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 swapped the courtroom for the classroom when she started teaching ESL. She earned her CELTA from the University of Cambridge in 2003 and then spent a few years teaching Legal English at a University in Paris, France. 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.

David Harwell
David Harwell

David Harwell has been a Professor of English and Professional Communications, for 25 years. He has also designed, developed, and directed professional and academic communications programs at the university level throughout his career. David holds Bacherlor's, Master's and Doctoral degrees in English and Professional Communications, from his two alma maters, Winthrop University and the University of Alabama. He also has an additional 7 years of experience specifically in corporate communications, global training management, and directing MBA programs, both in the U.S. and abroad. He returned to the U.S. in 2019, after spending more than 15 years teaching and managing educational programs in 12 countries, the majority of those being across the Middle East, Latin America, and Asia.

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.

Mei Lan
Mei Lan

Mei Lan has been teaching ESL since 1994 in a variety of contexts that include higher education, secondary education, businesses, and non-profits. In addition, she is a certified teacher trainer in TESOL from the School of International Training in Vermont, and has worked as a TESOL trainer in the US, China, and S. Korea. Mei Lan holds a PhD in international education from the University of Massachusetts Amherst, and has over 20 years’ experience working and conducting research in education in countries that include Japan, China, S. Korea, India, and Pakistan. Mei Lan now lives in Florida, her home state, and spends much of her free time cooking dishes from all the regions of the world she has visited.

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.

Laura Parker

Laura is an EdD graduate from Capella University with Post-master's certifications in Leadership and Accountability and Adult Education Leadership and a Lean Six Sigma Green Belt certification. She holds an M.A. in TESOL and a B.A. in Spanish. She has twenty years of experience in education, including eight years in English as a Second Language (ESL) as an instructor working with undergraduate and graduate international students. She also taught English as a Foreign Language (EFL) in Beijing and Hefei, China for a year and a half. Laura has a well-rounded skill set in organizational leadership, program development and management, training and coaching, advising, developing learning outcomes and assessments, instructional design and curriculum development, and critical thinking and problem-solving. She is a member of TESOL, OKTESOL, ACHE, AAACE, NAFSA, and English USA and has presented at regional, state, and national conferences on Stephen Brookfield’s Discussion Techniques and PechaKucha 20X20, an innovative presentation style focusing on improving students’ speaking skills. Laura currently resides in Oklahoma but is originally from Kansas. She is an Associate Director for a non-profit community development corporation in Oklahoma City. When Laura is not teaching or working on community development projects, she enjoys traveling, camping, and kayaking.

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.

Rebecca Joslin
Rebecca Joslin

Rebecca is a TESOL professional who has taught in the field for over fifteen years both domestically and abroad. She has a BA in Journalism from the University of South Carolina and an MA in TESOL from the University of Colorado. Having worked with a variety of English Language Learners over the years in both traditional and online classrooms, Rebecca brings forth a passion for Culturally & Linguistically Diverse Education and for English Language Development in the 21st Century. Specialty areas include English for Specific Purposes, English for Academic Purposes, and Business English. Currently residing in Tucson, Arizona, Rebecca enjoys a Sonoran Desert lifestyle, whole foods, hand-dyed textiles, and Hot Yoga in her free time.

Sophia Romanic
Sophia Romanic

Sophia Romanic is an Assistant Professor with the College of Education at Westcliff University and is currently completing her Ph.D. in Language and Communication with Hellenic American University in Athens, Greece. Her current doctoral research focuses on intercultural and professional communication and second language education. She holds an MA in TESOL from Westcliff University and a BA in Sociology with a concentration in International Relations from the University of Hawai'i at Hilo. Sophia was accepted into the U.S. Department of State English Language Fellow program for virtual projects in 2021 and previously taught abroad at an international kindergarten and bilingual high school in Budapest, Hungary. She holds IELTS Specialist certification and has worked extensively online with distance education and course development as well as one-to-one tutoring with international adult IELTS students, business English students, and young English language learners from China. Born in Ontario, Canada, and raised in the mountains of Montana, Sophia is an avid outdoor enthusiast, international traveler, and fan of good cooking.

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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