The People Behind Raising A Reader
Raising A Reader’s national office is located in Redwood Shores, California.
National office staff provide support and technical assistance to all affiliates in the RAR network.
Join our team
President and CEO
Michelle Torgerson joined the Raising A Reader family in 2018 as President and CEO. She oversees Raising A Reader’s day-to-day operations and drives our Vision 2020 initiative to reach 3 million children across the country by 2020. Both personally and professionally, Michelle has made a longstanding commitment to children’s literacy. She has spent the past 20 years in the nonprofit sector and her experience includes leadership roles with nonprofits to deepen their reach in communities across the country. Previously Michelle was senior executive director of Reading Partners, a San Francisco-based literacy intervention organization. Her responsibilities included overseeing a staff of 70 and securing revenue through foundation, individual, corporate and government sources and generating partnerships to ensure needed funding. She also held executive positions at College Possible, a national nonprofit that makes college admission and success possible for low-income students through an intensive curriculum of coaching and support.
Deputy Chief of Staff
Lizzie is responsible for the smooth running of RAR;s national internal operations, ensuring high levels of organizational effectiveness and communication; leading and/or supporting high-quality execution of strategic initiatives; and providing executive support, including serving as a liaison to national board.
Lizzie earned her bachelor’s degree in Human Resource Education with an emphasis on leadership development & training from Louisiana State University. Lizzie’s passion for organizational culture and the people experience made her successful in her previous work where she led on people and operations for a healthcare startup in San Francisco.
Lizzie’s favorite childhood book is Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown.
Program and Affiliate Stewardship
Assistant Vice President, Program and Affiliate Stewardship
As Assistant Vice President of Program and Affiliate Stewardship, Rebecca is responsible for overseeing program growth as well as the program quality of Raising A Reader’s National Affiliate Network. Prior to joining Raising A Reader, Rebecca served as Director of Literacy Services for Reading Is Fundamental. In that role, she was responsible for literacy initiatives including early childhood services, parent education programs, conference presentations and projects related to a multicultural initiative.
Rebecca began her career as a special education teacher for children in grades 2-7. Rebecca earned her bachelor’s degree in elementary education from Towson University and completed her graduate studies in special education at Johns Hopkins University.
Rebecca loves sharing books with children as they discover the magic of the world around them! Her favorite book sharing partners are her children.
Senior Manager, Program and Affiliate Stewardship
As Senior Manager of Program and Affiliate Stewardship, Tymisha oversees the quality of Raising A Reader’s National Affiliate Network. In this role, she supports over 200 Affiliates ensuring program fidelity and sustainability.
In her past experience Tymisha served as the Counselor of the T.E.A.C.H. Scholarship program at National Black Child Development Institute. In that role, Tymisha moved to Washington, DC from Pennsylvania to launch and implement the program.
Prior to moving to Washington, DC, Tymisha worked as an ECE teacher in the Harrisburg, Pennsylvania public school system. Tymisha has a dual degree in Early Childhood Education and Elementary Education from Lincoln University.
As a child, Tymisha enjoyed reading The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats. This was a must read on a snow day with a cup of cocoa in hand.
Senior Manager, Program and Affiliate Stewardship
As Senior Manager of Program and Affiliate Stewardship, Kristen works closely with organizations to direct grant funding towards program start up and expansion. She is responsible for onboarding new Affiliates, training staff, and managing grant requirements.
Kristen has a passion for literacy development. Prior to joining Raising A Reader, Kristen worked in East San Jose, CA managing a reading mentor and family engagement program for kindergarten students and their families. Kristen also worked in Guatemala for four years, developing libraries in rural villages and teaching workshops for elementary school teachers on effective reading instruction. Kristen has a bachelor’s degree in economics from University of California, Santa Barbara, and a master’s in education from Walden University. She is also an enthusiastic Spanish language student.
Her favorite children’s book is Moira’s Birthday by Robert Munsch. It was the book she read aloud most often when visiting Guatemalan classrooms, often to children who had never been read to.
Senior Associate, Programs and Affiliate Relations
As Senior Associate, Programs and Affiliate Relations, Charlene supports both the Programs and Business Development departments out of our Glen Burnie, Maryland, office. She supports efforts to build consistent account management processes and maintain positive customer relationships with RAR affiliate partners. This includes assisting in outreach efforts in sales, maintaining accurate Affiliate records, meeting and event support, developing, editing, and distributing affiliate communications as well as day-to-day administrative duties.
Charlene has Bachelor of Science from the University of Maryland, College Park, where she studied Business Management and Transportation, a Publications Specialist Graduate Certificate from George Washington University in Washington, DC., and a Masters in the Art of Teaching from American University in Washington, DC. Her background centered mainly in the non-profit arena, but after volunteering in a local first grade classroom through her employer, Charlene obtained her teaching license and taught in underserved schools in Washington, DC, for five years.
Charlene’s favorite book for read alouds in her 4th Grade classroom was The BFG by Roald Dahl.
Business Development and Brand
Director, Business Development and Brand
As Director of Business Development and Brand, Heather’s focus is developing sales channels and increasing sales revenue among new and existing Affiliates. This will include refining marketing and communication strategies that increase RAR’s market share, training staff on sales and marketing methods and strategies, and developing new lines of revenue in previously untapped markets.
Heather has had more than 20 years of experience in sales, business management, and strategic planning, particularly among nonprofits and entrepreneurs. As a Business Advisor for Purdue University she developed initiatives that promoted business collaboration among private, public, and community based organizations. She also created training and coaching programs for entrepreneurs and small business owners that focused on best business practices. Most recently, Heather was a Board of Trustee and Director of Sales for Youth for Understanding. During Heather’s tenure, the organization adopted an international branding and marketing strategy, new organizational and Board structure, as well as a more strategic vision that provided the foundations for changing the organization’s business model.
Heather received her undergraduate degrees in Fine and Performing Arts and Business from Manchester College and Northwestern University. She went on to receive her Juris Doctorate from the University of Louisville. Heather’s favorite children’s book that she shared with her sons on a nightly basis was Goodnight Moon.
Manager, Affiliate Growth and Development
As Manager, Affiliate Growth and Development, Mikaela Houghton manages the growth strategy of the Raising a Reader network of over 300 affiliates while supporting partnership and market expansion. As part of the Business Development team, her efforts contribute to account management and customer relations to all affiliate partners.
Mikaela’s love for literacy and diverse communities is evident in her career trajectory. In 2011-2012, Mikaela was a Corps Member for the AmeriCorps Program, City Year.. In this role, she was a tutor and mentor for middle school students in attendance, behavior and course performance. From 2016 – 2019, Mikaela was the first Development & Operations Associate at Georgia Asylum and Immigration Network. In this position, she oversaw grant management, fundraising, event planning, marketing, and communications as well as administrative activities of the organization. Here, she was selected as the organizational representative for Atlanta’s Coalition for Refugee Serving Agencies and in 2018, was named “30 Under 30” by the Young Nonprofit Professions Network Atlanta for her dedication and commitment to the sector.
Mikaela received a Bachelor of Arts in Global Studies with a concentration in Comparative Education from Long Island University’s Global College in 2016 where she studied abroad in Costa Rica, India, and China, each for one academic year. Her senior thesis examined the academic and cultural challenges faced by refugee girls within educational institutions in the United States. She is currently enrolled in Northeastern University’s College of Professional Studies, where she will receive her Master of Science in Nonprofit Management with a concentration in Global Studies in 2020. She additionally holds a certification in Nonprofit Marketing from the Georgia Center for Nonprofits and a certification in Rights of Refugees and Internally Displaced Persons from the Human Rights Education Associates (HREA).
Her favorite children’s book is Emma’s Pet by David McPhail. Her brother chose Mikaela’s middle name based off of his love for this book.
Finance & Operations
Director, Finance and Operations
As the Director of Finance and Operations, Jennifer is reponsible for overseeing finance, accounting, and operations of Raising A Reader’s national office. Prior to joining the Raising A Reader team in May 2013, Jennifer worked at another Bay Area nonprofit, Peninsula Family Service, as the Grants Manager and Financial Analyst of the organization.
Jennifer earned her bachelor’s degree in Sociology and Statistics from the University of Michigan. She also holds a Master’s in Business Administration from Santa Clara University.
Jennifer’s favorite book is Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good Very Bad Day by Judith Viorst.
As the Senior Accountant, Shelly assists the finance team in all areas of need. Her daily responsibilities include maintaining Accounts Receivables, Accounts Payables, invoicing, account reconciliations, month-end and quarter-end closing.
Prior to joining the Raising A Reader team, Shelly has spent the majority of her career in finance and accounting. She received her Bachelors of Science degree at Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo with a major in journalism but her affinity for numbers, and love for technology, led her home to the Bay Area and into the world of accounting. Prior to joining RAR, Shelly spent several years as an accountant in the private aviation sector, but also has extensive years of experience with VARs and manufacturing companies as well.
While it’s hard to pin down just one favorite, one of her most beloved children’s books from the Raising A Reader collection is The Littlest Scarecrow. She enjoys reading that book, and many others, with her seven year old daughter.
Senior Manager, Customer Service and Warehouse Operations
As the Senior Manager of Customer Service and Warehouse Operations, Marie works closely with the warehouse to procure materials and ensure proper fulfillment of orders. She helps Affiliates with their ordering needs and works closely with the Programs and Finance teams to make sure it is a smooth process all around.
Prior to joining Raising A Reader, she worked in the finance industry and more recently as an inventory analyst which made for a smooth transition. Marie holds her bachelor’s degree in Communication and Business from the University of Pittsburgh.
One of Marie’s many favorites from the Raising A Reader collection is The Cow that Went Oink by Bernard Most.
Warehouse Operations Associate
As the Warehouse Operations Associate at the Raising A Reader warehouse in Milpitas, Alan is responsible for the organization, shipping, and receiving of books and program materials. Alan assists with Raising A Reader volunteer events at the warehouse.
Before working at Raising A Reader, Alan worked as a cashier in the Buyback Department at Tri-Ced Community Recycling, helping the customers unload their aluminum cans and plastic bottles and then paying them with cash for their recyclables. Alan has a Bachelors degree in Kinesiology, with an emphasis in Athletic Training and Nutrition.
Alan’s favorite children’s book is A Light in the Attic by Shel Silverstein.
Warehouse Operations Associate
As the Warehouse Operations Associate at the Raising A Reader warehouse in Milpitas, Philip is responsible for the organization, shipping, and receiving of books and program materials. Philip also assist with data entry for sales and grant orders.
Before working at Raising A Reader, Philip worked for Apple as a Speech Data Collection Moderator specifically with Siri and has over 10 years of warehouse experience. He is a father of 3.
Philip’s favorite children’s book is Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak.
As Operations Associate, Amanda Madril is responsible for helping with sales and grant order entry, purchasing, and managing special projects in the Redwood City office. She also coordinates volunteer events and supports the warehouse staff as necessary.
Amanda attained her Bachelor of Arts degree at California State University Monterey Bay where she studied Social and Behavioral Sciences with a concentration in Sociology. Prior to joining Raising A Reader Amanda worked a variety of retail jobs. Most recently and while completing her degree, she worked as an intern in a homeless shelter where she performed research regarding the Housing and Urban Development “Housing First” policies to procure adequate funding for the homeless shelter.
Amanda’s favorite children’s book is Horton Hears a Who! by Dr. Seuss
National Board of Directors
Partner, Seiler & Company, LLP
Richard Wilkolaski has served as a certified public accountant, business advisor, business appraiser and court expert witness for over 35 years. Dick is a Partner at Seiler, LLP, a regional C.P.A. firm. Previously, he worked for Price Waterhouse in upstate New York and Northern California. As a certified public accountant, advisor, forensic accountant and business appraiser, Dick’s client service areas are quite broad. His current primary focus is leading the firms’ litigation services group. This includes working with individuals and closely-held businesses involved in litigation, mediation and arbitration at both the state and federal court levels.
Dick volunteers for numerous nonprofit organizations, including the Boys and Girls Club of the Peninsula and Raising A Reader. He holds a Bachelor of Science degree with a major in accounting from Rochester Institute of Technology in Rochester, New York, a CPA Certificate from the State of California, a CVA credential from the National Association of Certified Valuation Analysts, and an ABV credential from the AICPA.
Allan Casalou is the grand secretary of the Freemasons of California. In this role, he leads the staff at the California headquarters in San Francisco and oversees the business operations of the fraternity throughout the state. He serves as secretary to several operational and charitable boards including the Masonic Homes of California and the California Masonic Foundation. Since 2002, he has been the editor of the award-winning Freemason magazine.
For over 25 years, Allan has been a leader in the non-profit sector. He worked as a project officer for the Merced County Office of Economic and Strategic Development where he managed many small business development projects, including a Central Valley farmer’s disaster relief loan program and a micro-enterprise program for Southeast Asian immigrants. Allan is the founding executive director of the Merced Center for the Performing Arts and led membership, education, and leadership programs for youth organizations in California. Allan joined the staff of the Freemasons in 1999 as executive director and was elected grand secretary for the first time in 2008.
In addition to international speaking engagements on behalf of Freemasonry, Allan is a frequent speaker on topics relating to nonprofit board governance, leadership, and change management.
While his professional work includes nonprofit board service, Allan volunteers for a number of organizations including Raising A Reader. He is also vice-president and treasurer of the Five Bridges Foundation in the Bay Area and is a director of the Nob Hill Association in San Francisco.
A native of California, Allan received a Bachelor of Science in Economics and a Master of Business Administration from the University of San Francisco.
John Baugh, Ph.D.
Professor of Education and Linguistics, Washington University in St. Louis
Dr. Baugh is the inaugural holder of an Arts & Sciences endowed professorship named in honor of prominent civil rights attorney and emerita trustee Margaret Bush Wilson at Washington University in St. Louis where he is director of African and African American Studies and professor of psychology, both in Arts & Sciences. In addition, Dr. Baugh holds appointments in the departments of Anthropology, Education and English, all in Arts & Sciences. Dr. Baugh is also Professor of Education and Linguistics at Stanford University. His primary research interest has been the social stratification of linguistic behavior in multicultural and multilingual nations. Initial interest in this area began with quantitative and experimental studies of linguistic variation among African Americans. These studies evolved into applied linguistic research devoted to policy issues in medicine, education, and law. Gradually his analyses expanded to include populations who suffered various forms of linguistic discrimination, including deaf communities, as well as speakers of languages or dialects who lack fluency in the dominant linguistic norms of their respective societies. Dr. Baugh authored Beyond Ebonics: Linguistic Pride and Racial Prejudice, a significant piece of work on the Ebonics controversy, is a renowned linguistics expert. As one of the organization’s very earliest supporters, his efforts on behalf of Raising A Reader have been long standing.
President, Child Trends
Carol Emig has spent her career working at the intersection of public policy, programs, and research related to children and youth. Since 2006, she has been President of Child Trends, an independent, nonpartisan research center. Child Trends improves the lives and prospects of children and youth by conducting high-quality research and applying the resulting knowledge to public policies, programs, and systems.
A growing organization, Child Trends’ research portfolio includes extensive work in early childhood; youth development; teen childbearing; education; child welfare; reproductive health, family structure, and parenting; child poverty; and the transition to adulthood. Child Trends, as its name suggests, has particular expertise in developing, tracking, and analyzing data on children and youth.
Under Carol’s leadership, Child Trends has significantly expanded its capacity to communicate research effectively to key stakeholders, and its outreach and interaction with programs that provide direct services to children, youth, and families. In particular, Child Trends works extensively with decision makers to use data effectively, to incorporate evidence-based practices into their programs and policies, to evaluate their effectiveness, and to use all of this information to improve outcomes for vulnerable children and youth.
From 2002 to 2006, Carol was Executive Director of the Pew Commission on Children in Foster Care, a blue-ribbon panel of child welfare experts. Many of the Commission’s recommendations were enacted by Congress or adopted by state agencies and state Supreme Courts. Prior to this, she was Vice President for External Relations at Child Trends, where she built the organization’s public policy communications department.
Carol’s other professional experiences include Deputy Director of the National Commission on Children, a bipartisan Congressional-Presidential panel; Senior Associate at the Center for the Study of Social Policy; director of a state children’s advocacy organization; and, early in her career, research assistant to First Lady Rosalynn Carter. She serves on the Boards of Directors of Reach Out and Read; the Stoneleigh Foundation; and the Children’s Chorus of Washington. She is also an advisor to the Board of Directors of Venture Philanthropy Partners.
Carol has an undergraduate degree in international relations from Georgetown University and a master’s degree in public policy from the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University.
Kirk A. Law
Vice President Product Development, Tableau Software
Kirk A. Law is Vice President Product Development at Tableau Software that provides business analytics software products to greater than 75,000 customers worldwide with an $8B valuation. Tableau appears as a Leader in the Gartner Magic Quadrant for Analytics and Business Intelligence Platforms.
As an executive leader at Tableau, Mr. Law is responsible for a team of US and international engineering and product management talent for the core data platform technologies for Tableau’s products. This includes strategy, planning, development, and technology partnering.
Before Tableau, Mr. Law has held positions of SVP of Engineering at Primary Data, SanDisk, Skyera, NetApp, and Cacheflow. As well, he held senior positions at Silicon Graphics and RCA’s David Sarnoff Research Center where he is co-author of 4 US Patents.
Mr. Law graduated from Purdue University with a BSEE in 1981 and an MSEE in 1983. He was honored as the recipient of the 2012 Purdue University Outstanding Electrical and Computer Engineering (OECE) award.
Attorney, The Law Office of Jamay Lee
Jamay has been licensed to practice law in California since 2005. Over the course of her career, she has represented clients and appeared in contested and uncontested probate matters throughout California.
After earning a bachelor’s degree from the University of California, Los Angeles, Jamay obtained her law degree from University of the Pacific McGeorge School of Law, where she was the recipient of a Public Legal Services Society Grant and received an Honors at Entrance Scholarship. Prior to forming her own firm, Jamay practiced at a prominent firm in San Mateo County, focusing on estate planning and litigation and elder abuse litigation.
An active member of her legal community, Jamay belongs to various professional organizations. She is a member of the Litigation Section and the Trusts and Estates Section of The State Bar of California. She serves as Vice Chair of the Estate Planning and Probate Section of the San Mateo County Bar Association and is a member of the San Mateo County Bar Association Diversity Committee.
Jamay is a member of the Court-Appointed Independent Counsel Panel for San Mateo County Superior Court Trust, Probate and Conservatorship matters. She is also a Paul Harris Fellow of the Foster City Rotary.
Senior Fellow, National Conference on Citizenship
Sterling Speirn is the former Chief Executive Officer and now a Senior Fellow at the National Conference on Citizenship. He previously served as President & CEO of the Peninsula Community Foundation, now the Silicon Valley Community Foundation (PCF: 1992-2005), and as President & CEO of the W.K. Kellogg Foundation (WKKF: 2006-2013).
From these philanthropic platforms, Sterling has been a long-time champion of early childhood development and early childhood literacy as essential elements for interrupting poverty and promoting racial equity. He has also supported efforts to promote civic and community engagement as well as service and volunteering as key strategies for revitalizing our democratic culture and practices.
At PCF he founded the Center for Venture Philanthropy, and launched the Raising a Reader take-home book program which today operates at more than 3,000 sites serving more than 135,000 children annually. Also during this time, Speirn taught a seminar on philanthropy at the Stanford Graduate School of Business, and PCF’s innovations in donor services were profiled in a Harvard Business School Case Study.
At WKKF he helped launch America Healing in 2009, a five-year, $75 million initiative to support programs that promote racial equity and address structural racism. He also championed the creation of a $100 million Mission Driven Investment Fund that built a remarkable portfolio of private double bottom line investments in alignment with the foundations programmatic and place-based focus areas.
For several years he served as co-chairman of the national D5 coalition on Diversity in Philanthropy. He currently serves on the Board of Directors of the Greater Washington Community Foundation and is a member of the Racial Equity Working Group of the Washington Regional Association of Grantmakers. He also serves on the Board of Directors of Kindred, a Washington, DC-based nonprofit organization that works in local public schools to build trusting relationships between parents of diverse backgrounds and supports them to work with school leadership to drive equity and diversity in their schools and communities.
Speirn began his career as a 7th and 8th grade English Teacher in Cleveland, Ohio. Later he was a law clerk at the U.S. Department of the Interior, worked as a poverty lawyer in North Carolina; and managed a large community health center in Arcata, California.
Sterling earned his bachelor’s degree in political science from Stanford University and holds a law degree from the University of Michigan.
He is married with two sons and is an avid hiker and community gardener.
Executive Vice President, Silicon Valley Community Foundation
As the executive vice president, Erica leads SVCF’s efforts to identify and respond to the most challenging issues facing the San Francisco Bay Area region. In this role she oversees the institution’s discretionary grantmaking programs, strategic initiatives, research and convening activities. She also supports the institution’s public policy and advocacy work on board-prioritized issues.
Erica joined the community foundation in 2003 and has held several senior leadership positions including vice president and senior vice president of community leadership and grantmaking. Under her leadership the organization has received numerous awards for its work in economic security, early learning and education, immigration and land use planning.
Prior to joining the foundation, Erica was the director of research and evaluation at Applied Survey Research in Santa Cruz, California. While there she led the firm’s community assessment and major evaluation projects throughout the State.
Erica graduated with honors from the University of California at Santa Cruz and studied in Spain and Mexico. She serves on the board of the Community Action Agency in San Mateo County and is a current fellow of the American Leadership Forum – Silicon Valley Chapter.
Erica lives in Half Moon Bay with her husband, Jesse and daughter, Paloma.
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