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Meet the FUN-structors

Our experienced instructors (aka FUN-structors) are dedicated to providing a nurturing and safe learning environment where kids of all ages (that means adults, too!) can enjoy trying something new, making friends, and celebrating growth! Just a few of them are featured below!

Photo of Risa McMahon smiling

Risa McMahon

Chief Enthusiasm Officer & President of Shenanigans

Risa (she/her), a proud mama of two, has been described as "a magnet for fun", is as zany as she is organized (very). With decades of vocal lessons under her belt, she often bursts into song and changes lyrics to suit her mood. She loves parties of all kinds and loves teaching others how to unlock their hidden gifts. Known best for her witty remarks and wacky dance moves, she also happens to be a notary public, a total whiz at Excel spreadsheets, an admirer of cool words, a member of ALA's DEI&A committeeand a relentless problem solver. She picked up a thing or two as the daughter of a seamstress, a Girl Scout, captain of the SPHS cheerleading squad, and VP of the USC Helenes ... and firmly believes she can do anything she sets her mind to! 
Learn more about Risa's career.

Photo credit: Brittany Welch

Photo of Jessica O'Connell smiling

Jessica O'Connell

Guest Instructor,

Treats & Sweets

Jessica (she/her) is known to some as "Dr. O'Connell"...and if you have a child who was born in the last few years, she may have even delivered your baby! What you may not know is that she can bake like nobody's business!

 

This incredibly sweet mom-to-three will swap the scrubs for her best apron so she can guide budding master bakers on how fun it can be to mix, stir, frost, and sprinkle seasonal sweets!

 

The littles in your life will beg you to sign them up again, and you may find yourself happy to oblige once you taste what's in those take-home containers!

Sign up for her next cookie decorating class by shimmying on over to our FUN-genda which you can find on the REGISTER page!

Dan
Stepanian-Bennett

Guest Lecturer,
Chess & Guitar

By day, Dan is a senior marketing director: social media guru, videographer, strategist and brand storyteller. 

 

By night, Dan cherishes "Girl-Dad Time" with preschooler Ella - singing songs, playing board games, along with watching football and taking bike rides on the Lakeshore Trail on weekends.

 

Fortunately, he also happens to be a joy-bomb and a fantastic guitar coach and chess teacher! Adults and kids alike will absolutely love learning from Dan's unique teaching style and soaking up his infectious good vibes.
 

Photo of Dan Stepanian-Bennett smiling

Michaela Williams

Guest Instructor,
Dance

Michaela Williams (she/her) has been teaching dance, music, and theatre to children ages 3-18 for the past six years across the Midwest. She studied Musical Theatre and Dance at Millikin University in Decatur, Illinois, where she taught at the local dance studio. After graduation, she toured the Midwest with a traveling children's theatre company, and then moved to Chicago, where she’s been performing and teaching ever since!

In addition to performing arts, Michaela is passionate about fitness and works full time at a local athletic club. She is a certified Barre instructor and loves to take all sorts of fitness classes. 

Photo of Michaela Williams smiling
Photo of Bridget Walsh smiling

Bridget Walsh

Guest Lecturer,
Education & Counseling

Bridget (she/her) has been teaching and working alongside families since 2004. She is the Founder of Bridge Academics and works at Francis W. Parker School as a Learning Specialist. Bridget has extensive experience coaching families through difficulties and encouraging students to advocate effectively while taking responsibility for their future. She integrates plans to meet clients' needs and identifies areas of strength to guide families towards paths where success builds confidence and independent skills. She has a wealth of connections and resources to help families overcome hurdles that may have prevented success in the past. 

Photo of Candace Washington smiling

Candace Washington

Guest Lecturer,
Leadership

Candace (she/her) is Founder & CEO of Pivotal Impact, a consulting firm focused on helping companies develop, engage and retain their leaders. As a product of under-resourced communities, she immediately connects with her audience through her authentic, infectious personality and her highly energetic and empowering delivery. Her students appreciate her relatable experiences that allow them to see themselves in her, and immediately take action to elevate their outcomes!

Jaime Elaine Raglow

Guest Instructor,
Yoga, Dance & Painting

Jaime (she/her) is an Ohio native who has made Chicago her home. She studied theater and dance at Loyola and is a painter specializing in colorful, floral pieces. She is also celebrates the arts as a dance, theatre,  and music educator.  Jaime is the Founder of The Jaime Elaine Creative and will be joining us as a fitness instructor for adults (hip hop and yoga classes), and a music instructor for kiddos through our partnership with The Music Playhouse of Chicago. In a few months when her schedule allows, we hope she will lead our students in some painting and art classes as well! 

Photo of Jaime Elaine Raglow smiling

Sarah Zimmerman

Guest Instructor,
Art

Sarah (she/her) has served her community as a librarian and archivist at the Chicago Public Library team for two decades. In her roles, she's managed the Chicago Theatre Collection, developed engaging programs for the public and now leads the Arts & Music and Social Science & History Departments at the Harold Washington Library.

In her spare time, Sarah is also an art and music lover (and sometimes baker) and will be joining us for fun classes for all ages to enjoy! She will guide us on paper-centric arts and crafts as well as on paper marbling adventures!

Photo of Sarah Zimmerman smiling
Photo of Olivia Sobieraj smiling

Olivia Sobieraj

Guest Volunteer Lecturer, Chicago History

Olivia (she/her) grew up hearing stories of Chicago buildings and has been studying Chicago history in her spare time for nearly a decade since she graduated from Indiana University with degrees in Marketing and French.

She will be regaling us this Fall with the myths and truths behind the Great Chicago Fire.

When not working as a Marketing Manager for a Big 4 firm, she enjoys learning about architectural preservation and equitable access to resources.

 

In her humble opinion, there is nothing more joyful than sharing a good story about her home!

Photo of Dana Linney smiling, leaning her elbow on The Stanley Cup

Dana Linney

Guest Instructor,
Benefits & HR

Dana (she/her) brings decades of experience leading benefits and HR teams and wellness initiatives for some of the Chicago's top companies.

 

Her relatable, easy-going approach makes it easy to grasp even the most challenging  subjects.

 

Whether teaching students to rewrite their resumes to land their dream job, or evaluating employer-provided insurance offerings to best suit their needs, her students always walk away smiling!

Jared Renteria

Marketing
Intern

Jared (he/him) is Southport Fundamentals' marketing intern and helps Ms. Risa with communications and program promotion projects.

 

Jared has resided in the Avondale neighborhood his entire life. He is a Lane Tech alum and current UIC student, who is majoring in Communication and minoring in Criminal Law and Justice.

 

He loves exploring the city and trying out new restaurants in his spare time. A proud father of a Labrador-Pit, you can usually find him enjoying a beautiful day in Logan Square or in the bleachers at Wrigley Field. 

During the Summer, he teaches at Lil Sluggers, a baseball program for children. He also teaches teens the fundamentals of cooking and baking at Concordia Place.

 

He loves educating the youth,  as he believes that young people play an essential role in shaping our society. 

Photo of Jared Renteria looking seriously at the camera, he is standing on Chicago expressway overpas

Sookie
(The Robot Vacuum)

Vice President, 
Carpet Maintenance

Named after the protagonist in the song "Groove Me" by King Floyd, Sookie (she/her) is SopoFUN's loyal robot vacuum. Sookie works tirelessly to suck up crumbs and dirt to make sure our guests have a fabulous bottom-of-foot experience. Our first floor carpets are dreamy, and Sookie takes the same level of pride in her work as Wrigley Field's lawn mowers.

She was recently given googly eyeballs by Xavier (age 8) which helped her see that her true love was right in front of her the whole time. In early 2024, Sookie exchanged vows with a white stick vacuum in an intimate ceremony officiated by Madison (age 9). The children decided he should take her (first) name, so he now goes by "Mr. Sookie".

The motto emblazoned on her paper-plate-nametag 
is, "Sookie is my name, cleaning dirt is my game". 

Photo of robot vacuum with googly eyes and a nametag that says "Sookie is my name cleaning dirt is my game"
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