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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.


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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

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

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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.

Frances Falcón

ESL Instructor

Frances leads the EmployEd Program, teaches ESL classes, and develops curricula. 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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Julissa Figueroa


Julissa enrolled as a learner at Literacy for Life in 2019. She came with a goal of becoming a certified interpreter and translator because she enjoys assisting people who struggle with English, especially other Spanish-speaking mothers at her daughter’s school. Originally from Puerto Rico, Julissa moved to the United States as an Army spouse and lived in several places before settling in Williamsburg. She became LFL’s receptionist in 2021. Fun fact: Julissa and her predecessor at LFL’s front desk, Rocio, were both respiratory therapists in their home countries. What a coincidence!

Suzanne Huddleston

Financial Analyst

Suzanne joined LFL in 2016. She focuses on the agency’s financial picture and possibilities. After earning her MBA from William & Mary, she was the Vice President of Market Research at a regional research firm for 15 years and continues to conduct periodic research projects with a national firm. Suzanne also volunteers as an LFL tutor and helped her first student complete her high school diploma. Fun fact: Suzanne has ridden her Harley-Davidson motorcycle all over the USA.

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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.

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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