About Us

ELSS of Fairfield County is a nonprofit organization [Section 501 (c)(3)]. It was established to address the academic support needs of the English learner (EL) population. ​ELSS is mostly comprised of college and university instructors who have extensive experience in working with EL students. Most of the students we serve are newly arrived immigrants from Central and South America. Many have experienced limited or interrupted education due to strife or poverty in their native countries. These individuals face both academic and socioeconomic challenges; hence, ELSS provides supplemental language training programs to help ensure that they graduate high school and gain entrance into post-secondary educational programs or obtain meaningful employment. By collaborating with local school districts to provide services, we are helping to close the opportunity gap in Fairfield County.

Our Board of Directors and Executive Director

Marla McDaniels Heath, M.A.
President and Co-Founder
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Barbara Niemczyk, Ph.D.

Vice President 

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Jane Carlin, M.A.


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Andrew C. Gillick, MAcc


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Helen Cuevas, B.A.


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Tom Sobocinski, M.A.


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Virginia Stephens, M.B.A.
Co-Founder and Director
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Kirsten DeConti Ziotas, Ph.D.

Co-Founder and Director

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Peter Shaker, M.S.Ed. 
Executive Director and Founder          
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Advisory Council

Jyoti Parimal, L.L.M.,M.S.

Jyoti has been an ESL and GED instructor for the past eight years. She has taught courses in reading, writing, grammar, and oral communication to all levels of English language learners. Jyoti has taught ESL at Sacred Heart University, Norwalk Community College, and continuing education programs.

A native of New Delhi, India, she has lived in the United States for more than twenty years. Jyoti brings a unique perspective to the ELL setting in terms of language acquisition and the cultural assimilation process due to her personal experience.

Jyoti attended the NYU School of Law for her LL.M.( Master of Laws) and the University of Bridgeport for her M.S. in Education, with a concentration in Social Studies. Jyoti holds Connecticut teaching certification in Social Studies and Adult ESL. 

Jennifer holds a B.A. from Yale University and a J.D. from Stanford Law School. She practiced law for over ten years in Chicago and Connecticut.  Her teaching experience includes an academic fellowship at the University of Chicago Law School.  More recently, Jennifer has worked with adult learners in English and Math through Literacy Volunteers of Bridgeport

Jennifer is a passionate home cook and baker.  She loves to read and enjoys hiking, biking, and walking her two large dogs.

Jennifer Sachs, J.D.
Donna Tagliarino, M.A.

Donna is an accomplished communications professional with nearly twenty years of experience in education and training.  She is passionate about helping people enhance their lives by improving their communication and language skills.  Donna is a highly interactive and engaging instructor and works with people from across the globe.  She loves the energy and excitement of a diverse, multicultural classroom.


She has taught at Sacred Heart University, Gibbs College, and the College of Westchester.  She also volunteers as a teacher and coach for Literacy Volunteers of Stamford & Greenwich, Volunteer New York, and Foundation Communities in Austin, Texas.


Prior to her career in education, she was a media producer for ten years in San Antonio, Texas, and Los Angeles, California.


Donna received her Master of Arts in Educational Technology from Fairfield University and her Bachelor of Science in Radio-TV-Film Production from the University of Texas.  She recently completed TESOL certification coursework.