Susana Dutro, Co-founder and CEO
Susana is the co–founder and CEO of E.L. Achieve. Building on an extensive background serving second language learners as a bilingual teacher, district and county office administrator, professional developer, and adjunct education faculty, Susana developed a research-based framework, E.L. Achieve’s Approach to English Learner Instruction (formerly A Focused Approach). She is the principal author of a dozen handbooks based on the approach, which has been adopted by over 100 districts nationwide.
Susana speaks and consults widely, and is most gratified when working side-by-side with teachers and administrators to design and help implement effective instruction for English learners. Her book chapters include “Rethinking English Language Instruction: An Architectural Approach” (English Learners: Reaching the Highest Level of English Literacy, IRA, 2003), “Explicit Language Instruction: A Key to Academic Success for English Learners” (Literacy Development with English Learners, Guilford Press, 2nd ed., 2016), and “English Language Development: Issues and Implementation at Grades Six through Twelve” (Ch. 3, Improving Education for English Learners: Research-Based Approaches, California Department of Education, 2010).
Michelle Thelander, Co-founder and CFO
Michelle is co–founder and CFO of E.L. Achieve. She began her teaching career at an elementary school English immersion program in Madrid, Spain. Upon returning to California, she worked with K-12 students and adults in acquiring English as a Second Language. Her professional experience includes positions as a K-12 and adult school teacher, university adjunct faculty, technology specialist, site and district administrator, and Director of Curriculum & Instruction followed by Director II of Migrant Education Region XVI at the Monterey County Office of Education and Program Manager for Migrant Education Region IX (San Diego and Orange Counties). Michelle holds a master’s degree in educational administration. Her thesis research project culminated in the development of a Technological Literacy Assessment Rubric. The research focus of her doctoral dissertation for Organizational Leadership – “Teacher Quality and Support at High Performing, High Poverty Schools in California” – reflects her special interest in supporting teachers and promoting effective learning for English Language Learners and students living in poverty.
District Services Team
Debbi Puente, Director of District Support Services
As the Director of District Support Services, Debbi oversees the effective implementation of E.L. Achieve initiatives in partner districts. Alongside her team, she supports site and district leadership in establishing readiness, coordinating institutes, and supporting the ongoing work of improving classroom instruction. By breaking the implementation process into distinct phases, she and her team guide leaders through an incremental approach to successfully launch and sustain a complex, district-wide initiative. Having worked closely with students, teachers, principals, and district leadership, Debbi’s commitment to improving instruction for English learners has been the focus of her career. She spent her early years as a classroom teacher, mentor teacher, and instructional coach. In more recent years she has been a Title VII then Title III district administrator and an English learner programs district coordinator, and she has led Services for English Learners departments in Orange, Monterey, and Santa Cruz County Offices of Education. Debbi has been involved with E.L. Achieve since its inception and is truly driven by the E.L. Achieve mission.
Donna Smith, Director of Research and Communications, District Support Lead
Donna has been an active public educator for the past 20 years and has worked successfully with English learners in both high-poverty and high-income communities. She has extensive experience providing direct services to students and professional development to teachers and administrators. She is passionate about ensuring that the needs of English learners are met in our schools. Prior to joining the E.L. Achieve team, Donna was the lead district administrator for state and federal programs with the Saugus Union School District. She brings her experiences in educational coaching and implementing effective, long-term, system-wide change to her role as District Support Lead.
Donna earned a master’s degree in Educational Leadership and Administration from Chapman University and an Ed.D. in Education from the University of Southern California. She has been a part-time lecturer in the USC Doctor of Education program working with educators across the state to deeply understand the role of accountability systems and their effect on public schools.
Donna believes that the strength of educational leadership rests in the ability to understand the system on multiple layers and build authentic relationships that will empower lasting change.
Marta Serna, Director, District Support Lead
Marta is a District Support Lead responsible for providing planning and implementation support services to partner districts. She provides technical assistance and consultation services to establish district readiness. She also supports the development and implementation of district plans and coordinates professional development and coaching, resulting in successful systematic changes that increase English learner achievement. Marta has an extensive background in the area of English language learning, school administration, leadership, and supervision. She has been a teacher, principal, Migrant Regional Director, and the Director of School Support and English Learner Services at a County Education Office. Her experiences have led her to effectively provide guidance and assistance to school systems in the area of English language learning. Marta earned her multiple subject teaching credential with a bilingual emphasis and administrative services credential from the University of California in Santa Barbara.
Wilma Kozai, Director, District Support Lead
Wilma has worked in education for over 46 years. Her professional background includes service as an assistant superintendent in San Diego, California, and in Grandview, Washington, and as a project director for the University of Washington's Center for Educational Leadership, where she worked with school leaders at all district levels.
Wilma has extensive experience and knowledge in improving instruction, coaching, planning professional development, and instructional leadership. She is passionate about closing the achievement gap and supporting districts in creating systems of change and accountability.
Elementary Services Team
Raquel Núñez, Director of Elementary Services
Raquel began working in California public schools after completing the teacher internship program at Claremont Graduate University in 1999. She was a classroom teacher for six years in both Hacienda-La Puente and San Diego Unified School District. Her work became specifically focused on English learner instruction when she joined San Diego Unified’s Office of Language Acquisition. In 2007, she became a certified Systematic ELD trainer to help the district reach its goal of training teachers at all 180 elementary schools. She was an active participant in creating the first round of Systematic ELD units for the district and for initiating the creation of a video lesson bank to be used for professional development across the system.
In 2008, she left San Diego to work for Mayor Villaraigosa’s Partnership for Los Angeles Schools (PLAS) as a member of the instructional team providing professional development for K-12 literacy coaches. It was at her first Ongoing Certification event that she reconnected with Susana Dutro and learned about E.L. Achieve’s plan to create a K-6 ELD curriculum. Raquel couldn’t resist the opportunity to play a direct role in articulating a clear vision of instruction for English language development. She currently serves as the Director for Elementary Development supporting the ongoing development of both the Systematic ELD and Elementary Constructing Meaning initiatives.
Raquel completed her doctoral work at Claremont Graduate University in May 2014. Her dissertation is a case study of two teachers negotiating the implementation of the Systematic ELD Units over the course of one semester. The dissertation is available online: http://gradworks.umi.com/36/17/3617801.html
She has a continued interest in educational policy and in improving the quality of teacher credentialing programs.
Aidé Vásquez Yepez, Associate – Elementary Services, Systematic ELD Lead
Aidé is an Associate for Elementary Initiatives. Aidé is responsible for providing elementary Systematic ELD and Constructing Meaning professional development and ongoing implementation support services for partner districts. Additionally, she works with the content development team to create instructional materials and resources for elementary classrooms. Prior to working with E.L. Achieve, Aidé was an ELD coordinator and classroom teacher. She graduated from Whittier College with a master’s degree in education and from UCLA with a degree in Chicana/o studies.
Laura Jasso, Associate – Elementary Services
Prior to coming to E.L. Achieve, Laura spent her entire career in education with the El Monte City School District, the same district where she attended school as a child. She has always worked closely with English learners, first as a classroom teacher, and later as an instructional coach. As a District English Learner Instructional Coach, Laura played a hands-on role in the district-wide implementation of Systematic ELD by supporting teachers, administrators, and parents in meeting the academic needs of the district’s large EL population. During her tenure in that position, the API for the EL subgroup consistently grew, and the number of long-term English learners consistently decreased.
Laura holds a Master of Arts degree in curriculum and instruction, and a reading certificate from Point Loma University, as well as a Master of Arts in educational leadership and an administrative credential from Concordia University Irvine. She is pursuing a doctorate at Concordia University, Irvine, in the field of educational leadership. Her research focuses on instructional coaching as a form of job-embedded professional development.
Secondary Services Team
Elizabeth Macias, Director of Secondary Services
Elizabeth began her career in education as an academic mentor for junior high school students. She discovered that education was her calling and, upon completion of her undergraduate studies at UC Berkeley, became a Spanish bilingual teacher in West Oakland. This proved to be a life-changing experience. Prescott became the center of the Ebonics debate, which gave Elizabeth the opportunity to study language from the perspectives of linguistically diverse groups.
After several years as a teacher and administrator in a variety of programs, including dual language, Elizabeth became Coordinator of Secondary English Learner Programs in Oakland Unified School District. She quickly transitioned to Manager of K-12 Bilingual and English Learner Programs. During her seven-year tenure, Elizabeth promoted Systematic ELD and Constructing Meaning initiatives and fostered the development of numerous trainers for this work. She also created forums to support bilingual and dual language teachers and administrators.
As E.L. Achieve’s Director of Secondary Services, Elizabeth’s role is to support school districts to address the academic and linguistic needs of secondary English learners, ranging from students new to English to long-term English learners.
Scott Townsend, Associate – Secondary Services, Secondary CM Lead
Scott provides instructional leadership, professional development, technical assistance, and consultation services for secondary administrators and teachers to effectively implement programs that increase English learner achievement. He looks forward each day to helping teachers practice the teaching skills of Constructing Meaning and Systematic ELD. In his previous role as the District ELL Coordinator for Jackson County School District 9, Scott worked with teachers and administrators on both initiatives. Before that, he taught social studies and ELD at North Medford High School.
Scott has a Master of Arts degree in teaching from Southern Oregon University, with an endorsement in social studies and English for Speakers of Other Languages. He also earned a B.A. with honors in Ethics, Politics & Economics from Yale University. Along the way he studied at the University of Santiago of Chile, the University of Granada (Spain), and Oklahoma Wesleyan University. Scott is glad to have a position that allows him to make a difference for teachers and students. He believes that every student can succeed and smiles every time he hears a success story from a teacher!
Duyen My Tong, Secondary Instructional Unit Writer
As a content developer for E.L Achieve, Duyen develops lessons and materials for middle school Systematic ELD. Duyen came to California when she was ten years old and started the journey of learning English. As a result, she is passionate about working to support other English learners to succeed.
Duyen received her bachelor’s degree from the University of California, Irvine, and her master’s degree from Concordia University. She lived in Spain and Argentina, where she polished her Spanish skills and immersed herself in the cultures of these countries.
Duyen is a member of the National Writing Project and has traveled extensively through grants through the National Endowment for the Humanities. Recently, she was appointed by the California Department of Education to be a reviewer of instructional materials for the CA ELA/ELD Framework 2015/16.
In addition to working with E.L. Achieve, Duyen teaches middle school Language Arts, Vietnamese, and ELD, and is the chair for her department.
Duyen seeks to continue enhancing her knowledge and education in order to contribute to the academic growth of her students.
Rebecca McCloskey, Content Developer
As a content developer for E.L. Achieve, Rebecca McCloskey is grateful to be able to combine her two professional passions: education and writing. She studied English and Spanish literature and professional writing at UC Santa Barbara. After tutoring migrant students, substitute teaching, and freelance editing, she earned her bilingual multiple-subject teaching credential.
Rebecca has taught English learners in Spanish-only, bilingual, and sheltered instructional settings. She had the unique opportunity and honor of being a full-time writer for E.L. Achieve’s Elementary Systematic ELD units, then teaching the units in her own classroom and mentoring others in effective dedicated language instruction. She is now back with E.L. Achieve as part of the team developing Systematic ELD units for middle and high school. She is passionate about creating lessons that empower teachers to provide vibrant language learning.
Natascha Bruckner, Lead Editor
Natascha edits E.L. Achieve publications and materials, including curriculum guides, educational tools, articles, blog posts, and newsletters. She works with program directors and team associates to develop content and produce publications. Natascha holds a Master of Fine Arts degree in creative writing from Naropa University. As a professional writer and editor, she has provided copywriting and editing services for a private high school, a university, a women’s shelter, and several newspapers. In addition to working with E.L. Achieve, Natascha serves as the managing editor of the Mindfulness Bell, a 48-page magazine on the art of mindful living.
Tiffany Smith, Graphic Layout Designer
Tiffany works with the E.L. Achieve team to produce and maintain the E.L. Achieve brand and design standards and incorporate them into the curriculum guides and publications. Tiffany works with authors during material development, with editors on proofreading and content review, and with the design team to help ensure quality from proof to publication. Tiffany came to E.L. Achieve with an extensive background in print layout, pre-press production, and publishing.
After attending California State Polytechnic University for the study of communications and liberal arts, she worked as a typesetter and graphic designer. Following her move to San Diego, she expanded her career in printing as a customer service representative and production manager, assisting print sales and production staff. She also successfully created and maintained a freelance graphic design business.
Katja Stromnes-Elias, Editor
Katja works with the E.L. Achieve team to help produce curriculum guides and publications. Her focus is the development of top-quality materials to reflect E.L. Achieve’s mission and serve its programs. Katja works with authors during content development, with editors on proofreading and content review, and with the design team to help ensure quality from proof to publication. A background in editing and writing and an interest in education led Katja to E.L. Achieve.
She holds a master’s degree in journalism and bachelor’s degrees in psychology and English. Her editing background includes the posts of managing editor and assistant city editor, as well as consultant for a variety of nonprofit organizations and programs that concentrate on diversity in education and the workplace. Katja spent two and a half years in Berlin, Germany, as a Fulbright scholar researching journalism in the former East Germany, and as an English teacher, translator, and writer. Before her editing career, she led a writing workshop for youth, guided teens on backpacking trips, and worked with adolescents in a treatment center.
Alexandra Roquet, Development Support Assistant
Ali Roquet is a video developer for E.L. Achieve. She has spent her time with E.L. Achieve learning specific features of explicit language instruction to create effective instructional videos for elementary and secondary classrooms. With a love of students and a passion for writing, her journey in education began on the beautiful central coast of California, where she earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in English literature and a multiple subject credential at California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo. She spent a year student teaching and working with English learners at all proficiency levels in second and fifth grade classrooms in the San Luis Coastal Unified School District. At E.L. Achieve, Ali is proud to work with dedicated and passionate educators who believe in a common mission of equipping English learners with tools and language necessary for academic achievement.
Client Services Team
Libby Flores, Chief Operating Officer
Libby is the Chief Operating Officer for E.L. Achieve. Libby is the primary point of contact between E.L. Achieve, Systematic ELD and/or Constructing Meaning presenters, district leads, partner districts, and new inquiring districts. She coordinates training, resolves customer service issues, streamlines business operations, and provides technical support. She has extensive supervisory and client services experience.
Prior to working with E.L. Achieve, Libby was a marketing manager for a small civil and structural engineering firm in San Diego. Libby is currently pursuing a bachelor’s degree in communications with a concentration in public relations at Fort Hays State University.
Kacey Callihan, Client Services Manager
Kacey joined the Client Services Team in September of 2013. Kacey brings more than ten years of customer support experience to the team. Her primary focus is to assist in customer relations. She also assists with the organization of company projects, such as institutes and symposia, and provides logistical support. She is responsible for processing product orders and addressing customer concerns related to product purchases.
Kacey has a Master of Science degree in clinical exercise physiology and a B.S. in health and human performance from Fort Hays State University in Hays, Kansas.
Shannon ONeill, Assistant & Accounts Receivable
Shannon joined the client services team in January of 2012 to assist with product coordination, customer relations, data management, and accounting. Her main focus is conducting accounts receivable services, handling invoices, and working with customer concerns related to product and service billing. Shannon graduated in 2016 from the University of California at Irvine, with a bachelor’s degree in Psychology and Social Behavior.
Kara Paramore, Client Services Support
Kara joined the Client Services Team in January 2016. Her primary focus is processing product orders and resolving customer concerns related to product purchases. Kara has extensive experience in customer service, collaborative work, and project management. She earned a bachelor's degree in graphic design at Fort Hays State University in 2015. In addition to supporting customer relations, she provides design assistance for the production of E.L. Achieve materials and publications.
Kelly Young, Client Services Support
Kelly joined the Client Services Team in July of 2015 to assist with data management. Kelly has a background in accounting, data management, IT, customer service, and project management. She has a Bachelor of Business Administration degree in accounting. Prior to working for E.L. Achieve, she worked for Gresham-Barlow School District as an ELL administrative assistant for seven years.
Genti Sulejmani, Fullfillment Manager
Yvette Gutierrez, Assembly Team
Peter Damgaard, Assembly Team
Amanda Fuentes, Assembly Team
Joey Kirby, Business Services Associate