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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.


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 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. 




Lew DisbrowLew Disbrow: Lew is 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.



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.



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.



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 MitchellJeffrey Mitchell Matthews: 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 Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) 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 26 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 LGBT 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: After more than two decades as an English professor who re-created the LMC Drama Department at Los Medanos College, Joanna has diverse interests both artistically and politically. As a strong believer in the need for unions, she’s been a member and supporter of both United Faculty of Contra Costa County as well as SAG/AFTRA in Los Angeles for many years. Joanna’s also a member of the Television Academy in Los Angeles where this year she was part of a panel judging student films from around the globe in determining the recipients for the student Emmy Awards. She’s also a regular blogger for The Huffington Post (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/joanna-perryfolino/)  Over the years, she’s become an expert in online teaching and in the creation of multicultural and ethnic studies classes online and face to face in both English and Theatre. At times politically controversial, Joanna has never regretted her outspokenness against the corruption of the public good, having been raised to see the public trust as crucial to democracy. On the verge of retirement in a few years, she will be moving into another phase of transformation that will focus on writing fiction, plays and screenplays and performing on the stage, in coffee shops, in theatres and in films in Los Angeles and New York City. Presently she’s developing a full length play with the rather bizarre title Stink Bug Bait under the mentorship of activist and playwright John Steppling (http://john-steppling.com/)  Her current film production, the documentary Within Reach (http://www.withinreachmovie.com/home.shtml), about the search for sustainable communities in the US, was the recipient of the Eco Warrior Award at The Orlando Film Festival in 2013. At the present time, Joanna lives in Berkeley Hills with her 3 year old rescue, a Maltipoo, Brando, who also happens to be her indomitable service dog who chews up her favorite shoes but protects her from the bad guys.


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 PhD 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. (Alex led a rock band called Desoto Reds for many years.) 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. He currently teaches English 90, English 221, and Philosophy 2. Alex has an adorable family – wife Julianne, and two boys, Jasper and Adlai. He likes to read novels, progressive journalism, and political philosophy.


Sara Toruno-ConleySara 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.  She has been teaching at Los Medanos College for seven years, and is originally from Southern California (the high desert) outside of Los Angeles.  She now resides in San Francisco with her husband and little Chihuahua, Ziva.  Her poetry has appeared in Contraposition, The Café Review, Found: Fiction and Poetry Anthology (by Wordrunner eChapbooks), Modoc Independent News, The CommonLine Project, Eclectica Magazine, Temenos, Ginosko, and Monday Night.  She is also the poetry review editor for Boxcar Poetry Review.