Messmore Staff

Get to Know the Messmore Staff! (2022-2023)

The Office Staff!

Fiema, Renee (Principal)

The students at Messmore are special and every day I am thankful to be their principal. I have been in education for over 30 years, and this is my 5th year at Messmore. I started my career as a kindergarten teacher and then taught first, second, and fourth grade. After seven years as a classroom teacher, I became a building literacy specialist for 8 years and then became an elementary principal. This is my 16th year as a principal and from my varied experiences and education, I can sincerely say that the Montessori practices work! I am blessed to work with amazing teachers and staff, supportive parents, and a school that practices the Montessori philosophy.

I have two children, my son is 21 years old, and my daughter is 18. Both are attending college together at Western Michigan University in Kalamazoo. My husband owns a business called Aquarium Shine, so we have a beautiful saltwater reef tank at home that I enjoy. After school, I like to work out at Lifetime Fitness, walk my two dogs, read, and journal.

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Szadek, Sarah (Administrative Assistant)

Hello! My name is Sarah Szadek and I am the Administrative Assistant at Messmore Elementary. This is my first year in this position and I absolutely love my job! I also enjoy fishing, counted cross-stitching, diamond art, and watching TV and movies with my girls.

I have two beautiful daughters…..Lois and Andie. Lois is in 8th grade at Heritage Junior High where she is excelling in all her classes and is enjoying school. She is also on the 8th Grade Volleyball Team as well as Track and Field and Band! Andie is in the 6th Grade here at Messmore and she is also doing well and enjoying school!

I am a former Messmore student as well! I also went to Heritage, and then on to Stevenson where I was 8th in my class and one of nine valedictorians. I received a scholarship to Oakland University and obtained my bachelor’s in biology, with a minor in chemistry. I did a year of student teaching and received my teaching certificate. I did a lot of subbing in various districts but, unfortunately, the time was not right for me to get a teaching job, so I switched over to banking instead. I worked at Flagstar Bank for several years before being laid off due to outsourcing. I did the stay-at-home-mom thing for a while, until Lois was in Kindergarten. Then I started volunteering in her classroom and working in the lunchroom and out on recess. When the office positions opened up, I applied, and the rest is history! Being back at Messmore is fantastic and I feel this is my home-away-from-home. I love the parents, students, and staff and I truly believe I have the best job ever!
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Hackert, Denise (Office Clerk)

Hello, my name is Denise Hackert. I am the new office clerk for Messmore Elementary. I graduated from Davenport University with a Business Administration degree. I worked in sales for 18 years traveling throughout the US. After having my son, I was a stay-at-home-mom. When my son started school I worked for another school district as a Lunch Monitor/Para.

I am married to my wonderful husband, Kevin for 15 years. We have a 13 year old son, Andrew who keeps us busy with boy scouts and his extra-curricular activities like bowling and tennis. I also have a spoiled 8 year old Goldendoodle, Biscuit. I enjoy spending time with my family, camping in our travel trailer, traveling, going to Florida, golfing, and fishing.

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The Teachers!

Barker, Amy (Preschool and Kindergarten)

Hello Messmore Families! My name is Amy Barker and this is my 3rd year teaching PreK/Kindergarten at Messmore and my 18th year teaching Montessori. I am married to my High School sweetheart and we have 2 busy, growing boys who attend Shelby Junior High and Eisenhower. My passion is teaching and enriching the minds of little ones while having fun doing so. In my free time I enjoy being outdoors with my family and friends, attending sporting events, crafting, and gardening.
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Braley, Melanie (Third and Fourth Grade)

My name is Melanie Braley. I have been at Messmore for 8 years, the first 3 as a substitute and the last 5 in my own classroom. I feel blessed every single day to have the opportunity to fulfill my dreams at Messmore. I am all about affirmations and positive thinking within my classroom and love how much the students get into it! I have been married to my amazing husband for 11 years and we have an adorable yellow lab puppy named Milli. We love to travel, golf, and watch Notre Dame football 🙂
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Grady, Pam (First and Second Grade)

Hello, my name is Mrs. Grady. I have been teaching at Messmore for 33 years, this year is 34. I also attended Messmore as a student. Yes, the building is that old! I received my bachelor’s degree from Central Michigan and my master’s degree from Oakland University.

I have a wonderful husband, John, and three children, Aaron 27, Joshua 25, and Samantha 22. All three of which attended Messmore. I believe that was the best decision we ever made educationally. Aaron graduated with a Business degree from Central Michigan University. His brother, Joshua graduated with a Sales Degree from (our rival school) Western Michigan University. Leave it to my middle! My daughter, Samantha is still in school and is pursuing a degree in the medical field.

My oldest son, Aaron got married this summer and we were blessed to add Jonna to our family. We have a dog named Archie who loves to snuggle all the time. I love teaching, going on vacations with my family, spending time in my pool reading a good book, drawing, and crafting.
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Hannish, Riva (Third and Fourth Grade)

Hello Messmore Family,

My name is Riva Hannish. This is my 15th year in Utica District. I student taught here at Messmore Elementary to the best mentor teacher, Charlene Sonnenberg! I taught first and second grade for one year and then moved to West Utica where I taught first grade for 5 additional years. I came back to Messmore and have been teaching 3rd and 4th grade since then. I am married and have 4 children, 3 boys and a girl. Three of my children attend Messmore and my oldest just left and is at Holy Family. I am thankful for all the wonderful teachers they have had and feel very blessed!

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Kiser, Deborah (Preschool and Kindergarten)

I’m baaack!

Hi Messmore Colleagues,

I am excited to be back home! I taught Preschool/Kindergarten here nine years ago for eight years. Except for being in a different classroom, new technology, and a few new faces, I feel like I never left!

I have two delightful daughters, two super sons-in-law, and two groovy grandsons. My grandsons are my hobbies. Luke, age 14, is always participating in a sport. Micah, age 3, just moved home from Oregon/California. With the colder days, he has declared that he does not like Michigan!

I have a spoiled dog named Bailey; she is a little Terrier Mutt and the best flea market treasure I have ever found. No... she found me!

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Masinick, Jenny (Fifth and Sixth Grade)

Hi, my name is Jenny Masinick, I am a fifth and sixth grade teacher here at Messmore. This is my fourth year teaching this grade level. I live with my husband Ben and 14-yr old daughter, Amber. Most of my time is spent enjoying all my daughter's extra-curricular activities like band competitions, football games, swim meets, and dances. I love to read and hang out with my friends and family. My passion is being environmentally conscious and aware.

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McKenna, Elizabeth (Third and Fourth Grade)

Hi! My name is Elizabeth McKenna. UCS is truly my home! I went to Morgan Elementary, Malow JH and Eisenhower High School as a student, and did my student teaching at Messmore Elementary with the amazing Mrs. Grady! I have been teaching for 15 years, 3 in kindergarten before coming to Messmore, and 12 right here in the third and fourth grade! My husband and I share three wild and amazing boys! I am always the happiest swimming, boating, and reading. I love my Messmore family!
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O'Brien, Amy (First and Second Grade)

My name is Amy O'Brien. This is my 5th year teaching 1st/2nd grade and 16th year teaching at Messmore. My passion is reading and writing. At home I have 4 sons and a very supportive husband. Life is good!!!
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Papadelis, Kellie (Fifth and Sixth Grade)

Hi. I’m Ms. Kellie Papadelis. I teach 5th/6th grade. I’ve been at Messmore in some way, shape, or form, since 2004! I have 3 grown children-Andrew, Marisa, and Jordan. I am a Montessorian at heart. Some of my favorite things are gardening, baking, reading, hiking, learning, and traveling. This summer I traveled to Switzerland and went walking, hiking, biking, kayaking, and PARAGLIDING in the Alps!
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Papandreou, Dimitra (Fifth and Sixth Grade)

Hi! My name is Dimitra Papandreou and I began my teaching journey 17 years ago here at Messmore Elementary. I can truly say that I am lucky enough to have my dream job, and there is nothing else I would rather be doing. I love teaching 5th and 6th grade!

My husband and I share three amazing adult children and three beautiful grandchildren that we adore. My favorite memories involve spending time with family and friends. I also enjoy going on long walks, traveling to new places, reading, and gardening.

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Papandreou, Melissa (Fifth and Sixth Grade)

My name is Melissa Papandreou and I am a fifth and sixth grade teacher at Messmore Elementary. I love to teach and truly view every day in my classroom as a new opportunity to learn. I have the best job on Earth! Montessori is my passion. I even earned my master's degree in Montessori Education. I enjoy spending time with my husband and my dog. We love going on walks and trying out new restaurants.
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Pecoraro, Lisa (Preschool and Kindergarten)

My name is Lisa Pecoraro and I have been teaching Pre/Kindergarten at Messmore for ten years. I have been married for 31 years and blessed with 4 children: 2 boys and 2 girls, who are all former Messmore students. Thus, Messmore has been my "school family" for many years. I have one beautiful, silly granddaughter and a lovable goldendoodle, named Brady. I enjoy walking, biking, traveling with my family, and cheering for our Michigan Wolverines. Go Blue💙💛
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Schultz, Marie (Preschool and Kindergarten)

Hi, My name is Marie Schultz. This is my 45th year teaching Montessori and my 13th year at Messmore. I have taught Preschool/Kindergarten and 1st-3rd grades. I enjoyed my time teaching 1st-3rd, but my love is Early Childhood. When I'm not at school I enjoy spending time with my husband of 44 years, my two daughters, their husbands, and my 7 beautiful grandchildren. I live on 60 acres in Lapeer County but find the hour drive worth it to be part of the Messmore Montessori team.
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Sonnenberg, Charlene (First and Second Grade)

My name is Charlene Sonnenberg. I teach 1st/2nd grade, and I'm starting my 28th year of teaching for Utica Community Schools. I am a proud graduate of Western Michigan University! Go Broncos! I love to sing, and use songs daily in my classroom. At home, I have two adult children. Braye, my son, is a graduate of GVSU and is a Senior Mortgage Underwriter at UWM. Brenna, my daughter, will graduate from GVSU in April with a Criminal Justice degree. She plans on going to law school next fall. Both of my kids attended Messmore as children, as well! I'm excited to welcome a daughter-in-law, Kate, in 2023, as well. Kate is a graduate of Oakland University and is pursuing her Master's degree at Ball State. I've been married for 28 years to my high school sweetheart, Jim, and our pride and joy is our very naughty boxer dog named Norman.
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Vedder, Andrea (Third and Fourth Grade)

Hi, I'm Andrea Vedder. I have been teaching the past 24 years at Messmore Elementary. I have been teaching 34 years. I am originally from Ohio, but have called Rochester, Michigan my home for almost 30 years. I am currently an empty nester. Miles has just moved to Colorado to start a career in finance after granduating from Grand Valley State University. Simon is at Michigan State earning his degree in Engineering - Data Analysis. He is graduating next year.

I love being a teacher then and now. The challenges add to the adventure. I enjoy my family - I am the youngest of nine. I am the happy mom of Miles and Simon. If you see me, I am enjoying the outdoors - walking, hiking, skiing, and enjoying the sun on my face.

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Witek, Christina (First and Second Grade)

Hi! My name is Christina Witek. This is my 16th year teaching 1st & 2nd grade here at Messmore. I have two children who also attend Messmore. I have a passion for reading and connecting students with books to develop their own love of reading.
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The Specialists!

Al-attar, Macey (Instructional Support Module (ISM))


I'm Macey Al-attar, I just graduated from Oakland University and this is my first year teaching. I student taught at Roose Elementary in Centerline and was virtual all year long with 2nd grade due to covid. It is nice to finally get the in person experience. I live with my parents, sister and my Pomeranian. I love traveling and being with my family!

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Cahill, Brian (Gym)

I’m Brian Cahill and this is my 9th year of teaching Physical Education and Health and my 4th year in Utica Schools. I graduated from Wayne State University with a Master's in teaching. Teaching has been my passion for very long time as I began teaching swim lessons in my back yard pool.

Currently, I am am teaching here at Messmore and Davis Junior High School. I am really enjoying teaching in the district and cannot imagine teaching anywhere else. I have also coached swimming for the past 17 years and I currently coach the men's and women's swim team at Eisenhower High School.

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Merriman, Lisa (Art)

Hello! My name is Lisa Merriman and I teach art at Messmore and Flickinger Elementary. Art is truly my passion as a teacher and artist. I love working with students to unlock their creativity and feel blessed to see them grow as young artists. I share my life with my adorable husband Brian, and my daughters Grace and Hannah. At home, I'm lucky my family is as passionate about creativity as I am! They enjoy dabbling in a variety of art projects as much as I do. I also enjoy spending time with my family up in Lexington, reading and walking on the beach, playing games and gathering around the campfire.
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Miskokomon, Kathy

This is my 31st year in Utica Community Schools! After teaching Nursery/Preschool, First Grade, Second Grade, Fourth Grade, special assignment of teaching teachers technology and then sixth grade I moved to the media center position 19 years ago and started right here at Messmore! This year I am at Flickinger Elementary every morning and Messmore every afternoon. My husband and I have three children, Will (age 26), Kate (age 24) and Hannah (age 22) who are all busy in their lives leaving us as empty nesters. We love to travel! When I'm not at school or on a tropical beach I can be found reading a book, painting, gardening or other fun things to keep me busy.

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Special Services!

Buckley, Damien (Literacy Coach)

Hello, Messmore Mavericks:)

My name is Damien Buckley. I am the new Literacy Coach at Messmore. I've worked with UCS for 20 years. I've taught a number of grades at a number of schools. I feel blessed to be at Messmore. The students and staff are so welcoming and hard working. Literacy is my passion and the key to being a life-long learner.

I have 3 wonderful children with my beautiful wife. My wife is a 2nd grade teacher. My kids are in 7th grade, 4th grade, and 1st grade. If I'm not watching my kids' sports, I'm usually golfing or tackling some project around the house. I like solving problems with my hands.

I look forward to meeting all of you!

Mr. Buckley

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Cocco, Sara (Learning Center)

Hi Messmore Family, my name is Sara Cocco. I have been teaching for 23 years, all at Messmore Elementary. I am the special education teacher, but I also am the advisor for ATOM (Academically Talented of Messmore) and Student Council. I love my job because I get to work with all different age level of students. I feel extremely grateful to work at such a great school. I received my bachelor’s degree in Special Education from Central Michigan University and my master’s degree in Counseling from Oakland University. I have been married to my husband Anthony for 21 years. We live in Washington with our 2 daughters Chloe and Lydia. Chloe is a senior at Eisenhower High School this year. She loves tap dancing, teaching dance class and tutoring. Lydia is a Freshman at Malow Jr. High and she loves dancing. She is on the Eisenhower Junior Varsity Dance team. Our family spends lots of time at dance competitions (even Mr. Cocco who builds and transports all the props). I enjoy reading, shopping, watching TV and spending time with my family and friends.

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Kasiska, Laura (English Learners Assistant)

My name is Laura Kasiska, and I teach EL at Messmore Elementary. I’ve been at Messmore for five years. Prior to this, I was subbing at Plumbrook in their POHI classes and was a lunch monitor for a number of years. I’ve been married for 37 years. My husband and I have four children and four grandchildren, with number five due in May. We love to travel, when we have the time, and spending time with our grandchildren. We also love watching our son play baseball and swim for the Stevenson swim team. In my spare time, I love doing photography and scrapbooking.

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Nikollaj, Gabriela (English Learner (EL) Consultant)

Hello! My name is Gabriela Nikollaj and I am the English Learner (EL) Consultant at Messmore Elementary. I have been teaching in Utica Community Schools for 14 years and have a passion for supporting students as they grow in language and reading. I am fortunate to be able to work with such wonderful students, families and staff. I enjoy spending time with my husband and 2 children, along with reading and traveling.
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Tear-Shelton, Jennifer (Speech-Language Pathologist)

Hello Messmore families! My name is Jennifer Tear-Shelton and I am so happy to be returning to your wonderful school for my third year as the speech-language pathologist in your building. I am in my 17th year working for UCS and love my job! It changes a little with every group of kids that I see, and I love making their speech therapy time fun. My husband, Cory, and I have two daughters named Caleigh (13) and Paige (4). We enjoy being outside in our yard swinging, jumping on the trampoline, going for walks or bike rides, and gardening. We have also started updating a vintage camper and love to take our girls to explore the state parks in Michigan, as my husband and I both grew up camping often. I am looking forward to another school year of meeting the families here at Messmore Elementary!

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The Teacher Assistants!

Keyorkgy, Safaa (Mrs. Schultz's PM Assistant)


My name is Safaa Keyorkgy, and I am a very proud mother of three bright and talented children who were lucky to have had Messmore as their elementary school as well. With the guidance and important lessons from various Messmore teachers they have grown up to become amazing adults that any mom wishes their kids to be.

I have a bachelors degree in French literature. I speak three languages, Arabic, French and English. I worked as a Secretary to the Chief of Mission of the United Nations High Commissioner in Damascus, Syria, and after getting married in 2000 I moved to Michigan with my husband and became a mom of three.

Watching my kids flourish in this school with love and laughter put a smile on my face every day. Therefore, I decided to join the Messmore family as a GETA paraprofessional to pursue my passion of teaching and support the wonderful young students. I started my job in 2014 at UCS, and I love everything about Messmore!

Also, I enjoy traveling with family, doing crochet, knitting , biking, composing poems, and dancing.
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Minello, Kristen (Mrs. Barker's AM Assitant)

Hello! My name is Kristen Minello and I am a teacher assistant at Messmore Elementary. Prior to working here at Messmore, I worked for many years in advertising sales. I have always enjoyed helping children. My past volunteer work with Children's Hospice and Children's Hospital of Michigan was deeply meaningful to me. Now getting to work each day with our youngest learners is so rewarding! At home, I am blessed to share my life with my husband Chris, my two children Chase and Marisa, and our dog Cruze. I also really enjoy cooking and have a knack for organizing. I cherish time spent with my family and friends. These days you will find me cheering from the stands as an enthusiastic hockey and soccer mom!
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Mirza, Donna (Learning Center Assistant)

Hello, I’m Donna Mirza and been with UCS since 2008. I started as a lunch Mom and substitute SETA. In 2010 I became a SETA full time. I have worked from High School to Early Childhood and made Messmore home 4 years ago. Just seeing a child laugh and smile makes my day!

My husband and I have one Daughter, she is currently in her second year of college. We all live in Sterling Heights with our two dogs.

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Patel, Sarmistha (Ms. Kiser's AM and PM Assistant)

Hi, Messmore Families! My name is Sarmistha Patel, but the kids know me as Miss Sally. I have been here at Messmore since 2018. I started as a lunch mom. This is my first year as a Preschool Teacher Assistant for Ms. Deborah Kiser and Mrs. Lisa Pecoraro's preschool classes. I have been happily married for 19 years and I have 3 kids that go to this school as well...Aarya,Om, and Aksh. I am happiest camping, reading, and watching tv. I also love spending time with my kids. I love my Messmore Family!
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Shaaia, Anastasia (Mrs. Schultz's AM Assistant)

Hi Messmore Families! My name is Anastasia Shaaia, but the kids know me as Ms. Anna, and this is my second year here with the Messmore Family! I’m a Preschool Teacher Assistant for Mrs. Schultz’s AM preschool class. I have been happily married for 12 years and I have 3 kids that go to this school as well, Jazmin (5th grade), Ryan (4th grade) and Roman (2nd grade). I enjoy spending time with my family, working on the house, and traveling. I’m super excited and thankful to be part of the amazing community of teachers here at Messmore and I am so happy to be here to help watch the kids learn and grow with the Montessori teaching!
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Shahane, Nikita (Mrs. Barker's AM Assistant)

Hi Messmore family! My name is Nikita Shahane and this is my second year here at Messmore as a teacher assistant in a kindergarten/preschool classroom. I have been working with young children for the past 12 years. I have a family of 4, my husband and 2 wonderful children. I love traveling, walking, and cooking. I am blessed to have a lot of friends in my life. I love making friends and I am so grateful to be part of the Messmore family.
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The Support Staff!

Hooven, Svetlana (AM Sub GETA)

My name is Svetlana Hooven, but people call me Lana. My two children, Daniel (9) and Sophia (6) attend Messmore and my husband also went to Messmore, making us a second generation family.

I received two bachelor's degrees from Russian universities before moving to the US, in English and German and in Journalism and Public Relations.

I enjoy travel, painting, reading, and exercise. I have volunteered at Messmore in the past, but I'm excited to be able to help all year long this year!

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Kachouh, Rania (Building Substitute Teacher)

Hello Messmore Family!

My name is Rania Kachouh and I am a Building Substitute Teacher here at Messmore. I have a Master’s in Counseling from Oakland University and have always enjoyed working with children.

My Messmore number is 13 years! What’s significant about that number you may ask? That’s how long my family will be consecutively attending Messmore between early childhood and elementary across our three children; we love it here! My Messmore family includes; my oldest Elijah is in 6th grade, Sophia in 4th grade, and Isaiah in 2nd grade. I have also been happily married to my incredible husband, George for 15 years.

My personal hobbies include traveling, shopping, and spending time with my family and friends.

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Kinoshita, Yoko (Building Substitute Teacher)

My name is Yoko Kinoshita and I work as General School Support to help teachers and students.

I am from Nagoya, Japan, and moved to Michigan in 2008 after marrying. I am the mother of Keiko (7th grade) and Ryusuke (3rd grade). I enjoy baking, gardening, and camping/fishing with my family.

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Oakie, Michelle (Security Specialist)

I am Michelle Oakie and I am one of eleven School Security Specialists at UCS. I have been assigned to Heritage Junior High School, Messmore, Harvey, Oakbrook and Collins Elementary schools since 2019. I am married and I have two children.

I have a BA in Journalism from Wayne State University. I worked my way through college as a dispatcher at the Roseville Police Department. After graduation, I felt that there was more for me to explore in the civil service field, so I became a police officer. Although this was not my original career goal, the twenty-five years I spent working for the department afforded me the opportunity to serve the public and make a difference in the community.

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Razoky, Randa (Health Aide)

Hi Messmore Families,
My Name is Randa Razoky. I have been the Health Aide of the school for the last 5 years. This is my 7th year at UCS. I graduated from Department of Mechanical Engineering from University of Technology in Iraq. I am a mother of one boy. He’s a 12th grade student at Stevenson High School. I love painting a lot and I have participated in many exhibitions in Iraq and USA. I hope to continue working with your kids.

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Romano, Cacee (Building Substitute Teacher)

Hello, Messmore families!

My name is Cacee Romano and I am the Building Substitute Teacher. This is my second year at Messmore. I am married to my wonderful husband Chris. We celebrated our 10th wedding anniversary this year. We have two little Messmore Mavericks of our own, Amelia and Leo. We also have two fur babies at home, Lucy and Lincoln.

I very much enjoy getting to know the students and getting to help and work with the teachers and staff. Messmore is such a wonderful community and I’m so thankful to be a part of it.

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The Custodians!

Battaglia, Philip (Lead Custodian)

Hello Messmore staff, kids and parents. My name is Philip Battaglia. This is my 7th year as a lead custodian. What a lead custodian does is to make sure everything in the building is running orderly. I’ve only been here at Messmore Elementary for about 7 months.

I am engaged with no date set yet. I’ve been with my girl for 7 years, no kids. I enjoy what I do. Cleaning is my passion.

In my free time I love the outdoors, cutting grass, hanging out on the deck, cruising in my 1995 Trans AM. I love spending time with my family and friends, gardening and going to sporting events like The Tigers and Red Wings’ games. Also, I put God first!


Your Custodian Philip

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Vila, Nevrije (PM Custodian)

Hi! My name is Nevrije Vila. I have been working as a custodian for Utica Community Schools for 10 years, 8 of those years at Messmore Elementary School. I have three children (Bege, Ilir, Kushtrim). I have been married to a wonderful man for 35 years. I love cooking and reading.
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