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Instructor Bios

Elizabeth Abeel, B.A., a batik artist since 1975, is a member of the Michigan Guild of Artists and Craftsmen, has won numerous awards for her work, and has taught for EES since 1995. 

Ed Bailey is Director of the Technical Academic Area at NMC. He has a mechanical engineering degree from MSU and has 20+ years’ experience in project management for commercial construction. 

Carol Bell, M.S. R.D., is a registered dietitian at Table Health, an integrative medical practice in Traverse City. She has taught cooking classes for over 12 years and seeks to bring enjoyment, laughter and good tasting food to health care.

Lin Benfield, MBA, Career and Educational Advisor, is an independent career strategist assisting individuals with advanced career searches, resume writing, educational consulting, tutoring and providing courses on the topic of job search success at any age. 

Margaret Bennett, CYT, RYT, M.A.-psychology, is a certified yoga instructor and therapist. She has taught yoga at NMC since 1997, is a Reiki Master, and has formal training in meditation traditions. She is director of Crooked Tree Yoga and Therapy in Acme.

Joan Berg, M.A.-business education, is an award-winning instructor with extensive business administration and computer applications teaching experience. Throughout her career, she has developed and taught a wide range of courses and seminars including all Microsoft Office Suite applications.

Seth Bernard is an educator, organizer and facilitator from the nonprofit, Title Track (

Paddy Brown, CZT, is a certified Zentangle® instructor who has been practicing mindfulness for many years. She is a lifelong artist/creator. 

Christy Burich made the move to Traverse City from Chicago 5 years ago so that she could take time to grieve the loss of her husband to cancer in 2013. “Probably for the first 2 years of my grief, I found myself looking back...a lot. I would look at pictures, watch our family videos, read cards and love notes, and the whole time longing for my old life back. I would scream it out over and over, “I just want it all back! Please! I want it all back!” I rejected the ideas about creating a “new normal” for myself because I didn't want it. In the world that doesn’t stop for anyone, I did my best to just SURVIVE the pain.” “One of the tools I have always used to bring about clarity, to be able to set forth my intentions, and to restore my hope and confidence has been to create vision boards. I can tell you, without a doubt, I manifested for myself the most wonderfully perfect, “SECOND FIRST new home!” The first, of course was with my husband Larry and this second home (right here in TC!) is the one where I am celebrating a new chapter in my deeply passionate, fiercely authentic and wildly enthusiastic life!” “I made the decision early in my grief that I would not let the pain destroy me. I prayed that one day I could stand as a pillar of light and use this experience in good ways- to bring myself and others to a greater happiness and a wisdom-filled life.”

Bo Burke, ISA Certified Arborist, ISA Certified Tree Worker and Climber Specialist, has more than 15 successful years in the preservation, restoration and care of trees. He has taught tree climbing for many years. 

Julie Chai began a formal, daily meditation practice in 1971, after the death of a close friend. She was introduced to Mindfulness Meditation in 1991, while in a 9-month Internship in the Art of Spiritual Direction. The practice of Mindfulness is central to all the inner and outer work she does, from work with pre-marital couples, Inner Listening Therapy, workshops or spending the day painting or potting.

Dr. Diane Clark is an Associate Professor Emerita at Rhodes College in Memphis, where she taught music and public speaking for 32 years. She is currently an adjunct instructor of voice at NMC.

Jeffrey Cobb, M.M.-choral conducting, is the Director of Music Programs at NMC. He has more than 20 years of experience in music education as a teacher, choral director, composer, and church Director of Music. Choirs under his direction have received state and national awards and invitations; several of his compositions have received awards. 

Debra Coburn, M.H. Master of Humanities, B.F.A., B.S.-art education, and K-12 certified, recently retired from teaching fine arts at the high school and middle school level. Debra now teaches art workshops for adults and children around the community. Her medium of interest as an artist is fused glass.

Dr. Tamara Coleman is a 28 year veteran teacher and Biology Instructor at NMC. Dr. Coleman was trained in "The Science of Happiness" through and is finishing up a 200 hour Yoga Teacher Training. She has a professional teaching certificate and a Social Sciences major as part of her undergrad. and was trained in MBSR (Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction).

Christina Collins is a local artist and Lego builder. Christina is a member of Michigan Lego Users Group, has been featured on Interlochen Public Radio, and builds at History Center of Traverse City during the annual Lego Carnival. She has taught both art and Lego to children ages 4-17.

James Dake is the Education Director for Grass River Natural Area, studied science education at Central Michigan University and Western Michigan University. He is a certified teacher in the state of Michigan and is working towards a Master of Arts in Science Education. He is a Certified Interpretive Guide through the National Association for Interpretation. 

Beth Dole is a Clinical Exercise Physiologist and Certified Athletic Trainer. She has over 26 years of experience working in the health and fitness industry, including work in sports medicine and cardiac rehabilitation. She has worked with professional, college, and high school athletes as a certified athletic trainer. With the combination of exercise physiology and athletic training, Beth helps young and old return to physical activity in a safe, healthy and timely manner.

Chris Doyal, a commercial photographer for more than 20 years, owned a studio in South Bend, IN. His specialty areas include product and underwater photography.

Jennifer Dykstra has taught academic and noncredit classes in fitness for many years.

Les Eckert CEPC, CCE, AAC, Director of Great Lakes Culinary Institute, has an MBA with an emphasis in Hospitality Studies, is a Certified Executive Pastry Chef, Certified Culinary Educator and a member of the American Academy of Chefs. Eckert has over 25 years of foodservice experience, 13 years in higher education, and over five years in higher education management. New to NMC in June 2019, Eckert now calls Traverse City home. 

Erwin (Duke) Elsner, Ph.D., is an Agricultural Agent for MSU Extension and has assisted GT area farmers and home horticulturists with their insect problems. Dr. Elsner has conducted university research on insect pests. He is also an instructor for the MSU Master Gardener Program and MSU/NMC Plant Science Program. 

Karen Goike, PMP, is Senior Business Advisor of the Michigan Manufacturing Technology Center (MMTC).

Kathy Grinsteiner of Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan/Blue Care Networks provides tips and techniques to help individuals develop and strengthen resilience to weather the storm of uncertainty.  

Craig Hadley currently serves as the Executive Director and Chief Curator of the Dennos Museum Center at Northwestern Michigan College. Prior to the Dennos, Mr. Hadley held administrative and curatorial roles at DePauw University and Beloit College respectively for 11 years. He is an active board member of the Association of Academic Museums and Galleries, serves as a grant reviewer for the Institute of Museum and Library Services and the National Endowment for the Humanities, and volunteers as an AAM accreditation site reviewer. Mr. Hadley holds a master’s degree in History and Museum Studies from the University of Missouri and a bachelor’s degree from Beloit College. His writing has appeared in The Museum Review, AAM’s Museum magazine, and on the Institute of Museum and Library Services’ website.

Gloria A. Halligan, M.A.-education; B.S.-health management, is owner of Traverse City Walks, LLC. She leads walks TC trails as well as guiding mountain hikes in AZ. She provides training and conference presentations. She was the Interagency Coordinating Council facilitator for Char-Em and COP counties. Gloria became a walker at the age of 35.

Rachael Harrell, M.F.A., is the Owner/Director of Drama Kids of Northern Michigan which offers classes and camps to students throughout Northern Michigan. Rachael attended college at University of Michigan and received her Masters of Fine Arts in Theatre Performance from Roosevelt University in Chicago. Rachael is part of the Drama Kids International network, which cultivates skillful, caring teachers who are fully trained in their program and are focused on providing individualized attention and positive reinforcement to each student. 

Sara Hartley earned her A.A.S. in baking and patisserie from Le Cordon Bleu, Pittsburgh before working on the cake team at Patisserie Vanille in Chicago. Sara has taught baking and decorating classes for many years. 

Josh Hartman lives in Traverse City and on the West Coast in the winter. Has has been photographing weddings in northern Michigan’s most striking settings for over seven years as well as weddings and engagements in several iconic National Parks, including Joshua Tree, Rocky Mountain National Park and Mount Rainier. Check out his work at He has a degree in elementary education and taught second grade for five years in North Carolina. He also holds a joge teacher certification and teaches yoga while on the West Coast. 

Eleonora Hayes, M.F.A., has been teaching and creating art since 2000. Her art has appeared in the Grand Rapids Art Prize competition since 2013. 

Rex Holden, MSPT, is a Physical Therapist and co-owner of FYZICAL Therapy and Balance Centers in TC. He has worked with physical therapy patients from 2 to 104 years old. He has also worked with college-level and professional athletes in baseball, skiing, basketball, football and many other sports. Rex has taken numerous continuing education courses in unloading or unweighting (one of the main features of FAST Physical Therapy), functional biomechanics, sports rehabilitation, spine rehabilitation, speed and jump training, balance, geriatric rehabilitation, muscle energy techniques, Norwegian manual therapy techniques, and medical exercise training.

Coreene Kreiser, B.F.A., is an adjunct instructor in NMC’s Humanities Area. A professional photographer, Coreene has many publications and years of experience in the field.. 

Maribel LaLonde, B.S.-education, has been a Jackie Sorenson Aerobics certified instructor since 1998.

Ashley Larimer-Kelly is a music teacher at Glen Lake Community Schools where she teaches elementary general music and directs the elementary, middle school and high school choirs. She also serves as the director of the Glen Lake musical theatre program, has previously directed summer theatre camps, as well as the Manistee-Benzie Area Children's Chorus. Ashley earned her Bachelor of the Arts in Music Education from Albion College. She is a Traverse City native and a proud graduate of the TCAPS band and choir programs. Ashley is delighted to share her love of choral music with the young musicians in the NMC Children's Choirs.

Joanna Lauber completed her first level of training with Union Yoga, LLC and her three-year 500 Hour Plus Program with Yoga for Health Education Mentoring Academy. Joanna teaches regular classes and specializes in yoga for folks with weight issues and trauma. As a 30-year therapist for individuals with eating disorders, and now trauma based therapy, Joanna blends a wealth of knowledge of western psychology and yoga psychology.

Harold Lassers spent 27 years at Bell Labs and another 4 years with silicon valley network companies working on mobile telephony and data. The latter part of his career was spent under the mobility CTO for Bell Labs, Juniper Networks, and Cisco Systems. Harold taught courses in mobile telecommunications at Bell Labs to engineers moving in from other fields. He has an MS in Computer Science from Northwestern University and a BS in Engineering from UofM.

Philip Leete has a mechanical engineering degree from Hope College. He teaches robotics, mathematics, and dance at TC West Senior High and is the founder of the Northern VEX Robotics League in Traverse City. 

Stephen Lewis, Ph.D., has authored eight print novels. His most recent, Murder Undone, the sequel to Murder on Old Mission, was published in 2017. His short stories and poems have appeared in numerous journals. His sixth college textbook, Templates, was published in 2014. He retired as Professor of English Emeritus from Suffolk Community College and taught online composition courses for Ferris State University. 

Misaeng Suh Liggett, a native of Japan, attended Tsuji Cooking School in Tokyo and worked as a chef. She has taught Japanese cooking workshops and Japanese language at NMC since 2005.

Zack Light, M.S., holds an ACE Trainer certification as well as certification as a personal trainer. He winters in Florida and during the summer months is employed as a police officer in Antrim County. Zack has had success locally and internationally as a weightlifter and bodybuilder. 

Sally Littleton, PhD., is a retired psychotherapist, and has practiced Reiki for 25 years. She is certified as Shihan (Master Teacher) in both Usui Reiki Ryoho and Gendai Reiki-Ho. Dr. Littleton is a Registered Practitioner and Teacher member in Shibumi International Reiki Association and a member of the National Association of Alternative and Complimentary Medicines and the Reiki Healing Association. Helping people heal has been an ongoing major focus of her life, and teaching these principles and practices to others is an enduring passion. 

Nancy McRay, M.F.A., has been teaching and producing a wide variety of fiber arts since the mid-1980s. She is a former yarn shop owner and Fine Arts Coordinator for East Lansing Recreation and Arts. 

Robert Meisner, J.D., B.A., is a nationally known condominium specialist. He has been a practicing attorney since 1968, is general legal counsel for United Condominium Owners of Michigan, and is co-draftsperson of the Michigan Condominium Act. Mr. Meisner has been teaching condominium law courses since 1981, is an adjunct professor of law, and authors a syndicated column. 

Ginny Mello received her Pilates certification through the United States Pilates Association (USPA). For many years Ginny was a long distance competitive triathlete and Marathon runner until a back injury and subsequent surgery changed her overall approach to fitness. Pilates became a crucial part of her life and ultimately the way back to doing all the things she loved; living with a motto: “Not missing what you can’t do, but rather love what you can.”  Ginny decided to become a Pilates instructor as a way to give back to others. She loves the opportunity to encourage others to lead a more active, powerful life. Ginny enjoys living life with her amazing husband (Joe) and Enzo (Portuguese Water Dog).

Phillip Mikesell, Ph.D., Vanderbilt University, taught comparative politics at Wabash College for more than 40 years. He lived, worked, and traveled extensively in Latin America, Europe, and the Middle East. He retired from active teaching in 2009 and is currently working on the topic of democracy and economic development.

Sarah Montgomery-Richards has an abundant experience in cultural and religious studies. She studied Comparative Religion, and has an M.A. in Interfaith Action. Her experience includes: teaching at Western Michigan University in the Department of Comparative Religion during graduate school, and a current adjunct faculty role in the Philosophy Department at NMC where she teaches Western and Eastern Traditions, as well as a seminar on Global Citizenship & Religion. She is currently serving as the Director of Lifespan Experience for the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Grand Traverse, has made multiple trips abroad, and participated in the 2015 Parliament of the World’s Religions in Salt Lake City, UT. Sarah has a background in world religions, history of religion, psychology of religion, philosophy of religion, interfaith action, mindfulness, religion in the public sphere, and myth and ritual just to name a few. She enjoys teaching in an academic setting, as well as leading group meditation & ritual, & participates in celebrations of a variety of world spiritual perspectives.

Sharon Neumann, is Munson Hospice Bereavement Coordinator and Grief Recover Specialist.

Annie Olds, B.A.S., M.B.A.-strategic management, is the Northwest Regional Director and a certified small business consultant with the Michigan Small Business Development Center (SBDC), a program of Networks Northwest. She specializes in assisting small business owners from start up to fully operational, as well as agribusiness ventures. 

Maggie Quinn, Certified Personal Trainer, Pilates, Jacki Sorensen instructor and Zibrio Balance Specialist. Maggie's passion for living an active lifestyle developed from her dance experience as a child and young adult. That love of dance introduced her to the Jacki Sorensen Aerobic Dance, Step and Workout programs when she and her family moved to Traverse City in 1979. She introduced those programs to NMC in 1990 and has expanded the offerings to students over the past 30 years. She created the Forever Fit, and now the Forever Virtually Fit, programs which provide the proper mix of exercise modalities and classes that reflect the latest exercise research and the role that daily exercise plays in achieving and maintaining a healthy active aging life.

Libby Robold, M.A., E-RYT, PRYT, AHC, has been teaching yoga for NMC since 1984 and yoga therapy for many years. She and her husband co-direct Yoga for Health Education in TC.

Michael Robold, M.A., CYT, has been teaching yoga since 2002, after assisting in classes for 15 years. He teaches for NMC and co-directs Yoga for Health Education, Center for Conscious Living, in TC. 

Peggy Rod, B.S., is a retired TCAPS elementary teacher. She has enjoyed the game of Mah Jongg since 2001.

Michelle Rodriguez graduated from Western Michigan University with two majors, business marketing and comparative religion, but always knew she wanted to be a chef. She has always had a huge passion for food, and has traveled to find inspiration, read hundreds of books, and practiced at home and worked in some of the nation’s best restaurants. She never stops asking questions! She says “It’s important to have fun in the kitchen and learn the life-long impact of healthy eating early on!”

Kennith Scott, B.S., is a Mechanical Engineer also trained in Nuclear Physics while in the Naval Nuclear program. Ken has been studying Quantum Physics, Epigenetics and Brain Science, while practicing meditation and yoga since 2012. Much of ken’s study is inspired by the work of Dr. Joe Dispenza and Dr. Bruce Lipton.

Jack Segal, M.A.-international relations, was a senior US diplomat who served in Israel/Palestine during the Gulf War and the first Intifada. He is presently Co-chair of the International Affairs Forum of Traverse City. Previously he worked in the White House as a director on the National Security Council, where he dealt with Russian and Ukraine, and with Iranian and North Korean weapons of mass destruction and nuclear non-proliferation. He was a negotiator on the START agreement, and with his wife, Karen Puschel Segal, opened the first western Consulate General in central Russia. 

Michelle Smith-Ronk is a graduate of NMC’s Great Lakes Culinary Institute. She owns a home-based business, Custom Cookies by Michelle, where she enjoys decorating cookies for all of life’s occasions.

Elizabeth Sonnabend is a program coordinator for NMC Extended Educational Services and has over twenty years marketing experience working for various local companies in Northern Michigan and 10 years teaching Marketing for NMC.

Steve Stanton, B.S., worked for IBM in sales then later developing training material to support the worldwide deployment of a major software tool for internal and IBM Business Partner users. Since retiring from IBM, along with teaching at NMC Extended Ed, he has been conducting technology-related training programs for various organizations in the Detroit and Grand Traverse area. He also has a computer service, repair and training business in Suttons Bay.

Jerry Sura, M.A., is retired from teaching high school mathematics, GED, and English as a Second Language. He hikes and bikes the region and recently earned the Northern Naturalist Certificate from NMC Extended Education.

Zach Tate, M.F.A.-ceramics, is the ceramics instructor in the NMC Humanities Area. His work has been exhibited internationally since 2007. Before moving to Traverse City, he was a Research Associate at the University of Notre Dame from 2014-2018, and Executive Director of Goshen Community Arts in Indiana from 2014-2018. In 2018, Zach was elected as a Director At Large for the National Council on Education for the Ceramic Arts until 2021. 

Adam VanHouten, M.A.-curriculum and teaching, B.F.A.-art education, has been teaching visual art classes for TCAPS since 2004 and painting classes for NMC EES since 2010. Adam paints in a variety of media. As a watercolor artist, he exhibits his work widely and took 1st place in the 2014 Cherry Festival Poster Contest. 

John Velis, B.S.-mathematics, secondary certifications in mathematics and science, with over 25 years in education, information technology, web site design and is currently an instructor at NMC in Computer Information Technology. He is an active coach and mentor for various unmanned vehicle and robotics teams. 

Sarah Wangler, is a Communications Instructor at NMC. 

Elizabeth Wolff is an educator, organizer and facilitator from the nonprofit, Title Track (

Glenn Wolff, B.F.A., began his career as an illustrator for such clients as the New York Times. He is currently a full-time art instructor at NMC teaching drawing, watercolor, printmaking and 2D design. He has illustrated numerous books. His mixed media fine art and collaborative environmental work has been shown in numerous galleries, museums and public spaces.

Mary Jo Zazueta, B.A., is an editor, designer, and book shepherd. She has extensive knowledge of book publishing and has been speaking on the subject for 10 years. In 1994, she established To the Point Solutions to help writers throughout the country achieve their publishing goals.

We thank all of our wonderful instructors for sharing their time and expertise with our community!
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