Homeroom Tutor - Kindergarten
Jeanette Cohn has been teaching for 36 wonderful years. She began her professional career in the medical field working as a private duty nurse. She became involved with homebound children and felt the call to teach. In 1985, she earned her bachelor’s degree at USF in Exceptional Education with a minor in Early Childhood Development. She was employed in public and private school systems for 13 years working mostly with special needs children between 6 months and 12 years old. In 1998, she answered the call to home school her 7 children and continued in the vocation for 21 years. During those 21 years she mentored parents in formational education and tutored children in various facets, including homeschool tutorials and private tutoring, mainly in the areas of reading, writing and Literature. Her educational philosophy encompasses a strong passion to embrace each child as being uniquely, beautifully created and, thus, should be taught as such. Igniting their love for learning, she approaches her instruction on the specific formation of each child engrossing him/her in engaging conversation, implementing memorization, while fostering a desire to explore every aspect of learning. She is looking forward to working at Divine Mercy Academy cooperating in the mission of helping each child become what God intended.
Homeroom Tutor - 1st and 2nd Grade
Mrs. O’Keefe graduated cum laude from Vanderbilt University in 1998, dual majoring elementary education (K-8) and special education (Birth-21). She then taught in the Tucson Arizona public school system from 1998-2001. After marrying and starting a family, she chose to stay home and homeschool for 10 years. She and her family moved to Maryland in 2004, where she came into the Catholic faith during Easter of 2005 at St. John the Evangelist in Severna Park. Since then, she has instructed in the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd and taught preschool through third grade classes. An avid hockey fan, when she is not spending time with her husband and four children, she is cheering for the “Caps”, reading, doing puzzles, organizing things and people, and traveling to new locations.
Homeroom Tutor - 3rd and 4th grade
Monica Ruppert holds a BA in Music Education from The University of Notre Dame of Maryland. She is a veteran homeschooler of her 10 children and is distinctly dedicated to family-centered education. She believes Divine Mercy Academy will support families as essential building blocks of an ardent Catholic community on the front lines of The New Evangelization. Monica will implement the Ward Method of music education at Divine Mercy, a classical program rooted in and directed toward Gregorian Chant, in which every child learns the art of singing, sight-reading, composing and conducting. After 25 years of teaching her own children as well as many others in co-ops, tutorials, and various other unique settings, Monica is excited to share her zeal for the catholic liberal arts the full-day setting of Divine Mercy Academy. With her natural talent for teaching children and her joyful confidence in classroom management, Monica is ever grateful each Monday for another week of sharing and discovering the revelations of God with her students.
Music, Band and Religion, Tutor Assistant - 3rd and 4th Grade
Kelly O’Connor, mother of seven children aged 21-6, holds 15 years of homeschooling experience, including three homeschool cooperatives. She has worked as a parish music director for three years, and served on liturgical teams across 10 parishes.
A Michigan native and Marine Corps spouse of 24 years, Kelly and her husband have lived in 13 different duty stations. Her extensive travel has given her an appreciation for multiple cultures and diversity in a growing world. A parental advocate for special-needs children, she is experienced in accommodating students that require more tailored care for success. She studied Instrumental and Choral Music Education at Central Michigan University, and is passionate about Biblical theology, History, Literature, Jazz and Classical music.
As a teacher of History, Religion and Band, Kelly will strive to connect students with God’s Master Story for salvation, and inspire them to see His hand throughout all of human history. A convert herself to Catholicism, she brings a strong empathy for children as they begin to choose and embrace the Faith for themselves.
Homeroom Tutor - 5th and 6th grade
Susan Hughes is a graduate of St. Joesph's University with a BA in Elementary Education and Special Education. She is certified in Maryland from grades 1-6 and has over 20 years of teaching experience in Catholic Education. Susan always wished of becoming a teacher and her dream was fulfilled the day she stepped foot in the classroom. Her teaching philosophy is rooted in meeting students where they are and encouraging them to grow academically and spiritually through self discovery and the natural gift of wonder and awe.
Justin McClain, OP
Homeroom Tutor - 7th and 8th Grade
Justin McClain is a lifelong resident of Maryland. Before coming to DMA to teach grades 7 and 8, he taught theology and Spanish for fifteen years at his alma mater, Bishop McNamara High School in Forestville, Maryland. Mr. McClain has also taught English as a second language for adults at Prince George's Community College, pre-college courses for high schoolers in the Upward Bound program at the University of Maryland - College Park, and courses in faith formation for the Satellite Theological Education Program ("S.T.E.P.") initiative within the University of Notre Dame's McGrath Institute for Church Life. Mr. McClain has consulted for various committees within the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. He is the author of several books for Ave Maria Press, as well as numerous articles for the National Catholic Register and other Catholic outlets, all meant to inspire joyful orthodoxy in the Church broadly and Catholic education specifically. An active member of the pro-life movement and promoter of chastity, marriage, and the family, per Saint John Paul II's "Theology of the Body," Mr. McClain serves on the volunteer board of directors of the Forestville Pregnancy Center in Temple Hills, Maryland. Mr. McClain holds a B.A. in Spanish language and literature and a B.A. in criminology and criminal justice from the University of Maryland - College Park, an M.A. in Spanish language and culture from the Universidad de Salamanca (Spain), an M.A. in international history from Staffordshire University (United Kingdom), and an M.A. in theology and Christian ministry from the Franciscan University of Steubenville. Mr. McClain is an avid advocate for classical Catholic education, using the liberal arts to draw his students to the truth, beauty, and goodness found in the Good News of Jesus Christ.
Mary Etta Jeske
Specials Tutor - Sacred Art, Art History & Nature Studies
Mary Etta Jeske is a mother of three children and has been married for 31 years. She has home-schooled her children for nine years, and enjoys teaching Art History, Catechesis of the Good Shepherd, and Classical Fine Art. Mary Etta has been a classical fine artist and an art teacher since 1993. A business major in college, she additionally attended four years at The Mitchell School of Classical Fine Arts and is certified to teach level 1 in the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd. She served for many years as an office manager for the Allview Center for Family Enrichment, where she presently volunteers and teaches an art/home arts girls' club.
Dr. Ester Sesmero
Specials Tutor - Science
Dr. Ester Sesmero was born in Spain. Right before she started college she heard the call from the Lord to consecrate her life to Him. In 2005 she joined the Secular Institute of the Crusaders of Mary while studying for her Bachelor's degree in Chemistry at the Autonoma University of Madrid. The Crusaders of Mary is a community of lay consecrated women who are passionate about the education of the youth. At Autonoma University of Madrid, she was heavily involved in campus ministry and through that experience of witnessing her faith in a secular environment, she learned what it meant to be a disciple of Jesus Christ. She arrived to the U.S. in 2011 and studied for her doctorate in Chemistry at the University of Maryland Baltimore County (UMBC).
Since Fall 2011, Ester has taught the Confirmation group (7th and 8th grade) at St. Peter’s on Capitol Hill and ministered to the youth attending the Youth Conferences at Franciscan University of Steubenville. During her time at UMBC, she started and led the Women’s group of the Catholic Retrievers (UMBC Campus Ministry). This women’s group is a community of women who support each other in their faith journey and the desire of to grow closer to Jesus and bring others to Him. Ester graduated with her Ph.D. on May 2017. From Fall 2017 to Spring 2019, she taught at Catholic University of America, Community College of Baltimore County, George Washington University and Montgomery College.
Ester is grateful for the opportunity to join Divine Mercy Academy. She is excited to teach our students to think critically, ask good questions and be in wonder and awe at gift of Creation. Her teaching philosophy is: "I believe in you, you are going to be able to do it, and I am here to help you!"
Specials Tutor - Physical Education
Catherina is excited to continue to be part of the DMA team as a teacher of physical education and dance. A native of Peru with French ancestry, she brings to the position a lot of creativity plus a rich cultural background and a lifelong passion for human expression through movement.
As a child and a youth, Catherina studied ballet and performed at the Municipal Ballet of the
cosmopolitan city of Lima during the school year while attending a renowned British academy (San Silvestre School). She spent her summers on her family’s remote dairy farm in the Andean highlands where she helped to teach catechism to children. Later she obtained a social anthropology degree from the Pontifical Catholic University of Peru in 2006 and studied dance in Sao Paolo, Brazil. Catherina earned a Master’s degree in Dance Movement Therapy from the University of Barcelona, Spain, in 2008.
Returning to Lima, Catherina started her own independent dance movement therapy practice where she focused on special needs children. There she found ways to enrich her work by incorporating her Catholic faith into the methodology. In 2013, she married and moved to the United States. Catherina is the mother of Sofia and Teresita and enjoys tremendously dancing with her husband and daughters. Inspired by them as well as by last years’ experience of teaching PE and dance at DMA, she is in the process of putting together a prayerful methodology for teaching classical barre with the goal of building up a dance crew for the school.
Jack Grimes was the Director of Math Content Development for the Classic Learning Test, a new college entrance and high school assessment exam. Jack also teaches Geometry at Israel Henry Beren High School, the secondary school for Ner Israel Rabbinical College in Pikesville, and he was a founding faculty member for Chesterton Academy of Annapolis. Jack earned a bachelor’s degree in Philosophy and Political Science from Tufts University. He worked several years as Senior Legislative Aide for a State Assemblyman in New Jersey. After beginning graduate studies in Theology at Seton Hall, he discovered a passion and talent for teaching, which he put to use as a volunteer catechist and later as a full-time academic mentor for BrainStorm Tutoring. For more than five years with BrainStorm, Jack worked with hundreds of students to prepare for all sections of the SAT and ACT, as well as improve in their high school Math and Humanities courses. Jack continues to offer tutoring privately through St. Catherine Test Prep. Raised as a nominal Lutheran, Jack experienced a profound Evangelical conversion to love for Christ at the end of high school. Fervent pursuit of understanding the faith in college led to his reception into the Catholic Church on Divine Mercy Sunday a few years after graduation. Jack enjoys steering students towards reflection on the reality behind the grammar, reading, and math they are studying. As a tutor and teacher he love to encourage thought about invisible nouns and intangible verbs, the power of questions and distinctions, and the elegance of equations so that his students have a chance to ponder the nature of truth, goodness, and beauty.
Claire Horvath has been married for 40 years. She is the mother of 4 and Nana to 10! She and her husband Dave have run a successful small business for 30 years. Their girls grew up working in the store and now one of their daughters has taken the reigns.
The Horvath family moved to Pasadena in 2001 and joined St. Jane Frances Parish where they jumped in to help where they could. In 2011, Claire was asked to change her status at church from volunteer to employee and took on the position of Youth Minister. During her 8 years in this role, she helped build a dynamic youth program for both high school and middle school youth as well as an Altar Server program for the church. Highlights for her were the week long "Work Camps" with the older youth.
Claire was asked to move from Youth Ministry to Administrator of Family Formation at the parish in 2019 when that position became available. She spent a year and a half working to solidify the family formation programs as well as working with all who wanted to receive sacraments. Claire joined DMA in 2021.
Charles R. Hepburn II
Self-Defense Head Instructor
Instructor Charles was raised in Glen Burnie, Maryland; where he trained and taught under Grand Master Hyo G. Bai, and his son, Master Rick/Soo Bai for 10 years. He has an extensive background in several martial arts, including: Tae Kwon Do, Hapkido and Brazilian Jiu-jitsu. Instructor Charles has also studied and trained in several reality-based self-defense / combative systems; including being a trained “Bulletman.” The “Bulletman” is a fully padded assailant suit used in full-speed, full-force adrenal training scenarios.
Instructor Charles also has robust knowledge in the academics / non-physical portions of a good self-defense education. Having taught several dozen self-defense seminars, as well as teaching martial arts classes several times per week since 1994, Instructor Charles brings a bevy of experience to the team. Although he specializes in teaching children at Divine Mercy, Instructor Charles also teaches adults at the Severna Park Community Center.
The self-defense system taught is called Meta Mu Do. It's a super-set of Tae Kwon Do; however, it adds Hapkido techniques for standing struggle and weapon defenses, and Brazilian Jiu-jitsu techniques for ground grappling. Meta Mu Do has 3 major training goals. First, is effective self-defense training against realistic modern violence. Second, is character development and empowerment. Lastly, is overall physical and mental health through persistent training. It took over 15 years to design the system; and Instructor Charles has been teaching it professionally since 2014.
My family has been my primary focus through the years, but I have also been blessed with opportunities to always continue to keep my hand in teaching as well. I have been married for almost 32 years to Lewis, who is a Montgomery County police officer. We have been active members of our parish. We have four children who have had the opportunity to attend Catholic schools. All four graduated from OLPH School. Our son attended Cardinal Gibbons and graduated from Mt. St. Joe’s, our daughters graduated from Mt. De Sales Academy. Three of our children have graduated from college, two are married and we are going to be grandparents in January! Our youngest will graduate from Franciscan University in May 2022.
My career in education began in a Catholic school where I taught second grade for two and a half years, and then third grade for half a year as a long-term substitute in the Washington Archdiocese. My love for teaching reading began in college. I graduated from Towson State University with a degree in Early Childhood Education. I earned my Master’s Degree in Reading Education from Bowie State University. I am certified in Orton-Gillingham and have used this approach to reading instruction as a private academic tutor for over 20 years. I enjoy working in a variety of settings so I also work part-time as a reading specialist. Being able to help struggling learners has become a passion of mine, and being able to do this in a faith-based setting is ideal for me. The opportunity to bring my faith into teaching reading is the best!
In my free time, I love spending time with my family and friends, going to the beach, walking, going to Christian music concerts, learning more about my Catholic faith, and volunteering at church and in my community.