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Breakout Presenters

Find 2023 conference presenters and speakers below, alphabetically by last name.

This page will be updated with 2024 presenters shortly.

Aguilera, Jackie

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

Jacqueline Aguilera (she/her/hers), from the House of Slytherin, has more than 30 years of combined service in IHE, non-profit AEL organizations, adult literacy commissions, Houston’s Mayor’s Office for Adult Literacy, conference speaking and training, & educational consulting. Initiatives and project experience includes:

• Functional Literacy: ABE, ESL, Civics, HSE/GED Prep, college success courses for first gen students

• Financial Literacy: Houston Money Week founder, financial edutainment online game pilots and gaming competition coordinator, contributor to Congresswoman Sylvia Garcia’s bill Multilingual Financial Literacy Act 2022

• Digital Literacy: Adult Literacy Partners of Houston 2019 Xprize national Adult Apps competition win, 2021 Ford Foundation’s Mujeres Legendarias Award for ed tech innovations and digital literacy, panelist for Xprize Rapid Reskilling Tech Impact at Xprize Future of Work Summit in Los Angeles, CA, National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) Digital Equity Leaders Network (DELN) member & Xprize Global Visioneering Team contributor.

• Health Literacy: Digital Medicine Society member, Continuous Glucose Monitor (CGM) applications for AEL instruction speaker

• Worksite Literacy: English@Work program coordinator, ed consultant for UpSkill Houston’s Soft Skills Series with Red & Black, worksite literacy trainer, independent employer services provider and consultant, IG entrepreneur, founder Jag.ED Consulting

• Environmental Literacy: Roots Of Success certified, advisor for Texas Southern University implementation of ROS for its green jobs certification training course

• Advocacy: COABE State Advocates for Adult Education Fellowship Alumni / Mentor, LGBTQ+ issues and education

Aparicio, Ana

Ana Aparicio
Customer Representative

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.

Austin, Alba

Alba Austin
Executive Director
Permian Basin Adult Literacy Center

Alba Austin is the current Executive Director of the Permian Basin Adult Literacy Center, the Literacy Texas Board Vice President, and previously worked several positions at various non-profits throughout the years. When Alba was a child, her mother always said: “Education, Knowledge, and Learning are things no one can take away from you.” That really stuck with her and she has always been passionate about learning and continued education whatever form that takes – whether it’s learning a new skill, new language, new leadership or business skills. If you continue to learn you continue to grow. An educated community is an informed community!! 

Alba is passionate about the work and the difference non-profit organizations like Literacy Texas make across the world. In her spare time she enjoys reading, antiquing, gardening, decorating, photography and travel. 

Avila, Katherine

Katherine Avila
Graduate Student
University of Houston

Katherine is a first-year doctoral student in the University of Houston’s School Psychology program. She is originally from Houston and attended Wellesley College, where she graduated in May 2022 with a degree in neuroscience and education. Her research interests are centered around family dynamics and engagement, with a particular focus on the impact of the home literacy environment on Latinx students’ academic performance.

Through her studies, Katherine seeks to shed light on effective strategies for improving educational outcomes and creating more equitable opportunities for underrepresented communities.

Mahalia Baldini

Mahalia Baldini
AEL State Director
Texas Workforce Commission

Opening Speaker – Tuesday, August 1:
“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

Karin has over 30 years of experience teaching English to speakers of other languages of all ages and in multiple settings.

Karin joined Intercambio in 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.

Bauer, Paula

Paula Bauer
PD Specialist

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.

Beeson, Ann

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

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.

Bell, Jennifer

Jennifer Bell
Instructional Coach
Harris County Dept. of Education

Jennifer Bell is an Instructional Coach for the Family Math Literacy Initiative, and has over 20 years in STEM education. She has taught Engineering Technology courses for over 10 years at Houston Community College and been involved in programming for youth and adult engineering workshops for the American Society of Mechanical Engineers and the Society of Women Engineers for the last 20 years.

Jennifer is a native Houstonian and holds a BS in Mechanical Engineering from Texas Tech University and an MBA with concentrations in Finance and Social Sustainability from Colorado Technical University. She holds a TEA Teacher’s Certification in Career and Technology Education.

Benajar, Asmaa

Asmaa Benajar
Tech Support Specialist
Harris County Dept. of Education

Asmaa Benajar is a Tech Support Specialist with 8 years of experience. She is passionate about helping people solve their technical issues and providing excellent customer service. Her expertise includes troubleshooting hardware and software problems, configuring networks, and providing technology business management. Throughout her career she has gained valuable experience in communicating with customers of diverse backgrounds.

Asmaa holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science Applied to Business Management from the University of Science and Technology in Morocco, and a Diploma in Computer Programming from the Higher Institute of Technology and Management and a database SQL/Cisco certification.

Callejo, Cathy

Cathy Callejo
Customer Manager

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.

Coffey, Karen

Karen Coffey
Board Director
Dynamic Learners, Inc.

Karen has an MA in Special Education, UHCL, an MA in Counseling, Liberty University, and a BS in Elementary Education, University of North Texas.

Karen was the Director of Intervention at Goose Creek ISD for 31 years until she recently retired. She was responsible for dyslexia, Section 504, response to intervention, positive behavior support and the Pre-K program. She studied Pre-Kindergarten Education at Howard Payne University and Principalship at UHCL.

Crocker, Rosa-Maria

Rosa-Maria Crocker
Coordinator for Adult Literacy
Collin County Adult Literacy Council

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.

Echelberger, Andrea

Andrea Echelberger
Low Literacy Specialist

Special Guest Breakout Session Presenter

Andrea Echelberger is a literacy instructor at the Robbinsdale Adult Academic Program. She has worked in the field of adult education as a teacher and trainer for over 18 years, specializing in literacy level instruction, pronunciation, and learner-centered instruction.

Previously, Andrea worked as the ESL Training Coordinator for Literacy Minnesota, where she developed professional development workshops and instructional materials for English language teachers and volunteers. Andrea served as an EL Fellow and EL Specialist with the US State Department in SE Asia, and has developed materials and delivered presentations for TESOL and COABE, as well as a wide variety of state and national conferences.

She is currently serving as Past President on the international board of LESLLA, an organization that focuses on adult emergent readers. Andrea holds a M.A. in Teaching ESL from Hamline University and a MN ABE Teaching License from the University of Minnesota.

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. 

Escamilla, Dr Olga

Dr. Olga Escamilla
PD Specialist

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

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.

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.

Gorsuch, Greta

Greta Gorsuch
Professor of Applied Linguistics
Greta Readers

Greta Gorsuch has taught ESL/EFL and Applied Linguistics for more than thirty five years in Japan, Vietnam, and the United States. Greta’s work has appeared in journals such as System, Language Teaching Research, and TESL-EJ.

She is currently editor of Reading in a Foreign Language. Her books in the Gemma Open Door Series include The Cell Phone Lot, Key City on the River, Post Office on the Tokaido, and The Night Telephone. She is co-author of Using Theories for Second Language Teaching and Learning (Bloomsbury).

Greta lives in beautiful, wide West Texas and she goes camping whenever she can.

Graybill, Robin

Robin Graybill
Senior Account Manager 
Cambridge University Press & Assessment

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

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.

Ickes, Dr. Joan

Dr. Joan Ickes
CEO & Co-founder
Dynamic Learners, Inc.

Joan N. Ickes, (Maier) EdD is CEO, co-founder, and diagnostician of Dynamic Learners, Inc. (DLI) in the metropolitan area of Houston, Texas. Dr. Ickes earned her doctoral degree in curriculum and instruction at Illinois State University and a Master of Science degree in reading at the University of Missouri. Joan was an associate professor of education and chair of internship program initiatives and school district – university partnerships at the University of Houston-Clear Lake and Sam Houston State University.

Joan has over 40 years of experience working with learners of all ages. She began her career as a public-school secondary teacher and as a literacy diagnostician for K-12 students and adults. Professionally, she works with a variety of individuals with learning disabilities, including those with dyslexia, attention deficit disorder, auditory processing disorder, and academic curriculum gaps. Joan’s research includes academic learning disabilities, personal learning passions and strategies, and innovative curriculum design and teaching strategies. Joan presents at research conferences nationally and internationally and provides professional development for school districts. She has authored numerous curriculum programs, articles, and book chapters and has been recognized professionally with awards for her research and teaching.

As CEO of DL, she conducts seminars for learning specialists and hands-on workshops for parents and community organizations.

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

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.

Kovalcik, Laura

Laura Kovalcik
Diagnostician & Learning Specialist
Dynamic Learners, Inc.

Laura earned her Master of Science degree in elementary education with a specialization in reading education and her Bachelor of Science degree in elementary education at the University of Houston-Clear Lake (UHCL). She has 30+ years as a professional educator.

Laura started her career as an elementary classroom teacher and often worked privately with students needing additional academic assistance, especially in the language arts area. In addition, Laura worked as a parent educator conducting home visits with families of diverse backgrounds, some teen parents, and various socioeconomic levels who had children from birth to five years old.

Laura works from a strength-based model as she supported families in their roles as their child’s best teacher. She individualized instruction and strived to assist the families to recognize their strengths as they used new literacy strategies to help with their child’s learning. She later taught as an adjunct professor for UHCL in undergraduate literacy courses for pre-service teachers, which kept her abreast of current research-based instruction. At LaPorte ISD, Laura was named District Elementary Teacher of the Year.

Ernest Lewis III
Senior Director, Economic Initiatives

Nonprofit veteran Ernest Lewis III has a diverse background in the areas of management, fund development, media, literacy, arts administration, and community development. The New Orleans native has called Houston home for more than 15 years. Ernest has acquired varied experience in developing and shaping signature programming focusing on basic needs, disaster recovery, youth development, adult and family literacy, senior services, workforce development, art education, and homeless prevention. 

During 20 years of service in the nonprofit arena, Ernest has cultivated, secured, and managed more than $20 million in private, federal, and public funds to advance the mission of many noteworthy nonprofits in New Orleans and Houston. Ernest served as President and CEO of the Adult Education Center in Pearland, TX until early 2022 and is currently Senior Director, Economic Initiatives at BakerRipley. Ernest also serves as the current Literacy Texas Board President.

The American Leadership Class XL Senior Fellow and ARTreach of Katy Board President holds undergraduate and graduate degrees in business.

Loa, Martin

Martin Loa
Senior Customer Manager

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
ESL Imprinted

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.

Molinari-Sanders, AnneMarie

AnneMarie Molinari-Sanders
PD Specialist

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

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.

Noske, Patricia

Patrica Noske
Adult Education Instructor
 Northeast ISD

Dr. Patricia Noske obtained her PhD in Adult Education and Organizational Leadership from the University of the Incarnate Word in 2018. Her focus has always been related to the field of educating adults, exploring ways to improve an educator’s impact on students.

A particular passion is continually learning about the problems of illiteracy. She is currently an Adult Education Instructor for the Northeast Independent School District, and she also has considerable experience in building training programs from the ground up.

Convocation, August 12, 2022.

May O’Brien
Program Manager & DL Lead
Harris County Dept. of Education

May O’Brien started her Adult Education & Literacy career back in 1996 with the Chinese Community Center in Houston. She later joined the Adult Education Division Management Team at Harris County Department of Education in 2003.

Currently, she is the HCDE HSE Program Manager as well as the Distance Learning Program Lead Person. Mrs. O’Brien is the Lead Project Manager for the Family Math Literacy Initiative Call Center.

Pennington, Crystal

Crystal Pennington
Marketing Director
Refugee Language Project

Special Guest Breakout Session Presenter

Crystal Pennington (she/her) is the Marketing Director for Refugee Language Project. She and her husband, Dr. Ryan Pennington, spent nearly a decade in Papua New Guinea with SIL International doing linguistic analysis and alphabet development with the Ma Manda language group. In 2017 they started Refugee Language Project, a non-profit in Amarillo, Texas that exists to see refugees flourish by removing language barriers, building leaders, and cultivating community.

She holds a B.A. in Biblical Studies from Dallas Baptist University and a Certificate in Applied Linguistics from Dallas International University. She currently lives in Amarillo with her husband and three children.

Rivas-Jones, Kristina

Kristina Rivas-Jones
Education and Career Coordinator 
100 Families

Special Guest Breakout Session Presenter

Kristina Rivas-Jones’s career includes two decades of experience in higher education, marketing, and healthcare, as well as success as a small business owner. The Texarkana native is finishing up a master’s degree in human sciences with a focus on human development and family studies at Stephen F. Austin University. For her thesis, she is researching the sustainability of the 100 Families program that helps families move from crisis to career. She will use this research to inform her practice as the coordinator of the 100 Families Alliance in both Bowie and Miller Counties.

Kristina holds a bachelor’s degree in nuclear medicine from the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences. She graduated from Texas High School and is married to Parker who is also an educator. They have three children, and the Jones family lives in Texarkana.

Robledo, Christina

Christina Robledo
Customer Manager

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.

Headshot - Glenda Rose

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

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, Rebecca

Rebecca Sanchez
Graduate Student
University of Houston

Rebecca is a third year doctoral student at the University of Houston School Psychology program. Her research investigates patterns of health disparities and inequities experienced by marginalized communities of color with a focus on Latinx families.

She focuses her research on the inequities surrounding Latinx access to diagnosis and treatment of their children suspected of autism spectrum disorder (ASD). She has been a research coordinator on different projects for six years.

Souders, Jason

Jason Souders
Instructional Designer
National Center for Families Learning (NCFL)

As Instructional Designer, Jason Souders leads NCFL’s instructional technology practices and develops online training courses and modules. Responsibilities include managing NCFL’s Learning Management System, multi-media production and design, and writing educational content.

Jason has over half a decade of professional experience in Instructional Design and more than 14 years in higher education, serving in various coordinating and curriculum development roles. Jason has a Bachelor of Arts in Broadcasting, a Master of Science in Library and Information Science, and a Graduate Certificate in Instructional Design.

In his free time, Jason is a musician who enjoys traveling and reading.

Speights, Lara

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

Lara Speights is the Vice President of Family Support and Adult Literacy at Neuhaus Education Center in Houston, Texas. She is a Certified Academic Language Therapist, Licensed Dyslexia Therapist, Reading Specialist, and English as a Second Language teacher. She earned a 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.

Prior to joining Neuhaus, Lara spent a decade working in public charter schools in the Rio Grande Valley and Houston area as a classroom teacher, dyslexia interventionist, English language learner coordinator, and instructional coach. She has widespread experience collaborating with and advocating for parents of students in special populations such as English language learners and students with learning disabilities.

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
Story Square

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. Story Square’s newest campaign, “Read’em to freedom,” once again highlights this mission!

Tamayo, Ivan

Iván Tamayo
Family and Community Engagement Specialist
Aldine ISD

Iván Tamayo has been working in education for 18 years. He has a passion for working with families and their communities.

In the last three years, he has served as a Specialist in the Family and Community Engagement department at Aldine ISD, Houston, overseeing Adult Education. Last year he led the Family and Community University project, which provides resources, workshops, and opportunities for leadership for families and community members.

The enrollment of parents in this project increased by more than 200 % in the last year, and he hopes one day to open the first Aldine ISD Adult Education Center.

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.

Welch, Katie

Katie Welch
Educational Consultant
Welch Education

Katie Welch, Ph.D., is an educational consultant and active contributor in the TESOL field. For two decades, Katie has taught and trained teachers in numerous settings, including K-12, adult, and higher education. She spent seven years teaching in the School of Education at UNT-Dallas where she conducted research in educational linguistics and social-emotional learning.

Katie currently provides professional development to language educators through partnerships with a variety of institutions including the U.S. Department of State, Cambridge University Press, and several adult literacy organizations. Based in Dallas, Texas, Katie serves on the Executive Board of TexTESOLV and has organized many regional and state conferences for teachers of English learners.

White, Brittany

Brittany White
Ph.D. Student
Texas A&M

Brittany White is a native of Port Arthur, TX. She is currently a doctoral student at Texas A&M University as well as a reading specialist. Her research focus is aimed at integrating improvement science methods into the reading intervention process to enhance the quality of reading intervention instruction in a way that empowers students.

Winkle, Ashly

Ashly Winkle
Manager of Distance Education PD Center

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 Consultant
Data Recognition Corporation

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.

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