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Instructor Bios

Instructor Bios

At the Park District, we pride ourselves on providing our residents with high-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.

Sara Barrick 

Sara Barrick is a WERQ instructor.  She is born and raised in Oak Park and has been teaching WERQ in Oak Park since 2013. She is certified in both group fitness and in WERQ and has been teaching WERQ at the Park District of Oak Park since 2016.  She grew up dancing and loves fitness so WERQ is a perfect blend of both these things.  She loves teaching WERQ as well as taking WERQ and if you love taking WERQ please come WERQ with her!  

Sara teaches Werq Dance Fitness

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 teaches Posture Alive. Register here

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 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 teaches BodyPump, Cycle, Dynamic Stretching & Foam Rolling, and Core & Foam Rolling

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 teaches Basic Fitness and Strong & Long.


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 teaches BodyPump, Cardio HIIT & Core, and Fit Mom. 

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 teaches Body Sculpt and Fit Fun for Everyone

Noele Sutherland

Noele has been a practitioner of yoga for over a quarter century. She has practiced many styles of yoga from the Bikram and Ashtanga to Hatha and Power Flow. Noele was certified as an instructor in 2011 in Colorado with Core Power Yoga. She has and continues to add certifications to her credentials. Her latest certification was with Om Shanti Yoga and Wellness School in Belize Central America. She has been working as a Yoga Alliance certified instructor full time both in San Pedro Belize and Oak Park Illinois. She founded Go-Yoga in Belize and has been expanding the collective of yoga instructors across Central America, US and Canada.

Noele teaches Gentle Yoga, Power Vinyasa, and Barre

Nathalie Deutsch 

Nathalie has enjoyed being active by playing sports, such as softball, at an early age. However, while in high school, she despised running with a passion. Now she frequently runs in many races and fun runs in the Chicago-area as well as running around Oak Park in her neighborhood.   She began taking TRX classes as her first group exercise format at GRC and loved it!  She then found herself in a Les Mills BODYPUMP™ class in July 2014 and overcame her fears and decided to make the jump to become certified.  She has been a certified Les Mills BODYPUMP™ Instructor since May 2016 and continues to learn and grow while sharing her love and passion for this workout format.  When she is not teaching classes, Nathalie works full-time as a Board Certified Behavior Analyst developing in-home ABA programs for children with autism.  At the same time, she loves to spend time with her family and watch her daughter dance in recitals and performances for ballet, but has yet to become a full on Dance Mom.  

Nathalie teaches BodyPump



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