Weekly Teacher Spotlight

We are so thankful for the Faith-based environment at LMC that allows our Lakers to excel in their academic achievements, athletic accomplishments, and community service. LMC attributes our students’ success to our dedicated parents and Lake Michigan Catholic teachers. Not only are LMC teachers committed and well prepared, our Laker students understand they are cared for by our teachers who nurture and foster them. Our teachers make a huge impact on our school; it is time to turn the spotlight on them in our weekly eNewsletter (see Publications). Below is a list of the teachers we’ve celebrated so far this year.


Mr. Joe Schmidt – English 10, 11, 12 & Journalism

Joe Schmidt is a Central Michigan University graduate, holding a Bachelor Degree in English and Business Education. He completed his Master’s Degree in Educational Leadership from Western Michigan University. After a brief stint in Florida, Mr. Schmidt brought his teaching skills back to Michigan. From 2008-2012, he taught English in Battle Creek, where he was recognized as a “Top Ten Middle School Teacher” for student growth throughout all National Heritage Academies.

In 2012, Lake Michigan Catholic was blessed to call him one of their own. Starting with Middle School English, Mr. Schmidt transitioned to the High School English and Journalism programs in 2014. He was awarded “Teacher of the Year” in 2014 for the Middle School, 2016 in the High School, and won the Cardinal Newman Award in 2017.

In addition to his teaching duties, Mr. Schmidt has served as the 8th-grade Volleyball Coach, and since 2013 has coached the Boys Varsity Soccer team. He says his greatest coaching memory is “defeating Lakeshore 4-3 in 2013.” Besides soccer, basketball is his favorite sport. March Madness has been declared an official holiday season in the Schmidt household, which includes his wife, Abby, son James (3), and daughter Ayla (1).

Here are some fun facts you might not know about Mr. Schmidt: he feels Star Wars is the “greatest movie franchise of all time”, and wanted to own and manage a movie theatre when he was in high school.  Christmas music is not just for Christmas and can be heard in his classroom or home any time of the year. Mr. Schmidt comes from a family of educators. His father was a principal, and he has both a brother and sister who are teachers.

“I truly love coming to work every day (the “I Love My Job” mug is not a joke). The students at LMC have always made it enjoyable for me to be a teacher because of their desire to learn and apply new skills. They are driven to succeed in whatever they set out to accomplish. Having the opportunity to work with them in the English or Journalism classroom, or on the soccer field has given me the opportunity to see students grow and achieve. Working with the students of LMC has also allowed me the opportunity to grow in my own personal Faith and come to a better understanding of my own relationship with God.”


11/10/17 – Mrs. Lorie Loebach, Preschool

Lorie Loebach is one of our fantastic Little Laker Preschool teachers. She holds a Masters Degree in Human Services Counseling from National Louis University, a Bachelor Degree in Deaf Rehabilitation Counseling from Northern Illinois University, an Associates degree in Early education from Ancilla College, and an Interpreters Degree from Waubonsee College. Mrs. Loebach has been working in education for almost 25 years. Positions such as teacher, counselor, interpreter, and Special Education support staff have all taught her valuable life lessons. In Illinois, she and her husband developed a sports camp for children who are deaf. Mrs. Loebach has taught sign language classes for over 14 years and remains actively involved with many deaf organizations.

Mr. and Mrs. Loebach have two daughters and two sons. “I enjoy teaching at LMC because of the loving support you get from LMC families and the caring for each student’s success.” In addition to teaching and gardening, Mrs. Loebach loves to design and build things, and LMC loves Mrs. Loebach.


11/3/17 – Mrs. Bethany Ergican, MS Spanish

Bethany Ergican teaches Middle School Spanish and says she loves teaching at LMC for many reasons, but mostly for “the wonderful students, teachers, administrators, and families that make it the best school. The community at LMC is very supportive of one another and close-knit. It truly feels like a family and I am so grateful every day to teach here!”
Mrs. Ergican received Bachelor degrees in Spanish and International Affairs, with a specialization in Latin America from the University of Nevada Reno.  Her teaching credentials were obtained from California State University of Long Beach.
New to St. Joseph in 2015, Mrs. Ergican grew up in Northern Nevada and traveled extensively during her college years.  She spent a semester at the University of Hawaii-Manoa, two semesters in Costa Rica and a winter break in Prague, Czech Republic.
Mrs. Ergican lives with her husband, daughter Selin, and hairless cat, Sonrisa. The whole family has been busy settling into their very first house, purchased this fall. “My daughter will be two in December, and as a Spanish teacher, it is very interesting to watch her language development.”


10/27/17 – Mr. David Cleveland, MS & HS Physical Education

David Cleveland or as many of his students lovingly refer to him, Mr. Gym, has been teaching at Lake Michigan Catholic Schools for over ten years.  He teaches Physical Education to both the Middle and High School students. Mr. Cleveland holds a BS in Physical Education with a minor in Health from Western Michigan University and a Bachelor’s degree in Criminal Justice from Ferris State University.  In addition, his Graduate studies are in Adaptive Physical Education from WMU.

“I love teaching at LMC because the school is like a family.  The high academic standards of the students, the schools, and the parents have helped prepare the students for college and to become positive productive members of the community.”

One fun fact about Mr. Cleveland that you may not know is that he has been a Driver’s Ed instructor for 15 years in the Niles/Buchanan area.


10/20/17 – Mrs. Nina Binger, 4th Grade

Nina Binger is a beloved 4th-grade teacher at LMC.  The Lakers have been blessed to have her as a teacher for over 30 years, and as the Science Olympiad coach for 29 years. She holds a Masters degree in Education and Reading. Mrs. Binger has worked on research projects for professors at Ohio State, Northwestern, and the University of Illinois at Chicago. Her education is ongoing, and she continues to take classes as opportunities arise to keep up with new standards and research. Neuroscience holds a special interest for her.

“My family is a great resource to me. My husband is the ‘B’ part of B and Z Construction. He is also the Diving coach for St. Joseph High School’s Swim Team. We have two children who went through Lake Michigan Catholic Schools. My daughter Mica and her husband Bob live in Corvallis, Oregon. They have three sons. My son Charlie and his wife Jaime have just moved back to town after living in Nevada. They have a daughter named Addison who is now in our Kindergarten. I have thirty-five nieces and nephews that have taught me a lot about what’s cool in other states and countries. I have a brother that is a Psychologist who specializes in memory, one that is a Pediatrician, and another brother that is the Media Director for the University of California Schools. One of my sisters is a Special Education teacher. So as you have read, I have a whole team of experts to help me ensure your child’s success.”


10/13/17 – Mrs. Carolyn Simmons
English 10 & 11, AP English, Honors Public Speaking, Yearbook

Carolyn Simmons teaches English 10 & 11, A.P. English, Honors Public Speaking, and Yearbook. She holds a B.A. in English and Speech/ Communications from Kalamazoo College and an M.A. in Teaching & Learning/Education from Western Michigan University. She is also an evaluator for the AP College Board and various state standardized writing tests.

When asked about teaching at LMC, Mrs. Simmons stated, “I love the students. They absorb my enthusiasm about what I teach and make learning a constant discovery of something new, exciting, and enriching. I love teaching at LMC because Christ’s presence is living in all that we do. The students are open to sharing their faith through prayer and discussion. Teachers have the ability to touch the hearts and minds of their students through His teachings; there is no greater joy than that!”

Here are some fun facts about Mrs. Simmons that you may not know: “I read at least sixty books every summer. Since December, I’ve lost 78lbs., focusing on healthy eating habits and strength and cardio training. I love the sun and boating and visit Florida at least three times a year.  I’m happily married to Kevin, a principal in the Grand Rapids area. I have three children, TJ and Hailey, who graduated from Lake Michigan Catholic, and Chloe who is a sophomore at Lake Michigan Catholic. We live in South Haven.”

One last fun tidbit for the students: Mrs. Simmons played Puck in A Midsummer Night’s Dream when she was in College!


5/26/17 – All School Teacher Awards

LMCES Teacher of the Year:  Mrs. Lindsey Goshgarian – 5th Grade

Our teacher of the year for the 2016-17 school year is finishing her 5th year here at Lake Michigan Catholic.  She came to us as a very good teacher and has continued to grow each year. However, this past year she has embraced the role of lead teacher and mentor, and become an innovator.

Mrs. Lindsey Goshgarian‘s growth as an outstanding teacher begins with this fundamental: being an outstanding person. She has grown the fifth grade curriculum through some amazing experiences with hydroponics, coding, and STEAM kits, the exploration of rudimentary engineering principles, and collaborative problem solving.  She used the Makers book series followed by makers’ days that allowed her students to be hands on.  She sought out experts from our community to bring their real world experiences to life in the classroom, among them organic farmer Katie Burdette from Granor Farm in Three Oaks, and local orchardist Jay Jollay, to extend science lessons, and engineer Pat Glotzbach, who challenged the students to understand and test the incredible uses of robotic technology.

Her teaching wasn’t just exemplary in the content areas; more importantly, Mrs. Goshgarian is a daily example of our faith.  She has brought creative resources and musicians into the classroom to highlight different forms of prayer, and planned an all-day fifth grade Lenten retreat, which taught the students that there is always a way to be comfortable and personal in their relationship with God.

After the retreat, Mrs. Goshgarian said, “I could do this type of planning and teaching every day!” Likewise, I could sing Mrs. Goshgarian’s praises every day.  Congratulations to our LMCES Teacher of the Year, Mrs. Lindsey Goshgarian!

L to R:  Fr. Tom McNally, Mrs. Jody Maher, Mrs. Lindsey Goshgarian

Rosalie Capizzo Early Childhood Professional Development Scholarship:
Mrs. Carolyn Zmrhal

Each year the Capizzo Scholarship is awarded to an early childhood teacher to help provide professional development to further their knowledge in the teaching of and learning processes of our littlest Lakers.  The scholarship was started by Rosalie Capizzo, a retired kindergarten teacher, and her children.  This year the scholarship has been awarded to Mrs. Carolyn Zmrhal, our Transitional Kindergarten teacher.  She will use the grant to attend a Zoo-phonics in-service over the summer.  Congratulations Mrs. Zmrhal!

Mrs. Rosalie Capizzo, Mrs. Carolyn Zmrhal

Middle School Teacher of the Year:  Mrs. Helen Koch

The  Middle School teacher of the is Mrs. Helen Koch. Mrs. Koch left a subject she loved to teach in order to do what we thought was best for the school.  After making the switch, she was told that a high school class would be added to her schedule.  A short time later, the high school Interact Club asked her to help start a middle school chapter.  We have leaned on her to cover for secretaries and supervise detention during lunch.  Her focus on adoration and prayer in class has helped our students grow closer to their faith.

High School Teacher of the Year:  Mrs. Carolyn Simmons

When one thinks of a phenomenal example of an LMC teacher, Mrs. Carolyn Simmons comes to mind.  Mrs. Simmons has:

  • Worked hard to make sure LMC is prepared for the future
  • Was instrumental in kick-starting our preparation for next year’s accreditation visit
  • Just recently finished two grades of ELA curriculum for the Diocese
  • Most importantly, makes herself available to students before school, during lunch, and after school
  • Has been a huge help in planning events for our students including planning and running our annual Winterfest lock-in

Mrs. Simmons differentiates her assignments in her classes at an amazing level to meet the needs of each student. Congratulations to Mrs. Simmons for this great achievement!

Cardinal Newman Award:  Mr. Joe Schmidt

This year’s Cardinal Newman recipient is Mr. Joe Schmidt. This  award is sponsored by Mr. & Mrs. Joel Gibbons and is given to a high school teacher annually.  Mr. Schmidt has earned the respect of his students.  His even-tempered personality brings a breath of fresh air to his classroom and you can see it in the demeanor of the students in his class.  He has traveled to other Diocesan schools, helping them establish a base for the upcoming Diocesan UbD curriculum.  As a life-long learner and someone who consistently self-reflects on his teaching, this award couldn’t go to a better person.

Msgr. Sears Award:  Mr. Joe Jarvie

This year, Msgr. Sears sponsored an award for one individual in our Laker community.  The award winner had to emulate LMC values.  As the Administration discussed this award, one person’s name repeatedly came up, Mr. Joe Jarvie. This hard-working teacher should be biding his time on the back end of his career, but he keeps doing more and more to benefit the students at LMC. An example of his hard work was on display at the Spring Concert. He has welcomed our Choir and the Citadel Strings Program with open arms to work with the band in their performances. He has personally raised funds to start two jazz bands. He came out of retirement to coach our girl’s basketball team. He constantly offers to help with administrative tasks including tracking tardies. He may not be the most interesting man in the world, but he is the most interesting man at LMC! He’s like an assistant principal and Mr. Heath is never worried about leaving him in charge when he’s out of the building. We are very grateful to Monsignor Sears for underwriting this award, and to Mr. John Curtis for facilitating it on behalf of the Twin City Area Catholic School Fund.


5/12/17 – Mary Jo Jager, MS Math

Mary Jo Jager is LMC’s Math teacher for 6th, 7th, and 8th-grade Algebra students. Mrs. Jager’s math knowledge and her ability to relate to her students make a perfect combination for helping students tackle what many view as a difficult subject. LMC Middle School students love Mrs. Jager’s patience and the time she takes to teach them one-on-one when they are having trouble.

Mrs. Jager began at LMC in 1990 when she taught classes including middle school math, algebra, geometry, and physical education for nine years. In addition, Mrs. Jager was the Laker varsity volleyball coach. Back then, Mrs. Jager was Miss Smith. She met fellow LMC teacher Mr. Chuck Jager who was teaching right across the hall from her. The two married and Mrs. Jager stayed home to raise their boys, Drew and Sam. LMC was blessed when Mrs. Jager returned in 2012 as a middle school volleyball coach and then returned to teaching at LMC in 2015 in the same hallway 16 years later. “I am excited to be back at LMC teaching math and coaching middle school volleyball—my favorite sport!”

Mrs. Jager has been accustomed to Catholic education since her high school years when she attended St. Philip in Battle Creek. Mrs. Jager holds a Bachelor of Science from the University of Miami, Florida with a concentration in Exercise Science and a Minor in Math. In addition, Mrs. Jager has a Masters of Science degree in Exercise Science from Western Michigan University.

In her spare time, she enjoys reading, knitting, and spending time with her family, which also includes two very energetic big dogs. LMC is so thankful for the wonderful talents Mrs. Jager brings to our Middle School!


5/5/17 – Kris Cutter, Preschool

LMC Preschool is known far and wide in Southwest Michigan due to the thorough and thoughtful curriculum… but the quality reputation is especially due to the day-to-day dedication of our preschool teachers like Kris Cutter. Kris shows an innovative approach to keeping LMC preschoolers active in her classroom and interested in learning. LMC has been fortunate to have Mrs. Cutter with the Preschool for 8 years. However, Mrs. Cutter first joined the LMC family in 1993, teaching 2nd grade for 2 years and then deciding to stay home to raise 4 children.

Mrs. Cutter feels blessed to share and grow in faith with her students. “Living and practicing our faith every day makes our school feel like a family.” Mrs. Cutter and her husband, Russell, brought their children to the LMC family when their oldest child, Emily, started Kindergarten and then went on to graduate from LMC in 2014. Since then, there have been 3 more Cutter children, including Matthew who graduated from LMC in 2016, Molly who graduates this year and Jenna who is in 8th grade. Mrs. Cutter says LMC has been part of her family and “I love that LMC is our partner in helping our children become hard-working, faith-filled learners for life.”

Catholic schools have been part of Mrs. Cutter’s life for some time as she earned her  Bachelor of Science degree in elementary education from Saint Mary’s College. LMC is so blessed to have such a well-educated and devoted faculty member who shares her passion for education daily with her young students.


4/28/17 – Karen Petsovich, 1st Grade

Mrs. Karen Petsovich has been teaching at Lake Michigan Catholic Elementary for 21 years.  In her classroom, LMC first grade students experience a lively and educational year as they begin their wonderful elementary experience. Karen Petsovich still loves when she arrives at school and hears the pitter-patter of little first grade feet coming down the hall. The “adorable students, parental cooperation and our Catholic faith that is reinforced daily” are Mrs. Petsovich’s favorite aspects of LMC.

Mrs. Petsovich’s exemplary credentials tell the story of her preparation as a teacher. She earned her Bachelors in Elementary Education from Indiana University in Bloomington, Indiana. Also, Karen holds a Masters in Education from Indiana University in South Bend, Indiana. Mrs. Petsovich keeps very active in her spare time with kayaking, knitting, gardening, calligraphy, and spending time with her six grandchildren.

LMC has been so blessed to have Mrs. Petsovich on the faculty!  She brings such joy to her students every day. This Fall, LMC will sorely miss Mrs. Petsovich as she has made the decision to retire. We are so thankful for the time our LMC students have spent with a wonderful teacher. Her smiling face and joyful spirit have gotten many students through their first year. LMC wishes Mrs. Petsovich all the best in her future. Thank you for the many years of your kind and caring teaching!


3/31/17 Frank Deja – 2nd Grade

Mr. Frank Deja has been one of Lake Michigan Catholic’s second grade teachers since 2001. The first day of teaching at LMC wasn’t the beginning of Mr. Deja’s relationship with LMC schools, he is a legacy. Frank Deja’s father, also named Frank Deja, was in the first graduating class of Saint Joseph Catholic in 1932. Along with his wife Deb, our second grade teacher Frank Deja graduated from Lake Michigan Catholic High School in 1974. Deb and Frank sent their children to Lake Michigan Catholic for the duration of their education from Kindergarten to twelfth grade.

Mr. Deja says he enjoys “the close personal relationships that I have formed with families throughout my teaching career. I have remained friends with many families long after their children have moved on to higher grades.”

If you’ve been a parent or student in Mr. Deja’s classroom, you will know that this time of year is a favorite for teacher and students alike, as Mr. Deja teaches a unit about the Iditarod and follows the race in the classroom. Past students still stop and visit with Mr. Deja to watch the Iditarod together.

Mr. Deja keeps very busy outside of the classroom. He loves to spend family time with his daughters and together with his wife loves to travel.

Frank Deja holds a Bachelors of Arts in Elementary Education with a minor in Social Studies and Language Arts from Michigan State University. In addition, Frank Deja has Continuing Education graduate courses from Western Michigan University.


3/17/17 Jamie Hannapel – Kindergarten

This past fall, Jamie Hannapel accepted a new position for the 2016-17 school year, making the move from the Lake Michigan Catholic preschool program to the Kindergarten. Jamie got her feet wet in the Dowagiac School System as a fourth-grade teacher. She then participated in a first/second-grade loop for four years. “The assignment was perfect for me, to be able to guide students from non-reader to reader was, and still is, such a remarkable achievement.”

Mrs. Hannapel took some time off to be home with her children but returned to teaching in 2013. She loves working with our LMC parents who are committed to QUALITY education. She recognizes how important a supportive family is to a student’s success and is happy to work with so many who are willing to partner with her to educate students. “While working at other schools I have had the responsibility of “driving the cart” for students, taking them from point A to point B on their educational journey not deviating from that continual treading. What I love the most about LMC is that the teachers don’t have to “drive the cart” so to speak. Teachers differentiate instruction without robbing students of important social and emotional opportunities to grow. We partner with parents and ride in the backseat, giving students the ability to choose what path to take, allowing for mistakes to be turned into triumphs. Teachers realize that every experience, positive and negative has opportunities for growth and learning. Parents at LMC recognize students are responsible for their own assimilation of material. Teachers offer support, advice, and encouragement when the going is tough and enthusiastic praise in times of accomplishment. When students make a wrong turn, the teachers, student, and parents are working as a team to help the student reach their potential.”

Jamie feels that LMC cultivates a feeling of family among students, staff, and parents. “I know the teachers truly care about my own children and as a teacher, I very much care for my students. When they hurt I hurt, when they struggle I struggle, and when they soar so do I. Recognizing that these children are their parent’s most precious gifts, I strive to be the very best teacher and advocate I can be.”

Mrs. Hannapel possesses a Bachelors in Elementary Education from Saint Mary’s College, in Notre Dame, Indiana. She holds a teaching certificate in the State of Michigan as well as Indiana. In addition, Jamie is pursuing post-graduate courses at Western Michigan University in Literacy Studies and Early Childhood Education.

Mrs. Hannapel is the recipient of Bishop Bradley’s Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton Grant two years in a row. This grant secured funding for professional development for the preschool program to attend the Michigan Early Childhood Conference in 2015 as well as funding Conscious Discipline training for the entire staff in 2016. Jamie was also awarded the Capizzo Scholarship in 2015 and 2016 which was used for continuing education course work.

This year Mrs. Hannapel challenged all of our Laker kindergarteners to read 300 books by the end of the school year. “My goal was for the students to develop good reading habits and incorporate reading into their lives along with all the other things that interest them.” The students wrote all the book titles into a reading log, “This way they could see the book lists filling up, evidence that they are REAL readers! At the end of the year, I hope students will identify themselves as readers just like they identify themselves as soccer players or dancers.”

Research shows that those who read the most outperform children who read less. “I gave them lots of beginning reader books. At this age that is the hardest part, finding the right degree of difficulty, not so hard they doubt their ability but not so easy that they stagnate.”

While the goal seems lofty for new readers, we are pleased to report that students are already reaching the goal.“

Jamie loves to spend time with her family, cheering on her children in their extracurricular activities, going to the movies, spending time at the lake, going for walks and hikes, crafting, and volunteering for events at Lake Michigan Catholic. She loves photography and is a steady supplier of media for our social media sites. Jamie is an avid reader and loves creative writing as well. We are happy to have Mrs. Hannapel as a part of our Laker team!


3/10/17  Sarah Rouse – 5th Grade

Mrs. Sarah Rouse is one of our newest assets at LMC. She is one of our wonderful 5th grade teachers, as well as the mother of a little Laker girl (Janey) and soon-to-be Laker boy, Hunter. LMC is so pleased to have welcomed Sarah Rouse into the LMC Family this Fall. Mrs. Rouse says “It is a true honor to be a part of the Lake Michigan Catholic Family. Waking up each day to teach students about the world and its Creator is what brings me pure joy.”

In addition to her daily curriculum, Mrs. Rouse likes to integrate her love for travel. She has visited over 40 countries and hopes to inspire her students to develop a passion for learning about the world.

Mrs. Rouse possesses a Masters in Curriculum and Instruction from Fontbonne University in St. Louis, MO. Her bachelor’s degree is from the College of Charleston-a double major in Studio Art and Mass Communication Studies.


2/24/17  Jennifer Whitlock – Middle School English Language Arts

Jennifer Whitlock is LMC Middle School’s English Language Arts teacher. Two years ago, Mrs. Whitlock came to LMC with 10 years of teaching experience, from both Catholic and public schools. When asked about her LMC experience, Jennifer says “When our family moved to this community four years ago, we weren’t sure where we would send our son to school, or where I might teach. When Jonah went to three-year-old preschool with Mrs. Hannapel, I decided to use that time to volunteer in public schools as well as LMC. After spending time in both, it didn’t take long for me realize that our family needed to be part of LMC. We fell in love with the family feel and tight knit community. Jonah currently loves kindergarten with Mrs. Mills, and teaching here has been a true blessing. The students here are so smart, and they make me smile and laugh about a thousand times a day.”

Mrs. Whitlock pulls out the best in our students and has spurred a lot of excitement in the Middle School about BOOKS! She uses a student-centered, differentiated approach to teaching literacy, which empowers students to read self-selected literature, which they love.

She possesses a Bachelor’s in Elementary Education with a concentration in History from Ohio University. In addition, Mrs. Whitlock holds a Masters in Curriculum and Instruction from Central Michigan University and is certified to teach in Michigan and Tennessee.

Mrs. Whitlock brings a wealth and variety of experience to our schools. She has taught all over the country, including Ohio, California, Hawaii, and Tennessee. She worked as a staff developer in Tennessee, helping teachers refine their craft and employ only research-based instructional strategies proven to be effective and engaging for all learners.

Jennifer Whitlock loves being part of the LMC community by helping kids to become lifelong learners who are excited about reading and writing. We are blessed to have her as part of the LMC Family!