The English Learner Group

Sam Nofziger, Ed. D.

Founder / C.E.O.

Dr. Nofziger has been serving various English Learner populations, full-time, since 1987. He was an elementary school teacher, both as a bilingual teacher, and as an all English teacher. He has been an instructional coach, a school site, district, and county administrator. In his experience as an administrator, he has coached teachers and administrators (K-12), all with the focus of increasing student achievement in English Learner populations.

Among his publications are a chapter in a university textbook, two articles in periodicals, and a program implementation guide. These writings are all regarding classroom practice to improve achievement for English Learners. In his doctoral study around  English Language Development, he focused on the instructional decision making of teachers to develop academic language development, and how that affects academic written language in Long Term English Learners (LTELs).

Dr. Nofziger has a BA in Liberal Studies/Credential, from California State University, Fresno (1987), and an MA in Bilingual Cross-Cultural Education from Fresno Pacific Unviversity (1996), and an Ed. D. from Northcentral University (2016) with a focus on English as a Second Language. He also holds a Multiple Subjects Teaching Credential, a Bilingual- CrossCultural Specialist Credential, and an Administrative Services Credential, all awarded in California.

Educational Consultants / Instructional Coaches


Sandra Alonzo, MA, Ed.


Sandra Alonzo has taught in Fresno Unified for 14 years.  The various capacities she has taught in were: A bilingual teacher in Kinder and First grade for eight years, and a structured English Immersion teacher for 6 years in grades K, 1st, & 6th. In addition she has worked as a Veteran support coach where she mentored veteran teachers who were not meeting standards. Currently she is the Intervention teacher and Testing Coordinator for the school she is currently working at.  Sandra also has her master’s degree and administrative credential in Educational Administration.




Blanca Tolpezninkas, MA, Ed.

Blanca Tolpezninkas has taught in Selma Unified for 19 years, in different capacities; kindergarten, fourth and fifth grades for the majority of my tenure.  In addition,  she has served as a literacy specialist for first grade (Reading Recovery); as well as for grades 4-6th.  For the last five years she has supported Selma Unified teachers as a District Literacy and English Learner Coach (K-12).  In this role, she provides district-wide professional development on a variety of district initiatives.  Follow-up coaching support to sites and individuals has played, and continues to play, an essential piece of her daily duties.

In addition to herteaching experiences for Selma Unified, she has also had to opportunity to work for Fresno Pacific University as adjunct faculty for the School of Education.  Her undergraduate and graduate studies were completed through Fresno Pacific University, with some study abroad experiences.


Tina Nakashian, MA, Ed.

Tina Nakashian has been a math educator for 18 years.  She has taught mathematics at various levels of education; middle school, high school and college and for the last three years she has supported districts (K-12) in the Fresno County in Curriculum & Instruction as a Mathematics Consultant. In this role, she provides district-wide professional development and follow-up coaching to support all grade level teachers.

She is passionate about partnering up with educators in order to collaborate and focus on instructional strategies that support English Learners in the classroom.

BA in Mathematics  – CLAD – MA in Curriculum & Instruction with an emphasis in Math Education & Language



Barbara M. Cole, MA, Ed.


Barbara has 27 years of experience as an educator. She holds a BA in Liberal Studies, a teaching credential with CLAD Certification, and a Master of Arts in Education, Administration and Supervision. She has served as a teacher, a vice principal, and as district and county level administrators of curriculum and instruction. She has spent most of her professional time working with Fresno Unified School District and Merced County Office of Education. She has provided guidance and professional learning opportunities for paraprofessionals, teachers, and administrators in K-12. For the past 11 years, her areas of focus have been English Language Arts and English Language Development. However, many of her learning opportunities include the use of Close Reading and Academic Conversations across all content areas.

Barbara brings to The English Learner Group knowledge about the California ELA/ELD Framework and the implementation of Integrated as well as Designated English Language Development strategies.


Susana Montanez, MA, Ed.

Susana Montanez is currently working as a fifth grade teacher.  She has been an educator for Fresno Unified School District for the last fourteen years.  She has worked with students in the primary grades as a second and third grade teacher.  Susana was a bilingual teacher for seven years and has a BCLAD credential in Spanish.

Susana strives to build capacity any place she can through peer coaching and collaborative team efforts. She has served as a on- site coach as well as a veteran support coach in FUSD.  She currently works with her sites inclusion program to serve students that have been Identified as having autistic behaviors on the autistic spectrum in her classroom.

Ms. Montanez has a Masters Degree in Educational Leadership and Administration, and has experience working with teams of educators to build a more collaborative and accountable way serve our students.


Margie Salinas, MA, Ed.

Ms. Salinas is currently in her 10th year as an educator and works as an English Learner District Coach at Selma Unified School District. She is part of a coaching team that supports the integration of language development strategies in ELD, math, and English Language Arts. She has taught 3rd grade and has served as a Reading Intervention Specialist for grades 2nd-6th. In addition, she is a BTSA support provider. Her undergraduate and graduate studies were completed through Fresno State University and Fresno Pacific.

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Dr. Paul Garcia, Ed. D. 

Paul is a retired educator who previously served as Director of English Learner Services in Fresno Unified School District. He also served as an administrative analyst in the Office of Research, Evaluation and Assessment. In that capacity, he worked closely with school principals and teachers to produce reports for monitoring students and informing instruction. Paul also provided training to all California court school administrators and teachers on best practices in English Language Development and SDAIE. He was an education consultant with the California Department of Education providing technical assistance to school districts that failed to meet Title III accountability targets.


Donning Day, MA, Ed.

Donning Day is in her eleventh year as an educator and is currently a K-12 English Learner Coach for Selma Unified School District.  She is also a BTSA support provider, a BTSA professional development presenter, and the CELDT trainer of trainers for the district.  Her teaching experiences include kindergarten, elementary newcomers, and various K-6 intervention assignments for English Learners. As an EL Coach, Donning appreciates working with both students and teachers.  She has a passion for supporting English Learners and enjoys collaborating with others to focus on their instructional needs. Donning received her BS degree and Multiple Subject Teaching Credential from California State University, Fresno.  She is currently working on her MA in Reading/Language Arts at CSUF.


Nydia Mendoza, MA, Ed.

Ms. Mendoza worked in education for 35 years, as a teacher, Migrant resource teacher, Coordinator of English Language Arts, Bilingual Ed and Foreign Language. I spent 25 years in Fresno Unified, 18 in Curriculum & Instruction Dept., and over 5 years as a school site administrator.
Even though retired she continues to provide support to schools as an Educational Consultant and returning to school sites as an Administrator sub. I have also worked with student teachers at Fresno Pacific and presented to CSUF student teachers regarding EL students and their needs for success.


Carla Rose Hartunian, MA, Ed.

Ms. Hartunian has 37 years of experience as an educator in Fresno Unified School District. She holds a BA in Communications and a Life Time Teaching Credential with Clad Certification, and a Masters of Arts Education in Administration and Supervision. Ms. Hartunian has taught grades K-4 for nineteen years and worked as an Instructional Support Specialist/Coach for five years; teaching teachers and supporting administrators to become instructional leaders. She was also an assistant principal for three years in two large year round schools and she has eleven years’ experience as a K-6 principal. Ms. Hartunian is currently retired, but she still provides support to FUSD by being an Administrative Sub. Carla’s favorite past time is volunteering and testing children in reading in her sister’s first grade classroom, at King Elementary School in Fresno.


Osa Martinez, BA, Ed.

Osa Martinez is a fourth year teacher at Washington Colony Elementary located in a rural section of Fresno County.  She has spent the majority of her teaching career in the fourth grade, and is this year exploring the third grade.  Osa uses guided learning groups, technology, and collaborative learning structures to engage her students.  She is passionate about teaching science to her students, and coaches her school’s Science Olympiad team.  Osa is a continuing Spanish learner and is pioneering her school’s only Hispanic/Latino cultural club called SOL (Spanish Only Lunch) where students will be encouraged to speak only Spanish, play games, and read literature in an academic context amongst their peers.



Emy Lopez-Phillips, Ed. D.

Emy Lopez Phillips is currently a full-time lecturer in the Kremen School of Education at CSU Fresno. She received her B.A. in English from CSU Stanislaus, M.A. in Education, with an emphasis in Curriculum & Instruction from CSU Fresno, and her Ed.D. in Educational Leadership & Management from Alliant International University, Fresno. She began her educational career in 1998 as a Title I Instructional Aide supporting English learners in the Turlock Unified School District in Turlock, CA. Upon completing her degree and English single-subject credential, she began teaching middle school in the Central Unified School District in Fresno, CA. While there she was involved in the district’s first 1:1 laptop initiative which was federally funded by the Enhancing Education Through Technology grant. In just two years, the 1:1 implementation proved successful as her students saw a dramatic 10% increase in writing proficiency, attendance rates, and overall motivation to learn (Lopez, 2006). She credits her students’ success to the tech-integrated curriculum that made learning the content standards meaningful and accessible to all learning styles.

In 2002, Emy took a short hiatus from the classroom to work in the eScholastic division of Scholastic Inc. in New York, NY. While there, she gained invaluable experience in online marketing strategies, webpage production, and curriculum content development. Developing these skills would prove to be pivotal upon her return to the classroom and eventual transition to administration at the Fresno County Office of Education (FCOE) in 2004. As the Region VII Director of the California Technology Assistance Project (CTAP), Emy developed a solid reputation as an educational advocate at the state and local levels on behalf of technology access, programs, and funding for all students within the Central Valley’s 134 school districts. In 2008, she developed the county’s first Instructional Technology Services department which merged both the CTAP and FCOE School Library & Media services departments. In 2013, with a new baby in tow and a husband away on a military deployment she transitioned from full-time to part-time administration with FCOE’s Beginning Teacher Support and Assessment (BTSA) and then the Local Control & Compliance (LCAP) programs, respectively. A Central Valley native and former English learner, Emy is passionate about working with educators to integrate strategies and systems that improve learning outcomes for all students.

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Pamela Rieker, MA. Ed. 

Pamela Rieker has a passion for teaching children and helping them reach for their full potential. She has a Multiple Subject Credential from Fresno Pacific University, an MA in Reading and Language Arts and a Reading Specialist Credential from California State University, Fresno, and is CLAD certified.

Pamela has taught in Fresno Unified in various classroom capacities from kindergarten thru 4th grade at the elementary level and also basic math and language arts at Fresno Adult School. She has also worked as a Miller-Unruh reading teacher and as a reading intervention teacher. During this assignment, she worked with struggling early elementary readers, upper elementary English learners, and partnered with classroom teachers to maximize their literacy instruction.

After the birth of her second son, Pamela stepped away from the classroom to focus on raising her children, and is currently educating her third grade son at home.

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Elizabeth Andrade-Stiffler, MA. Ed.

Elizabeth Andrade Stiffler has over 30 years of experience as an educator in Fresno Unified and Central Unified. She holds a BA in Psychology, a Multiple Subjects Teaching Credential, CLAD certificate, a master’s degree and administrative credential in Educational Administration. Elizabeth has taught in grades K-6, and worked as a teacher specialist in Science and Mathematics grades prek-6th. These last 10+ years she has been an Early Learning Administrator supporting teachers and their instruction to all children in grades PreK-2nd. Her work has focused on the Preschool Foundations, assessments, standards based report cards and the Common Core State Standards. Elizabeth has enjoyed her collaborative work with others to build capacity and sustainability.

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 Gloria Watts, MA, Ed.

Mrs. Watts has 18 years as a consultant (retired) in Fresno Unified School District (FUSD), the last 8 years working for the Constituent Services Office. She has 28 years of full-time employment in FUSD (classroom teacher; curriculum coordinator; principal; assistant administrator; area superintendent; assistant to the Office of the Superintendent/ Compliance Officer. She has been a Part-time Lecturer, CSUF (Linguistics and Foreign Languages Departments).

She has a a degree of Master of Education, University of Pittsburg, Pennsylvania, Bachelor of Arts, Austin College, Sherman Texas. She has a General Administration Credential for Life, Grades K-12, California State University, Fresno.

She bring to The English Learner Group, Inc. the following services:

  • The appropriate responses to Complaints from parents or community members, concerning school employees Uniform Complaint Procedure of Williams Complaints
  • Informal Resolutions, Mediation
  • Internal Investigations of Written Responses
  • Parent Development/Training in English or Spanish
  • Required Uniform Complaint
  • Establishing Procedures for DAC
  • Advocacy for their children outside the complaint procedure
  • Establishing Board Policies and Administrative Regulations Updates
  • Creation of new BPs or ARs as needed
  • Reaching Informal Resolutions with the Office of Civil Rights
  • Contacting & communicating with OCR
  • Working with district staff in developing the informal resolution
  • Preparing documents for submission
  • Internal monitoring of informal resolution


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Katie McWalters, MA Ed.

Katie McWalters is recently retired from a thirty-seven year career with Fresno Unified Schools. As a high school English teacher, she taught a range of courses from Advanced Placement to English Language Development and served as a mentor and master teacher. After seventeen years in the classroom, she moved into site administration, managing a range of projects including categorical programs, English Learner support, and professional development. In the last ten years with Fresno Unified, she served as the District Curriculum Manager for Secondary English Language Arts, History Social Studies, World Languages, and Advanced Placement.

Her education includes a BA in Comparative Literature from UC Berkeley, an MA in English Composition from CSU Fresno, a Single Subject Teaching Credential in English and History Social Studies with CLAD Certification, as well as an Administrative Services Credential from CSU Fresno.

Katie has a wealth of experience developing and delivering professional learning for teachers and administrators. She believes there is no more critical issue in education today than academic literacy for all.


Rosario Sanchez, MA, Ed

Ms. Sanchez served Fresno Unified School District for 36 years as a teacher, vice principal, principal, Assistant Superintendent for School Leadership and retired in June 2016 as the Associate Superintendent for Curriculum and Instruction. Her extensive experience includes serving as a teacher for 16 years in primary and intermediate grades and as principal at Ayer Elementary and Lincoln Elementary where she led the schools out of program improvement status. In her role as Assistant Superintendent, she coached, mentored, supervised and evaluated elementary and secondary principals. In addition, she was the lead assistant superintendent that included the supervision of the other four assistant superintendents as well as administrative duties and responsibilities with the Chief Academic Officer. In her role as the Associate Superintendent, she oversaw and supervised the following departments: College and Career Ready, Curriculum and Instruction, Early Learning, English Learners, Prevention and Intervention and Special Education.   Her core values and beliefs are grounded in professionalism, integrity, kindness, equity and access for all, and ensuring a culture of learning with high expectations in every classroom.


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