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words that evoke imagination


Faculty and Staff


Juanita AlexanderJuanita Alexander: Dr. Alexander has taught in the Contra Costa Community College District, specifically at Los Medanos College, for over 10 years as an adjunct professor. Her Specialist and Doctoral Degrees were earned at The University of Michigan in Educational Administration and Supervision.  She has served on many public and private organizations’  Boards of Directors and as Chairperson of The United Way’s Review and Allocation Committee.  At LMC, she serves as a new member of the District Enrollment Committee. In 1997, Dr. Alexander was awarded the Image Award  for community service by the Tulare Advance-Register and the Tulare County Alliance of African-American Women. Her outstanding service to the community was recognized by the  City of Tulare, California, and she was nominated for “Woman of the Year” by the city’s mayor. She has published articles in the Visalia Times-Delta newspaper for “The Writer’s Group,” and has served as a keynote speaker and lecturer for several community-based organizations. Although she has held numerous administrative and supervisory roles in the past, she currently chooses to work directly with students in the classroom.  The coursework in her classes might appear challenging; however,  maintaining  a “stress-less” environment is one of her goals.



Connie AlvesConnie Alves: Connie received her Master’s Degree in English from Cal State East Bay in 2000.  She taught at Cal State for eight years, and has happily taught at Los Medanos for the last nine years.  She enjoys teaching at Los Medanos and especially enjoys running into her students in Brentwood where she lives.  Mrs. Alves loves to read and is enthusiastic about the “News Report” that begins every class she teaches.  She encourages her students to research what interests them and to write about their passions in their journals.  One of her passions is golf, and she often speaks of the parallels between the discipline needed to become a successful student and a successful athlete.  Mrs. Alves continuously asks her students, “How badly do you want it?”  She stresses that the answer to this question will determine the degree of learning for which each student will strive. She is available to all of her students through email and office hours.

Julie AshmoreJulie Ashmore: Julie was born and raised on the East Coast and has lived in Ohio, Maryland, New Jersey, and North Carolina.  She came to Concord, California with her family as a sophomore in high school.  After attending Ygnacio Valley High School, she earned a B.S. in Business-Finance at Cal State East Bay and then worked in the wholesale division of Bank of America for nine years before deciding to return to school for an M.A. in English.  She has enjoyed teaching at LMC for the past eight years and really enjoys seeing students excel.  She ranks her most important commitments as her family, friends, and her volunteer church work. Her favorite pastimes include reading, watching movies, cooking, and jogging. One day she would like to run a half marathon.

Barbara AustinBarbara Austin: Barbara has been teaching full time at LMC since 1994. She has a BA in English from Loyola Marymount, an MA in Creative Writing from SF State University and a PHD abd from The Graduate Theological Institute and UC Berkeley in Process Philosophy.  She is currently finishing her dissertation with UIL and will receive her  actual PHD in 2011. In 2001, she went to Hanoi and adopted a 5 month old daughter, her beloved Izzy.  She genuinely believes that anything is possible.  At 21 she published her first book, SAD NUN AT SYNANON (Holt) and since then she has published three other books, SOULCATCHER (Holt), THIN WITHIN (Doubleday), and TWO TO FOUR FROM 9 TO 5 (Harper).  She is currently completing a fifth book, THE SEVEN LESSONS of hCG (Clarion) and has a private coaching business.  She teaches English 90, 100, 221, 230, Creative Writing 111 and 112 and Philosophy 2 at the college.  Her philosophy with students is very simple: I believe in not wasting students’ time in the classroom.  I try to be interesting, deep and relevant in my teaching and at the same time have fun with students, as well as teach to practical outcomes.  I know what it means to have a teacher who cares about you and knows how important your leadership and skill development is in this tattered and odd but wonderful 21st Century.  I will do what it takes to support you to learn, flourish and make a difference in your world. 


Laura BernellLaura Bernell: Ms. Bernell likes to be called Ms. Bernell. After more than 30 years of teaching college English courses, she's still passionate about language, literature and teaching. She has published lots of articles and essays and several short stories and poems. She finds college students to be some of the nicest people in the world. (That's a hyperbole.) Here are two important things students should know about Ms. Bernell: 1) She believes that teaching comprises one-third of the educating process; the other 66% is the student's involvement in that process, and 2) she believes that learning is its own reward. She'd like her students to feel the same way.

Greg BrownGregory Brown: Greg grew up in Pittsburg and is a former LMC student, so he feels a particular kinship with the students who attend this campus. He believes English is unique among fields of study, since reading and writing skills are essential to the study of every other discipline. (He is pretty sure the same cannot be said for Boolean Algebra). He is an unrepentant dog lover, sometimes preferring them to humans, and he possesses the reverential love for music common to those with no ability to create it themselves. He does write poetry, and has been published here and there. You can check out his website, which includes links to some of his poems on the web, at http://web.mac.com/gbrown19.

Steve BuddSteve Budd: Steve has been teaching for close to ten years now, mainly at the college level. He’s from the Boston area and has taught writing classes at Boston University, M.I.T., Suffolk University, Bentley College, Choate-Rosemary Hall, and DeVry, among others. Steve also works as a Writing Consultant in the Core.  He got his B.A. in Psychology-Sociology at Wesleyan University and an M.A. in Creative Writing at Boston University. Steve has worked as a writer, editor, copywriter, and proofreader for a number of companies, journals, and publications, including Fidelity and the Robb Report. During the first dot-com boom, he wrote and edited e-newsletters, product descriptions, press releases and marketing materials for a company that no longer exists, Zooba.com. Outside of class he performs in Bay Area theater and independent films. He’s done lots of work in commercials and corporate videos for companies like Adobe, Yahoo!, Sun Microsystems, and Phillips Van Heusen. He’s also traveled a fair amount over the years, including visits to Europe, Israel, Egypt, China, Bali, Costa Rica, and Mexico. He looks forward to seeing you in class or in the Core and helping you say what you want to say in the best possible way.


Richard CartwrightRichard Cartwright: Richard grew up in nearby Martinez and went to DVC from 1992-1995.  From 1995-1998 he worked on a double Bachelor’s Degree in History and English at Cal State East Bay.  He stayed on at Cal State, working simultaneously as staff at the University (working with faculty on their online courses) and on his M.A. in Literature, graduating in 2002.  In 2005 his dream came true and he got his first teaching opportunity at Chabot College, in Hayward, where he still teaches both online and on ground.  He was hooked on teaching from that first moment in his first class.  In 2008, he began teaching at LMC, where he predominantly teaches English 70 and English 90.  Six years into his teaching career, he still can’t believe how lucky he is to work with students on achieving their dreams.  Richard’s favorite part of teaching is helping students hone their critical thinking skills, whether it be in class discussion of reading assignments or in student papers.  He prefers assigning books that educate students about the world around them, or about the struggles of others to make it in life.  Richard is a geek.  He loves Star Wars and Doctor Who.  He has even gone so far as to attend two Star Wars conventions and one for Doctor Who.  Make his day and tell him you know what a Sarlacc Pit is, or what a sonic screwdriver is, but only if you really do.  He is working on several writing projects these days.  One is a science fiction space opera.  The other is a good old-fashioned sword and sorcery romp.  It’s his opinion that the iPod, iPhone, and PS3 are some of the greatest inventions of the past decade.  He loves science and can’t get enough of the Mythbusters.  One of his main hobbies is finding new voices with new ideas through the miracles of New Media and Podcasting. 



Linda C-LLinda Chaiko-Lepley: Linda has been teaching English at Los Medanos College since 2004. She has an M.A. degree in English with and emphasis in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages and a BA degree in French.  Prior to teaching at Los Medanos College, she taught French in middle school and high school. She has also taught English and French overseas in Turkey and Oman, and she lived for five years in West Pakistan.  She has always loved languages and wanted to teach, but when she first graduated from college, teaching positions were scarce, so she worked as an editor and a writer for many years. She has also worked in marketing and public relations. However, it is teaching at the college level that she loves the most.  She believes in making her classes as fun and interesting as possible, and will not hesitate to support her students in whatever way she can to facilitate their success.  When she isn’t teaching or grading papers, she and her husband are outdoors enjoying a variety of activities which include hiking, kayaking, camping, skiing, boating, and swimming.  She also spends time with her two horses and three birds. 


Liz ChamberlinLiz Chamberlin: Liz has been teaching college students for seven years at the university and college level. Either because she is indecisive or because she has always just loved school far too much, she holds both a Ph.D. in Ecology and an M.A. in English, both from UC Davis, and enjoys teaching both science and writing. She has studied bats and butterflies in Central America and Australia and has discovered that of the two, bats have much sharper teeth. She is a fiction writer and her work has appeared in Storyglossia, Fourteen Hills and other literary journals. Formerly she’s worked as a surfing columnist and a science writer for different newspapers, but admits that one of her favorite jobs was writing obituaries, and no, she’s not sure what that says about her. Her favorite color is blue, and she drinks far too much coffee, a trait for which she refuses to apologize but has been informed by past students that it may explain why she sometimes talks so fast. She wants her students to feel comfortable in class, to support each other, and to understand that she is truly excited to work with them and guide them in the next phase of their academic development.


Michael CrossMichael Cross: Michael is a brand new instructor at LMC, and he's very excited to be on board. Having received an MFA in creative writing at Mills College and a Ph.D. in 20th Century Poetry at SUNY Buffalo, Michael has spent over a decade carefully studying the nuances of the English language. He hopes to put this knowledge to use in order to help students gain confidence in their reading, writing, and critical thinking skills. Michael is the author of In Felt Treeling (Chax, 2008) and Haecceities (Cuneiform Press, 2010), and he's currently editor of Atticus/Finch chapbooks and On: Contemporary Practice (w/ Thom Donovan & Kyle Schlesinger). Other projects include Involuntary Vision: after Akira Kurosawa's Dreams (Avenue B, 2003), Building is a process / Light is an element: Essays and Excursions for Myung Mi Kim (Queue Books, 2008), and a forthcoming edition of the George Oppen Memorial Lectures at San Francisco State University. When he's not working with students, he's studying 21st Century poetry, makingletterpress books, or hanging out with his wife and their shelter dogs.


Karen Sherman Del PurgatorioKaren Sherman Del Purgatorio: Karen is an LMC graduate.  Although she is a California native, her family moved to New York when she was two years old so she could learn to speak correctly.  She started her college career in Brooklyn, New York at Brooklyn College (CUNY), but took a break to marry and raise two children.  From LMC, she transferred to UC Berkeley (Go Bears!) where she graduated Phi Beta Kappa (thanks to her great professors at LMC) and earned her Masters Degree in English at Cal State Hayward.  She obtained her teaching credential from Chapman University and has taught for over twenty years.  She currently lives in Brentwood with her husband of nearly 40 years. She is extremely proud of her glorious grandson, Andew.  She spent many years as vice president of the Antioch Education Association, and still dabbles in politics. 


Lew DisbrowLew Disbrow: Lew iis passionate about empowering students as writers, readers, and critical thinkers. Mr. Disbrow holds a B.A. in English as well as M.S. in Education and Literature, both from Cal State East Bay. Over the past 36 years, he has served Central and East County learners in the Antioch public schools as well as at Los Medanos Community College and Diablo Valley College.When not in the classroom, Mr. Disbrow divides his time between his family, friends, home projects, automotive restoration, reading, and long distance motorcycle touring.

Rick FlynnRick Flynn: 2011 is Rick Flynn’s 14th year in the classroom and he enjoys his work more, with each year getting a little better than the last, largely because he has learned how to keep students focused and working hard to learn the skills they need to read and write well. Currently enrolled in CSU Fullerton to earn a reading certificate, Rick also has TESOL Certification and a Master’s Degree in Creative Writing for which he won outstanding graduate thesis of the year at CSU East Bay in 2000. Challenging students to become engaged and analytic readers and writers is central to his instruction and most all assignments are designed to help students' reading and writing skills so that they can succeed in the challenges they’ll face as the move through their academic and professional careers. Rick also brings a wide variety of interests to his instruction, yet teaching is not about what the teacher knows; it’s about how the students learn. Designing assignments that “force” students to challenge their reading and writing abilities is perhaps why those students who really dig in an work find themselves more confident as readers and writers at the end of a semester. He is not an easy instructor, but he is a very supportive instructor for those who are willing to learn and grow as readers and writers.


JoAnn Siino HobbsJoAnn Siino Hobbs: JoAnn was born and raised in Pittsburg, and was in the first class to attend Los Medanos College in 1974.  After two years, she transferred to CSU, Chico to major in English and get a teaching credential. After graduation, she joined the Peace Corps and worked in Kenya for two years teaching English. When she left Kenya, she traveled through India, Nepal, Thailand, Hong Kong and China. She returned to school in 1984 to get her MA degree in English Composition from San Francisco State.  She worked for eleven years at Antioch High School and has been teaching full time at LMC since 1996. In 2003 she was granted a sabbatical leave to obtain a TESOL certificate at CSU Hayward (now East Bay) so that she could teach ESL courses. She has been married to Dave Hobbs since 1986; their oldest son lives in Olympia Washington and younger son is finishing his senior year at Santa Clara University. Her family loves traveling, swimming, watching sports, eating local foods and going to the beach. She enjoys teaching, and meeting new  students at the beginning of each semester.


Ben JahnBen Jahn: Ben was born and raised in Humboldt County, California. He has four sisters and a brother who all live hundreds, if not thousands, of miles away. He is a fiction writer whose short stories have been published in McSweeney's, ZYZZYVA, The Santa Monica Review, Five Chapters, Fence, PANK, and other magazines. He enjoys cycling, fishing with his nephews, hanging with his stepkids, and listening to baseball on the radio.


Jack KaraschJack Karasch: Born in New York, Jack moved with his family to Santa Barbara when his father decided he´d had enough of freezing winters. His family was like a band of gypsies, but eventually he graduated from high school in Pleasant Hill, earned a B.A. in Psychology at the Cal State Sacramento, and later received an M.A. in Language Arts and Literature at Cal State East Bay. His publications include short stories, poetry, journalism and two novels. He's passionate about travel and used to do a lot of SCUBA diving, but not so much any more. He's lived and taught English in Taiwan and South Korea, and began teaching at LMC in 2007. Before that he taught for the Mt. Diablo Unified School District and took early retirement. He has taught both ESL and several different English classes at LMC. In  March 2011, he will become a grandpa! He always looks forward to working with and getting to know new students every semester.


LaganaPaulette Lagana: Paulette was born in New York City and moved to the San Francisco Bay Area in 1982.  She received a B.A. in English from St. John's University, an M.A. in English from Teachers College, Columbia University and a Doctorate of Education, specializing in Organization and Leadership, from University of San Francisco. In addition to receiving her Certificate to Teach English as a Second Language from U.C. Berkeley, she completed a Certificate for Online Teaching from Merritt College in 2010. Paulette has been an Adjunct Instructor of ESL and English at Los Medanos College, The English Center and Laney College.  She believes that teaching is a privilege, and encourages students to participate in creating a respectful learning environment where all voices are valued and supported.


Dabney LyonsDabney Lyons: A Bay Area native, Dabney has been teaching Composition at LMC for just over nine years and is back in school to get a degree in literature, so she knows how her students feel. She also believes that writing is a process, and as such, it's never really done -- it's just due. She tries to assign work that will help students to understand more about themselves, each other, and how we relate to the world around us, and she loves grammar -- especially the serial comma. (Can you spot the serial comma in this bio?) But don't worry! If you're going to learn grammar, she believes it should be as fun and painless as possible. And finally, Dabney enjoys baking and trying out new recipes. Students, she says, make great taste-testers.

Jeffrey MitchellJeff Mitchell: Jeff has been teaching full-time at Los Medanos College since 1992, after earning his B.A. and M.A. degrees in English Composition from San Francisco State University. Jeff subsequently earned graduate certificates in Online Teaching and Learning, the Teaching of Reading, and Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer/Questioning (GLBTQ) Studies. Born and raised in Los Angeles, Jeff has traveled the world extensively, seeking out and riding nearly every roller-coaster on the planet. When he's not at LMC or reading his students' essays at home, Jeff can usually be found in a theatre, cinema, library, museum, bookstore, or on one of California's excellent nude beaches, to name just a few of his favorite places to spend his leisure time. He also writes, produces, performs and records techno-country ambient-punk music under the pseudonym "ghetto girl." You can listen to some of his tunes by clicking here. Jeff resides in Richmond with his husband of 23 years, Christian, and their two cats, Gazuni and Sluggo. Jeff is the faculty advisor for ALLIES, LMC's GLBTQ Alliance, and is the coordinator of Q-Spot: LMC's GLBTQ Center, which works to ensure that all people in the LMC community are valued and served with dignity and respect, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity. Jeff is also the founder of LMC FREETHINKERS, a group that encourages freethinking, secularism, and rationality in all public affairs. Jeff's classes are based on the idea that the personal is political, and focus on the bulls-eye in the Venn diagram where sex, politics and religion intersect in American Society. Students emerge from Jeff's classes as capable, confident readers, critical thinkers, and writers, prepared to more fully participate in America's pluralistic culture.


Karen NakajiKaren Nakaji: Born and raised a fourth generation Californian, Karen raised her two daughters in Concord as a single mother while simultaneously finishing her advanced education, earning a Master’s Degree in English Literature from Holy Names College in 1992.   Teaching at several community colleges and in the private sector for four years, Karen landed a full-time position at Los Medanos College in 1997.  After teaching full-time at Los Medanos College for one year, Karen became the first director of the college’s Reading and Writing Center.   Karen then assumed the role of English Department Chair for two years, where she negotiated the merging of the English and ESL Departments.  After serving the college for seven years as a full-time professor, Karen earned a one-year sabbatical where she attended Sonoma State University in the California Studies Program, California State University Easy Bay’s Online Teaching & Learning Program, and University of California, Berkeley, Mystery Fiction course. With her many experiences and studies, Karen welcomes students who want to learn to read, think, and write clearly. Although Karen expects high standards from her students, she also provides much support and lively, interactive classes.  When not working or grading papers, Karen reads mystery fiction, tends to her roses, cooks exquisite meals while drinking fine wines, and travels wherever she can find a good deal!



Robert PendletonRobert Pendleton: Robert grew up in North London. After school he spent some years assaulting the ears of London subway passengers with his renderings of contemporary folk music, but tiring of the vagabond life moved to Bristol and took refuge in a community college to make up the qualifications he failed to earn at school. Eventually he went on to The University of Sussex and received his BA in English. He then taught English as a Foreign Language in Athens Greece, and Santander, Spain before voyaging to the USA to earn an M.A. in English at the University of Connecticut, and a PhD. in English at the University of California, Santa Barbara. He published a book on two twentieth century British novelists—Graham Greene and Joseph Conrad in 1995. He has been teaching English at community colleges in the Bay Area since 1994 and at Los Medanos since 2009. He spends his spare time these days playing keyboard and guitar (safely insulated in his garage), as well as preparing a work of Fantasy fiction which he hopes soon to spring upon an unsuspecting public. He welcomes motivated students in his class, and especially enjoys the “second chance” that community college gives to returning students (as he himself once was).


Joanna Perry-FolinoJoanna Perry-Folino: Joanna has been teaching full-time at Los Medanos College since 1992, after earning her B.A. in Education from the University of Massachusetts in Amherst , her M.A. in multicultural literature from Cal State Long Beach and her M.F.A. in theatre and playwriting from Ohio University in Athens. Joanna has received certificates in the Teaching of Reading as well as awards for her Distance Education classes and was chosen to teach in the Study Abroad program in London.  She is also a produced playwright, screenwriter, librettist and lyricist. Her short film, The Silence of Bees,  has won numerous awards throughout the United States. Most recently her original romantic comedy screenplay Lila Loves Louie  won the 2009 Moondance International Film Festival for best screenplay. She is also an Associate Producer for the award-winning documentary, Leave Them Laughing, directed by Academy Award winner John Zaritsky which documents the life of Carla Zilbersmith as she bravely battles and eventually succumbs to ALS (Lou Gehrig's disease). Joanna is also Executive  Producer for the documentary Within Reach, which travels with two adventurous young people across the United States as they search for a home in a sustainable community. Joanna is a member of the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences, The Los Angeles branch of Women In Film, and The Dramatists Guild. Her most successful endeavors, however, have been the connections she has made with students and friends throughout her life who inspire and motivate her to be creative and nurturing in order to help them in some small way to make their collective dreams come true.


Karen SeneferuKaren Seneferu: Karen grew up in Oakland California. She received a B.A. in English from University of California, Berkeley and a M.A. in English at Cal State East Bay. Interested in how individuals can be a part of mainstream society and maintain cultural identity, Karen created a program that removes fear and anxiety for basic skills students. The program is called Take Flight, and  incorporates, art, technology, reading, writing and gallery visits. At the center of the program is the idea that narrative is art and art is narrative. Karen is a self-taught artist, whose work has been exhibited in museums and galleries from the West Coast to East Coast. Karen's teaching philosophy mirrors her artistic approach, with the foundational belief that every space has the potential for creative output, education, and healing. At the root of Karen’s teaching is the idea that reading, writing and critical thinking are tools for students to achieve their own self-empowerment.


Alex SterlingAlex Sterling: Alex grew up in the suburbs of Boston, Massachusetts, and got his B.A. in philosophy and religious studies at Macalester College in St. Paul, Minnesota. Alex has an M.A. in philosophy from Purdue University and an M.A. in English from Cal State East Bay. The first M.A. was the only time Alex ever dropped out of school, leaving a Midwest Ph.D program to move to California, grow his hair (now falling out), become an indie rock songwriter, and join the ranks of rock musicians with bad jobs. At age 30 Alex began his teaching career with three years at Portola Middle School in El Cerrito and two at Hayward High School, where he taught in the Puente Program, before starting to teach college English. Alex has taught English composition at Cal State East Bay, Laney College in Oakland, and at LMC, where he happily became a full time member of the English/ESL department in 2006. Alex currently teaches English 90 and English 221, is involved with Puente and the Honors Program, and is looking forward to teaching Philosophy 2 in the fall semester of 2011. Alex is also the faculty lead for the Center for Academic Support. Alex has an adorable family – wife Julianne, and two little boys, Jasper and Adlai – and still finds time to write songs and play with his band, Desoto Reds. He likes to read novels, progressive journalism, and a bit of political philosophy.


Cora StrykerCora Stryker: Before Cora got her Masters in English, she worked as a field biologist in the rain forest with rare and endangered plants. She loves teaching, traveling, good food and friends. Originally from Boston, she earned her B.A.from Brown University in Biology and her MA in English from UC Davis. She will probably admit to you at some point in the semester that she writes fiction and nonfiction and is, at present, working on three novels and a nonfiction book. She was awarded the 2008-9 Steinbeck Fellowship at San Jose State University for her first novel, and first place in the 2007 University of California Poet Laureate Award for her poem "Night Silences Nothing." She looks forward to seeing you in the classroom and helping you to write more clearly, understand literature more deeply and, hopefully, laugh.


Sara TorunoSara Toruño-Conley: Sara received her B.A. in Literature and Writing from Cal State San Marcos and her M.F.A. in Creative Writing from the University of California, Riverside.  Before receiving her position at Los Medanos College, she taught at San Jose City College and Modesto Junior College as an adjunct English Instructor.  She grew up in Southern California in the high desert outside of Los Angeles and now resides in San Francisco with her husband and little Chihuahua, Ziva.  Her poetry has appeared in The Melancholy Dane, Modoc Independent News, The CommonLine Project, Eclectica Magazine, Temenos, Ginosko, and Monday Night.  She is also the poetry review editor for Boxcar Poetry Review.


Nancy YbarraNancy Ybarra: Nancy began her career at Los Medanos College in 1980, fresh out of St. Mary’s College in Moraga with her Master’s Degree in Education. Born and raised in Bronx, New York, she attended the Bronx High School of Science and received her Bachelor’s Degree from Indiana University of Pennsylvania in special education. Nancy was a founding member of the Disabled Students Program at LMC where she served for many years as a learning specialist. With additional certificates earned in the teaching of reading and developmental education, Nancy moved on to coordinating the developmental education program at LMC, and teaching basic skills English classes. She is currently serving as the chair of the English/ESL department. “Miss Nancy”, as many of her students call her, knew she wanted to be a teacher when she was five years old. Sharing her love of reading and language is still pretty much her favorite thing to do, other than hanging out with her awesome 12-year-old son, Luis, and her husband, Joe. Nancy also studied Spanish for many years and enjoys practicing speaking and listening; she loves meeting students from all over the world in her classroom!