Orange County, California

iec occ team

Meet Our Team!


contacts kaoriJen Garcia - Program Manager / Instructor
Ever since Jen was a kid, she knew she wanted to be a teacher: she would instruct her stuffed animals and even give them homework! And since her parents were always taking the family on camping trips around California, a deep passion for travel was also instilled in her. When the time came, she decided to obtain both her B.A. in English and M.S. in Teaching English at California State University, Fullerton, taking a break to live in Malawi, Mozambique, and South Africa for a while. After teaching in Taiwan, she then returned to the States to work at UCLA, CSUF, UCI, Irvine Valley College, USC and now IEC@OCC. Travel remains a top priority, and so far she has visited over 20 countries and lived in five. When she’s not traveling, she is surfing across the street from her house in Huntington Beach, which is only 9 km from IEC@OCC! 

team matthewMatt Werth - Instructor
Matthew has always wanted to be a student. He took a long seven years (plus three years part-time) to get a BA; spending time studying in different departments, universities, and countries before finally receiving a BA in music from the University of Texas at Austin. Belatedly realizing he would never make a living as a musician he started traveling; studying and teaching languages around the world before eventually getting a Masters in TESOL from San Francisco State University. After graduation, he went to Taiwan where he spent 14 years teaching English at the University of Taipei and trying to master the tones of Mandarin and Taiwanese. Now he's back in California, teaching at IEC@OCC, raising a family and studying machine learning and natural language processing.

team allisonAllison Walter - Instructor
Allison began her teaching career in Paris, France, where she used film and news stories to improve students’ pronunciation and comprehension of the English language.  After earning her TEFL certificate from Cambridge University, Allison created an English program at ING Sviluppo SpA, in Milan, Italy, teaching exclusively to analysts and stockbrokers using current financial news and authentic materials.  Her return to the United States began another journey of pedagogy and study at the University of California, Irvine, where she earned a Single Subject Teaching Credential in English and French as well as her Master’s and Ph.D. in French Literature and Philosophy.  Upon completion of her degrees, Allison continued teaching at UCI International Programs and is now happy to be part of IEC's instructors.

Bryan Reyna - Instructor
team bryanBryan was born and raised in the sunny state of California. As a child, he was fascinated with different cultures and languages that existed around the world. This fascination is what motivated him to pursue a B.A. in English and M.S. in Teaching English at California State University, Fullerton. While he was in that program, he assisted and taught ESL students at Fullerton College and California State University, Fullerton. In his free time, Bryan enjoys reading books, eating at new restaurants, and trying to learn new languages.

Ashley Martinez - Instructor
team ashleyOne of Ashley’s biggest aspirations growing up was to become a teacher. Her love for teaching started at a young age; she still remembers the joy she felt as a kid after helping classmates in different subjects or after helping her dad understand and use English idioms or expressions. After graduating from the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) with a Bachelor’s degree in English, Ashley explored several teaching and tutoring jobs in education and taught English for three years at the American Language Institute in Bakersfield, California. Ashley’s passion to teach English led her to pursue a Master of Science in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL) at California State University, Fullerton (CSUF). Not only does Ashley love to teach, but she also loves to learn, especially about other cultures. Ashley really enjoys connecting with people, having lovely conversations about nature and meaningful life experiences, creating artwork, and taking walks in parks or beaches with her family, friends, and little doggy.

Shane Liliedahl - Instructor
team shaneShane originally became a teacher with the intention of teaching music. However, after completing his Bachelor's in Music, Shane decided to get some experience teaching. This led him to travel overseas to Japan, where he lived for a year and became involved in ESL. Upon returning home, Shane became the Head Teacher at a private language school in So-Cal while also earning his Masters in TESOL from the University of Southern California. Shane has presented his research on pronunciation at CA-TESOL, and continues to seek ways to improve his teaching for his students' benefit. His loud voice can often be heard singing from the classrooms next door, and on weekends he can be found hiking around the coastal mountains.

Jillanne Thomas - Instructor
team shaneJillanne is passionate about crossing bridges- not the physical ones though- the ones between national boundaries, languages, cultures, new environments, ways of thinking, anything! Throughout her life, she has sought to cross her own bridges and to hold the hands of her students and friends as they push into new territory. Jillanne’s first teaching job was at the age of 14, a summer job helping a first grader to read at his grade level, and she hasn’t stopped teaching since. Earning her undergraduate degrees in French and Secondary Education and her Master’s in Education and TESOL has given her tools to support her passions. Jillanne has extensive experience abroad teaching and traveling. In her free time, she enjoys going to grocery stores in other countries, watching B movies, and spending time at Disneyland. 


Gladys Calderon - Program Facilitator
team gladysGladys earned her B.A in Political Science with a minor in International Migration Studies from UC San Diego in 2010 and later earned an M.S. from California Baptist University in 2016. Gladys has a passion for people, cultures, and education. She taught English in Thailand in the summer of 2008 and again in The Republic of Georgia in 2012. She has traveled to Thailand, Georgia, Mexico, Guatemala, Belize, Armenia, and more. In her free time, Gladys enjoys visiting Disneyland, taking road-trips, and discovering new delicious places to eat.

Noriko Gotschall - International Student Counselor
Noriko is an OCC International Counselor. She helps OCC international students achieve their educational goals by making sure they understand degree and university transfer requirements and helping them choose classes. Noriko came to the US on an F-1 visa after graduating from high school in Japan. She first attended an intensive language program before going to college. She has a BA in International Relations from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and MS in Counseling from California State University, Long Beach.

contacts mireilleMireille Halley - Student Advisor
Mireille grew up in Southern California Bi-culturally French-Canadian. She has a varied history of working in Biology, teaching, and women’s health fields. She has an Associate Degree in Liberal Arts and a Bachelor’s of Science in Wildlife Management. For the last 8+ years, she has worked at community colleges as an international student advisor helping students navigate the F-1 regulations, doing workshops, and assisting with study abroad. Outside of OCC, she spends time with her two teenage girls, going to local restaurants, doing her own home (and sometimes car) repairs. She enjoys gardening, cooking, fishing, camping, birdwatching, and all things nature-related. If you hike the local trails, don’t’ be surprised if you find her in the bushes on the side of a trail somewhere eating edible wild plants.

contacts jenKaori Nakama - Student Advisor
Kaori was born in Okinawa, Japan, and moved to the U.S. in 2001. She received a B.A. in Studio Arts from the University of California, Santa Barbara. As a former international student herself, she is passionate about helping students from other countries and enjoys learning about new cultures. Kaori is fluent in Japanese and English and is trying to learn Vietnamese. In her free time, she likes to practice Tahitian/Hula dancing, explore Orange County, go to the beach and go shopping!

Thu Nguyen - Student Advisor
team thuThu graduated from Orange Coast College and will finish her BA in Management this Fall 2017. She grew up in Saigon, Vietnam, and came to the U.S. after graduating high school. Thu would like to pursue a Master's Degree in Counseling and work as an International Student Advisor. She enjoys traveling, shopping, dancing, and cooking. In her free time, she travels and dances Zumba.

Stephanie Phonsiri - Staff Aide
I received my BA from Vanguard University in Organizational Management and my MBA from Redlands University. I worked at Coast Community College District since 1990 and for Orange Coast College since 2006. I love working with and meeting students from all over the world. I can speak four languages: Vietnamese, Laotian, Thai, and English. When I'm not at work, I enjoy spending time with my husband and two children. I enjoy outdoor activities and love running.

team abbyAbby Castro - Program Manager Assistant
Originally from Chicago, Abby recently moved to California to pursue her Master of Arts in Education in Social and Cultural Analysis of Education at California State University, Long Beach. Receiving her B.A. in Human Rights at Cornell College, Abby’s love for travel began during her time studying abroad. While traveling to Guatemala, Argentina, Mexico, and more, Abby developed a passion for learning about new cultures, traditions, and meeting new people. When not completing homework or writing papers, Abby loves to ride bikes, hike, run, and try new foods! Abby is excited to be apart of the IEC@OCC team, creating lifelong friendships with students and assisting in the development of their English skills so that they can continue in their educational endeavors.


contacts naokiNaoki Hirota - Marketing Director
Naoki came to the US as an international student and majored in International Relations at the University of Kentucky, where he received a Bachelor of Arts in 1997. He has been with IEC since its opening in 2000. He travels internationally throughout the year, meeting partner institutions and prospective students around the world. In his spare time, he enjoys playing the drums (a pair of drumsticks are his icon!). If you see an IEC employee doing a presentation at a fair/exhibition, it will likely be Naoki.

contacts kristopherKristoffer Toribio - Assistant Director of International Admissions and Recruitment
Kristoffer is the Assistant Director for the Global Engagement Center is responsible for driving the admissions and recruitment for international students. Kristoffer was born and raised on the island of Kaua'i and a proud graduate of the University of Hawai'i at Manoa. He has worked in international undergraduate admissions for nearly 9 years and has traveled to nearly 40 countries. In his spare time, he enjoys the beach, staying active, traveling, learning about different cultures, and playing with his corgi, Koji. His hidden talent is memorizing nearly every world capital and national flag.

contacts Jieun ParkJieun Park - IEC Korea Local Coordinator
Jieun is our local IEC staff member based in Seoul, Korea. She is here to help Korean students and parents. She has had experience living in Ireland for about 2 years, which has led her to have a better understanding of what it is like to live abroad learning the English language. If you are Korean and you need local assistance, please feel free to contact her and ask for help!




contacts sallySally Conover - Director, IEC@OCC
Sally has been the Director at IEC since 2000. She is very excited about IEC@OCC and is positive that it will be a huge success. She divides her time between northern and southern California (and enjoys them equally!) Sally is challenged by finding ways to help students gain confidence and discover personal pathways to success. Sally grew up in Pennsylvania and has degrees from Penn State University, The School for International Training (SIT) and Pepperdine University. She loves to travel, explore the outdoors and experience new places.

contacts nathanNathan Jensen - Associate Dean, Global Engagement
As Associate Dean, Nathan is responsible for oversight of the Global Engagement Center which includes services for international students, study abroad programs and services, the Multicultural Center, and IEC@OCC intensive English program. Nathan has worked in international higher education for nearly 15 years. Nathan likes to explore the world with his wife, attend church, play music, and go to art museums. Nathan has a Bachelor’s degree and a Master’s degree in music from CSU Long Beach.