About B‑Speak!

B‑Speak! is a program of Speak! Language Center, an educational services company founded in 2004. Based in Charlottesville, Virginia, Speak! specializes in customized, conversational language courses and services in 22 languages and works with both individuals, small groups, businesses and institutions around the world.

B-Speak! English
Our Leadership Team
Christina Ball
Christina Ball, Ph.D.

An educational entrepreneur, Christina created Speak! Language Center in 2004 in order to inspire and empower people through language and culture. As the Director of Speak!, Christina designs and coordinates language programs with a team of enthusiastic and experienced instructors from around the world. As Director of B‑Speak! English Coaching, Christina works with new and existing partner schools to provide the highest quality collaboration possible. A Fulbright Scholar, she holds a Ph.D from Yale University and a B.A. from Bowdoin College.

Liz Launer

Liz joined the Speak! team in 2012 to help pilot the B‑Speak! program. A New York native, she received her B.A. in Comparative Religion from NYU and an M.A. in English from Hunter College. She has over 20 years of experience editing and teaching writing and ESL at the college and professional level. In addition to helping develop the B‑Speak! curriculum, Liz coordinates B‑Speak! and oversees teacher training. She also works with Christina to design and coordinate our B‑Speak! partner school programs and makes sure that everything runs smoothly and effectively. 

Our English Coaches
Leslie Lamers

Leslie has been teaching ESL in companies and universities in Venezuela, Japan, Mexico, Canada and the USA since 1991.  Originally from Toronto, she now lives in Richmond, Virginia. She  holds a B.A in Anthropology from Wilfred Laurier University, a Masters in Education from the University of Toronto and a CELTA from the University of Cambridge.  When not teaching, Leslie enjoys tennis, skiing, a love for animals and the great outdoors.

Dawn Gaither
Dawn Gaither 

A native New Yorker with a B.A. in Political Science from Howard University and a J.D. from American University, Dawn traded her legal books for English texts 14 years ago when she started teaching ESL. She earned her CELTA from the University of Cambridge in 2003. Since returning to Washington, D.C., Dawn has taught journalists, business executives, diplomats, doctors, lawyers and graduate students. She is a huge fan of using real life materials to teach real life English with lots of enthusiasm, patience, and a warm American smile. Dawn has been with the B‑Speak! team since the beginning and has played a leading role in program development.

Joe Rockelmann
Joe Rockelmann

Joe Rockelmann is originally from Chicago but now lives in North Carolina, where he is a German and Rhetoric professor at UNC-Chapel Hill. He holds a BA in Psychology and German from Auburn University, an MBA from Roosevelt University, and an MA and Ph.D in German Literature from Purdue University. Joe has 20 years of teaching experience working with ESL students in the United States, Poland and South Korea. He has been a B‑Speak! coach since 2013.

Ray Smith
Ray Smith 

Ray Smith has had a passion for public speaking in all its forms since joining his Speech and Debate Team in high school. Since 2000, he has worked steadily in theater as an actor, director and teacher. He completed the Second City Theater Conservatory in Toronto in 2007. He has acted in 3 dozen scripted shows and has been in hundreds of improvisational theater performances. He has directed 10 productions and been a stage manager on 18 shows. He began teaching public speaking in 2011 and coaching the Speech and Debate team at Woodberry Forest School in 2013. During his time at Woodberry, he raised the profile of the team, leading them to consistently land in the top ten in Virginia every year. Ray believes in an audience-centric approach to public speaking: know your audience; write your speech with your audience guiding you; deliver your speech in a shape that fits your audience. Ray is also fluent in Spanish, and has taught it at the high school and pre-school levels. He studied Spanish at the University of Virginia and Middlebury College.

Cleve Stevens
Cleve Stevens

Cleve Stevens has taught at the graduate and the undergraduate levels at the University of Southern California, Pepperdine University, Beijing University and North Eastern (China).  His range of courses instructed include English composition, ethics, religious studies, leadership development and global leadership. For the past 20 years of his life his focus has been on leadership and leadership development consulting, working with corporate executives in North America, Europe and Asia. Recently, having moved to Colorado from Southern California, his objective has been to slow down and enjoy the benefits of being able to contribute by way of online teaching. Cleve holds a BA in English from the University of California at Irvine, a Master of Divinity from Princeton Theological Seminary, and a PhD in Religion and Social Ethics from the University of Southern California. He has published numerous articles on leadership and leadership development and is the author of The Best in Us: People, Profit and the Remaking of Modern Leadership (Beaufort Books).

Carol Del Vitto
Carol Del Vitto 

Carol Del Vitto, Ph.D. has been a leadership, change management, cross-cultural and business communications skills workshop facilitator/trainer and coach in Munich, Germany for 8 years. Before moving to Germany in 2013 she taught communications and German at the university level in the U.S. She also worked with MBA students at Darden Business skills developing intercultural and “soft skills." She has also provided language and cross-cultural training to international corporations, such as Caterpillar, Siemens, BMW, Yaskawa, BayW r.e., Syneron-Candela, and Lilium. She also currently teaches International Strategic Management at the Fachhochschule München (FOM). Carol holds a Ph.D. in Germanic Languages, Literature and Philosophy from NYU, a M.A. in English Literature from Stetson University, a M.A. in Higher Education from the University of Virginia, and a B.A. in Psychology from the University of Virginia. Her certifications include: Certified Coach, Master Trainer (Association of Talent Development/ATD), E-Learning Instructional Design (ATD), Project Management for Learning Professionals (ATD), TOESL Certificate (Oxford), Intercultural Certification (NAFSA) and DISC. She has published articles on executive education, international engineering and cross-cultural training.

Zoe Willow

Zoe’s interest in language learning and instruction began early. As a first-generation American, she developed a keen curiosity and sensitivity to speakers of other languages through communications with family, especially her Belarusian grandmother. In the mid 80’s, she lived and worked as an au pair in Paris, France and went on to study language and education at the University of Mary Washington where she later earned her graduate certificate in TESOL. In addition to her work with the B‑Speak! program she teaches ESOL at Piedmont Virginia Community College both in the classroom and online. For more than 23 years Zoe’s passion for culture and language has also been channeled into her work in book manufacturing and international non-profit publishing and business administration. Zoe loves being a part of the team here at Speak! to help both individuals and groups achieve their personal language goals.

Skye O'Donnell

Skye O’Donnell is a former Labor and Employment law attorney from New Orleans who has worked in development for non-profits for over 10 years in Charlottesville. Prior to law school, Skye earned her bachelor’s degree in English and Journalism and enjoys writing. In addition to teaching and directing the Business Development of B‑Speak!, Skye also tutors students in English grammar and verbal skills who are studying for SAT/ACT college entrance examinations. Skye is passionate about education, and each time a student recognizes his or her own linguistic strengths, Skye feels reaffirmed in this calling. Skye cherishes being a mother, volunteer, cook, gardener, hiker, UVA fan, theatre and art lover!

Dana Doyon

Dana holds a B.A. in International Studies from Bridgewater College, a TESOL Certificate from Oxford Seminars, and an M.A. in Applied Linguistics from University of Massachusetts-Boston. She currently teaches for Speak! Language Center as well as Piedmont Virginia Community College. Dana’s ESL-teaching journey began in college; she interned as an ESL teacher at a local literacy organization and fell in love with utilizing her knowledge to help her students improve their lives. Since then, she has improved her skills and knowledge and taught ESL classes and tutored private students of all skill levels with varied interests and unique backgrounds. Dana's passion lies in helping students develop the linguistic and cultural skills they need to succeed in the United States. She has experience learning languages herself and traveling to different countries including Mexico, Ecuador, and Moldova, and she believes strongly that what makes a great teacher is empathy for her students’ experiences and genuine interest in the wonderfully demanding process of language learning.

Sara Torres
Sara Torres

Sara Torres has taught English literature and writing at the university level for over 10 years. She received her AB in English cum laude from Princeton University and her MA and PhD in English from UCLA. She recently completed a postdoctoral fellowship in Medieval Literature at the University of Virginia. In addition her to academic research and teaching, Sara has worked as a freelance editor in the private sector, experience which allows her to support adult language learners, professionals, and graduate students as they strengthen their mastery of the English language. As a humanities instructor and writer, Sara is passionate about sharing her love of literature—and belief in its timeliness—with students, colleagues, and friends. She has studied several languages, including French, Portuguese, Italian, Catalan, and Arabic, and enjoys the experience of learning about different regions, cultures, and cuisines. Originally from San Juan, Puerto Rico, Sara has lived in the US mainland for 25 years and loves traveling to different regions and countries. In her free time, she enjoys reading, playing the harp, watching baseball, and walking outdoors.

 Mercedes Herrero
Mercedes Herrero

Mercedes Herrero was trained in speech, voice and movement at the Yale School of Drama, where she received her M.F.A. in Acting. The skills she acquired there were specifically tailored for tackling heightened, poetic texts to be spoken night after night in front of audiences. However, many of the techniques she learned to better communicate on a stage—healthy vocal placement, use of tone, pitch, stress and volume to better transmit thoughts, images and emotions and fully engage an audience—are skills one can use in any public speaking circumstance. Ms Herrero has worked on Broadway, Off Broadway, in films and television for over 30 years. She has also taught acting, Spanish and public speaking, helping business professionals master the art of human interaction (through OvationCommunication). She is delighted to currently be working at Speak! teaching Spanish Language and Public Speaking.

Cady Garey
Cady Garey

Cady Garey is an actor and an educator. Cady received a BFA in Acting from the University of Florida and an MFA in Acting from the University of Virginia. The artistry of an actor is built on skills of embodied communication--through voice, breath, intellect and body. Through her work on stage, in the classroom and studio in the University of Virginia Department of Drama, and with individuals preparing for TEDx Charlottesville talks, Cady seeks to help people communicate clearly, with a confident sense of self and individuality and, perhaps most importantly, ease. Speaking in public, in an interview or in front of a classroom is a scary experience for most and finding ease and confidence under these stressful moments is highly impactful. Through exercises, breath work and illumination of speaking and communication strategies, Cady’s objective is to help students be in the moment, responsive listeners and speakers.

What Our Clients Say

A significant challenge for international ESL students is the potential lack of confidence in their English as they enter the U.S.... Our students have had very positive experiences with B‑Speak! English over the past 8 years and I would highly recommend their coaching services to others.

B-Speak! tailors instruction to meet the English demands of our MBA program and specific needs of each student. We see remarkable growth in classroom and job search readiness as well as in confidence..

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