Leo High School’s faculty is fully certified, according to State of Illinois education standards, and fully committed to the academic mission of the school. Our well-trained, thoroughly professional teachers are accustomed to coming early and staying late to provide additional instruction for any student who requests it. Along with its academic goals, Leo strives to educate the total person, stressing citizenship, leadership and good decision-making, all within the context of strong Catholic values.
MS. FAJR AL-NURRIDIN
Fajr Al-Nurridin, affectionately known as “Ms. Al”, joined the Leo staff during the 2020 pandemic year. She attended Chicago State University, where she studied English and later attended The Illinois Institute of Art, where she studied Fashion Marketing and Management. Her many years of experience in not-for-profit business management, administrative operations and customer service has allowed her to study techniques to better serve Leo as the Office Manager and provide Executive level support. Her skills include coordinating educational assignments for staff, budgets, and cost-benefit analysis on internal program vendor usage. She is a charter member of Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Alsip Chapter, and enjoys being outdoors, spending time with her family, traveling and socializing with friends.
MR. MICHAEL ANDERSON ’91
Mr. Anderson played football and baseball and wrestled for four years at Leo. He accepted a football scholarship to Purdue University and was a backfield mate of former Leo teammate Corey Rogers before graduating in 1995. He holds a BS in Industrial Technology, Minor in Civil Engineering from Purdue. A member of the Leo High School Hall of Fame, Mr. Anderson received the Community Service Award from the Leo Alumni Association in 2013 for his tireless efforts in recruiting for Leo. Mr. Anderson teaches Physical Education and serves as head baseball coach, assistant football and assistant wrestling coach. Mr. Anderson’s sons have attended Leo, Class of 2014, 2020 and 2022.
Mr. Ernest Bryant '97
Mr. Bryant is a proud Leo class of 1997 graduate. Mr. Bryant holds a degree in Political Science from the University of St. Francis. Mr. Bryant worked in retail management for 10 years before transitioning to education. He spent four years as a classroom aide in special education at various CPS schools before joining the faculty at Leo. Since 2018, he has been working at Leo as the Title One program coordinator. He now teaches Freshman Seminar and English. He is also an assistant football coach.
MR. NOAH CANNON ’95
Mr. Cannon was the Lions’ varsity basketball coach from 2003-14. In his first season as coach, Leo won the Class A state basketball championship for the only time in school history. The Lions made a return trip downstate in 2009 and have also appeared in three sectional championship games. A former Leo point guard and a member of the Leo Hall of Fame, Coach Cannon is a graduate of Elmhurst College, where he also played basketball. Mr. Cannon teaches Social Studies.
MR. TERENCE COOK ’94
Mr. Cook is the Dean of Students. He has been in the education field since 2009 serving as Cadre, Coach, and Dean of Students. Mr. Cook was on the football and track team, and graduated from Leo with a football scholarship to Tulane University. Mr. Cook graduated with a B.A in ’99 and experienced a brief opportunity to play football professionally. Mr. Cook also helped coach Leo’s football and track team to a successful playoff appearance and state championship in track in 2001-2002. Having worked alongside Mr. Rawls in education prior to coming to Leo, he understands the value and dynamic of becoming a Leo Man and the resources needed to ensure their success.
Ms. Tamishae Curry
Ms. Curry is excited to join the Leo Family as The Tuition Coordinator. Her many years of working in the medical and healthcare field providing great customer service, assisting with bill collecting, and completing intake for patients has allowed her to gain the skills to better help and understand the needs of others. Ms. Curry came highly recommended for her people skills and ability to remain calm under pressure. She is kind hearted, detail oriented, and a self-starter with a good work ethic. Ms. Curry enjoys spending time with her children and loves doing arts & crafts.
MR. JAMES EARNER
Mr. Earner has been Leo’s Business Manager since 2012, after 25 years in corporate Accounting and Finance with PepsiCo and Pepsi America. A graduate of Brother Rice High School, Mr. Earner earned a degree in Finance and Accounting from Northern Illinois University and an MBA from St. Xavier University. His father, Gene Earner, is a member of the Leo High School Hall of Fame and a Man of the Year honoree by the Leo Alumni Association. Six Earner brothers attended Leo.
MR. WILLIAM FIGEL ’72
Mr. Figel is a guest instructor for Big Shoulders Fund to facilitate and teach Leo’s “News Literacy” program, “Why News Matters” underwritten by the Robert R. McCormick Foundation. Bill owns Figel Public Relations. The former Chicago Sun-Times sportswriter has experience in print and electronic media. He graduated from Saint Mary’s University, Winona, MN in 1976. In 1984 he received a Master’s degree from Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism – broadcast division. Bill played basketball and baseball at Leo and Saint Mary’s.
MS. JENNIFER FLECK
Ms. Fleck is thrilled to join Leo High School as the Teaching and Learning Coordinator. She holds a B.S. in General Biology from the University of New Hampshire, an M.Ed. from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in Curriculum & Instruction, and a Masters in General Administration from Chicago State University. Previously, Ms. Fleck as served as a Science teacher and department chair in the Chicago Public Schools, as a School Transformation Facilitator through Diplomas Now, and as an Assistant Principal at the Academy of St. Benedict the African.
MR. MICHIAL FOY
Mr. Foy, one of the most accomplished wrestlers the Chicago area has ever produced, has taken over the wrestling program here. Mr. Foy is a two-time Olympian, Pan-American Games gold medalist and silver medalist at the World Championships. A member of the Illinois State Wrestling Hall of Fame, Foy wrestled collegiately at the University of Minnesota. He represented the United States at the 1988 Olympics in Seoul and the 1992 Games in Barcelona, placing sixth while serving as Captain of the U.S. Greco-Roman wrestling team in ’92. He earned his Pan-Am Games gold medal in 1989, and his World Championships silver medal the same year. Foy’s other honors include five U.S. national championships in Greco-Roman wrestling, a bronze medal at the 1990 World Cup and a fifth-place finish at the 1994 World Championships. After graduating from Minnesota, Foy spent five years as an assistant coach there. His Mike Foy Wrestling Academy/Underdog Wrestling Club produced Olympians T.J. Dantzler and Majid Maynard, as well as Illinois state champion Brandon Peacock.
MR. Jacob Kozer
Mr. Kozer is a science teacher at Leo. He graduated from Illinois State Alumni with a BS in Chemistry and has undergone all the requirements for teaching certification. He worked in the chemical industry for five years before going back to my passion, which is teaching. He has tutored and taught Chemistry and entry level sciences to small groups for about 10 years along with ACT/SAT prep with an emphasis on reading comprehension, phonics, contextual vocabulary, scientific nomenclature with an emphasis on how to read and interpret graphs.
MS. Tiffany L Harston
Ms. Harston is Leo’s new Counselor. She brings her experience from CPS to Leo and looks forward to working with Leo students. She has a BS from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign and an MS from the Illinois Institute of Technology.
MS. LA DONNA HILL
During her 19 years as Leo’s Music Director, Mrs. Hill has built the Leo Choir into a popular attraction that is in demand throughout the city, bringing invaluable recognition to Leo High School. In addition to its annual Christmas and Spring concerts, the Choir regularly performs at Big Shoulders events, civic functions and church gatherings. In December 2017, the Choir sang Christmas carols at Millennium Park for a crowd estimated at 1,200. Mrs. Hill’s music history includes work with local and nationally recognized artists. She also has international experience touring Switzerland and South Africa, and multiple tours through Spain. Mrs. Hill holds a Master’s Degree in Applied Biblical Studies from Moody Bible Institute and a Bachelor of Arts Degree from Chicago State University. She believes all students can and should learn, and continues using music to motivate students to strive for excellence and success.
MR. MICHAEL HOLMES '76
Head Football Coach Michael Holmes remains one of the most decorated athletes in Leo history. As a Leo student, Mike achieved All-State and All-Catholic League recognition in baseball and football. He made the Big Eight Conference All-Freshman team at the University of Colorado, then transferred to the University of Illinois and was named second-team All-Big Ten after leading the Illini in rushing, receiving and scoring. After working as a city planner, Mike returned to Leo to teach, coach and serve as an administrator. A member of the Leo High School Hall of Fame, Mike has won four Lawless awards as Catholic League Coach of the Year. The Leo Alumni Association named him Leo’s Man of the Year in 2017.
Mr. Jackson joined the Leo staff in the summer of 2022. He is a graduate of National-Louis University and earned a B.A.S in Sociology. Mr. Jackson started his journey working in education in Chicago Public Schools as a Dean of Students. His strengths are developing youth programs intended on creating a positive culture and climate within schools and its community. Mr. Jackson spent several years working at the university level advising students at Robert Morris University and Roosevelt University. Mr. Jackson is honored and privileged to be a part of the staff at Leo. What drives his passion for educating young men is his favorite quote by Frederick Douglass; “It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men.”
MS. AURORA LATIFI
One of the most popular and enthusiastic figures at Leo, Ms. Latifi has taught math at Leo since 2001 and rarely misses a Leo event. She also chairs the Math Department and is moderator for the National Honor Society. In that role, she oversaw the process by which Eder Cruz Alvarado became Leo’s first Gates Millennium Scholar in 2011. Ms. Latifi is a native of Albania and graduated with a degree in Mathematics from the University of Tirana. She holds a Master’s in Leadership and Curriculum Development from Concordia University. She has also been included into the Leo High School Hall of Fame. Ms. Latifi loves the pride and loyalty of the Leo Community. Love the pride and loyalty of Leo community.
MS. DaNaija Little
DaNaija Little loves STEM! In 2019, her final semester of college at the University of Illinois at Chicago, she began working for a nonprofit organization as a STEM Teacher to underrepresented 6th – 12th students throughout the City of Chicago. Six months later, she received her Bachelor of Science from the University of Illinois at Chicago in Mathematics and Computer Science. Ms. Little is a compassionate person, driven to use her education and experiences to serve her community and she can’t to see where her journey as a Math Teacher at Leo High School takes her. Outside of teaching, she enjoys spending time with my nieces, trying new restaurants with friends, watching Marvel movies with her dad and going ATV riding and jet skiing with her family.
MR. DAN McGRATH ’68
Mr. McGrath is in his eleventh year as Leo’s President, having succeeded the great Bob Foster in 2010 after spending six years on Leo’s Advisory Board. A Chicago native and a 1968 Leo graduate, Mr. McGrath received his degree from Marquette University and worked as a journalist for most of his professional career, serving 13 years as sports editor of the Chicago Tribune before coming to Leo. Mr. McGrath is the author or editor of six books on Chicago sports teams and is a contributing columnist to the Chicago Tribune. Mr. McGrath was recently inducted into the Chicago Catholic League Hall of Fame.
MR. Kevin McNair
Mr.McNair is a long time resident of the south side, where he excelled in sports and academics. He attended St.Laurence High School, after accepting an offer for an academic scholarship. While at St Laurence, Mr.McNair played basketball for two years and participated in student government. Mr. McNair graduated from Chicago State University, with a degree in Political Science. He has given a lot of time and service to the community through extensive volunteer work with the AFCA (Athletes For Christ Association) and the Chicago Park District. His coaching and teaching career has spanned 20 years with stops at St. Francis de Sales, Hales Franciscan, Seton Academy, Hyde Park, Emmanuel Christian School, Oakdale Christian Academy, and Aspire Charter Academy. Mr.McNair serves as the Director of Admissions/Recruitment.
Mr. DeShawn Mills
Mr. Mills is a proud graduate of Leo class of 1991. He holds a BA in Interdisciplinary Studies from Governors State University. He comes to Leo from a long career at the Cook County Juvenile Temporary Detention Center. Working with teens has been my passion for the last 24 years and it is an honor to give back to his Alma Mater.
MR. Isaiah Moore
As a man of self progression and action, Mr. Moore prides himself in being his best authentic self whenever possible. He believes that education is the gateway to self sufficiency and overall grit maintenance. Mr. Moore is a two- time published author and currently serves on the board of directors for Chicago Scholars as well as the chair for the Alumni Leadership Association for the Chicago Scholars. He shares that it is a tremendous blessing to be at Leo, to give back to the community that gave so much to him and to be part of the team educating the next leaders in our society. “These are black kings that will go on to do amazing things and that fills my heart with so much joy.” said Mr. Moore.
Mrs. Iyabo Pommells
Mrs. Iyabo Pommells is a mother and Chicago native. She has a bachelor’s degree in Mathematics from Spelman College, graduating Magna Cum Laude and Phi Beta Kappa. She also has a bachelor’s degree in Mechanical Engineering from The University of Michigan, graduating Cum Laude. Mrs. Pommells has been a classroom math teacher for elementary through high school students for since 2010. As a teacher her focus is always on critical thinking and encouraging students to analyze situations. She has experience preparing students for the ACT and ACT-aligned tests. In addition to math education, she has written a STEM curriculum and facilitated STEM education programs in school-day and after-school environments.
MR. Laurence Pommells
Laurence Pommells is elated to be Leo’s Art Teacher and the Leo IT Director. Mr. Pommells is a warrior priest who has been practicing martial arts for the past 26 years. In that time, he studied Traditional Tae Kwon Do, Chuan Fa Kung Fu/C.U.M.A, Shorin Ryu, and Afrikan Martial Arts. He is also a jeweler who uses, metal, fossils, gemstones, and leather to make jewelry. His interest in crafting with his hands started in high school and blossomed into a successful career. As a visual and performing artist, he seeks to help Leo students discover their voice through exploring different mediums. Academically, he graduated from Pomona College with a Bachelor of Arts as POSSE, Gates Millennium, and Ronald E. McNair Scholar.
MR. SHAKA RAWLS ’93
Mr. Rawls is an accomplished educator with a proven track record of academic success. He most recently served as a school and community administrator in the Chicago Public Schools where he led curriculum planning on instructional leadership teams on both the elementary and high school levels. He also organized and established a system of data collection to evaluate the educational health of a school. Mr. Rawls is the founder of I.M.P.A.C.T. (Inspiring and Motivating Positive Actions for City Teens), an organization dedicated to community engagement and mentoring city students. He has more than 14 years of classroom experience, holding various teaching positions at both the high school and college level. After graduating from Leo High School, Mr. Rawls received a Bachelor of Arts in History from Aurora University. He went on to receive his Masters in Education and Instructional Leadership from the University of Illinois at Chicago. Mr. Rawls is currently pursuing his Ph.D in Educational Policy Studies from UIC, where he will be defending his dissertation next spring, the final step of the Ph.D process. Mr. Rawls is committed to strengthening Leo’s overall academic profile, enhancing each Leo student’s experience here and making us more competitive with our public, Catholic and charter school rivals.
Mr. Titus Redmond
Mr. Redmond brings 25 years of experience and commitment to Catholic education to Leo’s English department. A former basketball standout at Gordon Tech High School (now DePaul Prep), Mr. Redmond holds a BS in computer science and is pursuing a Master’s degree in the art of teaching. A father of four, Mr. Redmond has been an athletic director, an admissions director and a dean of students in addition to classroom teaching. He lists reading, politics, public speaking and “research for new knowledge” among his interests. His students have gone on to attend some of the nation’s top universities, including Dartmouth, Northwestern, Marquette and Michigan State.
MRS. LYDIA TABERNACKI
Mrs. Tabernacki is a native of South Chicago and attended St. Michael Grade School in South Shore. She completed her undergraduate studies at Rockhurst University in Kansas City, MO, majoring in Juvenile Corrections and minor classes in Social Science, Theology, and Philosophy. Ms. Tabernacki obtained her Masters Degree from Chicago State University in Education, concentration in School Guidance. She worked within the Catholic School system for several years as a high school counselor, teacher, and coach, and is happy to now be a part of the Leo High School Family as our theology teacher and campus minister.
MS. Kathy Van Leishout
Ms. Van Leishout holds a BA from NEIU in Literature/Sec ED and an MEd from GCU and ACE. She is retired from CPS and is currently working at LEO as IDEA Resource teacher.
MS. Cicely V. Wilson
Ms. Wilson holds a BS from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign and an MA from Oral Roberts University.
MS. MOLLY ZAJAC-CLARK
Ms. Zajac-Clark is excited to join the Leo Team, and teach the Freshmen Seminar and English at Leo. She is a Class of 2015 Golden Apple Scholar and studied the Teaching of English at the University of Illinois at Chicago, where she graduated Summa Cum Laude. She is a member of various academic honor societies including Phi Beta Kappa, Phi Kappa Phi, Phi Eta Sigma, and the National Society of Collegiate Scholars. Ms. Zajac-Clark is always hungry to learn and share new knowledge and skills and asks her students to do the same. She is honored to join the team of distinguished educators at Leo and looks forward to seeing her students reach great heights.