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Breakout Presenters

Find 2024 conference presenters and speakers below, alphabetically by last name.

This page will be updated as new presenters and sessions are confirmed.

This page will be updated with 2024 presenters shortly.

Aguilera, Jackie

Jacqueline Aguilera
Project Manager
Mayor’s Office of Adult Literacy – Houston

Featured Breakout Session Presenter

Digital + Health + Literacy: A Prescripton for Adult Ed & Career Pathways
Hard Skills Open the Door. Soft Skills Build The Future.

Jacqueline “Jackie” Aguilera has logged 38 years of diverse experience across educational and non-profit sectors. With a focus on adult literacy, she has left an indelible mark on various initiatives and projects in the multi-layered field of adult literacy.

As an experienced adult education innovations designer, she earned a 2021 Ford Foundation Mujeres Legendarias Award for creative ed tech applications in adult education.

Her service impact also extends beyond the classroom into the workforce. She empowers both employers and employees through worksite literacy training and independent consulting.

She leads a local fellowship of adult education providers called the Houston Area Adult Literacy Collective (the incredible HAALC), serves on many committees, boards, and projects impacting adult learners and families, all while serving as Project Manager for Houston’s Mayor’s Office for Adult Literacy.

In summary, Jacqueline’s multifaceted career reflects a lifelong dedication to advancing literacy and education across diverse communities and platforms. Currently on a journey through breast cancer treatment, she is more than ever committed to advancing the lives of all those she serves, making her a messenger of inspiration, innovation, and evolution.

Aparicio Jovel, Ana Maria

Ana Aparicio
Customer Representative
BurlingtonEnglish

Ana Maria started as a part-time ESL coordinator with Memorial Assistance Ministries seven years ago. Her passion for serving others and her understanding as an immigrant of what it is like to be an ESL student and teacher, gave her the drive necessary to establish herself as a full time ESL educator and Citizenship Class Coordinator. She managed volunteer teachers and several satellite locations for three years before obtaining a different position at another not-for-profit organization.

While working as an Information and Referral Specialist, with The Lighthouse of Houston for The Blind, she had the opportunity of improving her ability to serve others by collaborating with individual and social advocacy for the blind and visually impaired in her community. Not being able to stay away from her original calling for too long, she is currently part of The BurlingtonEnglish team where she feels right at home providing customer support to ESL teachers and students.

Education: Ana holds a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Spanish and a Minor in Communications from the University of Houston – Downtown and obtained her TESOL/ESL certification in 2014 from Oxford Seminars.

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Cynthia Arocha
Career Pathways Coordinator
Community Action. Inc. of Central Texas

ESL for Professionals: A Model for Teaching ITP

Cynthia Arocha’s start in Adult Education started back in 2003 when she moved to Mexico to teach English for the first time. Little did she know, after working 10+ years in higher education, that she would return to Adult Education working as an ESL teacher, Career Pathways Coordinator and counselor.

She received her BS degree in Sociology at Brigham Young University and her MS in School Counseling at San Diego State University. She has a passion for teaching and working with the ESL population and is excited to share all she has learned in developing the English for Professionals program at Community Action.

Mahalia Baldini

Mahalia Baldini
AEL State Director
Texas Workforce Commission

Opening Speaker – Tuesday, July 30:
“The State of the State in Adult Education”

Mahalia Baldini was named the Texas Workforce Commission (TWC) Adult Education and Literacy (AEL) State Director in September 2020 after serving as the program’s supervisor for over six years. She earned her B.A in Journalism from the University of Kentucky and her Master’s in Education from Texas State University. 

Mrs. Baldini has spent the last fifteen years integrating workforce and economic development with educational solutions that center on outcomes for low and middle skill workers. She believes in and values a system that supports equitable education and learning opportunities that focus on an individual’s academic preparedness and advancement as well as the social and emotional intelligence needed to contribute to a positive work culture aligned to employer needs.

Bates, Karin

Karin Bates
Curriculum and Training Specialist
Intercambio Uniting Communities

Fostering Inclusive Learning: Building Belonging in Group and 1-1 Adult English Classes
Improving Accessibility and Creating Community with Volunteer ESOL Teachers
Sounds of Success: Techniques for Boosting Motivation and Confidence Through Pronunciation

Karin has over 30 years of experience teaching English to speakers of other languages of all agesand in multiple settings. Karin joined Intercambio Uniting Communities in January 2022 after most recently working for five years at a non-profit teaching English and adult basic education to immigrants and refugees.

As the Curriculum and Training Specialist, Karin is responsible for the training and ongoing development of teachers in The Intercambio Way®, both locally and nationally, along with supporting the development of curriculum and materials.

Karin received her M.A. in Curriculum and Instruction for Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL) in 1995 from the University of Colorado at Denver. Additionally, Karin received her Adult Basic Education Authorization (ABEA) from the Colorado Department of Education in 2019.

Bauer, Paula

Paula Bauer
PD Specialist
TRAIN PD @ TCALL

Paula Bauer represents TRAIN PD @ TCALL. She has been with Adult Education for 22 years. She began in 2000 as an Adult Educator and became the Program Director of a Family Literacy Program in 2004.

After 16 years, Paula moved to work with TRAIN PD taking responsibility of the TCALL Library & Professional Development training to Volunteer and Community-Based Organizations (CBOs) AEL programs in Texas.

Paula has been with TRAIN PD @ TCALL for 6 years.

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Jessica Beaty
Learning Support Specialist II
Texas Center for the Advancement of Literacy & Learning (TCALL)

Navigating the PD Portal: Essential Tips and Training Strategies for AEL Professionals

Qualifications

  • Educational Leadership Principal Certification (University of St. Thomas, Houston)
  • Master of Science in Education of the Deaf/Hard of Hearing (Missouri State University)
  • Sign Language/Basic Communication Certificate (Southwestern Illinois College)
  • Bachelor of Science Degree in Communication Sciences and Disorders (Murray State University)
  • Texas Educator Certificates (Deaf and Hard of Hearing, Special Education, Generalist, Grades: Early Childhood – 6th grade, English as Second Language Supplemental, Principal)
  • Board for Evaluation of Interpreters (BEI) Basic Certification

Experience

  • Elementary Special Education Teacher, College Station ISD (1 year)
  • Elementary Teacher of the Deaf/Hard of Hearing, Bryan ISD, Cy-Fair ISD, Muscatine CSD (Iowa) (7 years)
  • Special Education ARD Facilitator, Bryan ISD (2 years)
Beeson, Ann

Ann Beeson, M. Ed.
Senior Sales Consultant
New Readers Press

Building Career and Academic Success for Your Students

Ann Beeson has worked with literacy and adult education programs for over 21 years, and currently works in seven states. As an independent sales consultant, Ann offers resources for adult learners, primarily through New Readers Press.

In addition, Ann presents on a wide variety of topics relevant to ABE and ELL programs. 

She has a Master’s degree in Curriculum & Instructional design from the University of Minnesota.

Callejo, Cathy

Cathy Callejo
Customer Manager
BurlingtonEnglish

Cathy is a Customer Representative and was an elementary school teacher for the past 12 years. Before that, she was a stay-at-home mom. Prior to that she worked several years in retail management and merchandising before having her son, who is now in his second year at the College of Charleston in South Carolina.

Education: B.S. in Fashion Merchandising from The Ohio State University

Interests: Cathy teaches Muay Thai kickboxing where she currently also practices Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and just received her blue belt, and when she can, she loves to travel and also watch her son compete in his Collegiate Cross Country races.

Cicchini, Emily Ball

Emily Ball Cicchini, PhD
Executive Director
BookSpring

Igniting Family Literacy: The B3 Program’s Journey & Impact

As Executive Director of BookSpring, Dr. Emily Ball Cicchini spearheads initiatives that are fundamental to family literacy in Texas. She passionately leads the mission to ensure children and families, especially in economically distressed areas, have the crucial resources for reading readiness and parental engagement.

Under her leadership, BookSpring has emerged as an award-winning early literacy provider, receiving accolades from the U.S. Library of Congress, the Greater Austin Chamber of Commerce, and Recognize Good. With an emphasis on the power of family engagement in reading, Dr. Cicchini has championed the integration of open educational resources and a digital library into print book access efforts accessible via web and mobile, to extend learning opportunities beyond the page.

Furthermore, BookSpring’s strategic approach includes weekly communications with parents and caregivers, fostering a collaborative environment for nurturing pre-literacy skills. This comprehensive engagement from birth to age five also facilitates the assessment of family pre-literacy practices, ensuring that the program’s impact is deeply rooted in empirical data and real-world effectiveness with parent and caregiver reading related behaviors. Under her stewardship, BookSpring has not only provided books but has become a beacon for educational equity and a catalyst for change in communities across Texas.

Vicki Clark

Vicki Clark
Consultant
Vicki Clark Consulting

Featured Breakout Session Presenter

Inclusive Leadership: Unleashing the Power of All of Us
Navigating Change and Transformation: 21st-Century Board Governance

Vicki Clark is an optimist. She loves people and shows up in the world as a learner and a servant leader.

Based in Memphis, Tennessee, Vicki has devoted the past 30 years of her career to building capacity of organizations and individuals; inspiring community and business leaders to take action. She is known for her work in the specialty areas of leadership development, inclusion and diversity, equity, inclusion, antiracism assessment, training and facilitation, board development, strategic planning, volunteer resource development and effective communication. Her work spans dozens of corporate clients, nonprofits and government organizations.

She sits on numerous boards, including the National Diaper Bank, and is a regular trainer at community and leadership organizations such as United Way and the Association of Junior Leagues International. Her work as a consultant, coach, trainer and speaker have given her infinite opportunities to learn from and share with people from all walks of life.

Vicki meets people where they are, never gives up, and believes in the power of prayer. Even at her age and with all that she has experienced, she continues to be A WORK IN PROGRESS.

Crandall, Wayne

Wayne Crandall
Professional Development Specialist
Texas Center for the Advancement of Literacy & Learning (TCALL)

Goal Setting: Beyond SMART

Wayne Crandall has been in adult education for more than 20 years. He has taught both ABE/ASE and ESL classes, has been an AEL Program coordinator, and is an AEL Trainer.

He is currently a Field Professional Development Specialist with the TRAIN PD @TCALL, where he develops PD content, trains adult education teachers and assists Texas Adult Education programs with their professional development needs.

Crocker, Rosa-Maria

Rosa-Maria Crocker
Adult Literacy and Plaza Comunitaria de Plano Programs Coordinator
MAS-Plano ISD

Leveling the Academic Field for Hispanics: Plaza Comunitaria!

Rosa-Maria M. Crocker is the Coordinator for Adult Literacy and Plaza Comunitaria de Plano Programs at MAS-Plano ISD, Texas. Her responsibilities are as coordinator and teacher for English as a Second Language for Teens, GED preparation (Spanish), Spanish as Second Language, and the Plaza Comunitaria of Plano (founded in 2004, and featured as the North Texas Model Plaza by the Mexican Consulate in Dallas). 

Rosa-Maria has been teaching and presenting in the US for the last 26+ years, on topics including Parent Education and Spanish for Educators. She also serves as official translator (Spanish, Portuguese, or Italian) for PlanoISD. She teaches GED prep courses in English or Spanish at Collin College. 

Rosa-Maria is a rural engineer who graduated with a BS from the College of Engineering at FIA/UNA, Paraguay, completed a year of a Master’s in Entomology at Texas A&M University, and currently pursues a Master’s in Education. She is a licensed Fine Arts instructor (Ateneo Arts Academy, Paraguay), certified Parent Educator from PPE, and certified Special Learning Needs Resource Specialist (Texas LEARNS, TAE), among other minor certificates. Current VP of the CCALC; published author of a book and several articles and brochures.

Cumings Smith, Felicia

Felicia Cumings Smith, Ed.D.
President & CEO
National Center for Families Learning (NCFL)

Keynote Speaker – Tuesday, August 1
“Centering Families in a Fast-changing Education and Workforce Landscape”

A lifelong educator and national thought leader for teaching and learning, Dr. Felicia C. Smith brings decades of valuable experience to advance NCFL’s mission of working to eradicate poverty through education solutions for families. Having served in a variety of leadership roles in P-12, higher education, nonprofit, and philanthropy, her career has allowed her to experience leading systems and develop a unique vantage point of a learner’s educational trajectory from preschool to adulthood. 

Smith holds an Ed.D. in education leadership and administration from the University of Kentucky, and an M.A. in elementary education with an emphasis on K-12 literacy development and B.S. in elementary education from the University of Louisville.

Follow Dr. Felicia C. Smith on Twitter or LinkedIn.

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Alda Dobbs
Writer
Alda P. Dobbs

Hidden Gems: Unearthing Old Family Stories and Literacy

Alda P. Dobbs’ historical novel, Barefoot Dreams of Petra Luna, delves into the mass migration of Mexicans into the U.S. that occurred during the Mexican Revolution (1913). The novel was nominated for the Texas Bluebonnet Master List Award and was named a Notable Book by the American Library Association.

Her second novel, The Other Side of the River, depicts the refugee crisis that parallels today’s plight. In both novels, inspired by the author’s great-grandmother, twelve-year-old Petra Luna struggles to survive the wrath of the Mexican Revolution. Her struggle for survival continues even after reaching the safety of the U.S. The books draw on the social divide and ethnic prejudice that ultimately led to the Mexican Revolution. Both works have been translated into Spanish by Penguin Random Books.

Alda lives outside of Houston, Texas with her husband and two children.

Erwin, Patricia

Patricia Erwin, Ph.D.
Senior Training Specialist
National Center for Families Learning (NCFL)

Patricia Erwin leads NCFL’s Adult Education strategies and contracts. Since 2012, Patricia has worked creating and delivering professional development content for adult educators.

She has a background in counseling psychology, adult education theory and practice, and curriculum design. She holds a Bachelor’s in Psychology from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, a Master’s in Psychology from Springfield College, and a Doctor of Philosophy in Adult Education from the University of Georgia.

In her spare time, Patricia enjoys shopping, traveling, reading, and spending time with family and friends. 

Ways to Get Your Students Writing
Activities Focused on Community and Culture
Workforce Activities for Students Over 50

Dr. Olga Escamilla has over 26 years of experience in adult education, and currently serves as a PD Specialist with TRAIN PD @ TCALL.

She has served as a teacher’s aide, data entry, ABE Instructor, AEL Supervisor, Professional Development Grant Coordinator, AEL Director, Job Coach, and Workforce Case Manager. She has served as a Senior Lecturer with TAMUK- Masters of Adult Education program since 2009.

Dr. Escamilla served as on the COABE Board as Region-4 Representative from 2019 – 2022.

Forsyth, Jonna

Jonna Forsyth
State Relationship Manager
GED Testing Service

Creating Student Success with GED – Let’s Help Students Earn Their TXCHSE!

Jonna Forsyth is currently the State Relationship Manager for GED Testing Service in Texas.

She has lived and worked in South Texas for the past 18 years, and has always been committed to student success through professional development training and support.

Aging Texas Well – Aligning Health Literacy with Resource Awareness for Older Adults in Texas

Camden serves as Project Manager for the Office of Aging Services Coordination (ASC) team at Texas Health and Human Services Commission (HHSC). Prior to this role, she coordinated ASC’s Civil Monetary Penalty Project funded by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to improve quality of life for long-term care residents and staff through the development of new tools, resources/programs, and outreach methods with participating nursing facility communities and volunteers.

Camden has served Texas Health and Human Services since 2006 with the former Texas Department of Aging and Disability Services (DADS), Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS) and the Texas Health and Human Services Commission (HHSC). Her background combines skills across multiple areas including program development, program evaluation, policy analysis, volunteerism, community engagement, curriculum development/training, and stakeholder relations.

Camden has a BS in Advertising Design and an MA in Human Services. She has been a Licensed Massage Therapist for 30 years, serves as a family caregiver and continues to be a strong advocate for promoting health literacy and personal wellness.

Goddard, Caroline

Caroline Goddard
Strategic Community Partnerships Manager/Equal Opportunity Officer
Workforce Solutions

Caroline serves as the Strategic Community Partnerships Manager with Workforce Solutions Alamo, focusing on developing cross-sector economic and workforce development partnerships to advance the agency’s goals in connecting talent pipelines to employers for the ultimate benefit of the 13-county Alamo region’s most disenfranchised communities. She works collaboratively with organizations to synergistically combine their strengths with strategies that create equitable opportunities for low-income individuals.

Caroline holds an MPA with a certification in Nonprofit Management and a Bachelor’s degree in Interdisciplinary Studies with a concentration on Early Childhood through 6th grade education and holds minors in Bicultural Bilingual Studies and English as a Second Language.  She is an AmeriCorps Alumni serving with City Year San Antonio and has been working in the nonprofit sector since 2012.Caroline is certified in Results Based Accountability (RBA)and uses the disciplined results-driven approach to coach and lead others in improving their facilitation. She uses her RBA skills to lead data-driven initiatives, improve performance, and build competencies needed for collective community change.

Currently Caroline serves as the Secretary and immediate past President of the Rotary Club of San Antonio Mission Trail and is passionate about recruiting young diverse members and supporting marginalized communities. In her free time, Caroline enjoys making handmade greeting cards and playing with her dogs.

Graybill, Robin

Robin Graybill
District Account Manager 
Cambridge University Press

Ventures, ELPS and CASAS STEPS – We’ve Got You Covered

Robin Graybill has worked in ESL most of her adult life and loves it. She started her career tutoring Vietnamese and Hmong refugees in Sacramento which prompted her to get an MA TESOL from SFSU where she landed her first teaching job at the American Language Institute where she taught for three years.

When she relocated to Austin, TX, she taught ESL for seven years at Austin Community College before transitioning into educational publishing where she has worked as a Teacher Trainer, Market Researcher and Account Manager.

Robin loves working at Cambridge because it combines her loves of ESL, teaching, pedagogy, research and most importantly, helping people.

Greer, Laura

Laura Greer
Manager of PD Logistics
TCALL

Laura Greer serves as the Manager of Professional Development (PD) Logistics at the Texas Center for the Advancement of Literacy & Learning (TCALL) at Texas A&M University. Laura received her bachelor’s degree from Texas State University in Interdisciplinary Studies and a master’s degree a few years later in Educational Administration and Policy from the University of Georgia.

In addition to her current position, she has an education background that includes teaching in various schools in Texas, Georgia, and Kentucky.

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Catherine Hungerford Scott
Interim Chief Academic Officer
Neuhaus Education Center

Literacy for All: Structured Reading and Spelling (2-part session)

Dr. Catherine Hungerford Scott joined Neuhaus Education Center in Houston, Texas in 2008. As part of Neuhaus, she teaches, writes new and manages current professional development offerings, and helps direct Neuhaus’s internal and external research projects.

Catherine is a Certified Academic Language Therapist (CALT) and has worked in the education community since 1999 as a classroom teacher, reading and dyslexia interventionist, professional learning instructor, coach, researcher, and writer.

Catherine has her Ed.D and M.Ed from the University of St. Thomas where her thesis was awarded the Thesis of Distinction. Her research interests are reading development and acquisition, effective literacy instructional practices, and implementation science.

Jacob, Laura

Laura Jacob
Writer at Ellii, Adjunct Professor, Austin Community College, ESOL and College Prep Programs

Enhance Your Students’ Learning Experience with Ellii

Laura Jacob has been an ESL Instructor for 18 years. She has taught high school students at the community college, adult education, and university level.

She has presented at several state and international conferences, participated in action research, and developed teacher training programs.

She speaks Spanish and intermediate Hindi. She has a Masters in TESOL.

Johnson, Staci

Staci Johnson
Curriculum Author
National Geographic Learning

Staci Johnson has taught all levels of adult ESL, including credit, non-credit, and workplace English. She holds an MA in Linguistics with a Teaching ESL Certificate, which is supported by more than 25 years in the English language classroom.

Her passions are teacher training and curriculum development, both of which she does on a continual basis. She is one of the two authors for Stand Out, published by National Geographic Learning, now in its fourth edition. Staci is series editor with Rob Jenkins of Grammar Explorer, a National Geographic Learning textbook series. She was also the recipient of the 2013 Heinle Outstanding Achievement Award.

Staci is a popular presenter with topics related to learner-centered instruction, multi-level instruction, and grammar instruction. She has presented throughout the United States.

Kay, Janet

Janet Kay
Sales Consultant
National Geographic Learning

A New Look at ESL Beginning Literacy

Janet Kay received her degree in education with a specialty in reading instruction from the University of Texas in Austin. She began her career as a classroom teacher and a skills specialist in the Aldine School District. She also worked as an independent consultant and created, marketed, and sold her very own educational game, The Math Pack Vocabulary Builder, to Texas school districts.

Janet has worked with schools and educators for over 25 years. She transitioned to the field of publishing in 1998 and her favorite role since is providing workshops, training, and support for ESL programs throughout the state.

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Leesa Kraeger
Family Literacy Content Specialist
National Center for Families Learning

Goal Setting Within Family Literacy Programs to Promote Retention

Leesa Kraeger attended the University of Nebraska – Lincoln earning a Bachelor of Science Degree in Human Development and the Family. During her 30+ year career, she has worked with families, community non-profits, school districts, and Head Start programs in Nebraska and South Dakota.

Leesa worked as a Family Literacy Specialist for thirteen years in Lincoln, Nebraska. She currently serves as a Family Literacy Content Specialist for the National Center for Families Learning.

Kulkarni, Priyanka

Priyanka Kulkarni
Digital Opportunity Coordinator
Texas Broadband Development Office

Leveraging State Digital Opportunity Programs to Expand Digital Literacy

Priyanka Kulkarni is the Digital Opportunity Coordinator for the state’s Broadband Development Office (BDO) at the Texas Comptroller’s Office. Priyanka works within the Digital Opportunity program at the BDO to build programs that aim to improve connectivity through digital literacy, device deployment, and bringing broadband access to populations and regions across Texas most impacted by the digital divide.

Prior to joining the BDO, Priyanka grew up in the Bay Area, California in which she primarily worked in public health research to improve health outcomes and build health prevention programs for folks impacted by the carceral system. Priyanka witnessed the disparities in resource access and the necessity of broadband and devices to support health outcomes and increase medical access for carceral system impacted communities.

Priyanka hopes to continue her work in bringing resources to her community by closing the digital divide and focusing on broadband availability.

Larrotta, Clarena

Clarena Larrotta
Professor, Adult, Professional, and Community Education; Honorary Professor of International Studies Director, The Education Institute
Texas State University

Innovative Partnerships Between a Community-Based Organization and the Public University

Clarena Larrotta is Professor of Adult, Professional, and Community Education at Texas State University. Building on Freirean pedagogy, engaged scholarship, and participatory/collaborative approaches, her research interests include adult learning, language-culture acquisition, adult/family literacy, and immigration issues.

She is the author of five books, numerous articles, and book chapters. Her work is published in journals such as Journal of Adolescent and Adult Literacy, Adult Learning, and The International Journal of Literacy, Language, and Numeracy.

Loa, Martin

Martin Loa
Senior Customer Manager
BurlingtonEnglish

Martin Loa is Senior Customer Manager for Burlington English. He has served in that capacity for the past 6 years. He utilizes his 20 plus years of adult education experience to assist programs with implementation of ESL curriculum to better meet the needs of their specific populations. His formal education in curriculum instruction enables him to develop and implement targeted trainings to address best practices.

Martin has served as a consultant delivering evidence-based and research-based training for the state professional development grantee for the last 7 years. His expertise includes ESL, Digital Literacy, Financial Literacy, ABE, IETs, and Literacy Organization-specific topics. Martin has over 15 years of experience presenting at local, state, and national conferences.

Martinez, Elizabeth

Elizabeth Martinez
Founder
ESL Imprinted

Use Shovels, Not Teaspoons! Teaching ESL Reading, Vocabulary, and Speaking to Low-Beginner Adults

With an M.A. in foreign language education and applied linguistics from the University of Texas at Austin, Elizabeth Hicks Martinez has over forty years’ experience teaching intensive English to adults, preceded by nearly a decade of elementary teaching, particularly in bilingual education.

She served for three years as an instructor at UT Austin, first in intensive English and subsequently in curriculum and instruction, supervising student teachers. In 2014 she founded the small company, ESL Imprinted, through which she has published four books for teaching literacy to low and ‘blank-slate’ beginners of any age. She currently works as an instructional specialist at ELS Language Center in Houston, where she started in 1985.

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Miguel Martinez
Retired High School Spanish teacher
ESL Imprinted

Use Shovels, Not Teaspoons! Teaching ESL Reading, Vocabulary, and Speaking to Low-Beginner Adults

Miguel Martinez graduated from the Institúto Tecnológico de Monterrey, Mexico in 1969 with a degree in Spanish Language and Literature.

Several years later, he worked his way through the University of Texas at Austin and earned a second bachelor’s degree in education, with teaching fields in English and Spanish. Soon after, he moved with his wife Elizabeth to her hometown of Houston and taught high school Spanish for over 20 years, retiring in 2010.

Medina, Yolanda

Yolanda Medina, MLS, MPA
President
Collin County Adult Literacy Council

Sharing the Stories of Adult Learners: A Bibliography

Yolanda is a retired librarian who has worked with adult learners since 2005. She specializes in basic literacy for Hispanics.

At this moment she is the President of the Collin County Adult Literacy Council and the Director of the Centro Latino de Educacion para Adultos Dallas Norte, both non-profit organizations. She has published articles about adult literacy in Texas Library Journal, Public Libraries Journal, and REFORMA online.

She published the book Moving Forward: An Ordinary Puerto Rican Life in both English and Spanish. She was recognized in 2009 as Outstanding Women of the Year…Builders of Tomorrow – Government Award from Altrusa International, Inc. for her work with the Plaza Comunitaria Adult Literacy Program at the Richardson Public Library.

Also awarded in 2010 the North Texas Future Fund Bridge Award – Individual Literacy Advocate (North Texas Commission) for her work with the Plaza Comunitaria Adult Literacy Program at the Richardson Public Library.

Meriwether, Lester

Lester Meriwether
Executive Director
Literacy ConneXus

Program Self-Evaluation: When Did You Last Do This?

Lester Meriwether has been the Executive Director of Literacy ConneXus since May 2004. Literacy ConneXus is a not-for-profit organization that helps faith-affiliated organizations help people with literacy needs in Texas and beyond.

In this capacity, Meriwether represents and advocates for hundreds of volunteers who each week teach English and basic literacy or conspire to provide beginning home libraries for families with no books. He works with talented volunteers across Texas who serve in a variety of ways to help churches help people with literacy needs.

Lester and his wife Donna have three children and five grandchildren and live in Fort Worth.

Miller, Christina

Chris Miller
National Consultant for Adult Education and Workforce
Aztec

Keeping Learners Motivated and Engaged
Reading to Learn: Using Strategies for Teaching the Pre-HSE Learner

Ms. Miller worked in adult education for over 30 years as an instructor, counselor and program director in Alabama. As a regional program director of adult education based in a community college, her program was very diverse as she managed a comprehensive adult education program serving over 2,000 learners annually.

Her program provided classes for basic skills, two literacy centers, high school equivalency, English as a Second Language, workplace literacy, Bridge programs and two adult education programs in the largest prison in Alabama. She served on the state level for a time developing and implementing state-wide professional development initiatives.

Currently, she works as a national consultant for Aztec providing training workshops, conducting national webinars and presenting at state and national conferences.

Successful Strategies and Supports for Adults with Learning Disabilities

AnneMarie Molinari-Sanders is a Professional Development Specialist for TRAIN PD @TCALL. Ms. Molinari-Sanders was the team lead for the Standards 2.0 and Standards 3.0 project which provided updates to the Texas Adult Education and Literacy (AEL) Content Standards. For over 20 years, AnneMarie has been helping students and instructors within the context of AEL instruction, curriculum development, and professional development training. Nationally, she serves on the Learning Disabilities Association of America’s Adult Topics Committee as an advocate for adults with learning disabilities. 

AnneMarie is a certified Digital Accessibility Specialist through the Texas Distance Learning Association. Ms. Molinari-Sanders holds a Master’s degree in Special Education with a concentration in increasing academic outcomes for AEL students with learning disabilities and low literacy skills. AnneMarie is a passionate ambassador for persons with disabilities and an advocate for accessibility and inclusion.

Mosher, Krista

Krista Mosher
Manager of PD Field Services
Texas Center for the Advancement of Literacy & Learning (TCALL)

Science, Social Studies, and Math: Cross-Curricular Strategies

Krista Mosher has been an ABE/ASE teacher for 24 years, and is currently working as a Manager of PD Field Services with TRAIN PD @ TCALL with Texas A&M University. She was involved with the Texas ABE Math Initiative from 2006 to 2014, and the Master Teacher Academy in Math in 2015-2016, and is a nationally trained GED® trainer for all subject areas.

She loves teaching and working with teachers to increase their skills and knowledge, especially in Mathematics.

Mudd, Angi

Angi Mudd
Adult Education Coordinator
Community Action, Inc. of Central Texas

Innovative Partnerships Between a Community-Based Organization and the Public University

ESL for Professionals: A Model for Teaching ITP

Angi Mudd is an Adult Education Coordinator and Instructional Coach for Community Action, Inc. of Central Texas. She has worked with Community Action since 2004.

She coordinates the ESL for Professionals classes, ABE and ESL classes and online Spanish GED classes. Angi also provides instructional coaching and training for adult education instructors in her organization.

She received a BA in Speech Communication and a MA in Communication Studies from Southwest Texas State University.

Angi taught in higher education for 4 years before finding her passion in community education. She is a state trainer for Content Standards and a Mental Health First Aider. She loves hiking, kayaking, and swimming in the San Marcos River.

Headshot - presenter Wendy Ogren

Wendy Ogren
Vice President of Services
The Center for Nonprofit Management

Featured Breakout Session Presenter

Program Evaluation: A Key Component of Program Management (2-part session)
Now What? Applying Evaluation Results

As the Vice President of Services at the CNM (Center for Nonprofit Management) in Dallas, Texas, Wendy is responsible for ensuring quality service delivery to all CNM partners. She has over 30 years of experience working with nonprofits and congregations on program development, implementation, and evaluation. Wendy has led teams of internal and external stakeholders in children and family services, food insecurity, and early learning spaces.

Before coming to CNM, Wendy served as the VP of Early Childhood Programs at ChildCareGroup, where she was responsible for providing high quality early learning experiences for approximately 1,500 low-income children through three service models. Previously, Wendy worked at Second Harvest Heartland, a large food bank in St. Paul, MN, where she led outreach programs for food insecure populations and capacity building efforts for community partners. Wendy holds a Bachelor of Arts in Christian Ministry and a Master of Science in Christian Ministry from Abilene Christian University in Abilene, Texas.

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Lisa Polk
Community Volunteer & Post Doctoral Student
Sam Houston State University

Incorporating Relevant Content & Skills with Interactive Literacy Approaches

Lisa J. Polk, Ed.D. is a literacy and curriculum specialist with experience of over thirty years in education, predominately serving secondary level students as well as integrated reading and writing methods courses in adult/higher education.

She has enjoyed working with students and educators to implement engaging literacy experiences for all learners while serving as a special education department head and as a districtwide literacy and social studies curriculum specialist for several years.

Recently sharing information on interactive literacy approaches, Lisa has presented at international, national, and state literacy conferences hosted by the Literacy Association of Ireland, Texas Association of Literacy Educators, Florida Literacy Coalition, and Coalition of Adult Basic English. Lisa holds an Ed.D. in Literacy, M.Ed.in Reading, and B.A. in Teaching from Sam Houston State University.

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Beth Ponder
Director of Professional Development
TCALL

Got Accommodations? Assisting Adult Learners in the Classroom

Beth Ponder is the Director of Professional Development for the Texas Center for the Advancement of Literacy & Learning (TCALL) at Texas A&M University. In that role, Ms. Ponder oversees identifying and developing trainings for local service providers and state-wide initiatives.

Beth leads the content development team at TCALL and is the lead on the Leadership Excellence Academy. Prior to joining TCALL, Ms. Ponder was the Associate Director at the Center for Literacy, Education & Employment (CLEE) at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. In that role, she served as the project director for the LINCS Region 2 Professional Development Center, a project funded by the Office of Technical, Career and Adult Education (OCTAE), U.S. Department of Education in addition to serving as a national LINCS trainer.

Reese, Candace

Candace Reese
Executive Director
Are You Ready, Inc.

Bridging the AEL/GED to Certifications Gap with Are You Ready for College

Dr. Candace Reese advocates for equal access to education for first-generation college students through her nonprofit work with Are You Ready for College.

After 20 years of teaching college English and Developmental Reading and Writing, she asked a group of educators to help produce accelerated college readiness programs for adult learners and high school students. Together, they established a formula for students to study, write, and communicate with professors in 10 hours instead of 10 weeks.

As the Executive Director of Are You Ready, Inc., she travels the country teaching educators the benefits of Are You Ready for College because she believes all students should know how to study, write, and communicate with professors in the first week of school.

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Rina Renteria
Assistant Manager of DEPDC Call Center
Texas Center for the Advancement of Literacy & Learning (TCALL)

AI for AEL

Qualifications

  • B.S. Sociology, minoring in Communications (Texas A&M International University)

Experience

  • Assistant Manager of DEPDC Call Center, TCALL – since 2023
  • Learning Support Specialist I, TCALL
  • Academic and Career Advisor, Laredo College
Reyes, Idali

Idali Reyes
Partner Manager
BookSpring

Igniting Family Literacy: The B3 Program’s Journey & Impact

Idali Reyes is an advocate for early literacy with a background in History and Communication Studies. She currently serves as Partner Manager at BookSpring.

In addition to her role as partner lead for Books Beginning at Birth (B3), Idali initiates the planning, coordination, and delivery of engaging activities aimed at fostering early literacy and cultivating family involvement in reading. She achieves this through strategic collaborations with community partners, notably through BookSpring’s Early Books for Me and Family Book Club programs.

Idali is dedicated to promoting home-based literacy initiatives, engaging partner organizations, and empowering families with resources and support for literacy development.

Rickman, Michelle

Michelle Rickman
Adult Education Program Manager
San Antonio Public Library

Learn at the Library: 10 Years Growing a Digital Literacy Program in the Public Library

Michelle D. Rickman earned her Master’s in Adult, Professional, and Community Education from Texas State University and has been supporting community-based organizations since 2009.

She began her teaching career as an ESL teacher for newly resettled refugees and instantly found her calling. In 2015 she began her work with the City of San Antonio, San Antonio Public Library (SAPL), and has been guiding the Learn at SAPL program ever since. At the Library, she is responsible for initiatives centered on wellness and working parent support, and public programs for ESL and digital literacy.

Michelle lives in San Antonio with her family, and is the proud mom of a creative, motivating, and hilarious four-year-old daughter.

Robledo, Christina

Christina Robledo
Customer Representative
BurlingtonEnglish

Differentiation Makes a Difference: Supporting Students at All Stages

Christina Robledo is a Customer Representative in South Texas. She completed her Master’s degree at University of Nottingham in Applied Linguistics and English Language Teaching. Some of her areas of study include translanguaging, language identity, and intercultural communication competence in the ESL/EFL classroom.

Since joining BurlingtonEnglish (BE) Christina has shared her knowledge of ESL with her programs through teacher and student trainings as well as providing support in using BE. Prior to joining BurlingtonEnglish, she taught EFL and academic English abroad in China and Taiwan, and England. In her free time she enjoys reading, studying Spanish, and taking on the role of sous-chef at home alongside her husband.

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Glenda Rose
Adult Education Director
Community Action, Inc. of Central Texas

Beyond Literacy: Transformative Learning
Digital Literacy and Beyond

Dr. Glenda Rose is the Adult Education Director at Community Action, Inc. of Central Texas, an organization that serves the nine rural counties around Austin. She enjoys using her 36 years of experience in adult education to help practitioners improve their practice.

As a private consultant, Dr. Rose serves as a subject matter expert, content developer, and researcher on a wide variety of projects such as adult literacy, adult language teaching and learning, digital literacy and resilience, and distance learning.

Magda Salazar is a product management, journalism and communications, and event management professional with career experiences working for the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas, Israel Ministry of Tourism, NBA All-Star Jam Session, and the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.

Currently, she is serving as president of Hispanic Communicators DFW, a chapter of the National Association of Hispanic Journalists, and on the Literacy Texas Board.

Magda’s passion for literacy efforts is a result of her own experience growing up along the Texas border in El Paso and access to programs that supported reading development. Magda is a product of the Head Start program, and in school, she competed in poetry, prose, and debate.

For Magda, collaborating on literacy efforts is fundamental to improving access and creating opportunities for communities of color and underrepresented communities.

Sanchez, Horacio

Horacio Sanchez
President and CEO
Resiliency Inc.

Featured Breakout Session Presenter

The Neuroscience of Reading
How Empathy Impacts Reading (2-part session)
The Crucial Role of Relationship Building in Reading Proficiency

Horacio Sanchez is a highly sought-after speaker and educational consultant, helping schools learn to apply neuroscience to improve educational outcomes. He presents on diverse topics such as overcoming the impact of poverty, improving school climate, engaging in brain-based instruction, and addressing issues related to implicit bias. He is recognized as one of the nation’s leading authorities on resiliency and applied brain science.

Horacio has been a teacher, administrator, clinician, mental health director, and consultant to school districts across the United States. Horacio sits on the True Health Initiative Council of Directors, a coalition of more than 250 world-renowned health experts committed to educating on proven lifestyle principles as medicine. He is the author of the best-selling book, The Education Revolution, which applies brain science to improve instruction, behaviors, and school climate. His new best-seller, The Poverty Problem, explains how education can promote resilience and counter poverty’s impact on brain development and functioning.

Speights, Lara

Lara Speights
Vice President for Family Support and Adult Literacy
Neuhaus Education Center

Literacy for All: Structured Reading and Spelling (2-part session)

Lara Speights, M.Ed., LDT, CALT is a dedicated literacy advocate and researcher who is passionate about creating systems that connect individuals and families to evidence-based literacy experiences.

Her expertise lies in dyslexia therapy, with a particular focus on working with emerging bilinguals, adults (16+), and individuals with low literacy. She is also highly knowledgeable in family literacy engagement across generations.

At Neuhaus Education Center, Lara is the Vice President of Family Support and Adult Literacy, where she oversees the Community Programs, which provide free services to the Greater Houston Area. Her role includes leading the Margaret H. Ley Adult Literacy program, which offers virtual and in-person evening literacy classes for adult learners (16+) with dyslexia and related reading difficulties.

Additionally, she directs the Family Support Office, which not only delivers community presentations on reading-related topics but also responds to numerous calls annually from family members seeking information and resources to support their children struggling with reading.

Prior to joining Neuhaus, she brings over a decade of experience as a teacher, dyslexia therapist, EB program coordinator, and instructional coach in public schools across Texas, with specific experience collaborating with families to advocate for students in special populations such as emerging bilinguals and students with learning disabilities.

Speights earned an M.Ed. in Language and Literacy from Harvard’s Graduate School of Education and a B.A. in Spanish and English from Texas A&M University, where she is also currently a doctoral student in Curriculum and Instruction.

Spillane, Leti

Leticia Spillane
Associate Professor
Literacy Volunteers of Laredo

Leticia Rios Spillane has been teaching for 25 years: 10 years in a public school setting, 15 years at a college setting, and 8 years as a private dyslexia tutor. Her first teaching assignment was as a Resource Reading Teacher at J.W. Nixon High School, then a self-contained Unit teacher working with students on the Autism Spectrum at O. Salinas Elementary School. Now, she teaches Political Science Courses at Laredo College, and in the evenings, she works with elementary school-aged students with dyslexia, dysgraphia, and A.D.H.D. out of her home.

She became interested in dyslexia after determining her son’s struggles with learning were due to dyslexia, dysgraphia and A.D.H.D. Because of her son’s success, she decided to help other families who have children struggling with these learning differences. She has read many books about dyslexia, attended various conferences both in person and on-line, worked as an Adjunct Reading Instructor under the College of Education at Texas A&M International University. She also became certified in assessment of reading difficulties from the Education Service Center Region 20.

She also advocates for her students and teaches parents how to advocate for their own children in Texas Public Schools.

Stephens, Fran-Victoria

Fran-Victoria Stephens
President
Story Square

Featured Breakout Session Presenter

Fran-Victoria Stephens is a former attorney and journalist who became the Founder and President of Story Square, Inc. – an evidence-based education social enterprise. After the pandemic, when she witnessed firsthand how parents faced the daunting task of serving as their children’s primary resource for education, she decided parents needed to experience the mission and spirit of Story Square on a larger stage. So, in 2022 she expanded the organization’s work and began Story Square’s Lit with Families Texas Family Literacy Festival, which takes place annually at downtown Houston’s Discovery Green.

Fran-Victoria is an impact addict and obsessed with the impact today’s small actions have on enduring change for our future. She is an avid researcher, writer, civil rights and education advocate, lecturer, and a self-proclaimed neoteric. She specializes in building new things. From idea generation, process design, implementation, and then evaluation, she has created lectures, programs, and Story Square with a focus on operationalizing her passion and education in civil rights law. These vehicles that carry out her passion serve her personal mission: to academically open minds and spiritually speak to hearts. Her hope is that her work widens our imaginative capacity to excavate new pathways for equity that lead to a collective, interdependent freedom.

Tamayo, Ivan

Iván Tamayo
Family and Community University Coordinator
Aldine ISD

Engaging Families Through Meaningful and Critical Conversations: Utilizing Storytelling to Explore Their Funds of Knowledge

As an individual who embarked on a journey of immigration, Iván Tamayo was afforded firsthand insight into the undeniable necessity of programs aimed at aiding individuals in traversing unfamiliar territories and nurturing personal development.

To navigate the system, he embarked on Adult Education, first as a student and now as a passionate advocate for families and people needing representation. Drawing from his experiences as an educator, Iván has discerned that our communities necessitate inclusive platforms that transcend linguistic education and are tailored to engender growth, cultivate well-being, generate professional opportunities, and furnish sanctuaries wherein their voices resonate and reverberate.

Digital Literacy Content Standards

Crystal provides administrative support for the Distance Education Call Center and the Distance Education PD Center, and collaborates and helps plan for statewide events, conferences, meetings or other special functions, including site arrangements, on-site support and preparation of meeting materials.

She assists on professional development content creation, creates and presents interactive presentations for webinars, and keeps up on the latest trends on Ed Technology and Tools.

Crystal has a Signals Intelligence Analyst degree from the United States Army. She spent 15 years in the United States Army, 10 as a Signals Intelligence Analyst and 5 as a Military Police Officer.

Walker, Jenny

Dr. Jenny Walker
Executive Director,
Literacy Council of Bowie and Miller Counties

Special Guest Breakout Session Presenter

Jenny Walker has worked in education for more than 20 years in all levels including elementary, secondary, and adult/higher education. She recently graduated with a doctorate in education leadership from Texas A&M University – Texarkana, where she focused her research on emancipatory leadership, functional literacy, and collective impact.

Walker specializes in the education of adult learners from low-socioeconomic families. She also holds a master’s degree in education administration from A&M and a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of North Texas.

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Megan Webb
Professional Development Specialist
Texas Center for the Advancement of Literacy & Learning (TCALL)

Using Partnerships to Overcome Barriers

Megan is currently a PD Specialist with TCALL and works with programs from all across the state on their continuous improvement. In her previous role as an English as a foreign language instructor in Lao PDR she worked for a faith-based non-profit that partnered with Lao public schools, specifically the Savannakhet Teacher Training College and the Luang Prabang Teacher Training College.

Through her 8 years of service in Laos she has collected many alternate experiences in partnerships between government and non-government organizations.

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Charlie Weeks
Director of Client Success
Essential Education

Keep ‘Em Coming Back! Retention Strategies for Growth and Success

Charlie Weeks got his start in adult education over fifteen years ago as an ESL and HSE math instructor. He has experience managing an adult education program and has worked for the State of Oklahoma’s Adult Education Division.

He is now the Director of Client Success for Essential Education where he gets to shape the professional development and training initiatives for customers all across the country.

He has a M.Ed in Public School Administration and has experience in all different types of adult education and literacy classrooms.

Welch, Katie

Katie Welch
Educational Consultant
Welch Education

Bouncing Back: Creating a Culture of Resilience in ESL Programs

Katie Welch, Ph.D., is a university instructor, teacher trainer, and active volunteer in adult ed classrooms. In addition to teaching international students in UT-Arlington’s English Language Institute and volunteering weekly in a community-based ESL/GED program, Katie currently provides professional development to language teachers through partnerships with the U.S. Department of State, Cambridge University Press, and Literacy ConneXus.

Katie’s innovative classroom ideas have been published in academic journals such as Language and American Speech, and she presents regularly at national and international conferences, including TESOL International, COABE, and the National Center for Families Learning.

Williams, Beth

Beth Williams
Southwest Sales Representative
Essential Education

Beth Williams, Southwest Sales Representative from Essential Education, helps Adult Education Programs and Community-Based Organizations implement their GED®, HISET, and TABE 11/12 Academy software and instructional workbooks via a Blended Learning approach. She works in Arkansas, Louisiana, Ohio, Oklahoma, and Texas.

Beth was born and raised in Troy, Ohio, and has a BS in Special Education from Ohio University and an MSED in Instructional Technology from the University of Dayton. She has worked in the educational software industry since 1986. Her primary focus is to ensure program success for ALL instructors, and she believes that ALL students can learn!

Winkle, Ashly

Ashly Winkle
Manager of Distance Education PD Center
TCALL

From Blank Pages to Boundless Imagination: Explore the Basics of Book Creator
Upskilling Adult Learners: Leverage Video Lessons for Success
AI for AEL

Ashly Winkle is the Manager of Distance Education PD Center for TCALL @ Texas A&M & Integrating Technology Moderator for LINCS. She is also a Journeyman 2 Technology Coach who started in adult education as a volunteer for the Literacy Council of Tyler in Tyler, Texas in 2013. She immediately fell in love with adult education and became an HSE Teacher within a matter of months.

There, she taught HSE and ABE classes while also taking on roles of Director of Distance Learning, PD Coordinator, and Trainer. In August of 2020, Ashly started her position with Texas Center For Advancement in Learning (TCALL) where she is heavily involved with Texas AEL Distance Learning, content development, project management, and the Technology Integration Coach program. She is extremely passionate about teaching, training, and integrating technology into adult education instruction.

Ashly has an M.S. in Teaching & Learning with a specialization in Teaching Leadership and an M.S. in Business Management with a specialization in Online Education.

Wright, Chasity

Chasity Wright
Assessment Solutions Representative
Data Recognition Corp

Learn About the New TABE 13 & 14 and CLAS-E Tests!

Chasity Wright is a native of Ohio with a background in special education. Chasity has worked in many capacities including reporting, sales, leadership, and program management prior to joining Data Recognition Corporation in 2013.

She holds a degree in Speech Pathology and Audiology from the State University of New York at New Paltz. As an Assessment Solutions Consultant, Chasity works with Adult Education programs across the country to develop assessment plans for adult learners as well as trains educators on assessment best practices.

Young, Kathy

Kathy Young
Adult Instructor
OIC-OKC

360 Degree Instruction – Trauma-Informed Instruction that Creates Healthy Graduates and Productive Citizens

Kathy Young has been an adult instructor for five years. She holds a B.S.in Math Education from the University of Oklahoma. In part due to the challenges she saw her students contending with, Kathy pursued her M.S. and became a certified trauma-informed mental health coach (BCMMHC).

She is the online instructor for OIC-OKC and is a passionate advocate for under-resourced populations.

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