt great afterward, though, so she went back and was soon practicing regularly. Her practice shifted her perceptions of herself and her purpose and, in 2007, she said goodbye to her corporate job to enroll in teacher training. As both a student and teacher, Tiffany has been captivated by yoga's power to affect positive change in body, mind and spirit. She's pursued hundreds of hours of training in the therapeutic application of yoga. In group or private settings, Tiffany creates a safe, nurturing environment for exploration and discovery, weaving therapeutic principles into whatever she's teaching to improve her students' self-awareness and maximize their functionality and well-being. 

Tiffany currently teaches Candlelight Yoga and Winedown Yoga.

Beatrice DeFranco

Beatrice has been on the path of Tai Chi and QiGong since 1992 when she was rehabilitating after a serious spinal injury. In 1998 she went on to teach these techniques to others. She has studied with several Tai Chi masters such as Ida and Wilson Lawrence, Ken Cohen, Waysun Liao, Frank & Luke Chan, Yang Jwing Ming and others specializing in breathing and energy techniques as vehicles of transformation and health.

In 2004, she received certification as a Medicinal Herbalist from the Chicago College of Healing Arts. In 2009 she became a Diplomate of Asian Bodywork/ Structural Therapy and is certified by the NCCAOM. As a QiGong therapist, Tai Chi, and yoga instructor she has established a variety of user-friendly classes throughout the western suburbs.

Merging the energy body with the physical has been a motivating force in further development of therapeutic movement classes which address a variety of populations. She enjoys working with all levels of interested students. The Park District of Oak Park has been very supportive in bringing these novel classes to the community.

Beatrice currently teaches Tai Chi and QiGong classes. Register here

Grace Doi

gracebio.jpgGrace Doi began her journey into fitness almost 10 years ago, when she moved to the Northern California area from Chicago.  Although the weather was nicer, nothing in her area compared to running along the lakefront.  In order to keep her adrenaline going and heart rate up, she became addicted to group cycle classes.  After a few months of attending every class she possibly could, an instructor approached her to see if she wanted to become an group fitness instructor and the rest, they say, is history.  Knowing that there is more to a workout than cardio, her pursuit for a more balanced fitness program led her to Les Mills BODYPUMP in 2010.  She loves Les Mills' focus on proper technique, motivation through music, and a workout experience that is truly addictive!  She recently moved back to the Midwest and is excited to continue her group fitness journey in this new setting.

Grace currently teaches BodyPump and Spin.

Andrea Edwards

Andrea has been practicing Nia since 2004 and has been a certified instructor since 2009. She has a background in Iyengar yoga and dance, but came to Nia after the birth of her first son. She was captivated by Nia’s unique fusion of dance arts, healing arts, and martial arts.

“In my first Nia class, I was fascinated by the combination of dynamic kicks and punches with fluid, graceful motion. I felt completely immersed in the class, detached from stress, all while getting a powerful, but fun, workout,” she recalls. Five years later, she received her first belt in Nia. Her students have said Nia class makes them feel both energized and calm, has improved their body image, and is the only aerobic workout that makes them smile. “Each Nia class brings out that same joy in me - and I love sharing that joy with others” she says. She lives in Oak Park with her husband and two sons.

Andrea currently teaches Nia.

Teresa Heit-Murray

Teresa began practicing yoga in 1999 with Rosalia Holt, who was in her late 70's at the time. Teresa is a Registered Yoga Teacher having completed her 200 hour Pure Yoga training in 2010. She has been taking yoga classes for over 12 years in Chicago and Oak Park. Teresa teaches Restorative, Intro to Yoga, Yang, Yin, Hatha and Vinyasa Flow styles of yoga. Her classes focus on a body/mind awareness in a way that helps individual students find what works for their unique anatomy.

She also has special training in healthy back solutions with Gabriel Halpern and Elise Miller (scoliosis specialist) as well as Yin Yoga from Paul and Susan Grilley. Teresa teaches in a way that helps individual students find what works for their unique anatomy, in order to achieve the health benefits of each pose. Teresa has found that if practiced regularly, yoga can help with posture, skeletal alignment, muscular strength, pain reduction, and joint mobility.

Teresa's classes focus on core strength, posture, balance, lengthening of muscles and tissue. Teresa is a dancer and designer who brings much creativity to her sequences and a desire to be a good guide for exploring new poses in her classes. Teresa's goal as a teacher is to help yoga students of all ages and conditions experience the many health benefits of yoga... and to have fun doing it.

Teresa currently teaches Beginning/Continuing Yoga.

Savannah Hill

savbio.jpgSavannah was born and raised in Michigan, and upon graduating from Western Michigan University, she moved Oak Park. In that time, she became a Fitness Instructor at Midtown Athletic Club Oak Park and instantly fell in love with the community. Savannah now works full-time as a Fitness Director for Midtown Health, where she specializes in Dance Fitness, KettleWorx, Kettlebell training, Boot Camp, and Functional Fitness. Savannah plays in the co-ed Oak Park softball league with the Kinderhook Hybrids, and can be frequently seen walking around on Lake Street enjoying all Oak Park has to offer!

Savannah currently teaches KettleWorX, Cardio HIIT and Cycle.

Mara Leonard

Mara has been a fitness instructor at the Park District for the past five years and is certified through AFAA.

Mara is a professional musician and teacher in the western suburbs. She has performed with numerous symphonies and with chamber ensembles. Her interest in fitness came two-fold: musicians lead sedentary lives, and she was searching for a way to keep fit. The Park District classes were a wonderful opportunity to get fit. She also had a strong dance background when younger, and the cardio fitness classes helped her regain the strength needed to continue to dance. Now she enjoys instructing others in ways to keep active and build strength in group classes.

Mara currently teaches Basic Fitness and Strong & Long.

M.E. Kennedy

mekennedyM.E. began teaching Les Mills BODYPUMP™ in January 2015. Already an employee in the Park District’s Recreation Department, she became a regular participant in BODYPUMP shortly after the program was introduced at the Grand Opening of the new Ridgeland Common Recreation Complex in June 2014. M.E. was quickly inspired to teach, and started her certification process that December. Though she is new to group fitness instruction, her background in dance and experience as a professional vocalist equip her to lead this intense, choreographed workout with poise and precision.

M.E. currently teaches Body Pump.

Anja Munch

Anja Munch, a German native, has been teaching Fitness classes since 1996. Having been augments and fitness enthusiast all her life she had to learn it the hard way how to slow down.
After winning the fight against cancer twice, once while pregnant with her second child, she decided to share her passion to help people stay fit even with physical limitations. She is an advanced Stott Pilates trained teacher for Mat and Reformer.
Her classes are challenging, but accessible for everybody and she enjoys the camaraderie that’s being built between her class participants during some powerful workouts.
She now holds certifications in Aqua Aerobics, NIA blue belt, YOGA 200RYT, Yoga sculpt, TRX, Spin, Barre, Zenga and Reiki.
She lives in Oak Park with her 4 children.
Anja currently teaches TRX.

Rebecca Qualiato

Rebecca began her wellness journey in 2010 when she decided to start running and trained for various Chicago-area races as a way to relieve stress and enjoy nature while keeping up her competitive spirit. At the same time, she also began creating healthy meals as a way to feel energized and have control over her nutrition. It wasn’t until she moved to Oak Park and began taking Park District of Oak Park fitness classes in early 2014 that she found her love for group exercise. She was an early adopter of the Les Mills BODYPUMP™ format at PDOP, and quickly found herself wanting to share her passion with others! Rebecca is currently certified as an AFAA Group Exercise Instructor and Les Mills BODYPUMP™ Instructor. She is taking classes in fitness, nutrition and wellness to further her enthusiasm for well living, with a goal of becoming a coach. Rebecca is a graduate of the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater and works full-time as a marketing Account Manager.
Rebecca currently teaches BodyPump and Core. 

Al Tischina 

Al has been teaching fitness for the past 30 years. Al has taught at the YMCA of Oak Park, the Wright College Fitness Center and the Westlake Hospital Fitness Center. He joined the Park District family back in 2003 and has enjoyed motivating participants to achieve their fitness goals. Al is a certified group instructor as well as a personal trainer. Some of his classes at the Park District have included High Impact & Low Impact Aerobics, Plyometrics, Step Aerobics (Single, Double & Triple), Box Aerobics and Tae-Bo, Body Sculpting, Pilates, Stretching, Abdominal Precision and more. Al is also certified to teach ZUMBA, ZUMBA GOLD, and ZUMBA for wheelchair-bound persons. Al has a special interest in facial aerobics for "keeping your face," and is also interested in home-made facial remedies. He is currently pursuing certification in sports nutrition as well. "My goal in life is to encourage every member to make fitness a part of their life and infuse a positive approach as to how they view life no matter what age they find themselves."

Al currently teaches Body Sculpt and Fit Fun for Everyone



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