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Board Member Profiles


David Chiesa

Dr. David L. Chiesa is an Assistant Clinical Professor in the Language and Literacy Department at the University of Georgia and serves as the English as a Second Official Language (ESOL) Endorsement, TESOL Minor, and Online TESOL Certificate Coordinator in the TESOL and World Language Education Program. Prior to coming to UGA in Fall 2019, he was the English Language and Testing Specialist for the Ministry of Public Education of the Republic of Uzbekistan, and had served in various roles overseas for the U.S. Department of State’s Office of English Language Programs in Japan, Mongolia, Mainland China, and Uzbekistan. Dr. Chiesa’s research examines the intersections of instructional design and language teacher development, while maintaining a strong tie between research and practice. He utilizes different research traditions in applied linguistics, such as naturalistic inquiry and psychometric research, to address issues in language assessment/testing, assessment literacy of teachers, and second language writing.

1st Vice President
Rita Gimenez

Dr. Rita Gimenez is a K-12 teacher, Metro RESA’s ESOL Endorsement Coordinator, and a part-time instructor for Kennesaw State University. The majority of her work focuses on practical and effective K-12 ESOL instruction. Dr. Gimenez is committed to fostering the best possible learning environments, relationships, and instruction to support English Learners and their teachers. As 1st VP, she is also the chair of our Conference Committee and is responsible for all things conference related.

2nd Vice President
Karen Terrell

Karen L. Terrell Ph.D. is an English Language Specialist for the U.S. Department of State, an Adjunct Professor at the American College of Education, and the CEO/Owner of the Terrell Educational Foundation. Her research includes mathematics education and content-and-language integration, as well as genre pedagogy and technology integration for diverse learners. Dr. Terrell has over 22 years of educational experience, including teaching and coaching in secondary schools, consulting for both charter and private schools as well as the Massachusetts Department of Youth Services, and lecturing for over 15 years in higher education. Dr. Terrell oversees membership for the organization and coordinates our professional learning events.

Alisa Leckie

Alisa Leckie is an Associate Professor at Georgia Southern University and Assistant Dean for Partnerships and Outreach. Her work focuses on the education of culturally and linguistically diverse students and adolescent literacy. Currently she is studying meaningful discipline-specific academic language development and the impact of earning ESOL endorsements on the professional practice of K-12 teachers. She is also working with local school districts to help them address the growing numbers of English learners in their classrooms through collaborative coaching and the modification of materials and assessments for emergent English learners. Prior to moving to Georgia, Alisa taught Language Arts, Spanish Language Arts and ESL for 18 years at a middle school in southern Arizona.

Benjamin Bradshaw

Benjamin Bradshaw is the Lead ESOL Teacher and an Instructional Coach at Summerour Middle School in Gwinnett County. He is a graduate of the University of Georgia and Middlebury Language Schools, and is currently pursuing a doctoral degree in School Improvement at the University of West Georgia. His research interests include the process and impact of scheduling decisions on Multilingual Learners and the intersection of ESOL services with Special Education services and the MTSS process from a Leadership/School Improvement perspective.

Ben seeks to support students and educators as they work together to achieve both bilingualism and biliteracy while pursuing their own interests and goals.

Members at Large

2nd Year Member-at-Large
Donna Byers

Donna Byers is currently the ESOL Instructional Specialist, K-12, for Columbia County Public Schools. She graduated from The College of New Jersey with a Masters in TESOL. She has worked in the ESOL field for 18 years, across three states. Ms. Byers believes that one of her most important jobs is to advocate for Multilingual Learners and to teach MLs how to advocate for themselves.

2nd Year Member-at-Large
Laura Grace Faris

Laura-Grace Faris has been teaching ESOL/ESL/ EFL for the past 20 years in K-12 settings in the metro Atlanta area as well as adult literacy programs, continuing education, and technical colleges. She has worked through the Department of Defense to train teachers in Thailand as well as through the Department of State in the English Language Fellow program teaching law enforcement officers in Chihuahua, Mexico. This year she will continue to work with the Fellows program on site in Monterrey Mexico for the Department of Education. She is currently pursuing an Ed. D. in History Education through Kennesaw State University with a focus on multilingual students and academic literacy. She has degrees in Linguistics, Education, and Curriculum and Instruction from UGA, Piedmont College, and KSU and enjoys working in advocacy for legislation affecting multilingual learners.

2nd Year Member-at-Large
Brian Hibbs

Dr. Brian Hibbs is currently an associate professor of education at Dalton State College; he previously served as an assistant professor of Spanish at Dalton State. Dr. Hibbs teaches courses for the ESOL endorsement in the School of Education, including applied linguistics, language teaching methodology, and culture and education. His professional interests include children’s and adolescent literature in the foreign/second language classroom, foreign/second language teacher development, French and Spanish language, linguistics, literature and culture, intercultural competence, language teaching methodology, second language acquisition, and second language literacy.

2nd Year Member-at-Large
Priscilla Noble

Dr. Noble was born in Santo Domingo, is a native speaker of English and Spanish, fluent in French, and is the Head of School for the GLOBE Academy (a Dekalb County Dual Language Charter School)’s Upper Campus. She had previously spent six years as instructor and university supervisor of undergraduate and graduate education students at Georgia State University. She began her career as a K-12 teacher, and as a leader in international schools she has worked directly with teachers and English learners from many different countries and with varied linguistic backgrounds, thriving in making the curriculum accessible and relevant to students with diverse interests and learning styles. She is currently studying how DLI (Dual Language Immersion) teachers can achieve positive effects on students’ social identity as well as their letter and word reading, decoding, and phonological awareness in both 1st and 2nd language through purposeful small group instruction. She has met some wonderful professionals in the field of English language instruction through her involvement with GATESOL and hopes to continue to advocate for English learners in our state.

1st Year Member-at-Large
Maria Gillentine

Maria Helena Gillentine is an Instructional Coach with the Multilingual Learner Program Office in Gwinnett County Public Schools. She has been an educator for 30 years, beginning as a Bilingual Education teacher in California. Her passion is to work with Multilingual learners and their families, and she is committed to student development and the learning experience.

Having grown up bilingual, her goal is to support teachers and influence best practices that are essential to emerging bilingual/multilingual students and beneficial for all. She moved to Georgia in 2004 and raised three children, earned an MA in Business at Shorter University, and her Ed.S. in Educational Leadership with an emphasis on Curriculum and Instruction.

1st Year Member-at-Large
Nihal Khote

Nihal Khote is an Associate Professor of TESOL in the Inclusive Education Department in Kennesaw State University, GA. His research explores the cultural and linguistic dynamics that constrain or enable the academic achievement of multilingual students in the US and on connecting these issues to advocacy and sound curricular practice. His work investigates the implementation of culturally and linguistically responsive pedagogies like systemic functional linguistics and translanguaging to promote the literacy and language development of multilingual learners. He is currently working on a year-long project with a 5th grade ESOL science teacher to implement standards-based content and language curriculum to support English learners in Columbia County, GA. Prior to his university position, he was an ESOL language arts teacher for 13 years in a high school in Dalton, GA.

1st Year Member-at-Large
Susan Mann

Susan Mann is an ESOL Case Manager and Co-Teacher at Rome High School in the Rome City School District. Susan earned her bachelor's degree in Art Education at Berry College, her masters degree in Curriculum and Instruction at Berry College, and her Tier 1 Leadership Certificate through the University of West Georgia.

1st Year Member-at-Large
Jennifer Pendergrass

Jennifer Pendergrass is the ESOL Coordinator for Floyd County Schools. She earned her bachelor’s degree in Deaf education at Ball State University, her master’s degree in curriculum and instruction at University of Phoenix, her ESOL endorsement at Northwest Georgia RESA, and her doctorate in teacher leadership at Walden University. Jennifer published her doctoral thesis, “Increasing the Vocabulary Acquisition Rate for Third Grade English Learners” in 2017. GATESOL Journal published her manuscript, “Cultivating Respectful Classroom Discourse in Trump’s America” in 2017 as well. She was selected by the Conferences Professional Council (CPC) of TESOL International to be the Poster Sessions Team Leader for the 2019 TESOL International Convention & English Language Expo. Jennifer served two years as GATESOL Regional Liaison for Regions 1 and 2. She also served as Secretary in 2018 and 2nd Vice President in 2019 on the Executive Board of GATESOL.

Non-voting Board Members

Past President
Elizabeth Webb

Elizabeth Webb is the Supervisor for ESOL and Title III for the Cobb County School District. A Georgia native who has worked in public education for 30 years, Dr. Webb has taught English and German, served as the director for the non-profit organization Friends of Goethe, and at the Georgia Department of Education. She also directed the English Learner Program for Gwinnett County Public Schools for 9 years, before moving to her present position of leadership with the Cobb County School District.

Dr. Webb believes passionately in the importance of professional engagement, professional learning, and advocacy. She has served on the GATESOL Board as a Member-At-Large, Secretary, First Vice-president, and most recently President. She now serves in an advisory capacity as our Past president.

Dr. Webb holds a B.A. degree from Agnes Scott College, an M.A. from West Georgia College, and earned her Doctorate in School Improvement from the University of West Georgia in 2018.

GATESOL Journal Co-Editor
Alex Reyes

Dr. Alexandra J. Reyes is an Associate Professor in the College of Education at Georgia Southern University. She serves as the TCLD (Teaching Culturally and Linguistically Diverse students) M.Ed. program director and the English to Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) Endorsement coordinator. Prior to earning her Ph.D. in Education (Culture, Curriculum, and Change) at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 2018, Dr. Reyes taught middle and high school in Connecticut and Arizona. Her experiences teaching Spanish, AVID elective, Student Government, and various Language Exploratory and test preparation courses in multiple contexts informed her commitment to providing culturally and linguistically responsive educational experiences to students in P-12 schools and beyond.

Dr. Reyes prepares pre-service and in-service teachers to work with culturally and linguistically diverse students, and to integrate arts and literature across the curriculum. She draws on her diverse experiences working in P-12 education, non-profit organizations, and higher education to direct her service and scholarly interests. These interests focus on the intersections of language, culture, and identity, and how they inform learning experiences for bi/multilingual communities in informal and formal education settings. Dr. Reyes is also interested in arts integration pedagogies and methodologies, particularly as means to lowering barriers for students from linguistically and culturally marginalized backgrounds.

GATESOL Journal Co-Editor
Eliana Hirano

Dr. Eliana Hirano is an Associate Professor of Teacher Education and the Director of the minor in Teaching English as a Foreign Language at Berry College. After almost 15 years teaching English as a foreign language in Brazil, her country of origin, Dr. Hirano immigrated to the U.S. and obtained her Ph.D. in applied linguistics at Georgia State University. Her research explores the intersection between identity and language learning, academic literacies, and L2 teacher education. Her investigations on academic literacies include the experiences of Brazilian scholars publishing in Anglophone journals and refugee-background students in higher education settings.

Dr. Hirano’s work can be found in journals such as English for Specific Purposes, ELT Journal, Journal of Second Language Writing, and TESL Canada Journal as well as in edited volumes by Multilingual Matters and Wiley-Blackwell. Dr. Hirano is passionate about mentoring undergraduate students through the process of conducting research and enjoys co-authoring journal articles with them. She is also an advocate for study abroad and regularly takes groups of students to Ecuador.


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