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

The Founders and Directors

Our Staff

Oak Leaf's Mission Statement

Miss JoAnn

Oak Leaf Academy’s Staff is highly educated with all of our 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 two lead qualified teachers 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. 

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.

JoAnn Gantar, Founding Partner 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 11, 9 and 6 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. JoAnn will also be taking on the role as our education coordinator.

Melissa Veatch, Founding Partner 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.  She has been a Lead Preschool Teacher for over 10 years and has over 5 years of Director experience.  She was the Director of a foreign language school in Illinois as well as the Assistant Director of a child care center in Evanston. 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 sailing with her husband and daughter.


Shenise Funches, Center Director

​Shenise Funches has a bachelor’s degree in Early Childhood Education and has been a part of Oak Leaf Academy since 2017.  After spending eight years teaching in classrooms, she was excited to expand her role at Oak Leaf Academy, first as a Pre-kindergarten Teacher and now as the Center Director. Together with a team of amazing and creative teachers, she is committed to providing each family with a loving and developmentally sound foundation for a lifetime of learning. At Oak Leaf Academy, we know that play is a child's most important work, and we strive to create and maintain an environment where your child can grow and thrive while exploring the world around them. Thank you for sharing your precious children with us!

Autumn Torre, Assistant Center Director

Autumn Torre was born and raised in Connecticut, and moved here to Illinois 2 years ago. She has her Associates in Early Childhood Education and is currently pursuing her Bachelors in Business. Prior to being an Assistant Director, she was a teacher for 6 years and worked her way up the ladder to where she is now. She loves working with children in this field because of the impact and miracles she gets to see happen everyday. She enjoys watching the kiddos grow right before her eyes and feels so lucky to be apart of it. She is especially excited to work for OLA and to be apart of this amazing family and community. She is thrilled to be part of an organization that wants nothing but happiness from their families, kiddos and their staff!