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Instructor Bios


Frances Akwuole


Frances was introduced to fitness in college where she attended various fitness classes. It was such an important part of her self-care that she wanted to train and teach others to love fitness as well. She received her ACE group fitness instructor certification in November 2019 and has been teaching since. Fun fact, she’s also a medical student and is serving as the class president.

Frances teaches Cardio HIIT & Core.


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.


Pamela Berk


Pamela has been teaching the Nia Technique for 14 years, as a Brown Belt Instructor. She discovered this barefoot movement exercise, after years of running Marathons and playing Tennis.  Her knees needed a rest, and this seemed like the perfect fit.  After retiring from 26 years as a Chicago Public School teacher, she decided it was time to share the joy of Nia!  Currently, she teaches 4 classes per week, in Oak Park and the Western Suburbs. She encourages people of all ages to keep moving through Nia, as it will improve balance, in addition to increasing strength & flexibility.

Pamela teaches Nia.


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.


Ashley Christensen

Ahsley_Christensen_WebAshley took her first yoga class freshman year of college over half her life ago. Since then, she has taken hundreds of classes as a student and attended four yoga retreats around the world. Ashley received her 200-hour yoga teaching certificate at YogaWorks in Costa Mesa, California in 2012, and completed trainings in restorative, yin, and kids’ yoga. Both her teaching and her personal practice focus on gentle, mindful movements. Her classes incorporate restorative elements, as well as grounding and meditation. She also teaches kids’ yoga classes through Girl Scouts and Buddha Belly Kids Yoga.

Ashley teaches Outdoor 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 teaches Tai Chi.


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 and young adults with autism.  At the same time, she loves to spend time with her family, especially traveling and being outdoors.

Nathalie teaches BODYPUMP.

Adrianna Diviero


Adrianna has been passionate about sports and fitness since a very young age, having played basketball most of her life. In college, she began weight lifting and developed a passion for indoor cycling. Now, you can rarely find her skipping a day on the bike. She has recently gotten certified to teach and is excited to share her passion with others. When she isn't doing that, you can find her hiking, finding the best foods, or playing with her dog.

Adrianna teaches Cycle.


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 and Cycle.


Andrea Edwards

Andrea Edwards has been teaching Nia in Oak Park for more than a decade and is a Nia-certified Blue Belt Instructor. Andrea’s practice is rooted in joy and in the belief that a Nia class is at its best when it both energizes the body and calms the mind. She loves music and dance, and believes Nia benefits everybody, regardless of age, fitness level or body type. In addition to teaching Nia, Andrea is the founder and owner of the Oak Park-based floral design studio, Ivy & Birch.

Andrea teaches Nia.

Betsy Grimm


Betsy Grimm loves exploring the deeper mines of life and self. She's been a student of yoga for 23 years and loves bringing it to students of all levels. Moved by the power yoga has to manage mood, she’s been drawn to both Kundalini and Life Force Yoga, which offer potent practices to shift your state. She likes to weave breathwork and skillful energetic practices into her classes. That said, she doesn’t take the practices or herself too seriously. So be prepared for plenty of goofiness and play.

Betsy teaches Vinyasa with Breathwork.


Cindy Johnson


Cindy has been passionate about fitness since she was a kid. She has been a dancer her whole life and dances professionally in Chicago with Cerqua River Dance Theatre. While in university she started teaching Zumba. Outside of dance, she loves yoga, swimming, hiking, and coffee.


Cindy teaches Zumba.



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.


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 Barre, Fit Fun, and Power Vinyasa.

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