Our Staff

A successful program requires an exceptional team. Our enthusiastic teachers are experienced and have a deep knowledge of elementary education, and also possess the passion, commitment, and imagination to make Saturday Place a special program for the students.


Maribel Herrera – Director
Bachelor’s Degree in Elementary Education in 2005 from National Louis University
Master’s Degree in Administration and Supervision of Education in 2007 from National Louis University
Master’s Degree in Curriculum and Instruction with a concentration in Bilingual Education in 2010 from UIC

Maribel Herrera was born and raised in Chicago’s South Side. As a young girl, she dreamed of one day becoming a teacher. Ms. Herrera recalls the day her mom came home from a yard sale with her first desk and chalkboard, she felt like she had won the lottery. Her first students were her parents as she would sit them every evening to teach them how to speak English. Her parents worked hard to provide for her two brothers and her. They always stressed the importance of education. As a result, she worked hard in school and graduated from Jones College Prep High School as a junior. She enrolled in National- Louis University the same year.

She currently works at Burroughs Elementary. The school and community have become part of her extended family. As a mother, she knows that education begins at home. However, as an educator, she has learned that many students need a classroom to call home. Maribel feels that teaching is a selfless career, but the rewards are endless! Saturday Place is very special to her for many reasons. The most important being how close to her heart it is. She was born and raised in Back of the Yards until the age of 10. When she joined Saturday Place in 2015, she was elated to be able to provide support to students from a community in which she grew up.

Anali Guzman –  Sub-director

Anali Guzman was born and raised in Pilsen and grew up the middle child with two brothers. She completed her Bachelor’s and Master’s degree at UIC and started student teaching at Burroughs during her senior year. She teaches at Burroughs Elementary. Ms. Guzman loves Saturday Place because she loves witnessing the students’ growth, academically and socially. Saturday Place is special to her because all the teachers are a strong team that shares the same vision in helping the students.

Esmeralda Rocha – Sub-director

Esmeralda Rocha has been teaching at Saturday Place since 2015. She grew up in the Back of the Yards neighborhood and attended Chavez Elementary School like some of our students! She is also a UIC alumni. Mrs. Rocha is very passionate about giving back to the community by working with kids growing up with a similar background as hers. She feels grateful to be able to contribute to their educational success in any way possible. She believes Saturday Place is a special place in large part to the partnership and commitment among the principals, teachers, parents, and students.

Marissa De La Riva – Math Teacher
Bachelors in Elementary Education from the University of Illinois at Chicago

Marissa De La Riva graduated from UIC with a Bachelor’s in Elementary Education in 2011. She started her teaching career at Burroughs in 2012. She worked at Burroughs as a teacher aide, librarian, a SECA and a substitute teacher. Currently Ms. De La Riva is a 5th grade teacher at Burroughs. Ms. De La Riva believes Saturday Place is unique and gives her a different teaching experience because she gets to focus on one subject and teach in a small group. She feels this structure allows her to do some intensive work with the students. Since she is working with 5th Graders this year it is nice to see which students she may be getting and what to expect when some of the current Saturday Place students come to her.

Zhen Huan Yi – Word Study Teacher
Elementary Education – Loyola University

Huanyi Zhen graduated from Loyola University Chicago in 2017 with a bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education with endorsements in ESL and Bilingual Education in Chinese. This is her first year at Saturday Place and fourth year teaching Kindergarten as a classroom teacher. She cannot wait to continue her teaching journey here. She believes in creating a positive, fun learning environment for her students.

Cynthia Ruiz – Writing Teacher
Bachelors in Early Childhood Education from DePaul University

Cynthia Ruiz grew up on the South Side of Chicago near Midway Airport. She is the oldest of four children. An interesting fact about her siblings is that they all have graduated from or currently attend DePaul University. Ms. Ruiz went to Jones College Prep High School in the South Loop. She attended Johnson & Wales University in Rhode Island for a brief time to study baking and pastry arts. She then moved back to Chicago where she discovered her passion for teaching young children and graduated from DePaul University in 2013. When she’s not teaching, Ms. Ruiz enjoys reading, writing, and baking. Ms. Ruiz has been with Saturday Place since 2017 and is excited about her third year with the program. She believes that Saturday Place is special because of the commitment from the students and their families. She is grateful for the enthusiasm and positive attitudes that the students bring every Saturday. Ms. Ruiz is also appreciative of the dedication of her fellow colleagues who help make Saturday Place a successful, enjoyable, and rewarding place to be.

Melanie Perez – Math Teacher
Elementary Education
Benedictine University

Melanie Perez grew up in the Gage Park neighborhood and now currently resides on the East Side. Being the eldest of three kids has taught her patience and accountability, something that has helped in her teaching career. She’s excited to work at Saturday Place because it gives her an opportunity to be in the classroom, spending quality time with students and enhancing their learning experience. She works at Burroughs as a Bilingual Teacher and is currently working towards her masters in Bilingual Education through American College of Education.

Luz Herrera – Support Teacher
Bachelors of Arts in Elementary Education and Psychology
Lake Forest College

Luz Herrera was born and raised on the northside of Chicago. She is an only child but is grateful to have a big family with lots of cousins! She graduated from Lake Forest College and has had the special opportunity to teach English in Brazil and Spain. She is currently teaching 4th grade at Jamieson Elementary. At the moment, she is working towards her ESL endorsement and Bilingual endorsement through Brandman University.

Marcos Barrera – Word Study Teacher
Roosevelt University

Marcos Barrera is a first-generation graduate from Chicago, Illinois. He grew up and currently lives on the South Side of the city. Growing up in a working-class family has helped him learn about responsibility, grit, communication, and generosity towards others. Marcos is most excited about working with all students at Saturday Place and collaborating with teachers to create exceptional lessons throughout the year. Saturday Place allows him to curate a safe and encouraging environment in the classroom for the students. Although he received his Bachelor’s in Psychology, he will continue his education and study Elementary Education at a graduate level. Marcos currently teaches in the South Side of Chicago.

Amanda Lonis – Reading Teacher

Amanda Lonis grew up in the northside neighborhood of Andersonville in Chicago. She attended Jones College Prep High School before pursuing a Bachelor’s in Fine Arts at the International Academy of Design as well as a Bachelor’s in Education from the University of Phoenix. She began her teaching career as a special education classroom assistant with CPS in Brighton Park at Columbia Explorers Academy. She taught 2nd grade for two years at Ravenswood Elementary and now teaches 4th grade at Jamieson Elementary in the West Ridge Neighborhood. She has been teaching at Saturday Place since 2014. She is excited to continue exploring new reading topics and meeting new students from Chavez and Burroughs. Ms. Lonis feels Saturday Place is really a special place because students and teachers from different schools and parts of the city come together to create a community where they get to grow together.

Ricardo Delgado – Writing Teacher
Elementary Education – Northeastern Illinois University

Mr. Delgado grew up in Morelos, Mexico. He moved to Chicago when he was 12 years old. He always liked school, and he knew he wanted to be a teacher. He always had terrific educators who inspired him to become one of them throughout my educational journey. He is extremely excited to be part of Saturday Place because this will be his first official job as a teacher since he recently graduated. He learned about the program and strongly believed in Saturday Place’s 3rd and 4th-grade focus. He knows members of Saturday Place, and he admires how much they care about their students. Mr. Delgado is looking forward to working alongside Saturday Place teachers and students.

Melissa Alvarez – Reading Support Teacher
Early Childhood Education – Northeastern Illinois University

Ms. Alvarez has been working with children for the past 14 years. She started as a lead teacher at a daycare with 15-18-month-olds, then moved on to working with children in preschool to eighth grade. She has spent most of her experience within CPS as a Special Education Classroom Assistant for the past 10 years. During these years, she enrolled at NEIU and took evening classes. She enrolled full-time since she was determined to receive her degree in teaching. In 2022, she completed her goal and received her teaching certification as a Bilingual teacher. Ms. Alvarez is excited to teach at Saturday Place because she will have the opportunity to work closely with a small group of students and witness their growth one Saturday at a time. Additionally, Ms. Alvarez feels that Saturday Place allows her to give back to students and families from Brighton Park, a neighborhood where she grew up.

Gina Fulgieri – Reading Teacher
Bachelor’s Degree in International Film and Women’s Studies from Loyola University Chicago (2009)
Master of Art in Art Education from School of the Art Institute Chicago (2013)
Professional Educator’s License from North Park University (2016)

Ms. Fulgieri was born and raised in upstate New York and moved to Chicago in 2005 to pursue dual degrees in Film/Media and Women & Gender Studies at Loyola University Chicago. While attending Loyola, Ms. Fulgieri worked with local youth organizations, like Afterschool Matters, Asian Human Services, and Family Focus, on various film projects. After finishing her undergraduate education in 2009, she enrolled in the School of the Art Institute of Chicago’s Master of Arts in Art Education program. During graduate school, she interned as a volunteer teaching artist with StoryCatchers Theatre working with incarcerated youth. After working with youth organizations and public schools, Ms. Fulgieri decided to utilize her artistic background and make the transition into the classroom. In 2016 she received her Professional Educator License in K-12 Visual Art and Middle School Social Studies. She currently is a Pk-8th grade visual arts teacher at Jamieson Elementary on Chicago’s North Side. Ms. Fulgieri is excited to work with Saturday Place and work with students from different parts of the city.

Rosi Lopez – Reading Support Teacher
University of Illinois at Chicago- Urban Education

Rosi López, a proud Hispanic and first-generation student, spent her childhood in the vibrant Back of the Yards neighborhood and currently resides in Midway. She attended Hamline Elementary School, where her teachers played a pivotal role in nurturing her language skills and fostering her love for education. Inspired by her own experiences, Ms. López pursued a Bachelor’s degree in Urban Education, driven by her passion to serve and empower the Back of the Yards and Brighton Park communities.

Currently, Ms. López is a dedicated third-grade teacher at Peck S.T.E.M. Elementary School. Her role at Peck S.T.E.M. allows her to engage young minds and inspire them to explore the fascinating world of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. With her unwavering commitment to educational excellence, she creates a nurturing and stimulating environment that promotes critical thinking and problem-solving skills among her students.

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