Literacy for Life Conference 2014 Presenter Biographies

Literacy for Life Conference 2014 Home Page


Elizabeth Allen

Digitally Enhanced Tutoring

Elizabeth Allen has worked 8+ years in higher education as an English literature and composition instructor at Rowan University in Glassboro, NJ and Rutgers University-Camden. She is currently a graduate student studying Learning Technologies with a concentration in Instructional Design at Drexel University in Philadelphia, PA.


Denise Arlaus

iTeach ESL: Using Smart Phones and Tablets to Enhance ESL Tutoring

Denise is a Bergen County native and a graduate of Colegio Mayor San Juan Evangelista (Madrid, Spain), Universidad San Juan de Compostela (San Juan de Compostela, Spain), The Julliard School (NY) and Mannes College of Music (NY).  Throughout her life, Denise has derived joy by helping people learn.  She has taught her originial method for guitar privately and podcasted about it, served as Education Chairperson of the Metropolitan Region of the Embroiderers' Guild of American (where she received their Educator of the Year Award), and taught Children's Church and at Vacation Bible School.  In 2013 Denise became an ESL tutor for Literacy Volunteers of Pascack Valley. She currently tutors two Korean adults at her local public library and one Peruvian adult at her church. Denise lives in Ramsey, NJ, with her husband, where she teaches guitar privately, blogs about guitar, fiber arts and of course, ESL. You can read more about Denise's work as an ESL tutor on her blog,


Mark Brugger

Dyslexia: Making it Personal; Formula for Success With Reading Disabilities

Mark Brugger is currently Sr. Program Manager for the Community & Learning Center at Learning Ally, a leading non-profit for supporting children and adults with Dyslexia and visual impairments. In past roles, he created Learning Ally's parent support services which include a webinar series, and parent to parent consultation services.  He is currently developing the first virtual conference on Dyslexia for the parent community.  He is a dyslexic himself as are many members of his family. Mark has been an advocate for children and adults with disabilities for decades and brings a unique perspective, as a parent of a special needs child as well as a former case manager for college students with disabilities. He shares your passion for increasing literacy, and was a Literacy Volunteer for Middlesex County for three years. Mark is a serial entrepreneur in technology and telecommunications with a degree from the University of Virginia and an MBA from the University of Michigan.


Joseph Caniglia

Using Music to Enhance Higher Order Thinking Skills

Joseph Caniglia holds a Masters Degree in Education from the State University of New Paltz, New York. He is currently a full-time professor at Hudson County Community College located in Jersey City, where he is Reading Coordinator for Academic Foundations English and teaches Remedial Writing and Reading for the department. He is also an adjunct professor for The Continuing Education Department where he teaches ESL Speak American, Reading/Writing and Grammar, Pronunciation Perfect, and TOEFL Preparation.  Joseph is also a tutor for Basic English/Reading, ESL-Grammar and Writing, Psychology, Biology, and Education courses. Joseph is currently enrolled in a Post Master's Program at Grambling State University.


Matt Crimson

Decoding Strategies for Literacy Development

Matt Crismon has 21 years of experience in providing implementation and professional development services in the use of alternative resources and methods that rapidly develop foundational skills in older learners.   Matt continues to work with local and state level adult/correctional education programs by bringing a unique perspective in the use of high impact and age appropriate instructional strategies for ESL, adult and family literacy programs.


Joanne Cooney

Strategies for Teaching Comprehension

Joanne Cooney, MA, MS, MEd., has worked in various school districts as an English teacher and curriculum supervisor. She has also served as an adjunct professor in both undergraduate and graduate programs at Montclair State University and William Paterson University. Now retired, Joanne serves as a community board member of Literacy NJ - Ocean County Programs, where she assesses ESL students and provides workshops for tutors.


Todd Evans

From Stress to Success: Solving Math Word Problems

Todd Evans is the Director of Program Management for ProLiteracy. Evans has been with ProLiteracy since 1995 and has spent most of his time providing staff development to local literacy programs in effective teaching techniques and use of isntructional materials.


Susan Finn-Miller

Teaching Adult English Language Learners who are Emergent Readers; Teaching Vocabulary: Practical, Research-based Approaches to Instruction

Susan Finn-Miller is a teacher and teacher educator who has worked in the field of adult ESL in Pennsylvania for over 20 years.  She currently serves as ESL content expert in Pennsylvania overseeing professional development offerings for adult ESL teachers. She was part of the design team for ELL-U, a national professional development network for adult ESL teachers with resources available through LINCS. She holds a PhD in Language, Literacy and Culture.


Tim Fogler

Using the English Dictionary

Tim has an extensive background in adult education.  For over 20 years he trained adults in the areas of safety, industrial health, environment regulations, systems implementation, and team building.  He has be a literacy tutor for over 13 years working with individuals and groups.  He is also a tutor trainer for Literacy NJ- Middlesex County Programs.


Erik Jacobson

Keynote: Problem Solving in Technology Rich Environments

Workshop presentation: The Promises of Adult Education and the Realities of the Workforce

Erik Jacobson is an Associate Professor in the Early Childhood, Elementary and Literacy Education Department of Montclair State University. He is also a board member of the New Jersey Association for Lifelong Learning. Over the course of his career in adult education he has been an educator, a researcher and a professional development consultant. His book, Adult Education in the Age of New Literacies, addresses the ways adult education has been impacted by changes in technology and explores how learners and teachers can take advantage of newly developing resources.


Joan Jobbins

Activities that Work for ESOL Conversation Groups

Joan Jobbins holds a BA in French and Education from Douglass College and a Masters in French Language and Literature from Rutgers University.  She has worked as a Teaching Assistant in French at Rutgers University and as a Fulbright Teaching Assistant in English for French Students. Joan has also taught French and Spanish at elementary and advanced levels, including conversation and composition, in the Bridgewater-Raritan schools. Joan is the author of a published thematic unit for teaching elementary French, La Cigale et la Fourmi. She leads an ESOL conversation class for Literacy NJ - Middlesex County Programs.


Deborah Lynam

Dyslexia: Making it Personal; Formula for Success With Reading Disabilities

Deborah Lynam is currently the Director of Community Engagement at Learning Ally and a well-regarded parent advocate and frequent speaker on Dyslexia nationwide. She is an active participant in the growing network of statewide parent-led grassroots movements called Decoding Dyslexia. She is a former Family Resource Specialist and Parent to Parent Associate for the NJ Parent Training and Information Center; as well as a volunteer tutor for The Reading Assist Institute. Two of her three children are dyslexic and receiving services through their local public school district.


Vivian OKrepky

An Apple a Day...Understanding Nutrition Labels

Vivian OKrepky, an elementary school teacher for 37 years in the Bridgewater School system, is now a Master Trainer for Literacy NJ. Vivian became a Literacy Volunteer Somerset County in 1987, was a long-time member of their Board of Trustees, and served as President for three terms. In addition to tutoring, she has coordinated tutor training programs, instructed new tutors, completed student assessments, and revised LVNJ's tutor training curriculum. In Somerset County, she volunteers with the United Way in a variety of community outreach projects. Vivian feels that volunteering is a gift from the heart; it's like offering a hand to a friend.


Darnelle Richardson

Public Speaking 101; Public Speaking for Educators

Darnelle Richardson is the Program Coordinator at the Jersey City Literacy Program. She joined the Program in 1991 as a volunteer tutor. Darnelle is an ESL instructor, a Basic Literacy tutor, and a Literacy NJ Master Trainer. In 2010 she earned a Master of Arts degree in Education and Training from the University of Phoenix. Since 1997, she has been a member of Toastmasters International and has served as President of two clubs and Vice President of Education in one club. In 2013, Darnelle earned the Distinguished Toastmaster (DTM) designation - an accomplishment earned by less than one percent of the greater than 260,000 Toastmasters International members worldwide. Darnelle is currently pursuing a PhD in Education.


Perrine Robinson-Geller

Tips & Techniques for Encouraging New Writers

Perrine has a Masters in Education from Kent State University and has worked in the field for over 25 years as an ESL teacher, Training Coordinator, Program Coordinator, Teacher and Research Assistant. She is currently and adjunct faculty member at Union County College, where she teaches developmental reading. Previously, she was a research assistant on a National Center for the Study of Adult Literacy and Learning project where she contributed to a number of studies. Perrine is a member of the board of Literacy Volunteers of New Jersey.


Jacqueline Simon

Activities that Work for ESOL Conversation Groups

Jacqueline Simon holds a B.S. from Boston University in Elementary Education, a M. Ed. in Reading from Northeastern University, and an Ed.D. from Boston University. Her experience in K-12 education includes working as a classroom teacher, Reading Specialist, and Reading Coordinator in MA, DE, PA, and Mexico City, Mexico. Jacqueline also taught Reading and English (DE and NJ) and supervised academic support programs at Rider University (NJ). She supervised the AmerCorps Program in a non-proft agency for the resettlement of refugees, NJ.  Currently, she volunteers for Literacy NJ's Middlesex County Programs as a group and individual tutor for ESOL adults and trainer of other volunteer tutors.


Lauren Schmidt

Poetry like Bread: Using Poetry to Increase Reading Comprehension

Lauren Schmidt is the author of three collections of poetry: Two Black Eyes and a Patch of Hair Missing; The Voodoo Doll Parade, selected for the Main Street Rag Author's Choice Chapbook Series; and Psalms of the Dining Room, a sequence of poems about her volunteer experience at a soup kitchen in Eugene, Oregon. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in journals such as North American Review, Alaska Quarterly Review, Rattle, Nimrod, Fifth Wednesday Journal, PANK, New York Quarterly, Bellevue Literary Review, and The Progressive. Her awards include the So to Speak Poetry Prize, the Neil Postman Prize for Metaphor, the Janet B. McCabe Prize for Poetry, and the Bellevue Literary Review's Vilcek Prize for Poetry. Schmidt is an Instructor of Developmental English at Passaic County Community College. She also volunteer teaches a weekly creative writing workshop at a juvenile detention center in Newark and is a Poet-in-the-Schools for Paterson Public Schools.


Connie Schwein

Designing Tutor In-service

Connie Schwein has explored every facet of adult ed including volunteer tutoring, tutor training, and classroom teaching in both Adult Basic Education and GED settings. In the late 80's Connie directed a large LVA affiliate named as one of the 1000 Points of Light in President George Bush's administration. For many years she worked for the New Jersey Department of Education as a professional developer for ABE and GED teachers across the state. Connie became a tutor trainer for Literacy Volunteers in 1982 and is a Literacy New Jersey Master Trainer. She has recently spearheaded tutor training initiatives in Africa and Colombia.


Elizabeth Wilk

Pronunciation: The Music of English

Liz Wilk served as an elementary school educator for 34 years. After retiring in 2003, Liz became a tutor for Literacy Volunteers of Mercer County. Liz became a tutor trainer in 2006 and joined the Literacy New Jersey Master Trainer Corps in 2007. Her many contributions to Literacy New Jersey include training new tutor trainers, presenting workshops on teaching pronunciation, working to revise Literacy New Jersey's tutor training curriculum, creating an in-service workshop on writing, and presenting health literacy workshops for students.


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