Developing Exceptional Children..
Developing Great Athletes.

paddedimage141180 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

paddedimage141180 Palmers gymnastics inc13 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 Team members. 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.

paddedimage141180 Palmers gymnastics inc13 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 gymnastics 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 career at 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.

paddedimage141180 Palmers gymnastics inc13 Marina Bakopoulos
Gymnastics Instructor and Team Ballet Instructor

Certifications:  AAU Professional Coaching Alliance

Bio: Marina Bakopoulos has been involved with the dance world for 33 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 18 years she continues teaching ballet and gymnastics at Palmer’s Gymnastics and choreographs for competitions 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 additions to her family, the twins, Yanni & Niko.

paddedimage141180 Palmers gymnastics inc13 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.

paddedimage141180 Palmers gymnastics inc13 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.

paddedimage141180 Palmers gymnastics inc13 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 and 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.

paddedimage141180 Palmers gymnastics inc13 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. He is also the Head coach of the Girls Glenbard West Varsity gymnastics team that won the 2018 IHSA State Championship!

Also, Carlos is a high school Spanish teacher and lives with his wife Amy, sons Joncarlo and Lincoln, daughter Violet and their dog Dexterin Wheaton.

paddedimage141180 Palmers gymnastics inc13 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.

paddedimage141180 Palmers gymnastics inc13 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.

paddedimage141180 Palmers gymnastics inc13 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 Dance Studio 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 a wonderful husband named Brian and two beautiful kids, Skyler and Brody. Skylar is a Level 6 gymnast here at Palmer's. She is extremely excited to share her love of dance and gymnastics with the kids at Palmer's and work up front in the office!

paddedimage141180 Palmers gymnastics inc13 Jake Luketin
Gymnastics Instructor

College: University of Illinois
Degree: Major in Kinesiology
Certifications: CPR/AED, K-12 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.

paddedimage141180 Palmers gymnastics inc13 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 and 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 and website design.

paddedimage141180 Palmers gymnastics inc13 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!

paddedimage141180 Palmers gymnastics inc13 Nicole Pagor
Gymnastics Instructor

College: College of DuPage
Degree: Associates Degree in Management
Certifications: AAU Professional Coaching Alliance

Bio: Nicole was a previous Palmer's gymnast and competed 4 years at Glenbard West High School. She enjoys spending her time outdoors and hanging out with her family. She is continuing her studies in hopes of receiving her bachelors degree in business management.

paddedimage141180 Palmers gymnastics inc13 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 her daughters compete on the team at Palmer's and a son. She enjoys being a wife and mother and spending time with friends and family.  She also enjoys fitness and has competed in several half marathons’, triathlons’ and one full marathon. Her other interests include camping, scrapbooking, hiking, water sports and traveling. She joined the Palmer’s staff in January 2016.

paddedimage141180 Palmers gymnastics inc13 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 has pretty much traveled everywhere.

paddedimage141180 Palmers gymnastics inc13 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.

paddedimage141180 Palmers gymnastics inc13 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. He was coached by Neil Palmer much of his gymnastics career. He had worked his way through USA Gymnastics competing in all state and regional competitions from Class 5 to Class 1. He had ambitions of competing at the collegiate level and beyond.

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 not missing any time and graduated with his class in 2002 from Lake Park High School.

Justin has been coaching at Palmers for 18 years and has loved every minute of it!

He believes the sport of gymnastics is one of the most difficult and rewarding sports out there. Gymnastics can teach kids so many different life lessons, such as never giving up and that if you put your mind and effort into something, you can accomplish anything! Gymnastics is one of the rare sports where all these little experiences of falling and getting back up and doing a skill even though you might be afraid of it, can really be applied to so many situations throughout your life!

Justin also enjoys music and going to concerts. He has many favorite bands. He is also a huge Chicago Cubs, Blackhawks, Bears & Nebraska Husker Fan. He lives in Roselle with his family and puppy, Ivy.

paddedimage141180 Palmers gymnastics inc13 Olivia Walker
Gymnastics Instructor & Office Staff

College: Saint Mary’s College in Notre Dame, IN

Degree: Bachelors of Science in Nursing

Certifications: AED/CPR certified and AAU Safe Sport

Bio:  Olivia was a gymnast at Palmer’s from the age of 5 through high school and also competed on her high school gymnastics team. She also coached at Palmer’s during the summer in college. Olivia attended Saint Mary’s College where she graduated with a Bachelors of Science in Nursing in 2010.  She worked at Evanston Hospital on the medical oncology floor for three years. After marrying her husband in 2012, she and her family were transferred to St. Paul Minnesota and then Winnipeg, Manitoba in Canada. In 2016, Olivia and her husband, Nick were transferred back to Illinois and they now live in Wood Dale with their two kids, Elizabeth (4) and Teddy (1). Both attend class at Palmer’s.

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