Developing Exceptional Children..
Developing Great Athletes.

Palmers gymnastics inc13 Neil Palmer
President & Boys Program Director

College: University of Nebraska
Degree: Masters in Business Administration

Certifications: CPR/AED, USAG Safe Sport Certified, AAU Professional Coaching Alliance

Bio: Neil was introduced to tumbling at the age of three, under the tutelage of his father, Len Palmer. He began gymnastics in Addison, IL at the age of six. Neil went on to win the Junior Olympic National Horizontal Bar Championship and became a three-time member of the United States Junior National Team, while training at the American Academy of Gymnastics. He competed for Addison Trail High School, gathering three team state championships, the parallel bar title, and the National High School All-Around championship.

Neil earned a full gymnastics scholarship to the University of Nebraska. As a Cornhusker, he became an NCAA All-American, and a member of the United States National Team. Some top accomplishments include: Competing in the 1984 and 1988 Olympic Trials, and winning the A.A. Championship at the 1987 United States Olympic Festival.

Neil has been coaching developmental through team-level boys and girl’s gymnastics since the age of 15. He has developed Palmer’s boys and girls into medal winning national-level competitors, as a stepping stone to producing collegiate scholarship winners.

He lives in Bloomingdale with his wife Debbie (Palmer’s Co-Owner), and their son, Brady

Palmers gymnastics inc14 Debbie Palmer
Vice President & Girls Program Director

College: University of Akron (Undergraduate), Baldwin Wallace (Graduate)
Degree: Bachelor Degree in Business Communication, Masters of Arts Degree in Education
Certifications: CPR/AED and First Aid, Certified Elementary Education and Reading Specialist,
USAG Safety and Professional Member, K.A.T certified, Skill Evaluator, Meet Director,
and PDP levels I and II accreditations, USAG Safe Sport Certified, AAU Professional Coaching Alliance

Bio: Debbie moved to Illinois from Medina, Ohio in 1997 to join the Palmer’s coaching staff. Debbie’s coaching background includes coaching developmental gymnasts through level 10 National Qualifiers. At the age of 5, Debbie began gymnastics at Fegley’s Gymnastics School in New Jersey. After her family moved to Ohio, she continued her gymnastics career at Gymnastics World, advancing to the Class I level.

In her spare time, Debbie enjoys traveling, skiing, swimming, listening to music, and spending time with her husband, Neil, and her son, Brady. Although she loves all sports, her heart belongs to gymnastics.

Palmers gymnastics inc12 Amanda Arendt
Gymnastics Instructor

College: Elmhurst College
Degree: Exercise Science
Certifications: First Aid & CPR/ AED, AAU Professional Coaching Alliance

Bio: Amanda has been involved with gymnastis nd dance at Palmer's since the age of 4. She competed in the AAU & USAG program here and has enjoyed every aspect of it. She later continued her careerat Glenbard North High School on the varsity team, becoming team captain her junior year.

She is currently attending Elmhurst College, where she is majoring in exercise science and minoring in spanish. After Elmhurst she plans to continue on her studies in becoming a physical therapist.

In her free time Amanda enjoys spending time with her family, friends and dog. She also likes working out, and baking.

Palmers gymnastics inc2 Marina Bakopoulos
Gymnastics Instructor and Team Ballet Instructor

Certifications:  AAU Professional Coaching Alliance

Bio: Marina Bakopoulos has been involved with the dance world for 30 years. She has taught at several studios in the Chicagoland area. Her love is in rhythm tap. She has earned scholarships for dance, and has performed all over sharing the stage with Savion Glover, Dianne Walker and her mentor Bruce Stegmann;  including the Chicago Human Rhythm Project, National Tap Dance Day Chicago, Great America, Tappin’ In The Twin Cities and more. Chicago Tribune hailed her as a “fierce soloist”, when she danced on stage for Gregory Hines.

Marina had her own rhythm tap company Tap Tap for several years. They earned many awards and performed across the USA. She has taught master classes at the Minnesota Tap Festival (TITC) and around at studios. Her students have performed at several competitions and earned many prestigious awards, Miss Dance Explosion, choreography awards and high point awards. Her students have also performed at Disneyland, Chicago’s Thanksgiving Day Parade and The Orange Bowl.

After 16 years she continues teaching ballet and gymnastics at Palmer’s Gymnastics, Dance Force in Huntley and choreographs around the Chicagoland area when time allows. She loves watching her students excel! She lives in Chicago with her husband, son, stepdaughter, stepson and the newest addition to her family, the twins, Yanni & Niko.

Palmers gymnastics inc12 Christina Cisko
Gymnastics Instructor

College: Northern Illinois University
Degree: Bachelor of Science in Education with an Endorsement in Art
Certifications: CPR/ AED and First Aid, AAU professional Coaching Alliance, Certified K-12 Art Teacher

Bio: Christina is a mom of 3 children, Elizabeth, Olivia,& Nicholas. Her children have been taking gymnastics at Palmer’s for 6 years and her daughter Olivia is on team. Growing up she was a competitive ice skater for 8 years, skating both individually and on a precision team. Christina grew up in Naperville and graduated from Northern Illinois University with a Bachelor of Science in Education with an endorsement in art. She is a certified teacher and taught art at Cowlishaw Elementary School in Naperville for 11 years. Currently she is teaching preschool at Masters Christian Preschool in Carol Stream for 2-5 year olds and also teaches an art camp in the summer. Christina has a passion for teaching children and watching them grow and is excited to start this new journey at Palmer’s.

Palmers gymnastics inc12 Sarah DeStefano
Gymnastics Instructor

College: College of Dupage
Degree: Associates in Science
Certifications: First Aid & CPR/ AED, AAU Professional Coaching Alliance

Bio: Sarah has been involved with gymnastics and dance at Palmer's since the age of 3. She competed in the USAG program until high school. She later continued her career at Glenbard West High School on the Varsity team all four years. Some of her accomplishments were helping her high school team finish fourth place at state her senior year. Coach Sarah has competed for over 15 years and now enjoys coaching at Palmer’s where she started her career.

In her free time Sarah enjoys spending time with her family and friends. She also likes working out and playing with her puppy Bella.

Palmers gymnastics inc12 Bari Flores
Gymnastics Instructor

College: University of Kentucky (Undergraduate) Northern Illinois University (Graduate)
Degree: Major in Physical Education
Certifications: AAU professional member

Bio: Bari recently rejoined the Palmer’s family after retiring as an elementary Physical Education teacher. Her history with the Palmer’s dates back 30 years ago when she taught part time for Neil’s parents; during the eight years she chose to stay home from teaching to raise her family. Bari considers herself one of the pioneers to girls sports. She graduated from high school in 1973; one year after Title IX of the Education Amendments was enacted by Congress and signed into law by Richard Nixon. Her senior year in high school was the first year girls had the opportunity to compete in any interscholastic sports competition. She is proud to say she was actually the first girls gymnastic All Around champion for the Mid Suburban conference. Bari completed her B.A. degree at the University of Kentucky, where she competed for the first three years gymnastics was offered as an intercollegiate sport. She is proud to say she was the first captain of that team.

 As a retired P.E. teacher, Bari states she believes that developmentally, gymnastics is the best sport to first introduce to a child. In her opinion no other sport develops a child’s kinesthetic awareness while improving the four components of fitness; cardiovascular endurance, muscular endurance, muscular strength and flexibility. In today’s world of instant gratification, it also teaches great focus, work ethic and a willingness to practice skills repeatedly for the intrinsic rewards of pride and self confidence.  She is thrilled to have the opportunity to work with your child.

Palmers gymnastics inc15 Amy Fuentes
Gymnastics Instructor

College: Metropolitan State College of Denver
Degree: Major in Human Development, Minor in Elementary Education
Certifications: CPR/AED, USAG Safe Sport Certified

Bio: Amy grew up in Colorado and began gymnastics at age 5. She competed in both USAG and high school gymnastics ending her career with two years as a Level 10. Some of her accomplishments were competing in four Region III Championships, 4-Years CHASSA All-Conference, and helping her high school team finish in the top 3 all four years. Amy has been coaching all levels of gymnastics since 2003 and loves working with the gymnasts here at Palmer's.

Amy lives in Wheaton with her husband Carlos and children Joncarlo Violet & Lincoln. Other than coaching, Amy enjoys being outdoors. Some of her favorite things to do are snowboarding, wake boarding, hiking and playing with her dog. Amy also loves shopping at the outlet mall with Coach Courtney.

Palmers gymnastics inc16 Carlos Fuentes
Gymnastics Instructor

College: University of Illinois at Chicago & Elmhurst College
Degree: Bachelor's Degree in Spanish, Masters in Teacher Leadership
Certifications: CPR/AED, AAU, Secondary Education Teaching Certification, AAU Professional Coaching Alliance

Bio: Carlos began doing gymnastics as a freshman at Glenbard East High School where he competed for four years. He was primarily a floor, vault, and high bar specialist.

Carlos began his 20 year coaching career at the age of 18, coaching the Glenbard East boy’s gymnastics team where he stayed for six years. Carlos has had the opportunity to coach gymnasts of all ages and skill levels from beginner to Level 10. He has coached several teams to conference, regional championships and state championships and has had over twenty state qualifiers, finalists, and medalists.

Also, Carlos is a high school Spanish teacher and the Head Girls Gymnastics coach at Glenbard West High School. Carlos lives with his wife Amy, sons Joncarlo & Lincoln, daughter Violet and their dog Dexter, in Wheaton.

Palmers gymnastics inc17 Catherine Gonzales
Gymnastics Instructor

College: Northeastern Illinois University 
Degree: Bahelor Arts Degree in Seconday Education
Certifications: AED/CPR, AAU Professional Coaching Alliance

Bio: Catherine has been involved with gymnastics since she was herself a tot. Catherine earned a four year gymnastics scholarship at Northeastern Illinois University. Catherine taught high school physical education for 8 years where she was the assistant gymnastics coach for both the boys and girls varsity teams.

Catherine is currently the Level 4 - 6 Team, Xcel coach and she also assists at all gymnastics levels.

She lives in Wheaton with her husband. Both of her children were Palmer's Gymnasts who went on to collegiate gymnastics.

Palmers gymnastics inc12 Mike Harrast
Gymnastics Instructor

College: Ohio State University

Degree: Bachelor's degree in Sociology 

Certifications: AAU Professional Coaching Alliance

Bio: Mike attended Addison Trail High school from 1978 to 1982, where he competed on the varsity gymnastics team all four years under coach, Fred Dennis.  He also attended American Academy and took Mr. Palmer’s tumbling class with Coach Neil. His High School Teams won the state championship competition 3 out of his 4 years he competed. He then attended Ohio State University, where he was a member of two Big Ten Championship Teams. He loves the sport of gymnastics and he is very happy to be coaching at Palmer’s allowing him to stay connected to this great sport.

 He has a corgi named Sadie that he enjoys playing with and going on long walks. He also enjoys running, bicycling, swimming and attending live music venues.

Palmers gymnastics inc12 Nadine Harrer
Gymnastics Instructor

College: University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point
Degree: Theatre Arts with and Emphasis on Dance
Certifications: KAT, SADM (Southern Association of Dance Masters) Teaching certificate for ballet, pointe, jazz, tap and tumbling; Power Pilates, Level 1 Business Management, AAU Professional Coaching Alliance

Bio: Nadine Celeste Palmer-Harrer is part of the Palmer family. She is Coach Neil’s older sister. She began dance and tumbling at the age of 4 under the direction of her mom and dad, Yvonne and Leonard Palmer. She began gymnastics at the age of 8 at Gymnastics Unlimited in Addison, IL. Nadine competed in gymnastics through her junior year of high school and then chose to focus on dance for the remainder of high school and college. After graduating from college Nadine danced professionally for two years at which time she realized she enjoyed teaching dance tumbling and gymnastics much more than performing. She is excited to be part of the coaching and office staff at Palmers! Nadine is married and has two children… well young adults now.

Palmers gymnastics inc3 Melissa Libel
Gymnastics Instructor

College: North Central College
Degree: Bachelor of Art in Psychology and Sociology
Certifications: CPR/AED, AAU Professional Coaching Alliance

Bio: Melissa started her dance career at the age of 5 with Moves Dance Theater. By the age of 10, Melissa was competing nationally with Moves and winning various top scores and scholarships. Also as a child, Melissa performed in various galas and charity events hosted by Sesame Street’s Bob McGrath at Navy Pier, Her T.V., and film credits include Baby’s Day Out, The Untouchables and a True Value Hardware commercial.

Melissa has also performed with many local theater groups. When Melissa was 14 she was chosen to tour with the national production of The Tap Dance Kid. She was SCHR scholarship recipient 3 years in a row and had the opportunity to perform for and tap on stage with legends Savion Glover and Gregory Hines.

Throughout her years in high school, Melissa continued to compete with Perseverance Dance Company. Fresh out of high school Melissa began teaching, choreographing and instructing master classes throughout the Chicago land area. After teaching ballet for the gymnasts here at Palmers, Melissa was trained to coach the Might Tot and Tiny Tot gymnasts.

Melissa continues to be a recognized at competitions with choreography awards, high scores and other special awards. Melissa has wonderful husband named Brian and two beautiful kids, Skyler and Brody. She is extremely excited to share her love of dance and gymnastics with the kids at Palmer’s!

Palmers gymnastics inc4 Jake Luketin
Gymnastics Instructor

College: University of Illinois
Degree: Major in Kinesiology
Certifications: CPR/AED, Elementary Education Teaching Certification, AAU Professional Coaching Alliance

Bio: Jake attended Lake Park High School where he competed on the Varsity Boys Gymnastics Team for four years. He attended college at the University of Illinois where he competed for the Flippin’ Illini Club Gymnastics team.

Since graduating college, Jake has coached gymnastics as the assistant boys team coach at the Champaign YMCA and the Assistant Girls Gymnastics Coach at Glenbard West High School. Jake currently is the Head Girls Gymnastics Coach at Lake Park High School. When he is not coaching, Jake teaches Health at Carmel Catholic High School. Jake brings with him a true knowledge of gymnastics, as well as a love of the sport.

Palmers gymnastics inc5 Jason MacDonald
Gymnastics Instructor

College: University of Michigan
Degree: Major in Exercise Science, Masters in Exercise Science
Certifications: CPR/AED, USAG Safe Sport Certified

Bio: Jason has been involved with gymnastics since the age of 5 as a gymnast, coach and judge. He is a four year letter winner and scholarship athlete at the University of Michigan. He has coached many Regional and National Qualifiers, as well as several State and Regional Champions.

Jason and his wife Donna live in Montgomery with their twin daughters, Makenzie & Katie, daughter, Jordyn, and 2 puggles, Oskee and Freddie. When not in the gym, Jason enjoys camping, biking, watching sports and maintaining his own production company, designing video projects & website design.

Palmers gymnastics inc12 Erika Meister
Gymnastics Instructor

College: Aurora University
Degree: Working on a degree in Nursing with a Minor in Physiology, Spanish & Psychology 

Certifications:  AAU Professional Coaching Alliance, BLS Certification

Bio: Erika grew up in Bloomingdale and began gymnastics when she was 6 years old in Recreational Classes at the park district. At the age of 11, she began to compete in the Illinois Park District Gymnastics Conference through the Carol Stream Park District.

 She then went on to compete as both a JV and Varsity gymnast at Glenbard North High School, becoming team captain her senior year.

 Erika began coaching in March 2016 and enjoys seeing her gymnasts progressing each week. She loves being able to still enjoy the sport in a whole different light. Her favorite events are beam and floor and Erika likes the strength and conditioning aspect of the sport as well.

 Currently, Erika attends Aurora University where she is majoring in Nursing with a minor in both Spanish and Psychology.

 In her free time, she likes to volunteer at Friends for Therapeutic Equine Activities in Winfield, ride horses, cook, be outside and spend time with her family. Erika lives in Bloomingdale with her parents, twin brother Luke and her many pets.

Palmers gymnastics inc12 Luke Meister
Gymnastics Instructor

College: Aurora University
Degree: Working on a degree in Nursing

Certifications: AAU Professional Coaching Alliance

Bio: Luke grew up in Bloomingdale and began gymnastics at the age of 10. He competed in USAG State and Regional competitions. He also competed 4 years at Glenbard North on their varsity team.

He greatly enjoys coaching because it still allows him to experience gymnastics in a new way. His favorite part of coaching is being able to see the gymnasts that he works with, accomplish the many skills they spend so much time on!

He currently attends Aurora University where he is working towards a major in nursing and a minor in Spanish. In his free time he enjoys going outside, reading and traveling.

Palmers gymnastics inc12 Carey Moreland
Office Staff

College: Michigan State University
Degree: Journalism
Certifications: CPR/AED/First Aid

Bio: Originally from Southeast Michigan, Carey lives in Carol Stream with her husband and two children. A graduate of Michigan State University, she enjoys cheering on the Spartans and tries to get back to East Lansing in the fall to catch a football home game whenever possible. Carey also works at the Wheaton Park District, helping fundraise and plan events for Cosley Zoo, the DuPage County Historical Museum, and the Play for All Playground and Garden Foundation.

Carey’s son, Nicholas, is also a member of the boy's gymnastics team here at Palmer’s!

Palmers gymnastics inc7 Tammy Nash
Office Staff

College: Northern Illinois University (Undergraduate), Northeastern Illinois University (Graduate)
Degree: Bachelor's Degree in Child Development, Masters in Educational Administration
Certifications: Certified Education Administration -Type 75

Bio: Tammy was born and raised on the North side of Chicago. After High School she, her sister and her mother moved to McHenry, IL. After college Tammy married her high school sweet heart and moved back to Chicago.

Tammy really has a love for working with children. She began her career working with severely disabled children from birth – 21 years of age. She then moved on to manage 3 child care facilities in Chicago. Tammy has been working in the office here at Palmer's since 2013.

Tammy currently lives in Hoffman Estates with her husband and 2 children. Nicholas is currently at The Ohio State University and Delaney is starting high school at Schaumburg High School and has been doing gymnastics here at Palmers since kindergarten.

Tammy enjoys outdoor activities, gardening, cooking, decorating, crafts of any kind and taking road trips with her family!

Palmers gymnastics inc12 Carmen Shulman
Office Staff

College: Carroll University in Waukesha, WI
Degree: Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology & Master’s Degree in Physical Therapy
Certifications: Licensed Physical Therapist, CPR/AED/First Aid

Bio: Carmen was born in northern WI. She is a HUGE Green Bay Packer Fan! She met and married her husband Drew while in college and now lives in Elk Grove Village. She is raising three daughters, two of whom train at Palmer's and she is expecting a son in January. She enjoys being a wife and mother and spending time with friends and family.  She also enjoys fitness and has also competed in several half marathons’, triathlons’ & one full marathon. Her other interests include camping, scrapbooking, hiking, water sports and traveling. She joined the Palmer’s staff in January 2016.

Palmers gymnastics inc10 Vanessa Srey
Office Staff

Bio: Vanessa grew up in Downers Grove, IL. and currently lives in Glendale Heights with her husband and three children. Vanessa has a degree in Travel & Tourism and in Paralegal studies.

She worked for the DuPage County Public Defender’s office in Wheaton. She currently works for the Airlines as well as Palmer’s gymnastics. She loves to travel and had pretty much traveled everywhere.

Palmers gymnastics inc11 Debbie Terry
Office Manager

College: St. Joseph’s College
Degree: Major in Mathematics, Minor in Computer Science

Bio: Debbie worked for a small company doing general office work and customer service, prior to having her three daughters. Debbie is the fourth oldest out of nine children and has many nephews and nieces. She is originally from South Bend, Indiana, and the only one who lives out of state, so there are many road trips to Indiana for her and her family. Debbie is married and currently lives in Carol Stream with her husband and children.

Palmers gymnastics inc12 Justin Toronyi
Gymnastics Instructor & Office Staff

College: College of Dupage and Northern Illinois University
Degree: Associate in Arts
Certifications: USAG Safe Sport Certified, AAU Professional Coaching Alliance

Bio: Justin started gymnastics at the age of 5 and has been a part of Palmer’s Gymnastics since the age of 7 and had been coached by Neil Palmer that entire time. He has worked his way through USA Gymnastics competing in all state and regional competitions from Class 5 to Class 1.

In 2001 he qualified for the Junior Olympic National Championships but a week prior to the competition, he was involved in a car accident on his way home from practice, which left him paralyzed. Determined to stick with the sport he grew up with and loved, Justin changed roles from athlete to coach. After a couple of months of tough rehabilitation, Justin continued with school and graduated with his class in 2002 from Lake Park High School.

Justin loves the sport of gymnastics and how it can teach a kid to never give up and that if you put your mind and effort into it, you can accomplish anything you want. An athlete can learn so many lessons from gymnastics that can be applied throughout their life! He has been coaching at Palmers now for 18 years. Justin also enjoys music and going to concerts. He has many favorite bands. He is also a huge CHICAGO CUBS, HAWKS and BEARS Fan. He lives in Roselle with his family and dog, Zoey.

Palmers gymnastics inc10 Amy Wilder
Office Staff

Bio: Amy has two daughters on the team at Palmer's and they have been involved in our program for 11 years. Amy has a bachelor's degree in sociology from the University of Illinois at Chicago. She earned a Masters degree from the University of Illinois at Chicago - Jane Adams Collleg of Social Work. Amy is also a licensed Clinical Social Worker.

Amy works full time in Arlington Heights and lives with her family in Schaumburg.

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