Executive Director: Margot Jackson Lemaster
Margot is a native of Fayetteville and holds a Master of Arts in International Studies from the University of Oregon, where her studies focused on immigrant integration, nonprofit management, and qualitative evaluation. Margot worked to develop practical methods for creating lasting and meaningful relationships between immigrants and their new home communities. As a former volunteer ESL instructor with OLC and other organizations around the country, she has repeatedly witnessed the powerful role literacy plays to make positive change in people’s lives. Deeply motivated by her experiences in various West African and European countries, she has a passion for helping newcomers engage in their adopted hometowns and is inspired by the strength that emerges when diverse populations work together around common interests. Her past work experience includes ESL tutoring and instruction, University Library systems, the University of Arkansas Upward Bound program, and the ARK Challenge business accelerator program. She is currently a member of the Elevate Leadership Forums, EngageNWA Welcoming Immigrants from Abroad Committee, and serves as President of the Arkansas Literacy Council’s Membership Advisory Committee.
Program Director: Mina Phebus
Mina is originally from South Korea. She completed her Master’s degree in English Education and a Bachelor’s degree in English Literature from Korea. She has over 14 years of experience in various English Education endeavors. She worked for several years as Director/Instructor for private English academies in Korea from 1996-2007. She also served one year as an English professor at Gumi College in Korea in 2003. In 2004, Mina worked as an English/Korean interpreter for a Korean hospital. At OLC, she worked for over a year as a Program Assistant and an Administrative Assistant before becoming the Program Director in 2009. Her favorite part of working at OLC is having the opportunity to interact with students from all over the world and helping them achieve their goals.
Development Director: Jim Mitchell
A native of Pine Bluff, AR, Jim received his BA in Business and Economics from Rhodes College and an MBA and MA in Arts Administration from Southern Methodist University. Following a career working in every major arts discipline, helping create Austin Lyric Opera and producing major galas and festivals in four states, Jim moved to Fayetteville in 2000 to work as Fulbright College Development Director for the University of Arkansas after a five year tenure as the Executive Director of the Arkansas Arts Council. He subsequently began a life long career goal of providing management services to the nonprofit community as an independent consultant for the past 12 years. With clients ranging from First Night Fayetteville, the Butterfield Trail Village Foundation, Rogers Historical Museum and others, Jim has extensive experience in creating and managing nonprofits, development and marketing programs and community service programming. With funding provided by Tyson Foods, he is working with the OLC board and staff to create and manage a comprehensive development and marketing program to help launch the next phase of growth for the organization.
Administrative Assistant: Martha Carmona
Martha received her Bachelors of Science in Education Studies from the University of Arkansas. She is currently working towards her Masters in Teaching in Mathematics and a license in English as a Second Language from the University of Arkansas anticipated in May 2017. Martha has been instrumental in the success of OLC’s new satellite program at the Springdale Public Library where she has been serving as the Basic Literacy ESL Instructor. Born to a Mexican immigrant family, Martha is bilingual in English and Spanish and has been living in Arkansas for fifteen years.
Operations Manager: Paul Johnson (volunteer)
Paul was raised along the banks of the Mississippi south of New Orleans. He secured a BA in English after completing studies in music and history. He received his Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL) Certification from Spring International Language Center in the summer of 2014. Once retired from a career in the automobile business he moved to Fayetteville, soon finding a volunteer opportunity at Ozark Literacy Council. In the years since he has settled into a role of operations support, mentoring and teaching the occasional class. He has been volunteering at OLC for over 7 years and has extensive experience teaching and tutoring.
AmeriCorps Service Member: Kelley Zornes
Kelley Zornes started as a volunteer tutor at OLC before becoming an AmeriCorps member in October of 2015. She has seven years of teaching and tutoring experience and has an Associate’s Degree in Teaching. In addition to working one-on-one with basic literacy students at OLC, she teaches classes at the Tyson Randall Road and Chick N’ Quick plants. She has received certification in Learning Disabilities, English Forward, Laubach Way to Reading, and has completed the ESL Institute at AALRC. She is in her second year term as an AmeriCorps member.
AmeriCorps Service Member: Casey Kraichoke
Casey is a native of Fayetteville. She received her BS in Human Environmental Sciences from the University of Arkansas, and is currently a student in the M.Ed. (TESOL) Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages Program at the University of Arkansas. At the U of A, Casey is a graduate assistant in the International Admissions and Recruitment Office. She aspires to help English language learners achieve their educational and career goals.
AmeriCorps Service Member: Hanna Bilinski
Hanna is a Midwest native by birth but a Taipei citizen at heart. She received her B.A. in English with a concentration in linguistics from Truman State University in northeastern Missouri. As a child, she spent summer vacations in Taiwan visiting family, and after college she went there to improve her literacy in Mandarin and teach ESL to school-aged children for two and a half years. After returning and readjusting herself to American life, she joined OLC as a volunteer in February 2016, and later as an AmeriCorps service member. On weekday mornings, she teaches pronunciation, TOEFL prep, and literature at OLC. In her spare time she enjoys drawing and watching foreign movies.
Tyson Plant ESL Instructor: Brandi Fernandez
Brandi has a B.A. in Educational Studies from the University of Arkansas. She started working at OLC as an intern and extended her stay through an AmeriCorps service position, and now an instructor at OLC. She teaches Basic and Beginning ESL Classes in Fayetteville and also leads the morning Basic ESL class at the Tyson Randall Road plant in Springdale.
Tyson Plant ESL Instructor: Christopher Balos
Chris is a native of the Marshall Islands. He came to the United States when he was two years old, and moved to Springdale in 2010. He aspires to help the Marshallese community learn the culture and language in the U.S. so they can adapt and live a happy, healthy life outside of the Islands. Chris teaches the Basic ESL class for Marshallese speakers at the Tyson Randall Road plant in Springdale.
Volunteer Tutor: David Hansen
David Hansen started volunteering at OLC in June of 2009. A lifelong avid reader, then at a career stage when he had a little extra time, he wanted to do something to pass on the miracle of reading to someone who struggled with it.
An engineer by profession, David has lived and worked in Fayetteville for 30 years. In his time with OLC, he has worked with more than a dozen literacy learners, about an even mixture of native English speakers and ESL students. Several of these have been working with him for most of this time, illustrating a close and trusting relationship between tutor and student.
In the summer of 2012, David suffered a stroke, but to everyone’s great relief he was able to quickly bounce back. It was only six or so weeks before he was back at OLC, working with students once again. He continues with us to this day, undiminished in his passion to help, his ability to reach his students, and his determination to impact and improve their hopes and dreams.
The following quote illustrates the relationship David has with his students: “A lot of people have had difficulty understanding me speak since my stroke. Although they had the opportunity to be matched with another tutor after my stroke, my students insisted they wanted to continue to work with me and that has kept me coming back”.
Volunteer Classroom Instructor: Joel Giarrusso
Joel is a retired FBI agent, and is licensed as a private investigator. She was born and raised in New Orleans, Louisiana. She has a B.A. in psychology and a Masters in Social Work (MSW). She and her husband, Malcolm, have twin sons, Tom and Eric. Joel is proud that her sons have attended the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival every year from their births through high school. Joel’s hobbies include gardening (which she learned from her father) and volunteering at the Walton Arts Center. She and her husband enjoy travel but do not venture out nearly as much as they would like. Joel gets great joy and satisfaction from working with the OLC students, and describes it as “fun” and very rewarding.
Volunteer Tutor: Kelly Wempe
Kelly has been a tutor at OLC since 2011. Prior to that she spent several years as a community college professor teaching a variety of business and accounting courses, both in Illinois, and here in Northwest Arkansas. She has a bachelor’s degree in business administration from Avila University in Kansas City and her CPA certificate; she began her master’s degree at the University of Central Missouri but switched to Quincy University when her husband made a job change to Quincy, Illinois. Immediately after finishing her MBA in Quincy, they relocated again, this time to Fayetteville, Arkansas. She and her husband, Joe, have three grown children and she enjoys spending lots of time with her husband traveling and visiting with family and friends. She enjoys making quilts and attending Kansas City Royals baseball games with her husband whenever she can. She finds tutoring very rewarding. Moving often, changing jobs and schools, all while raising three children has given her an understanding of some of the many challenges faced by the students she tutors.
*We couldn’t possibly list all of our OLC volunteers, although we did list volunteers that work more than 5 hours per week. If we missed you, you are probably on the list to contact for bio information. We love ALL of our volunteers, no matter how much time you give to us and OLC. THANK YOU, THANK YOU ALL SO MUCH!