Our Faculty

Home / Our Faculty

Our Lady of the Pillar Academy is fortunate to have attracted and hired some remarkable professionals. Please take a moment to become familiar with our team!

Teaching Staff

Joseph Palko is the Head of School and a teacher at Our Lady of the Pillar Academy. He graduated from Queen’s University with a Bachelor of Commerce degree. Following graduation, he spent over twenty years working in business operations consulting. Alongside his business career, Joseph spent many years discerning his state of life vocation. At various times, he discerned with the Congregation of Holy Cross, Capuchin Franciscans, Trappists and Carthusians. In 2010, Joseph entered priestly formation at St. Peter’s Seminary. He spent three years as a seminarian before completing his Master of Divinity degree as a lay person. He has since carried out ministerial work as Chaplaincy Leader at St. Patrick’s High School (Sarnia, Ontario) and as Program Coordinator at the St. Francis Xavier Chaplaincy in (Calgary, Alberta). A fun fact about Joseph is that he has both cycled and walked across Canada. Needless to say, Joseph enjoys a good adventure and thus looks forward to the journey that lies ahead for Pillar Academy.

Tanya Snow studied at St. Clair College in Chatham. With a background as a Developmental Service Worker, she has numerous years experience both with the Thames Valley District and Lambton-Kent District School Boards. She has always been a firm believer in music education, which led to further studies on the topic including Education Through Music and Kindermusik. While on placement as an Early Childhood Educator, she developed an interest in the teachings of Montessori, and furthered her studies with the North American Montessori Centre. She currently lives in Bothwell with her husband Greg, whom she has known since childhood, and their daughter Della. An active parishioner at St. Paul’s Catholic Church in Thamesville, Tanya is excited for the opportunities that Our Lady of the Pillar Academy presents its staff and students.

Leslie McKinnon  studied at King’s University College at Western University and completed her Bachelor of Education at Althouse College receiving a Specialist in Primary Education.  From there she went to work for the St. Clair Catholic District School Board teaching for five years with a one year teaching assignment in Special Education. After numerous years away from formal teaching, Leslie returned six years ago to supply teach for the St. Clair Catholic District School Board. She is married to Rod and they have six children. When away from formal teaching, Leslie taught her own children and continued to teach formally in various capacities. She has been involved in Children’s Liturgy, Vacation Bible School, Confirmation Preparation and Youth Group. Leslie also volunteers frequently to various Catholic initiatives.

Monica Vandenberg attained her Bachelor of Science at the University of Western Ontario, she then studied a variety of teachable topics until deciding to concentrate on Biology, with Honours in Zoology. Monica achieved her Bachelor of Education from the University of Windsor for the Intermediate and Senior Divisions with Biology and Chemistry as her teachable subjects. After finishing her studies in 1991, Monica married Marius Vandenberg and began her career teaching science at John Paul II Secondary School in London. With the arrival of their first child, Monica put aside her career to be a full time wife and mother. While raising her eight children, she continued to teach Children’s Church, Vacation Bible School and Confirmation classes at her local parish and volunteers often in support of many Catholic initiatives.

Michael McCann obtained his Honours Bachelor of Science degree from McMaster University in 2014, before going on to earn his Postgraduate Certificate in Autism and Behavioural Therapy from Mohawk College in 2015. From there, he worked for a time with children on the autism spectrum, both in a classroom setting and in clients’ homes. After transitioning to another job to better support his growing family, he continued to foster his love of teaching and passing on the faith, and began to discern the call towards graduate school. Michael lives in Exeter with his wife Weronika and their three young children. He is currently pursuing a Masters of Theology with a Concentration in Sacred Scripture from Holy Apostles College & Seminary in Connecticut. He brings a passion for teaching and forming young people to his classes, and is excited to see where God is taking him in his teaching vocation.

Laura Verbeek obtained an Honours Bachelor of Arts in French and English at the University of Western Ontario.  She completed her Honours Bachelor of Education at Lakehead University in Thunder Bay, certified in both Junior and Intermediate Divisions.  She recently retired from the Lambton Kent District School Board after 30 full-time years of teaching across many grades and subject areas.  She often helped coach and train sports teams at school as well as in the community, specifically the teams involving sports that her two sons played.  She looks forward to new opportunities at Pillar Academy.

Elizabeth Aris, our music teacher at OLPA, is a graduate of Our Lady Seat of Wisdom Academy, class of 2014. She holds a Certificate of Christian Humanities from the Academy. During her years there, she studied piano, voice, music pedagogy, and conducting. After this, she moved to Ohio to study at the Franciscan University of Steubenville, graduating with a BA in theology, with a minor in music, in 2015. Also in 2015, Elizabeth took the Music for Young Children course, making her a certified MYC teacher. For the past 4 years, Elizabeth has been teaching music, both private and group classes, as well as serving as a choir accompanist at schools and a member of the music ministry team at All Saints Parish in Strathroy. Elizabeth loves music and is excited to make music at OLPA, directing our students to sing of the glory of God in our weekly choir time.

Christine Chenard obtained a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in Visual Arts from the University of Windsor, and a Master of Fine Arts degree in Visual Arts from the University of Saskatchewan.  She taught a few continuing education art classes at Lambton College before marrying Guy Chenard.  While raising their four children, she volunteered at Queen of Peace Church in Sarnia in various capacities (Vacation Bible School, Catholic Girls’ Club, and Confirmation Preparation).  She was the editor of the Lambton Right to Life newsletter for a few years, and she had the honour of painting a small mural in the Confessional at Our Lady of Mercy Church in Sarnia.  The youngest of the Chenard children was homeschooled for a few years and completed her Grade 8 at Our Lady of the Pillar Academy.  Christine loves to help youth develop art skills and an appreciation for beautiful art throughout the ages.

 Support Staff

 Lily Braet is administrator at Our Lady of the Pillar Academy. As one of the original Pillar parents as well as a previous board member and volunteer, she has come to appreciate the administrative requirements needed to support the students and staff at the school. She graduated from Lambton College with a Diploma in Environmental Technology.  Together with her husband, Peter, and their four children, they live and operate a farm near Watford. She loves the opportunity to engage with Pillar Academy’s students, staff and parents.