Jacob Carter

Jacob Carter began his role as the director of PWE in 2023. Formerly the assistant director, Jacob co-founded and was project director for Building Bridges, a UMass Public Art and Engagement Initiative that draws on the power of solidarity and creative expression to bring people together and create a bridge across difference. He also co-launched and served as the project director for the Facilities and Campus Services Career Ladder. Jacob has nearly 20 years of experience working with various educational nonprofits in Central America and the U.S. including currently as a board member for the Massachusetts Fair Housing Center in Holyoke, MA and SERES in Guatemala and El Salvador. He completed his doctoral studies at UMass with a concentration in International Education and Latin American, Caribbean, and Latino/a studies and conducted research on multistakeholder partnerships for education in Guatemala. Outside of work, he enjoys playing the guitar, being outdoors, and spending time with his family.

Larissa Chekmareva

Project assistant

Larissa Chekmareva is a doctoral student in International Education at the University of Massachusetts. Her 20+ years of professional experience comes from higher education management and administration in Kazakhstan as well as international consulting projects with UNESCO, UNICEF, the World Bank, AACRAO, national Ministries of Education, NGOs, and educational institutions in Central Asia and globally. At PWE, Larissa has the role of Project Coordinator for Culinary Career Ladder. This multilingual multicultural project serves new employees in dining services at five campuses in the State of Massachusetts in, at least, three training areas: onboarding, basic computer skills, and basic culinary English. 

Joseph Connolly

Senior Technical Advisor

Joseph Connolly co-founded the program in 1987 and served as its director until 2023. Joe is now serving as a Senior Technical Advisor to provide ongoing support for grants and contracts as well as to support the leadership transition. He has a doctorate in worker education and comparative teaching methods, a Masters in labor studies, and a Masters in educational counseling. He has a strong interest in participatory teaching, and issues of voice, visibility, and social justice. He also worked for AFSCME 1776 from 1981 until retiring in 2016.

Sophie Copley

Sophie Copley is a work-study office assistant with the Partnership for Worker Education. Since the spring 2022 semester, she has been with us and is a junior studying Anthropology and Social Thought and Political Economy. She is also involved with STPEC Executive Committee and the UMass mutual aid project and other initiatives around campus. 

Francis Fortino

Computer Instructor/ IT

Francis Fortino is IT instructional coordinator, webmaster and volunteer coordinator for The Partnership for Worker Education, where he has taught for the past 20 years.  Fran is currently teaching a number of The Partnership for Worker Education computer courses including:  Intro to Computers, UMass Cloud Computing, MS Office 365, EXCEL (beginner and Intermediate), and other selected apps classes.  Before joining The Partnership for Worker Education, Fran used his foreign language skills as the assistant director of the Translation Center at UMass, which he helped found.  He earned a M.A.T. from UMass Amherst and has taught high school, college, and continuing education classes.

Leslie Fraser

Coordinator of Communications/ Instructor

Leslie Fraser is Coordinator of Communications and Campus Career Initiatives for The Partnership for Worker Education. She teaches writing, communications, leadership, workplace wellness, and career growth classes, offers career and education advising to UMass staff members in the AFSCME, USA/MTA, and PSU labor unions, and coordinates publicity for The Partnership for Worker Education programs. Leslie also teaches job skills, communications, leadership, and teamwork classes for Community Works. She worked as a writer, editor, nonprofit manager, and educator for more than 20 years before joining The Partnership for Worker Education in 1997. Her undergraduate degree is in women’s studies and human services education, and her graduate studies and degrees included labor education, counseling, and chaplaincy.

Jessica Hesse

Teaching Assistant

Jessica Hesse (she/her) is a TA for the Workplace English program and a student in the Bilingual, Multicultural, and ESL M. Ed program through the College of Education here at UMASS. She graduated with a B.A. in German and minors in Writing and TESOL at the University of New Hampshire in 2016. Jessica has worked in various private, public, and non-profit educational settings for the past five years. She values creating a collaborative classroom environment that is inclusive and celebratory of students' identities, cultures, abilities, and literacies. Jessica draws inspiration from critical pedagogy, critical multiliteracies, liberatory education, and mindfulness in her teaching.

Gretchen Hohmeyer

Gretchen Hohmeyer is a graduate research assistant with PWE since Spring 2022. She is a Ph.D. candidate from the College of Education's Language, Literacy, and Culture program. She also has a Master's of Library Science and a Master of Arts in Children's Literature, which she previously put to work in her job as a librarian at public libraries in Western Massachusetts. Her current academic work combines children's literature, history and history education, and social justice work.

Melissa Kane

Workplace English Instructor

Melissa Kane is an avid lover of travel and communicating with people from around the world. Melissa thrives in bringing people of various cultures together to learn and share their commonalities and individuality. After years of  running a manufacturing business while also teaching group and individual fitness classes on the side, she finally completed the SIT Graduate Institute Intensive TESOL Certification program. Now Melissa is realizing her dream as she teaches workplace English in the classroom and tutors students from various countries on an individual basis. With years of studying French language, music, and culture, she lived in Paris for a semester abroad, and now travels regularly to Senegal, West Africa, to be with her family and friends and to study African dance and the native Wolof language. She discovers through her experiences that the beauty of our human connection is deeply rooted in the power of communication.

Michele Kenney

Michele Kenney is a project director, has a BFA from SUNY Purchase, and a M.Ed. in Secondary Special Education, from Westfield State University, with teaching certifications in 5-12 Special Needs, Art, and Mathematics, specializing in remediation and teaching of students with language based learning disabilities. Michele first began as a teacher for SHAEC in 2010, teaching GED classes and sustainability classes. In February of 2019 Michele became the project director, expanding the focus of the program to include classes to support small business owners and economic development. In addition to her 20 years of teaching experience, Ms. Kenney is the owner of a small business: Functional Art Thermal Insulated Window Treatments.

Sonia Lindop

Project Manager & Next Steps Instructor

Sonia Lindop is a doctoral candidate (Ph.D.) at the Center for International Education at the University of Massachusetts. She received a Bachelors degree in Social Communications at the University of Lima, Peru, and a Master in Social Anthropology from the Center for Research and Advanced Studies in Social Anthropology in Mexico. Her research interest focuses on cultural and qualitative analysis in the field of adult education. Recently she directed SIT’s Indigenous Peoples and Globalization Program in Peru.

Francis Lo

Grants and Contracts Coordinator & Office Manager

Francis Lo (they/them) is a writer and editor with over a decade of experience working in higher education. They hold a BFA in Writing, Literature, and Publishing from Emerson College, and an MFA in Creative Writing with an emphasis in poetry from Mills College. They joined the Partnership for Worker Education in November 2022 as the Grants and Contracts Coordinator & Office Manager.

Heather Morgan

Heather Morgan is a computer instructor for PWE and the Southern Hilltowns Adult Education Center (SHAEC). She holds a BA in Business and Equine Facilitated Therapy from UMass Amherst through University Without Walls. Heather has been teaching computer classes and providing support for SHAEC since 2012. She has taught in the towns of Russell, Huntington, Chester, Chesterfield, and Middlefield. Besides teaching for PWE and SHAEC, Heather owns her own business and works as a technology consultant for the Hilltown Community Development Center in Chesterfield, MA.

Jeffrey Napolitano

Community Works Project Director

Jeff Napolitano is the director of Community Works, a pre-apprenticeship program that recruits, trains, and helps place residents of the Greater Springfield area into the construction/transportation industry and building trades. Jeff has been a member of the Hampden County Central Labor Council, the UAW, UNITE HERE, and has long organized for worker rights. He is a graduate of UMass Amherst and studied at the UMass Labor Center. In his spare time, he conducts nonviolent direct action trainings for activists and helps run the Resistance Center for Peace and Justice.

Phillip Nguyen

Student Assistant

Philip Nguyen is focused on marketing material and advertisement projects for the Culinary Career Ladder. I am an Asian American and speak Vietnamese but believe that no one should be denied work because of language barriers.

Martina Ochiel

Project assistant

Martina Amoth is a Graduate Assistant in the Career Ladders Project and a Ph.D. student in International Education. Born in Kenya, I am a strong believer in cultural diversity and linguistic heterogeneity. I convinced  that a culturally diverse workplace is the hotbed of productivity. Every culture, language and the people that represent them are deserving of the highest respect and regard. I speak Dholuo, Luhya, English and Swahili.

Midori Tabery

Outreach Coordinator and Workplace English Instructor

Midori Tabery has over two decades of experience teaching ESL in a variety of settings. Before joining the Partnership for Worker Education in August 2022, she taught art, coordinated the international student program, and served as the ESOL Department Head at Eaglebrook School. She has a BFA in Studio Arts and Painting from UMass Amherst, an art teacher certification from the Mass College of Art, and a master's degree in Education and Teaching from Elms College. She also received a Fulbright Hayes Teacher Award to study in Japan. Midori is active in the community as a volunteer at the Center for New Americans, the Deerfield Public Library, and the Food Bank of Western Massachusetts.

Kiki Zhang

Student Assistant

Kiki Zhang is a junior Finance major with an IT minor. She has been with The Partnership with Worker Education since spring 2022.