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Staff

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Jason Thornton

Executive Director

Jason began his adult education career as an ESL teacher, then program manager, with the Peninsula Regional Education Program. He joined LFL as ESL Program Manager in 2016 and became Executive Director in 2021. Previously, Jason had served as a pastor for ten years. Fun fact: Jason taught English in Sulawesi for two years and learned to speak Indonesian. He appreciates the many challenges faced by adult students learning a new language.

(757) 221-3326

Fiona Van Gheem

Assistant Director

Fiona joined LFL in 2012. She manages all aspects of LFL programs as well as developing new programming and curricula. Her experience in education ranges from pre-k through adult education. Fun fact: Originally from the UK, Fiona came to America as an Air Force spouse, living in 7 states before settling in Williamsburg. She became a US citizen in 2011.

757-221-1261

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Bob Estremera

Director of Development

Bob is the Director of Development charged with initiating and overseeing all aspects of fundraising for Literacy for Life.  His professional career includes expertise in the corporate world including relationship-building sales, advertising, public relations and marketing.  But Bob’s true passion is giving back to local communities in the nonprofit environment with a personal calling to promoting literacy.  Formerly with the American Red Cross, Bob enjoyed many great successes as a frontline fundraiser and is excited to bring those skills to bear at Literacy for Life.

Brandyn Baty

Director of Community Outreach and Events 

Brandyn oversees stakeholder engagement, relationship building, and events to increase community awareness and fundraising. Her diverse experience includes finance, operations, fundraising, development and human resources. She enjoys wearing multiple hats and getting creative! Fun Fact: Brandyn learned to scuba dive in a pool in San Francisco and was certified in the murky Monterey Bay waters.

757-221-2422

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Mary Lynch

Human Services Coordinator

Mary enrolls students, trains tutors, matches pairs, and provides ongoing support. Previously, she taught community college English and was a Peace Corps volunteer in Papua New Guinea. Mary sings with the Williamsburg Choral Guild and enjoys a “side gig” as an assistant swim coach with 757swim and the Queens Lake Eagles. Fun fact: As a William & Mary undergrad, Mary volunteered at the Rita Welsh Adult Skills Program (now LFL), which was located in the basement of a dorm, Bryan Hall.

(757) 221-1203

Mary O'Brien

ESL Program Manager

Mary manages the ESL program, teaches group classes, and provides support to ESL tutors. Her previous experience included eight years teaching high school Spanish while also teaching adult ESL classes in the evenings. Mary is grateful that, thanks to her Peruvian mother, she grew up speaking both English and Spanish. Mary was inspired to become an ESL teacher by her love for other cultures, her desire to help others, and her mother’s influence. Fun fact: Mary has traveled to 19 different countries.

(757) 221-1369

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Frances Falcón

Career Services Coordinator

Frances oversees the EmployEd Program, the Empowering Parents Program, and On the Money: Finances Made Easy. Frances holds a master’s degree in education from Regent University and a Facilitating Career Development credential from The National Career Development Association. Previously, Frances served as a Family Readiness Aide with the Marine Corps for over twenty years. She facilitated deployment workshops and offered career services to military spouses. Fun Fact: Frances copiloted a plane around the island of Puerto Rico.

(757) 221-2422

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Casey Guditus

Program Coordinator - Lower Peninsula

Casey entered the literacy world volunteering for Literacy for Life while a student at William & Mary. After completing a Master's degree in Applied Linguistics at Old Dominion University, Casey worked as the Program Specialist at Peninsula READS. Living in Hampton with fiancée Colin and extremely large dog Stratus, you can usually find them exploring local beaches and parks. Fun fact - Casey loves reading about local history, particularly the Chesapeake Bay and the fishing industry.

Ellen Plaskon

ESL Instructor

Before joining the LFL as an instructor in 2021, Ellen taught ESL in Poland and Korea, as well as at the University of Virginia and the Adult Learning Center in Virginia Beach. Her love for teaching and languages began at William and Mary, where she worked in the Writing Center and assisted in ESL classes as an undergraduate.  She has volunteered as an LFL tutor and as an assistant in her daughter’s public-school classroom.  Fun Fact:  Ellen’s first child was born in South Korea, which was a wonderful experience and an unforgettable lesson in the importance of cross-cultural communication. 

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Lindsay Conboy

Intake and Assessment Coordinator

Lindsay is the Intake and Assessment Coordinator and joined LFL in April 2023. After working in political advocacy, Lindsay found a passion in education and working with disenfranchised youth and their families. While working with juveniles charged as adults, she was called to be an ESOL/ESL teacher and returned to graduate school. Since then, Lindsay has taught English in Pre-K-12 as well as adults education. Fun fact: Lindsay won a ribbon for her apple pie in the Maryland State Fair.

Adriana Marines

Administrative Assistant

Originally from Mexico, Adriana enrolled with Literacy for Life as an ESL learner and now serves as receptionist. She has worked in various childcare and school settings, but she especially enjoyed serving as a paraprofessional in Louisiana, where she supported ESL children and families, along with the school’s teachers and administration. She is thrilled to be doing similar work now at Literacy for Life. Fun Fact: Adriana and her family love their many pets, but she has a favorite: her bunny, Bruce.

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Pam Farnham

Data Specialist

Pam volunteered as a math tutor before joining LFL’s staff. She holds a degree in Applied Mathematics from William & Mary. She loves detail work and being in the background, helping the agency run smoothly. She maintains LFL’s database, pulls reports, and helps the agency make informed decisions based on data. Fun Fact: Pam telecommutes from Richmond, where she can be near her aging parents. She shares an office with her seventeen-year-old cat, Muffin.

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