The Founders and Directors

JoAnn Gantar, Founding Partner and Owner

Miss JoAnn 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 10, 7 and 4 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 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 ten years and has over 5 years of Director experience.  She was the Director of a Foreign Language school in Illinois and the Assistant Director of a day care center in Evanston.  Miss Melissa was born and raised in River Forest, where her family has lived for three generations.   Miss Melissa has always had a dream of owning her own preschool to help inspire, educate and enrich the lives of children and families.  In her free time Miss Melissa enjoys sailing with her husband and daughter.


Shenise Funches, Center Director

My name is Shenise Funches and I have had the privilege of being a part of Oak Leaf Academy since 2017.  After spending eight years teaching in classrooms, I was excited to expand my role at Oak Leaf Academy first as a Pre-k Teacher and now as Center Director. Together with a team of amazing and creative teachers, I am committed to providing your 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!

Saylease Choice, Education Director

Miss Saylease has a Master’s degree in Elementary Education with an emphasis in Early Childhood from Ball State University. She also has an undergraduate degree from Purdue University in Youth Adult and Family Services with a specialization in Children’s Health. She was a certified Developmental Therapist for six years.  She has also been an Early Head Start Home Visitor, Infant and Toddler Room Teacher, and ABA line therapist.  Saylease has always have had a love for children. She enjoys observing, creating, facilitating, and implementing activities to help children reach their developmental milestones. She also enjoys spending time with her husband and playing with her Boston terrier.

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 and a Full Time Education Director to help manage and oversee the children and staff. 

Our 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 thrive and grow both physically and intellectually.

Miss JoAnn

200 Lake Street, Oak Park, IL 60302 Phone:708-434-5705 Email: