JoAnn Gantar, Founding Partner, Director and Owner

JoAnn Gantar has a Master’s degree in Education from DePaul University, with a concentration in Early Intervention.  She was a certified developmental therapist working for the state of Illinois working with children zero to three years of age and their families.  She has taught preschool aged children for over twelve years as a lead teacher and taught pediatric resident doctors about Child Growth and Development for a local Illinois hospital.   JoAnn is the mother of three young children, ages 13, 10 and 7 and takes pleasure in sharing her experiences and joys of motherhood with the families she works with.  JoAnn wanted to be a teacher since childhood.  She enjoys watching children having fun while learning and guide them through their educational growth and emotional development.  JoAnn is thrilled to open a center that allows children and their families to have an exciting environment to foster these experiences along with loving teachers to guide them on the journey.



Melissa Veatch, Founding Partner, Director and Owner

Melissa Veatch has a Bachelor’s Degree in Family and Community Services with an emphasis in Early Childhood Education from Michigan State University. Melissa has worked with children and families since she was in high school. Post college she has been a Lead Preschool Teacher for over 10 years and has over 5 years of Director experience. Melissa was the Director of a foreign language school for children as well as the Assistant Director of a large child care center before starting Oak Leaf Academy. Melissa was born and raised in River Forest, where her family has lived for three generations. Melissa has always had a dream of opening her own preschool to help inspire, educate and enrich the lives of children and families. She enjoys seeing the children learn new concepts and loves helping families come together to form friendships. In her free time Melissa enjoys spending time with her husband and daughter.




Alexandra Schmidt, Assistant Center Director


Alex Schmidt has her bachelor’s degree from Dominican University. Before becoming the Assistant Center Director, she had worked with young children throughout her college experience and then as the Lead Toddler teacher at Oak Leaf Academy for 4 years. One of Alex’s favorite things about working with children is watching them experience Ah-Ha moments. To be able to see them accomplish goals and milestones has been a joy to experience with them. She enjoys spending time with her family and loved ones, and loves to attend community events, especially when there is music involved. She has been so lucky to be apart of the OLA family and is excited to continue to grow with them.




Rachel Rettberg, Education Coordinator


Rachel was raised in the UK where she always knew she wanted to be an educator. After moving here in her early twenties, she embarked on a career in early childhood education, which included working in a Lincoln Park center, gaining a master’s in early childhood education, and a five-year leadership stint in the non-profit world. Rachel passionately believes that the combination of quality early childhood education, support for families, and equitable communities could in fact change the world. Seeing and interacting with young children every day truly makes her happy and she is delighted to be working at a center that promotes active learning, values rich adult-child interactions, and believes that children need to play. She lives in Oak Park with her husband, three sons, two dogs and a lot of laughter!

Our Teaching  Staff

Oak Leaf's Mission Statement

Oak Leaf Academy is a child-centered preschool with a play-based curriculum promoting creativity, individuality, and independence of all children.  Oak Leaf Academy is a safe, nurturing, family centered environment in which children can grow, learn and experience both physically and intellectually.

Oak Leaf Academy’s staff is highly educated with all of our lead teachers having a college degree in early childhood education or related field.  All of our teachers have experience working with children and undergo background checks through DCFS.  Each classroom has a team of a lead qualified teacher and teacher assistants aiding them throughout the day.  Throughout the year our teachers attend regular trainings and have a minimum of 15 hours of continuing education.   

Oak Leaf Academy has a full time Center Director, Assistant Director and a part time Education Coordinator to help manage and oversee the children and staff. 

200 Lake Street, Oak Park, IL 60302 Phone:708-434-5705 Email: director@oakleafacademy.com

The Founders and Directors