Speakers & Presenters

Find 2022 presenters and speakers below, alphabetically by last name.

This page will be updated with 2023 presenters in Q2, 2023.

Aguilera, Jackie

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

Let’s Build An Employer Partnership

The “Greening” of Workforce Literacy

Special Networking Session: Community Engagement & Public Awareness

Jackie Aguilera’s adult education career spans more than three decades of working with first year college students, immigrants, youth and adults, and AEL providers. Her efforts include projects, programs, and initiatives in financial, digital, health and safety, and environmental literacy. Highlights include piloting financial edutainment online games, Houston’s implementation of the [email protected] program, coordinating efforts leading to a Houston win in the 2019 Xprize Adult Literacy Apps competition, and serving in the Mayor’s Office for Adult Literacy. 

Jackie completed the COABE State Advocates for Adult Education Fellowship and is now an alumni and advocacy mentor. She is one of four Houston women to receive the 2021 Ford Foundation’s Mujeres Legendarias award for her work in education through technology innovations and digital literacy. She served in an advisory capacity with the Environmental Defense Fund and Texas Southern University to implement an environmental literacy certification component to its green jobs training class. Most recently, Jackie was invited to join the Xprize Education Brain Trust, an integral part of their Global Visioneering team.

Mahalia Baldini

Mahalia Baldini
AEL State Director
Texas Workforce Commission

Opening Speaker – Monday, August 1:

“The State of the State in Adult Education”

13 Considerations: Becoming an Effective Partner Under WIOA

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

Integrating Cultural Humility into English Teaching
Making Corrections – Encouraging Mistakes and Correcting Effectively
Pronunciation for Adult ELLs

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

Introducing the TX AEL Family & Civics Content Standards 3.0

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

Back to the Basics: Improving Student Learning Through Delivery of Instruction

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.

Cantrell, Jenny

Jenny Cantrell
Director of Academic Assistance
Episcopal High School

Dyslexia and Illiteracy: Structured Literacy and the Science of Reading

Jenny Cantrell is a certified academic language therapist (CALT), a licensed dyslexia therapist (LDT), and a certified educational diagnostician and special education teacher. Graduating from The University of Texas – (Hook ’em!) – Jenny stayed at home to raise her children and discovered both her children have dyslexia. She then went back to school to study dyslexia and became a CALT and started working at a Pre-K through 8th grade school to help dyslexic children learn to read. 

She did not want another child to feel ashamed because they could not read and she strives to help all students learn to read. Helping children discover they can read is a passion of Jenny’s and she is honored to a part of their reading journey. She believes all children can learn when given the proper tools and currently works at a private high school in Houston helping students who have learning disabilities and/or ADHD. Children with disabilities are amazing, and Jenny feels blessed to help them on their journey of discovering their strengths and overcoming their learning disabilities.

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Rachael Cherry
Clinical Faculty Member
Texas A&M

A Computer Lab at our Organization? Can We? Should We?

Rachael Cherry is a clinical faculty member of the instructional technology department at Texas A&M University-Texarkana. Rachael is currently working on her doctoral degree from Abilene Christian University in Abilene, TX.

Cococcia, Erin

Erin Cococcia
Customer Manager

Hands on Burlington CORE: Make Your Program Shine!

Erin Cococcia is a Customer Manager with BurlingtonEnglish; operating out of North Texas, she covers a large portion of their Central Region, supporting customers throughout Texas, Oklahoma & Louisiana. Erin is responsible for representing BurlingtonEnglish by working with Adult Education programs that service English Language Learners in their communities.

Erin developed a passion for working with the AEL community during the formative years of her life, and went on to earn her Master’s Degree in English Education. She has since worked in the Education and Educational Publishing fields for over 15 years.

Crocker, Rosa-Maria

Rosa-Maria Crocker
Coordinator for Adult Literacy

Pre-GED Program for Spanish Speakers in the US? Best Program: 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.

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Kristen Deppe
Director of Research & Evaluation

Program Evaluation: The Why and the How

Kristen Deppe, PhD is the Director of Research & Evaluation at BakerRipley and has been with the agency since February 2018. She leads the evaluation team and their effort in making data approachable so staff are able to make data-informed decisions and tell the story of BakerRipley’s work. She does this with a focus on improving the way we think about, use, and communicate data.

Prior to her non-profit work, Kristen earned a M.A. and Ph.D. in Political Science from the University of Nebraska where her research focused on understanding the biological and psychological antecedents to political attitudes and behavior.

Escamilla, Dr Olga

Dr. Olga Escamilla
PD Specialist

Hold the Judgement: Revealing Unconscious Bias

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.

Graybill, Robin

Robin Graybill
District Account Manager, North America – English 

Ventures in Cambridge One: Engage and Motivate Your Students

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.

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 and Account Manager. She loves working at Cambridge University Press because it combines her loves of ESL, teaching, pedagogy, and helping people.

Greer, Laura

Laura Greer
Manager of PD Logistics

Become a PD Portal Expert

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.

Houghton Kathy

Kathy Houghton
Executive Director
Literacy New York

Special Guest Breakout Session Presenter

Building Capacity in Adult Literacy Programs

Intake to Outcomes Online Tutor Training: An Incredible Resource!

Kathy brings extensive experience with onboarding volunteers and setting them up for success in adult literacy programs. Literacy New York, where she is the Executive Director, created the popular Intake to Outcomes (I2O) online training platform. 

Kathy Houghton, M.A., is the Executive Director of Literacy New York.  At Literacy New York, Kathy and her staff support adult education programs and practitioners (including community-based, volunteer-centric agencies) across the state with technical assistance, training, and data management.

Kathy’s 20+ years in adult and higher education include extensive teaching and training experience in reading, writing, learning disabilities, program management, assessment, English as a second language, and volunteer management. Kathy presents at national, state, regional, and virtual conferences. Her knowledge of on-the-ground adult education and literacy issues is a plus when training, and allows her to connect with participants in looking for ways to improve teaching, learning, and program management.

Johnson, Mike

Mike Johnson
National Adult Education Director – TABE
Data Recognition Corporation

TABE Testing Updates and Best Practices to Improve Student Outcomes

Mike Johnson has been with Data Recognition Corp (DRC) for over 15 years and involved with Adult Education for the past 25 years. 

As the Adult Education National Director, Mike is responsible for guiding the development of all Adult Assessments for DRC including TABE and TABE CLAS-E to meet the needs of adult learners in ESL, Basic Education and High School Equivalency programs across the country.

Kay, Janet

Janet Kay
Educational Sales Consultant
National Geographic Learning ELT

Reflect: Using Scaffolded Activities and Writing Models to Improve Writing

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.

Labbe, JR

J.R. Labbe
Principal Member
The Writing Labb, LLC

Special Guest Breakout Session Presenter

Telling Stories With Purpose
Make Your Brand Work for You

Jill “J.R.” Labbe owns The Writing Labb, LLC, a public relations/communications consulting firm. Prior to launching her business in March, Labbe was senior vice president of communications, community affairs and development for JPS Health Network.

Before joining JPS in 2012, Labbe was the editorial director for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. When she was hired in 1992, she was the first fulltime female editorial writer in the paper’s history.

A 1997 graduate of Leadership Texas, Labbe is a past president of the Rotary Club of Fort Worth and a past president of the National Conference of Editorial Writers. She received that organization’s lifetime achievement award in 2015.

Labbe serves on the board of directors for the Center for Transforming Lives and the community advisory board for Taste Project. She is board president of the USS Fort Worth Support Committee. She is a past board treasurer for Goodwill North Central Texas and past president of the Tarrant Literacy Coalition, a nonprofit agency she helped found to advocate for and provide training to low-literate adults in Tarrant, Parker and Johnson counties.

Labbe was named a 2016 Great Woman of Texas by the Fort Worth Business Press and the 2010 Outstanding Woman in the Workplace by the City of Fort Worth’s Commission on Women. She received the 2009 Bridge Award for individual literacy advocacy from the North Texas Future Fund, North Texas Commission.

Lanphear, Liz

Liz Lanphear
State Relationship Manager
GED® Testing Service

The 3 R’s of GED Prep: Recruitment, Retention & Resources = Success!

Liz Lanphear is a State Relationship Manager with GED Testing Service. She has over 20 years of experience in Adult Education including: GED Chief Examiner, ESL Instructor, Adult Education Program Coordinator, Program Director, and State GED Administrator for the State of Kansas.

She holds Master’s Degrees from Kansas State University in Adult, Continuing and Occupational Education and Emporia State University in Health Education.

Leonhardt, Nancy

Nancy Leonhardt
Executive Director
Adult Learning Alliance of Arkansas

Special Networking Session: Volunteer Retention & Appreciation

Nancy joined Adult Learning Alliance in October 2013, where she is the Executive Director. ALA advocates, trains, funds, and supports a network of 25 community-based literacy councils across the state of Arkansas.

Prior to joining ALA, she served in numerous positions in the non-profit arena since 1992 in California, Wisconsin, and Arkansas. Nancy holds a BS in Urban and Regional Planning from California Polytechnic State University.

Nancy is a member of the Rotary Club of West Little Rock. She served Rotary District 6150 as District Governor in 2017-2018, and currently serves as the Assistant Rotary Coordinator for Zone 31. She lives in Little Rock with her husband, Darrell, of 39 years, and has two adult children, Jason and Christy, both of whom are Texas A&M graduates.

Loa, Martin

Martin Loa
Customer Manager

Hands on Burlington CORE: Make Your Program Shine!

Martin Loa is Customer Manager for Burlington English. Prior to joining BE, he was Vice President of Program Services for Houston Center for Literacy, and the Mayor’s Commission on Adult Education where he supported the literacy organizations, engaged the community to join efforts in solving Houston’s low literacy problem, and connected adult learners to literacy providers.

Martin was program manager for Harris County Department of Education Adult Education Division. HCDE is the second largest adult education provider in Texas. It serves over 10,000 students annually.

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Erika Lyles
Research & Evaluation Lead

Program Evaluation: The Why and the How

Erika Lyles joined BakerRipley in August 2021 as the Research and Evaluation Lead. While many consider data and evaluation to be about numbers and graphs, Erika believes that data and research are the opportunity to tell a story greater than oneself.

In 2016, she earned her Master’s in Public Health in Behavioral Science and Health Education from Emory University with a focus on social determinants of health and health equity. In her spare time, she is an avid reader of comics, a figure skating super fan, and an owner of many pets.

Martinez, Elizabeth

Elizabeth Martinez
Founder and Writer
ESL Imprinted

Pronunciation: Climbing Mountains, Skirting Molehills, and Telling the Two Apart

Sounding Out, Sound Blending, and Sight Words: How to Build Literacy in Beginners

Elizabeth Hicks Martinez has taught intensive English since 1981; for nearly a decade before that she was an elementary bilingual teacher. In 2014 she established the company ESL Imprinted and has written four books for teaching literacy to adults, youths, and children.

Her special joy is teaching pronunciation and beginning reading.

Medina, Yolanda

Yolanda Medina
Founder and Director
Centro Latino de Educación para Adultos Dallas Norte

Basic Adult Literacy and Pre-GED for Hispanics

Yolanda Medina has a Bachelor in Arts with a Major in Social Welfare and a Master in Library Science from the University of Puerto Rico. She also has a Master’s Degree in Public Affairs from the University of Texas at Dallas.

She is the Founder and Director of the Centro Latino de Educación para Adultos Dallas Norte where she volunteers to teach Adult Basic Literacy and Pre-GED classes in Spanish along with five other volunteer tutors, and is the President of the Collin County Adult Literacy Council since 2013. She retired in 2017 as a public librarian from the City of Richardson in Texas.

Yolanda enjoys Bible study, painting, reading, and the performing arts. She spends lots of time with her grandchildren. She lives in Texas with her husband.

Molinari-Sanders, AnneMarie

AnneMarie Molinari-Sanders
PD Specialist

Got Accommodations? Assisting Adult Learners in the Classroom

Introducing the TX AEL Family & Civics Content Standards 3.0

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

Taking Contextualized Video Lessons to Your Classroom

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.

Pennington, Crystal

Crystal Pennington
Marketing Director
Refugee Language Project

A Community Center and Storybooks: Case Studies in Collaboration 

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.

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Beth Ponder
Director of Professional Development

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.

Rivas-Jones, Kristina

Kristina Rivas-Jones
Education and Career Coordinator

Resolving Attendance and Recruitment Issues Through Community Collaboration

Kristina Rivas-Jones’s career includes more than a decade 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.

Salas-Isnardi, Federico

Federico Salas-Isnardi
Mayor’s Office for Adult Literacy, Houston

Unpacking the Barbara Bush Foundation’s National Action Plan for Adult Literacy
Special Networking Session: From Blueprint to Action – Practical Strategies for Your Community

Federico Salas-Isnardi is Director of the Mayor’s Office for Adult Literacy in Houston, Texas, where he leads innovative collaborations to address issues at the intersection of adult education and equity. He oversaw the development of Houston’s Adult Literacy Blueprint, a strategic plan to rebrand and reimagine Adult Literacy with a focus on digital equity. 

A linguist by training, Federico is an adult ESL and literacy educator, diversity, social justice and equity trainer, and professional developer with 35 years of experience in adult education.

Federico was interim CEO of Literacy Texas in 2018 after serving as an ex-officio member of the Literacy Texas Board for 9 years. He is currently a member of the Coordinating Council of the Adult Literacy National Action Plan and serves on the board of advisors of the TexShare Consortium of the Texas State Library and Archives Commission.


Melanie Sampson
Clear Language Lab Program Director
Literacy Works

Special Guest Breakout Session Presenter

Plain Language 101 

Creating Accessible Content for our Neurodiverse World

(Re)Framing Our Conversations Around Adult Education

Melanie brings a special focus on accessibility in language and literacy, and will present three breakout sessions for us during the conference, each interpreting our theme of “Literacy for ALL” through a different lens. 

Melanie Sampson (she/her) has over 15 years of experience in adult education, including teaching, program administration, and volunteer management as well as a master’s degree in linguistics. At Literacy Works, she oversees project management at their Clear Language Lab. In this work, she designs training for professionals across a variety of sectors including workforce development, health, legal aid and others so that programs can more effectively communicate with participants. 

She “translates” handbooks, forms, and other client-facing documents to make them clear and accessible to adults of diverse educational backgrounds, and consults with program staff to identify how literacy may affect their participants and how they can reduce barriers. 

In her free time, Melanie enjoys reading advice columns, crafting, and walking around Chicago with her dog.

Horacio Sanchez

Horacio Sanchez
President & CEO
Resiliency Inc.

Keynote Speaker – Monday, August 1:

“The Foundation of Adult Reading”

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 True Health Initiative Council of Directors, a coalition of more than 250 world-renowned health experts, committed to educating on proven principles of lifestyle 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 book, The Poverty Problem, explains how education can promote resilience and counter poverty’s impact on brain development and functioning.

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Caroline Silva
School Psychology
U of H

Assessing for and Promoting Digital Literacy in Marginalized Communities

Caroline Silva B.S. (she/her) is a School Psychology doctoral student at the University of Houston. Caroline’s research aims to reduce educational disparities and improve the outcomes of culturally and linguistically diverse students. 

She is particularly interested in the influence of cultural factors and timely identification for special education eligibility.

Snow, Katie

Katie Snow
PD Portal Coordinator

Become a PD Portal Expert

Katie Snow has served as the Professional Development (PD) Portal Coordinator at the Texas Center for the Advancement of Literacy & Learning (TCALL) at Texas A&M University since October 2018.

Katie received her bachelor’s degree from Texas A&M University in 2007 in Community Health and a master’s degree a few years later in 2012 in Health Education and Curriculum and Instruction from Texas State University. In addition to her current position, she has an extensive background in education which includes roles as a cancer information specialist, public school teacher and mentor, and adjunct instructor.

Speights, Lara

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

Teaching Reading is Harder Than I Thought!

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.

Thompson, Kathryn

Kathryn Thompson
Director of Administration & Training
Parker County Center of Hope

Special Guest Breakout Session Presenter

Telling Stories With Purpose
Make Your Brand Work for You

Kathryn B. Thompson, CFRE has more than 30 years’ experience in nonprofit management and fund development. As the director of administration and training at Parker County Center of Hope, she serves on the senior leadership team overseeing administrative development and operational support for programs and services provided by more than 2,000 volunteers annually.

Prior to joining Center of Hope three years ago, she served as the founding executive director of Tarrant Literacy Coalition, where she led the charge to change the way high school equivalency tests were offered in Texas.

A certified fundraiser, Thompson has raised millions of dollars for nonprofit programs and has been a featured speaker at conferences, teaching others how to raise money, recruit volunteers, and market their programs. As the former executive director of a children’s advocacy center and a Big Brothers/Big Sisters chapter, she has practical experience working with board members, volunteers, staff, and community partners.

Kathryn has received numerous awards from her peers and professional organizations for her work. Most recently, she was named a Literacy Hero by Literacy Texas and received the Unsung Hero Award from Workforce Solutions of Tarrant County for her work supporting adult learners.

Vasquez, Mariana

Mariana Vázquez
School Psychology
U of H

Assessing for and Promoting Digital Literacy in Marginalized Communities

Mariana Vázquez, M.Ed. (she/her/ella) is a School Psychology doctoral candidate and a Center for Mexican American Studies (CMAS) graduate fellow at the University of Houston. Mariana’s research interests focus on the influence of cultural, linguistic, and social factors on Latinx parents’ involvement and Latinx students’ educational and psychological outcomes.

She is particularly interested in the provision of culturally and linguistically sensitive and responsive services for Latinx youth and families. Through her academic and applied work, Mariana aims to support the advancement of Latinx communities.

Vick, Michele

Michele Vick
Associate Director, Distance Education PD Center

Brain Hacks: Teaching Moves that Deepen Understanding and Strengthen Recall Community Keeps ‘Em Coming! Creating Community Amongst Distance Learners

Michele Vick is the Associate Director of the Distance Education Professional Development Center at TCALL. Prior to working at TCALL, Michele taught ESL to adults for more than 15 years, first in North Africa and the Middle East, and later in Texas. 

Michele has a Master’s in Education, specializing in Mind, Brain, Education – the intersection of cognitive psychology, neuroscience and education. She is passionate about equipping instructors with tools and techniques that increase engagement and foster motivation and deeper learning.

Walker, Jenny

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

Resolving Attendance and Recruitment Issues Through Community Collaboration

Jenny Walker has worked in education for more than 20 years in all levels including elementary, secondary, and adult/higher education. She is a doctoral candidate in education leadership at Texas A&M University – Texarkana, where she focuses her research on emancipatory leadership and the education of adult learners from low-socioeconomic families.

She holds a master’s degree in education administration from A&M, and she earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of North Texas. Jenny lives in Texarkana with her husband, Greg, and their two children and dog.


Keighty Ward
Community Literacy Program Director
Literacy Works

Special Guest Breakout Session Presenter

Building a Reflective Teaching Practice

Making Space for Everyone: Universal Design for Learning

Developing Safe Learning Spaces

Keighty brings a special focus on accessibility in language and literacy, and will present three breakout sessions for us during the conference, each interpreting our theme of “Literacy for ALL” through a different lens. 

Keighty Ward (they/them) began their work as an educational ASL interpreter and quickly became interested in the teaching they were interpreting. They taught English as a Second Language for three years, while pursuing their M.A. in Applied Linguistics. Their thesis focused on d/Deaf adult English learners, which led them to become interested in adult education specifically.

They spent many years teaching ESL and Citizenship before transitioning to Literacy Works where they support community literacy educators. They have presented at several conferences on various topics including adult education, inclusive teaching and learning, and popular education. Through their work they hope to help make education accessible and equal for all who seek it.

In their spare time, Keighty loves to grow vegetables, practice art making, or watch their cats run around in the yard.

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Dr. Kevin Williams
Instructional Technology
Texas A&M

A Computer Lab at our Organization? Can We? Should We?

Dr. Kevin Williams is an associate professor of instructional technology and teaches at Texas A&M University – Texarkana. Kevin received his doctoral degree from Dakota State University in Information Systems with an emphasis in knowledge management, data management and decision support systems and holds MS degrees in Information Systems and Business.

Kevin’s primary research interests center on E-Learning and Social Networking.

Winkle, Ashly

Ashly Winkle
Manager of Distance Education PD Center

Taking Contextualized Video Lessons to Your Classroom

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

TABE Testing Updates and Best Practices to Improve Student Outcomes

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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