Instructor Bios

Tony Crnkovich – Colored Pencils Mr. Crnkovich is a professional artist/instructor in the Chicagoland area. He is a graduate of The American Acedemy of Art with an Associate’s Degree in graphic design. Skilled in a variety of subject matter and media, his foremost specialty is portraiture. His work includes published and private commissions, a highlight being “The Sound of Music” collectible plate series for Knowles China.

Paula Strupeck Gardner, M.A., M.A. She loves sharing yoga with people. She has experienced and believes in its healing properties and its potential for changing lives. Each class is a tapestry of breath, movement, meditation, philosophy, and poetry. Paula taught French, Linguistics, and Methods of Teaching Language for over 25 years and draws on that experience in her work with yoga students. She holds an advanced certificate of teacher training and, in her 9 years of teaching, has created and taught yoga classes for special populations such as cancer patients and survivors, MS patients, wheelchair athletes, children, moms and infants, seniors, and families. She has worked with yoga as therapy for depression, feet and back issues, and anxiety, among others. Her philosophy is that we all do the best we know how and that the focus is on honoring the body as it as today.

John Howard – Multi-Level Watercolor, Still & Life Drawing Mr. Howard received his training from the American Academy of Art in Chicago. As a professional artist and Muralist, he has been awarded the CFS medal from the American Watercolor Society’s 136th Annual International Exhibition in New York. He has been teaching various classes for over 21 years and joined McCord in January 2005. His murals and paintings can be found in the corporate, residential and gallery settings.


Christina Kedzior – Voice, Piano Affectionately referred to as “Miss Christine” by her students, Ms. Kedzior holds performance degrees in both Musical Theater and Theater from IllinoisState University. Performing since the age of three, she has credits in theater, opera, and dance ranging from Miss Julie to The Magic Flute to Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. While she will always cherish these memories, her greatest joy is teaching and the opportunity it allows her to enrich her student’s lives.

Beth Leahy – Adult Oil, Workshops, Youth Oil & Drawing B.A., St. Xavier University with additional classes taken from the Art Institute of Chicago, American Academy of Art, Palette and Chisel, and School of Representational Art. Beth is a member of the Oil Painters of America and has taught oil painting to adults and children since 1997. McCord has been privileged to have her teach since opening in 2004. Beth has exhibited and taken many awards over the years.

Ben Parker – Guitar, Bass, Contemporary Voice, Ukulele, Theory, Songwriting Ben has been involved in the Illinois music scene since he was a young teen, touring with the Decatur Park Singers, serving as a session guitarist for the Decatur Park District and performing regularly at restaurants in Chicagoland. He has maintained a private lesson studio while obtaining his degree from Eastern Illinois University, being a store manager at Music & Arts and working on his first album. He excels in teaching Rock, Pop, Blues, Folk, Alternative, Funk and Jazz. Throughout the years, he has instructed both children and adults alike. His passion in life is sharing music through teaching and playing.

Mike Roti – Guitar Playing since the age of 12, Mr. Roti attended Columbia College where he majored in Music Performance for Jazz and Blues Guitar. He has played with several bands, performed at the Taste of Chicago on the Fox Stage, and currently performs on weekends. Mr. Roti teaches over 60 private students each week and has been a wonderful addition to McCord since 2004.

Carmelo Schifano – Beginning Watercolor A professional educator, Carmelo has been teaching for 37 years. He holds Bachelor and Master degrees in Vocational Education. His teaching career includes Chicago Public and Community Collages of Chicago and he is currently certified with the State of Illinois in several areas of education, including art and design. Since leaving the school system, Carmelo has been putting his teaching skills to good use conducting professional watercolor classes. Apart from teaching classes, he has judged local art shows and put on a variety of painting demonstrations. He is a life member of the Transparent Watercolor Society of America as well as the Illinois Watercolor Society. His motto is have Fun and lose your Fear.

Julie Skoda – Pastel Painting Julie is a signature member of the Chicago Pastel Painters and associate member of the Pastel Society of America. She demos, teaches classes and workshops in the Chicago area and exhibits her work nationally. Most recently she has exhibited in New York City, New Orleans, Key Largo and Norwich, CT. In June her painting “Taryn” will be on exhibit at the International Association of Pastel Societies Exhibition in Albuquerque, NM. Her work can be viewed at

Kathy Steere – Drawing Nature Kathy is a lifelong Chicago area resident who has found outlets for her creativity through the years in many different ways utilizing a variety of media. She firmly believes that art should be fun…and it’s more fun if the student is comfortable with the process and the fundamentals. Since a finished artwork is only as good as its initial drawing, she emphasizes accuracy with those first lines. As a teacher, Kathy is committed to having her students succeed so she takes a step-by-step approach to take the fear out of trying something new. Kathy has a BS in Ornamental Horticulture from the University of Illinois in Champaign, earned a Botanical Art and Illustration Certificate from the Morton Arboretum in Lisle, and has taken many other classes and workshops along the way. Her website is

Liz Wall – Pastel, Palette Knife, Youth Classes Ms. Wall holds a Certificate in Drawing from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, and a B.A. from Marycrest University. She has been awarded Master Pastelist Designation for the Chicago Pastel Painters Association. She is also a member of the Chicago Plein Air Society and is an Artist Member of the Palette and Chisel Academy of Fine Arts. Her work has been featured on Chicago Tonight, and she had a solo exhibit at the Center Gallery in Glen Arbor, Michigan in the summer of 2014. She is a founding member of the Gallery Committee and McCord is honored to have had her on the faculty since opening in 2004.


Leave a Reply