Elected Officials

2023-2024
NYS TESOL Executive Board

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President
Shawnna Sweet, MS

Shawnna Sweet is honored to serve as the 2024 President of NYS TESOL. She has previously served as NYS TESOL Regional Co-Chair for Buffalo-Rochester Region and VP of Finance.  Shawnna works as the Director of Multilingual Education for the Greece Central School District. This role allows her to serve the district in the areas she is most passionate about: English as a New Language, World Languages, and Bilingual Education, along with Translation and Interpretation Services.
She began her career in education as an ESOL teacher in Greece, where she taught students in grades K-12, Adult ESOL and GED. Additionally, she spent ten years as an adjunct faculty member at Nazareth College, working with graduate students in the TESOL and International TESOL programs.
Prior returning to Greece Central in 2022, Shawnna served as a specialist with the Mid-West RBERN at Monroe 2-Orleans BOCES, where she worked closely with NYSED’s Office of Bilingual Education and World Languages and local school districts to support multilingual learners. She currently serves on the NYSED World Language Content Advisory Panel, NYSED Seal of Biliteracy Task Force, and NYSED ELL GraduationTask Force.
She holds a B.A.in English with a minor in Secondary Education from St. John Fisher College, an M.S. in TESOL from Nazareth College, and Advanced Certificates in School Building and District Leadership from the Warner School of Education at the University of Rochester. 

Contact Shawnna at pres@nystesol.org.

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Dr. Olga De Jesus has been an educator for over 25 years with areas of expertise in special education, bilingual education, language acquisition, instructional technology, and teacher preparation in higher education. She holds two master’s degrees in Elementary Education and School Administration from Mercy College. She holds a Doctorate in Educational Leadership from Liberty University.
In 2017, Fulbright Scholar Dr. De Jesus provided professional development to the faculty and teaching candidates of the University of Vienna under the theme Empowering the Diverse Learner through Digital Storytelling.  Her career extends from having been a bilingual special education teacher, a professional instructional coach for a school district in the Bronx, an associate in the policy unit of the NYSED Office Special Education (OSE), to a college professor preparing teacher candidates.
Dr. De Jesus is an associate professor and Assistant Dean for the Teacher Education Department at Marist College. She served as the NYS TESOL  VP conference for 2023 and is the new president-elect for 2025.

Contact Olga at pres-elect@nystesol.org



President-Elect
Olga DeJesus


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Immediate Past President

Christine Seebach, EdD


Christine is an adjunct professor at Suffolk Community College, and a teacher of ENL in Brentwood Schools on Long Island. She has also worked teaching Spanish in Half Hollow Hills CSD and NYC DOE. She taught EFL in Venezuela, and studied in Spain. Christine earned a BA in Spanish-Secondary Ed at SUNY Cortland, an MA in TESOL at NYU, and the Ed Leadership graduate certificate at Stony Brook University.  She is in the Doctor of Ed  program for Administrative and Instructional Leadership at St. John‘s University. Her research focuses on instructional practices. 

Contact Christine Seebach at pastpresident@nystesol.org.

Vice President, Advocacy

Christine Passarelli


Christine Passarelli graduated from CUNY Hunter College with a BA in Elementary Education and Language Arts.  She started her career teaching in East Harlem, NY in 2003.  She currently teaches at PS22 in Staten Island, NY. At the very start of her time in the classroom, it became evident to her that the school system was filled with diverse students from various linguistic and ethnic backgrounds.  She knew from the very first time that she stepped into a classroom that she was meant to become an educator of English Language Learners.  She continued her studies at CUNY Hunter College and obtained an MA in TESOL Education.   

Contact Christine at vpadvocacy@nystesol.org.


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Vice President, Conference
Ali Safivand, PhD
Dr. Ali Safivand has taught English language pedagogy in a variety of settings: college classrooms and in corporations as an English instructor and translator in his home country Iran. He has traveled extensively to many countries, including England, Spain, and middle eastern countries. When studying applied linguistics as a doctoral student in the United Kingdom, Ali transferred and pursued his doctoral study at the University of Rochester, where he received his Ph.D. in Curriculum and Instruction (Education) with his research interest in the TESOL area. Ali is teaching college courses at the University of Rochester and other colleges in upstate New York.

Contact Ali at  vpconference@nystesol.org


Vice President, Conference-Elect 
Nicole Bell

Nicole Bell is a professional development specialist with the Mid-West Regional Bilingual Education Resource Network, which serves English language learners and bilingual education programs in New York state. Nicole has classroom experience both as a music educator and English as a New language teacher. Nicole is very committed to family engagement practices with multilingual learners and their families. She continues to spend her summers working with the Oswego Migrant Education summer program as lead teacher/program coordinator.  Additionally, her interest areas include culturally responsive teaching, bilingual techniques in the classroom, the Latinx student experience, and migrant education. Nicole is a lifelong learner with an undergraduate and master's degree from Nazareth University and is currently pursuing her Ed. D. in the leadership for diverse learning communities program at Molloy University, where her dissertation is focused on equitable family engagement of Latinx students. Nicole loves ALL things conferences and is excited to be a part of the planning for the next few years. 

Contact Nicole at vpconference-elect@nystesol.org


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Vice President, Finance

Hyunjin Jinna Kim, PhD


Dr. Hyunjin Jinna Kim is a Postdoctoral Associate at Stony Brook University. She previously taught English as a Foreign Language in South Korea for three years in a K-5 setting. She also taught English as a Second Language, academic composition, multicultural education, teaching methods and assessment, and teacher preparation practicum in higher education for five years.
Jinna earned her Bachelor’s degree in Early Childhood Education from Ewha Womans University in South Korea. She received her MA in TESL from Penn State University and her Ph.D. in Curriculum and Instruction with an ESOL and Bilingual Education specialization from the University of Florida.

Contact Hyunjin at vpfinance@nystesol.org

Vice President, communications

Sandra Vargas, PhD

Sandra Vargas-Ortega has been an educator for over 17 years throughout New York City and Puerto Rico. Dr. Vargas-Ortega holds a Ph.D.  in Second Language Acquisition Research, a MA in TESOL, a BA in Early Childhood Education and an AS in Computer Science.  She has been privileged to work with students, teachers, and administrators in a variety of different settings.  In her current capacity as an English as a New Language Teacher/ coordinator,  she serves students and families of diverse cultural backgrounds, implements ENL programing,  modifies and adapts curriculum, and manages compliance data.  

Contact Sandra at  vpcommunications@nystesol.org


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Vice President, Membership 
Sam Song, PhD


Graduating from the University of Minnesota (Twin Cities) with a Ph.D. in Educational Policy and Administration, Dr. Song is currently an Associate Professor of TESOL and a proven effective professional in the field of applied linguistics with an aggressive research agenda of language teaching. In addition to his teaching role as an Associate Professor of the graduate TESOL program at Nazareth University, he has also served as Executive Director of the English Language Institute and Director of International Recruitment. Prior to his role at Nazareth University, he worked in Salsbury University (MD) as a TESOL faculty and Founding Director of the English Language Institute. Apart from university faculty and administrator roles, Sam also had 10 years of working for a non profit organization (International Council for Education Development) based in Twin Cities, MN. With ICED, he was President chiefly responsible for designing and organizing conferences for international teacher educators.


Contact Sam at vpmembership@nystesol.org


Vice President, Outreach 

Christian Perticone, MFA

Christian Perticone is the Center Director for ELS in Manhattan. Formerly, he was the Director of Language Programs at MSCT, a nonprofit that serves the South Brooklyn community. He also served as the Chairperson of the Language Studies Department in one of Manhattan’s largest college ESL programs. He entered this field when he taught EFL in Madrid, Spain. He earned his TESOL Certification at Teachers College, his MFA from Arizona State University, his BA from the University of Rochester, and he is currently studying Project Management and Nonprofit Management with the Harvard Extension School. He has presented on the intersectionality of Hip Hop and pedagogical practices, and he is interested in better approaches to leadership and administration. He has presented at several conferences, including the Annual HipHopEx Conference at the Harvard Graduate School of Education and the Reimagining Education Summer Institute at Teachers College, Columbia University, and several NYS TESOL Conferences. 

Contact Christian at vpoutreach@nystesol.org 


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Business Manager

Sara J. Muriello, MBA

Sara is a speaker, author, and trainer on cross-cultural communication, as well as English as a new language.  After living in Rome, Italy for 10 years, she founded Executive Cross Communication Consulting in 2008 on the nuances of cross-cultural communication to educate and mentor universities and Fortune 100 companies across the globe. She holds a BA in communications and international business from the American University of Rome, an MBA in international finance from St. John’s University Peter J. Tobin College of Business Rome Campus, and is TESOL certified.

Contact Sara at     businessmanager@nystesol.org      


Website Manager

Keirah Comstock, PhD

Dr. Keirah Comstock is a researcher, teacher mentor, instructional designer/technologist, and artist. She has been working with faculty members (k-12 & higher ed) to support technology integration. She also has been teaching K-12 and college classes since 2006 as an ENL teacher and Digital Art instructor. She completed her PhD in the Warner School of Education at the University of Rochester. Her research interests include instructional technology, technology in education, inclusive teaching, multilingual education, and art in education. She graduated with an MFA in Photography from the Academy of Art University and  MSED NYS Initial TESOL from Nazareth University. 

Contact Keirah at website@nystesol.org