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 communications and special events. Prior to joining Literacy KC, Kate worked in the non-profit sector of Kansas City. She is excited to be a part of the development team and help spread awareness and raise funds to support the important work being done in the classroom. 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!
Shavon BrownOffice Coordinator
Shavon Brown was born and raised in Kansas City. She attended Baker University in Baldwin City, KS. After graduating in 2012 with a Bachelor’s degree in Political Science and Communications she moved back home to begin her nonprofit career. Shavon has worked for organizations like Youth Volunteer Corp., Girl Scouts of NE KS NW MO, Hillcrest Transitional Housing and the Greater Kansas City Chamber of Commerce. In her spare time, Shavon is an avid reader who especially enjoys fiction authors such as Rick Riordan, Jennifer Brown and C.J Archer. Shavon is very excited to join Literary KC and assist this organization as they continue their mission of advancing literacy within the Kansas City metropolitan area through direct services, advocacy, and collaboration.
Autumn BurtonDirector of Programs
Autumn received a Bachelor’s Degree in Education from Park University and a Master’s Degree in Public Administration from the University of Missouri-Kansas City. As the Director of Programs, Autumn focuses on the design, implementation, and evaluation of all Literacy KC programs to ensure the best educational opportunities for students. 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, traveling, 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.
Tekisha EdwardsStudent Advocate
Originally from Fort Worth, Texas, Tekisha earned her high school diploma and an office management certificate through Literacy KC’s Career Online High School. As the Student Advocate, Tekisha is responsible for supporting students and their varied needs. She also acts as a student advocate among staff and community members to make sure that Literacy KC maintains our “student first” philosophy. Prior to working for Literacy KC, Tekisha worked with adults with disabilities helping them to become self-sufficient at home and in the community. Tekisha is excited to join Literacy KC because they are dedicated to helping others grow and reach their full potential. When Tekisha is not at work, she serves as the Head Start Committee Representative at The Family Conservancy and spends time with friends and family.
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 the VISTA Program Coordinator, she manages Literacy KC’s VISTA project and ensures VISTA members and sub-sites have a positive and effective VISTA experience. Veronika enjoys using her education and experience to help organizations increase their capacity to serve their clients and improve interorganizational collaboration. When she’s not at work, Veronika can be found reading, traveling, hanging out with her family, and spoiling her dog, Fluff.
Marquis HallInstructor, Let's Read
Marquis Hall is from Kansas City. In May of 2016 he graduated from UMKC with a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Elementary Education. During this time, he was an Institute for Urban Education Scholar and the faculty meeting representative for the School of Education Student Government. Throughout his college career, he has worked tirelessly at improving his professional craft of teaching. He has taught preschool at Operation Breakthrough. He has also taught and developed the leadership class at Operation Breakthrough. The program gives the oldest students in the building a chance to learn leadership skills, community service, and learn about Kansas City at large. Currently, he serves as a 1st Grade teacher at Citizens of the World Charter School and spends every weekend serving victims of domestic violence at Safehome. Marquis truly believes in the positive impact that literacy has on all children.
Peter HanesVISTA Team Leader, AmeriCorps VISTA
A native of Binghamton, New York, Peter Hanes has traveled across the country as a member of AmeriCorps VISTA, from Helena, Montana to Plattsburgh, New York all the way here to Kansas City. During that time, he has helped create vital resources used by several nonprofits in these areas. He hopes to use his experience as a VISTA to guide his fellow VISTAs as a VISTA leader. He plans to use what he has learned to advise them, as well as be their advocate to the management. On his off-hours, he is a stereotypical geek, with science fiction and fantasy interests that tie well to his History degree from Carleton College.
Xavier HankinsDevelopment Support Specialist
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.
Gillian HelmExecutive Director
Gillian Helm, Executive Director of Literacy KC, has led the organization’s tremendous growth through strategy and client-centered design over the last six years, including the implementation of a systems and service provision overhaul resulting in a 850% increase in client numbers served from 250 to 2400 annually. Under Helm’s leadership, Literacy KC’s fundraising strategy has resulted in a 300% increase in annual budget, from $300,000 to $1.2 million over six years. Helm received a Bachelor’s in English Literature with a minor in Spanish from Park University. She engaged in extensive research in Latin America on non-governmental resources available to women in poverty as a graduate student at the University of Kansas, and completed a Master’s degree in Public Administration with an emphasis in Nonprofit Management from the University of Missouri-Kansas City. Helm joined the Literacy KC team in September 2011 as a member of the Programs team, climbing the ranks to become 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 21st century, multi-dimensional literacy related needs of Kansas City’s adults and families through research-based, data-driven curriculum. In 2019, Helm was named Nonprofit Connect’s Emerging Nonprofit Professional of the Year. Helm loves reading and running, and would like to own her own restaurant one day. She also does her best to keep up with her husband and three young sons, Griffin, Case, and Theodore.
Mary Kay MorrowDigital Coordinator
A native Kansas Citian, Mary Kay received an MBA in Marketing from Rockhurst University after earning a Bachelor of Arts in Studio Art from the University of Missouri at Kansas City. Mary Kay coordinates the Digital Program at Literacy KC with the overall goal of making computers relevant in all areas of our students’ lives. Before joining Literacy KC, Mary Kay worked in advertising, creative, marketing, and journalism. Mary Kay coached entrepreneurs as part of The Kauffman Foundation’s FastTrac® Program and lead Arthritis Foundation Water Aerobics Classes for seniors. At Literacy KC, Mary Kay has found a team of creative, energized, authentic people working to change lives through literacy. She enjoys art, movies, good food, and being with family and friends.
Ibrahim RamseyInstructor, Let's Read
Ibrahim received a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration from Park University. He joined Literacy KC in March 2019 and is responsible for helping families find a love of reading together. Prior to joining our team, Ibrahim worked in community development as the Founder of UBuild KC Mentoring developing young children life and academic skills. He is excited to use his skills to develop how great reading as a family benefit academic and life skills. Outside of the office, Ibrahim is a father who loves playing with his children. Also enjoys recreation sports, traveling, and spending time with family and friends.
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.
Samantha SagastumeInstructor, Entry to English
Samantha received her Bachelor of Arts in English with a double minor in writing and humanities from Northwest Missouri State University. She earned her Master’s in Curriculum & Instruction from the University of Missouri-Kansas City, and has had a certification in Adult Education and Literacy from the Missouri Department of Education. Prior to arriving at Literacy KC, Samantha taught English as a Second Language to adults at Orlando Language School, Park University, Penn Valley Community College, the Kansas City School District, and the University of Missouri-Kansas City. She lives in a Central American family and has lived in an Arabic household, so she has a varied and lengthy multicultural background. She is excited to continue her career in adult ELL education as an instructor in Literacy KC’s Entry to English program! Samantha enjoys a quiet rural Missouri lifestyle with her two daughters. She works hard to find time to squeeze reading time into her busy schedule and enjoys historical fiction and nonfiction, particularly about prehistory and the Middle Ages.
Erin SaxonWriters for Readers Fellow
Erin started at Literacy KC in August of 2018 as the Writers for Readers Fellow. She received her Bachelor of Arts in English and is currently an M.F.A. candidate at the University of Missouri-Kansas City focusing on fiction. She also taught composition classes at UMKC from 2016 to 2018. As the Writers for Readers Fellow, she gets to introduce creative writing to Literacy KC students. She believes self-expression through writing should be accessible to all and that everyone has a story worth hearing. She is currently working on a short story collection and a science fiction screenplay.
Lazona StovallInstructor, Ticket to Read
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 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 ThomasPrograms Manager
ToiSheona is a native of Topeka, Kansas. She attended Coffeyville Community College, where she studied business and played softball for two years. As the Programs Manager, Toisheona is responsible for coordinating all aspects of program delivery, recruitment, data management and supports all program staff in smooth operation of Literacy KC’s programs including Ticket to Read, Entry to English, Writers for Readers, Digital Life Skills, Math and new programs as developed. 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.
Lindsay VaughnVolunteer Coordinator
Originally from the Kansas City area, Lindsay received a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science and Anthropology with a minor in Social and Economic Justice from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She joined Literacy KC in February 2019 and is responsible for running the organization’s volunteer program. Prior to joining our team, Lindsay spent two years in Human Resources before later working as a Congressional Field Organizer. Lindsay looks forward to using her employee relations and volunteer management skills in a non-profit setting and is excited to work with people in the community and help spread the power of words. Outside of the office, Lindsay can be found reading in coffee shops, traveling, volunteering on campaigns, or spending time with her family and friends.
Lindsey WeisharInstructor, Entry to English
Lindsey holds a Bachelor’s in English and an MFA in Creative Writing. She also holds a CELTA, a certification for teaching English overseas. She has taught literacy in high school classrooms, and currently teaches college-level composition classes. Lindsey joined the Literacy KC team in August 2018, and will be helping grow the Entry To English program. She is looking forward to helping students expand their English vocabularies and their confidence. Outside of teaching, Lindsey enjoys traveling, writing poetry, reading, and sipping earl grey tea.