Dianne was born in Hughes, Arkansas but spent all of her childhood and adulthood in the Kansas City area. She earned a Bachelor’s of Science in Business Administration-Human Resources from Park University in Parkville, Missouri. Prior to arriving at Literacy KC, Dianne worked in adult education and literacy for various organizations, such as the KCPS, MCC, and KCKCC assisting students to earn their GED certificates. Her experience also includes administering various educational assessments. She is excited to join Literacy KC because it allows her to return to her first love, teaching, and helping others to realize their educational dreams. Dianne is very active in her church, loves to read, and travel to California to spend time with her daughter, son-in-law, and grandson.
Kate BrownMarketing & Special Events Manager
Originally from Kansas City, Kate earned a Bachelor of Arts in English from the University of Kansas. As the Marketing & Special Events Manager, she works to spread awareness about Literacy KC through promotions and special events. Prior to joining Literacy KC, Kate worked in the non-profit sector of Kansas City, spurring her passion for volunteerism in a community. She is excited to continue to build Literacy KC’s environment that welcomes and celebrates volunteers, a vital part of our organization. When Kate’s not at work, you can find her cheering on the Jayhawks, spending time with her friends and family, or at her favorite place in the world—her family’s lake cabin!
Autumn BurtonDirector of Programs
Autumn received a Bachelor’s Degree in Education from Park University and is currently pursuing a Master’s Degree in Public Administration from the University of Missouri-Kansas City. As the Director of Programs, Autumn is responsible for the educational programming at Literacy KC. She has over 10 years of experience working in schools throughout Kansas City in a variety of positions ranging from teaching to administration. Autumn believes that literacy is a tool for success and is passionate about providing educational opportunities to anyone ready to learn. When Autumn is not working, you can find her spending time outdoors, travelling, listening to live music and spending time with friends and family.
Nancy ClayInstructional Specialist
Nancy holds a BA in English from California State University, East Bay and a MEd in Curriculum and Instruction (Linguistics) from the University of Nebraska. After a brief stint as a junior high school English teacher, she moved into various positions in higher education, including English/ESL instructor, International Student Advisor, Director of Intensive English Programs, and Executive Director of Enrollment Services. Partially retired, Nancy moved to Kansas City and found the opportunity to join Literacy KC as an Instructional Specialist. Her position involves training new tutors and working with the curriculum team. She is delighted to work with the wonderful staff and volunteers who make Literacy KC so successful. Outside of work, Nancy spends lots of time with her large family, consisting of six children, four children-in-law, eleven grandchildren, and a nice husband.
Karen CoccioliInstructional Coach
Karen’s love of literacy began as a young child helping her Italian immigrant grandmother to learn English. From the juvenile vocabulary lists she made for her “Nonni,” her passion for words and writing inspired her to obtain her doctorate in Comparative Literature and teach at Universities both overseas and in the U.S. As both a published author and educator, Karen has devoted herself to raising awareness to issues within marginalized communities, and the reason she is excited to be part of the Literacy KC team where she believes words do change lives. When Karen is not working, she enjoys the opera, writing, cooking, and taking her dog, Theia on long walks.
Veronika FournierVISTA Program Coordinator
Veronika is a native of Texas and a recent transplant to the KC area. She received a Bachelor of Arts from Duke University and a Master of Arts from American Public University. As one of the AmeriCorps VISTA Leaders, she supports Literacy KC’s VISTA Team and assists VISTA members in making the most of their years of service. Veronika previously served as a Development VISTA for a NGO in Texas and is excited to use her education and experience to continue serving her community. When she’s not at work, Veronika can be found reading, traveling, hanging out with her family, and spoiling her dog, Fluff.
Jacob HalpernMarketing & Communications Coordinator, AmeriCorps VISTA
Jacob Halpern is from Kansas City, Missouri. He graduated with a Bachelor of Business Administration from the Henry W. Bloch School of Management at the University of Missouri–Kansas City. He joined Literacy KC in November 2017 as the Marketing & Communications Coordinator and his role is to increase awareness and capacity for Literacy KC through marketing and communications. He is truly excited to use his skills to promote Literacy KC in the Kansas City community. Jacob has interned at University Academy, Sporting Kansas City, and Entercom. He has worked for the Student Union at the University of Missouri-Kansas City and the Kansas City Zoo. Jacob loves to travel, explore new restaurants, and hang out with friends and family. His favorite animal is a sloth.
Xavier HankinsVolunteer and Administrative Support Coordinator
Xavier has a Bachelor of Arts and Sciences in Sociology and Women Studies and a Minor in French from the University of Kansas. She is responsible for managing our amazing volunteers and assisting with the day-to-day office operations. Prior to joining Literacy KC, she worked in the mental health field, assisting clients with their reading and comprehension skills. Xavier has always enjoyed working with people in the community and is excited to increase awareness about the importance of literacy and how Literacy KC can help! In her free time, you can find her hanging out with her family and friends, reading to her children, traveling, and cheering on the Jayhawks.
Rachel HendersonPrograms Support Coordinator
Rachel joined Literacy KC in February 2016; her duties as the Programs Support Coordinator include working in student affairs and overseeing the AmeriCorps VISTA Program, where Literacy KC serves as an intermediary, to place VISTA members at non-profits in the Greater Kansas City area. Prior to joining as a full-time staff member, Rachel previously served as an AmeriCorps VISTA at both Literacy KC and Kansas Mentors, a mentoring partnership in Topeka, Kansas. Rachel has a passion for public service and the ability to make a lasting impact in the community and on the clients she serves. When she isn’t working, you can find her cheering on the Kansas City Royals and Chiefs, spending time with family and friends, and traveling coast to coast.
Gillian HelmExecutive Director
Gillian received a Bachelor’s in English Literature with a minor in Spanish from Park University. After doing extensive research in Latin America on non-governmental resources available to women in poverty as a graduate student at the University of Kansas, she decided that her focus should remain closer to home in order to address the needs immediately around her, and completed a Master’s degree in Public Administration with an emphasis in Nonprofit Management from the University of Missouri-Kansas City. Having always sought out opportunities that combine two of the things she cares most about, education and nonprofit work, Gillian joined the Literacy KC team in September 2011 as a Program Coordinator. Later, her work as Director of Programs allowed her to combine her interests and be inspired daily by the dedication of students and volunteers, while continually looking for new and better ways to provide much-needed services. Gillian then became Literacy KC’s Executive Director in October 2015, and continues to dedicate her time and talent to the improvement of services, the diversification of programming, and to meeting the needs of each adult learner who comes to Literacy KC in the best way possible. Gillian loves reading, running, DIY projects, and would like to own her own restaurant one day. She also does her best to keep up with her busy and brilliant husband, her rambunctiously charming four-year-old, and hilarious little tank of a toddler.
Dianne received a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Creative Writing with Minors in French and English from the University of Nebraska-Omaha and is currently pursuing an Master of Arts in English at the University of Missouri-Kansas City. Working for various educational companies, she has taught literacy courses, served as a director of education for a tutoring service, and most recently, heralded the importance of librarians at a technical college. She is excited to bring her experience to the nonprofit sector as an instructor at Literacy KC and help adult learners realize their full potential. When Dianne isn’t teaching or taking classes, she enjoys travelling, exploring the outdoors, and cuddling with her orange tabby cat, Hobbes, who lives up to his namesake.
John MoessnerWriters for Readers Fellow
John received a Bachelor’s degree in English Education from MidAmerica Nazarene University and is currently pursuing a Master’s of Fine Arts in poetry from the University of Missouri – Kansas City. Before attending UMKC, John taught eighth-grade English for three years, and for the last two years, he was a Graduate Teaching Assistant at UMKC. He is excited to work as the Writers for Readers fellow and connect with students through the empowerment and opportunities creative writing can offer. When he is not teaching or going to school, John loves to read, play guitar, and write poetry.
Kim RogersDirector of Operations
Originally from Albany, MO, Kim earned a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration & Finance with a Minor in Management Information Systems from Truman State University. As the Director of Operations, she is responsible for anything related to human resources, accounting, and office management. Before joining Literacy KC, she worked as a billing and medical records coordinator for a residential healthcare facility. Kim enjoys working at Literacy KC because it allows her to utilize her expertise to do what she loves while helping an amazing organization at the same time. When Kim isn’t at the office, you can find her watching sports, especially Kansas Jayhawks basketball, spending time with family and friends, and playing with her dog, Zeus.
Lazona received a Bachelor of Arts in Elementary Education from Park University. She also received her Masters of Education in Education & Elementary Administration. Recently, she completed her Education Specialist degree in District Level Administration at UMKC. Lazona has taught in the Kansas City Public School system for the past 24 years and came on as a Literacy KC Instructor in 2015. She believes teaching at Literacy KC is a great way to give back to the community and help adults achieve their goals as readers & learners. Lazona is a huge KU Jayhawks basketball fan and enjoys traveling, reading, and spending time with her two boys.
John TeasdaleDeputy Director/Chief Development Officer
John holds a Bachelor of Science in Business Management from the University of Notre Dame, where he was also a football player. He also holds a Masters of Business Administration from Rockhurst University. As Deputy Director, John is responsible for securing funding for our programs through government and foundation grant support, major giving campaigns, and special events. Prior to arriving at Literacy KC, John worked with HappyBottoms, DeLaSalle Education Center, and Rockhurst University, among other for-profit companies. He is excited to use his skills to continue Literacy KC’s growth and ability to serve more families than ever before. Outside of work, you can find John walking his golden retriever Sunny, spoiling his nieces and nephews, or reading history books!
ToiSheona ThomasOffice Coordinator
ToiSheona is a native of Topeka, Kansas. She attended Coffeyville Community College, where she studied business and played softball for two years. As the Office Coordinator, ToiSheona is responsible for many a series of administrative functions related to daily business operations, as well as supporting the leadership team and the ongoing development strategy. She has always enjoyed working with nonprofits and is very passionate about helping others. ToiSheona has over five years of nonprofit experience, having worked with people from all walks of life. She is excited to join a team that is so focused on helping others in and around the community. When ToiSheona is not working, she enjoys spending most of her time with family and friends.