Juanita Hershberger is Bethany’s elementary school principal and joins Hank Willems, who continues as the upper school principal. Juanita taught 6th grade at Bethany 2008-22. She earned an MEd Administration degree from Lamar University and holds an Indiana administrator license. Juanita says, “Our teachers are committed to providing a holistic education to our students using innovative methods. I want to continue to give teachers that agency to meet each student where they are.” Juanita is a beloved teacher with a calm, kind demeanor and dedication to student success. Parents often remark on her patience with students, active lesson plans, and commitment to each child’s individual well-being.
Ashton Cluts is Bethany’s first-grade teacher. She is from Bluffton, Ohio, and graduated from Baldwin Wallace University, where she majored in early childhood education and minored in theater. After college Ashton joined Mennonite Central Committee’s Serving and Learning Together program, serving for a year in South Africa at Camp El Olam, where she was program coordinator, and at Hope Valley Farm School. She taught in Goshen Community Schools as a kindergarten, first, and second-grade teacher. In 2020 Ashton completed an MEd degree from Baldwin Wallace University with a focus on literacy. She loves to read, listen to podcasts, and be outdoors. Ashton attends Silverwood Mennonite Church, where she teaches Sunday school and creates visual displays.
Jen Bontrager is Bethany’s second-grade teacher. She is a Bethel College (Mishawaka, IN) graduate with 11 years of teaching experience in local public schools. A particular area of focus for Jen is reading pedagogy. Jen and her husband Ben have three boys: Isaac, a Goshen College sophomore; Jesse, a Bethany junior; and Jacob, a Bethany eighth grader. Jen says, “I’m extremely grateful to the Bethany community for the whole-child experience the school has provided for my children and thrilled to be joining the team. I thoroughly enjoy getting to know my students and their families and am excited to continue to do this in Bethany’s small school atmosphere.”
Eliza Stoltzfus returned to the Bethany community as a fifth-grade teacher. Eliza was part of Bethany's first middle school faculty, teaching sixth grade 1996-2001. After a pause to focus on her family, Eliza returned to Bethany in 2011 and piloted the grade four and five programs with Linda Hochstetler. Eliza left Bethany the second time to pursue other educational opportunities, including directing and leading children’s theater opportunities for the Community School of the Arts and the Aeschliman Peace Art Center. Most recently, Eliza was a teacher and coordinator for high-ability programs in Goshen and Elkhart schools. She has a passion for intentionally incorporating elements of the creative arts into inquiry-based/project-based learning and community building. She is the author of numerous plays and the founder of the Bruin Club. Eliza is also the mother of Mariah, a junior at Bethany.
Edgar Silva is Bethany’s high school Spanish teacher. He taught Spanish and was the head of the World Languages Department at Asheville Christian Academy in North Carolina. Edgar has a BA in Education and Spanish from Mars Hill University and a Master of Arts in Romance languages from Appalachian State University. A native of Guatemala, Edgar taught Spanish language and Hispanic culture at CASAS, a Spanish school that is part of SEMILLA, the Anabaptist Seminary in Guatemala City. While at CASAS, Edgar met and later married Erika Smoker, a ’95 Bethany grad. They have two children: Eliana, in third grade, and Emilio, in first grade. Edgar is excited to reconnect with Anabaptists and participate in the community life of Bethany.
Brook and Jessie Bennett are Bethany’s string instructors for the orchestra programs. Brook and Jessie are professional musicians and instructors. They have worked in the Goshen community providing private lessons and directing youth orchestras. Brook and Jessie have two children, Eliza and James.
Danielle Svonavec is Bethany’s choral and general music teacher. Danielle comes from Trinity School at Greenlawn in South Bend, where she taught choir and music composition and theory. She is a professional musician and teaches private voice lessons. Danielle and her husband Jon Wingard, have three daughters. The two oldest are studying at university, while their youngest is a junior at NorthWood High School. Danielle attends St. Johns Catholic Church. Danielle loves to sing early European music and has a special interest in American sacred music and ballads. She recently started learning how to play the Appalachian dulcimer!
Sarah Yoder (’01) is Bethany’s intervention and special services teacher, a position provided through Catapult Learning, using federal Emergency Assistance (EANS) funds. Sarah has a BA from Goshen College and an MA from Indiana University in K-12 Special Education. She previously worked at Bethany as Enrollment Director and girls tennis coach from 2005-09. For the past 12 years, she was a special education teacher in Goshen and Middlebury schools. Sarah and Seth (’01) have three children, all at Bethany: Lewis, in fifth grade; Elliot, in third grade; and Ava, in first grade. They attend College Mennonite Church. Sarah is thrilled to be back at Bethany and is excited to partner with teachers to help all students grow, learn, and thrive.
Bianca May is an instructional aide working with Sarah Yoder in special services. The position is provided through Catapult Learning and funded through nationwide federal Covid response education funds. She is assisting elementary and middle school students with learning loss and enrichment. Bianca has a BA from Purdue University-Calumet and was a registered CPA in Michigan. She worked as an auditor for the Internal Revenue Service for 30 years. While working for the IRS, Bianca was an evening adjunct accounting instructor at Davenport College. Along with her work at Bethany, she and her husband are co-founders of Our Father’s Family Keeper Ministries. This nonprofit organization provides programs to develop and strengthen families physically, academically, and emotionally. Bianca attends the 1st Baptist Church of Newberg Township in Jones, Michigan. She teaches children’s church and volunteers for vacation Bible school. She and her husband have acreage in Michigan, where they enjoy hosting groups of teenagers and others.
Judith Hernandez Castano volunteers at Bethany through MCC’s International Volunteer Exchange Program (IVEP). She comes from Masaya, Nicaragua, and attends Nueva Jerusalén Mennonite Church. She has a BA in Teaching English as a Foreign Language from the Universidad Centroamericana in Managua, Nicaragua. She has taught English classes in both high school and elementary schools and intensive English Saturday courses. She is currently helping with supervision, assisting teachers in grades 1-5, and teaching Spanish to grades 1-3. Her parents are retired, and she is the youngest of her family, with four brothers. She enjoys sports and spending time with family and friends.
Heidi Birky Sawatzky (’98) is Bethany’s long-term substitute librarian and is also Bethany’s PTO president. She says, “Working at the library has been a wonderful opportunity to get to know the students and staff at Bethany as they come to the library for one reason or another.” Heidi has a BA in Art from Goshen College. Heidi and Tyler (’90) have three children, Jack, grade 10, and Alice, grade 2, both at Bethany, and Abigail, a kindergartner and future Bruin. They attend Belmont Mennonite Church in Elkhart. In her spare time, she enjoys gardening, traveling, sewing, working out, reading, and taking naps.