Language Learning Innovators

Team

Danny Lester
Director of Learning Outcomes

Danny has been teaching English since 2011 after completing a BA in Spanish, along with a minor in Applied Linguistics and TESOL certificate from Portland State University. He realized that his interest in Spanish was a love of linguistics and turned his focus towards teaching by enrolling in the  MA TESOL program Portland State. Danny has taught English in South Korea, and Portland, Oregon to wide variety of age groups and classroom settings. In his free time, he is an avid NBA fan – especially of his home team, the Portland Trail Blazers – and a life-long video game player. He currently lives in Kobe, Japan.

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Frith Ann Maier
Founder

Frith’s immersion language learning experiences inspired the NEI method, using web technology to create a program proven to help learners of English achieve their goals faster. She studied French in high school, then learned to speak Japanese during two years living in Japan, before becoming fluent in Russian as a college student. A successful serial entrepreneur, Frith created the Russia & Central Asia travel program for REI Adventures, and subsequently founded and built a software company, Sesame Communications. Master’s in International Studies (University of Washington), TESL-certified, Internet innovator. 

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Aleksandr "Sasha" Kamenev
VP Engineering

 

Aleksandr (“Sasha”) completed his Masters in Information Systems at SPb ITMO. He has more than 15 years of experience in the software engineering field building products and development teams for companies in the US, Canada, and Sweden. Sasha and his family are excited about moving to Kobe. He loves music on vinyl, and also Judo (has his black belt), soccer, and swimming.


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Michael
Learning Success Manager

Michael’s love of language, culture, and teaching led him to move to the Middle East to work with refugees in 2013. Since then, he has taught English in a variety of contexts while living in Lebanon, Jordan, and Turkey. His efforts to learn foreign languages, including Arabic and Turkish, have made him sensitive to the needs of English learners. Michael holds CELTA certification that he earned in Izmir, Turkey. In his free time, he enjoys biking, kayaking, lifting weights, and reading.

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Jason
Learning Success Manager

Jason began tutoring foreign exchange, university students in 2005 in his hometown of San Diego, California. He graduated from San Diego State University with a degree in humanities, history and philosophy.  After teaching in the States for 5 years and receiving his TESOL certificate, he moved to Thailand where he continued teaching students of various nationalities.  Still residing in Thailand, Jason enjoys spending time with his daughter, taking her to the sea as much as possible. He enjoys water sports, such as surfing, sailing, swimming, scuba diving, windsurfing, paddle boarding, and kayaking. He is passionate about teaching and helping students reach their individual goals to be the best English speakers they can be.

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Nancy
Teaching Methodology Lead

Nancy graduated from Stanford University with a degree in human biology and went on to complete a Master’s degree in city planning at the University of California, Berkeley in 1981.  She worked in the field of city planning for 10 years before raising her family.   She has been teaching English in the Spanish-speaking community in Seattle since 2009.

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Galina
Machine Learning Solution Architect


Galina brings to NEI deep experience in applying advanced AI solutions for learning. Fluent in Bulgarian and English, she also has some proficiency in French, German, Japanese, Portuguese, Russian, and Spanish! As a multilingual, she is truly excited about the NEI mission of making language learning more efficient and rewarding. She is a Fellow of the Higher Education Academy in the UK and she leads the Japan Chapter of Omdena - the world-leading collaborative platform for AI for Good.


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Advisors

Allen Miner
Board Director
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Max Bovykin
Advisor - Technology
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Tom Sato
Strategic Advisor

Tom brought NEI to Japan in 2019 as part of the Washington State Tech Mission. He has seen the company's success in Japan and believes it has a bright future in Asia and beyond. 

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Junichi Azuma
Advisor -- Foreign Language Instruction

Junichi Azuma has conducted research in phonetics, foreign language instruction, and advanced educational media while working as a professor at Japanese universities including Kobe Gakuin University and Juntendo University School of Medicine. Utilization of Text-to-Speech technology in foreign language instruction is a major focus of his research. Professor Azuma has over 30 years of experience conducting choruses and wind orchestras. He started playing the violin in his 40s. His doctoral work at the University of Klagenfurt is in informatics. 

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Teachers

Read about the talented contractors who teach using the NEI method.
•TESL-certified
•native speakers of North American English
•university graduates

Mishel

Mishel graduated from Portland State University with dual degrees in Japanese and Russian.  After graduating in 2014, she moved to a small town in northern Hokkaido and taught ESL to children and adults for five wonderful years. When not in the classroom, Mishel enjoys reading, playing video games, and traveling. 

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Karen

Karen earned a B.A. in Social Science Teaching and subsequently taught World Literature and English to teenagers at a public school in Boulder, Colorado. Her TESL certification was motivated by Karen’s desire to work with English language learners of all ages in diverse educational settings.

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Anne

Anne graduated from the University of California, Los Angeles with a degree in English. Her career in broadcasting took her all over the world producing and directing TV travel shows and documentary films. Now settled in the U.K., she lived in Paris for ten years and speaks fluent French.   

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Kirk

Kirk received his certification in teaching English online from the International TEFL Academy. He comes from a business career in sales, marketing, and corporate training. His professional experience also includes roles as an actor and publisher of a cultural magazine. Kirk has traveled extensively throughout Asia and lived in Kyoto, Japan. His stay in Japan fostered a love for the country and an appreciation of its cultural traditions. Kirk enjoys connecting across cultures as a writer and Meditation teacher in Costa Rica. He also enjoys writing, painting, exploring nature, and trying to create the perfect ramen.

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Ashten

Ashten combines passion for teaching with her knowledge of linguistics (her major is  Applied Linguistics), and she has experience teaching students from Japan and China.  She enjoys studying Spanish, German, Greek, and Latin (her favorite). She likes to hike in the Pacific Northwest with her sister, go to the movies, roller skate, read, and garden. She also enjoys fencing.

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Steve

After studying in both Japan and China, Steve graduated from Long Island University in 2017 with a degree in Global Studies. Upon graduating, he moved to the Tohoku region of Japan and taught high school. He moved on from there to teach in Shanghai, China. When he is not at work, he enjoys music, video games, and sci-fi movies.

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Christopher

Christopher is an educator from Jacksonville, Florida, USA.  He has been living and teaching in the Middle East and Africa for ten years.

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Avernell

Avernell graduated from the Russian Academy of Music with a degree in Performing Arts. While obtaining her degree in Moscow Russia, she discovered a passion for teaching English as a Second language. Her love for language and culture allowed her to teach people all over the world both online and in the classroom. She is  TEFL certified and currently resides in the Caribbean as Music Director and  English Teacher.

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Brendan

Brendan is from the small town of Chico, California. His love of languages led him to a BA in Linguistics from the University of California, Santa Cruz. He earned a master's degree in teaching international languages from California State University in Chico and has been teaching English since 2013. In his free time he enjoys reading, writing, and playing computer games with his wife.

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Joseph

Joseph was born in California and currently lives in Thailand. He has taught professionally for the past six years. He loves it! In addition to teaching and living abroad, his interests include travel, food, visual arts, and health and wellness.  

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Hailey

Hailey has a Bachelor of Arts degree in Music and a Master's in TESOL. She taught German at West Virginia University before becoming a Fulbright English Teaching Assistant at the İzmir Institute of Technology in Turkey. Hailey spends her free time writing and performing original music, learning languages, and traveling.

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Don

Don Gies has been a TESL-certified teacher for over eight years. He has taught students in-person and online and gained experience working with diverse cultures and ages. Don finds satisfaction in connecting with people, learning about their stories, and providing practical and effective solutions for improving their English. In his free time, Don practices martial arts, plays the guitar, creates video content for his YouTube channel, and enjoys reading.

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Carmel

For the past five years, Carmel has taught conversational and business English to adult students based in South Korea, China, Vietnam, and Spain online. She is certified in Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL) and International Language Testing System (IELTS) and is educated with a Bachelor of Arts in Sports Science and a diploma in Public Relations. In her free time, Carmel enjoys staying active, which helps her maintain a healthy lifestyle. She also appreciates relaxing and spending quality time with her friends, family, and pets.

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Susan

Susan earned her Bachelor’s degree in Sociology and Japanese Studies at Guilford College, in North Carolina, and lived and worked in Japan for three years, during and after her university studies. She received her M.Ed. in TESOL in 2010 from Seattle University, in Seattle, WA. While working at City University of Seattle she spent 11 weeks in Hanoi, Vietnam, teaching Academic English through a partner program with the Banking Academy of Vietnam. In 2016, she moved to Madrid, Spain to complete her M.A. in Visual and Digital Media at Instituto Empresa (IE), staying on for another year to study Spanish. In her free time, she enjoys cooking, hiking, travel, and photography.

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Jeffrey

Jeffrey earned his Bachelor’s degree in German and minored in Russian and Speech Communication. After graduating, he began his career in teaching English in numerous countries around the world. In 2014 he earned his Master’s degree in TESOL from Portland State University. He continued his teaching career in Qatar and the United States, and is currently living in Sweden. In his free time, Jeffrey enjoys learning languages, traveling, reading, and cooking. 

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Nikki

Nikki has her BA in Secondary English Education and ESOL from the University of South Florida, and is currently pursuing a Master's of Education at Bangkok Thonburi University. She is in her sixth year of teaching ESOL in Asia and is currently working with Japanese students at an international school in Bangkok. Prior to this she was in South Korea teaching ESOL to students ages 5-18, as well as educating Korean English teachers in linguistics, literature, and teaching methodology. She is fluent in French and Korean and has acquired conversational Thai. She is a strong believer in the pursuit of lifelong learning and is honored to be a part of anyone's learning journey.


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Jackie

After growing up in California, Jackie joined the United States Marine Corps and traveled to Japan, South Korea, the Philippines, and Australia. After completing his service, he attended college and completed his Master's in TESOL at San Jose State University. He moved to Japan in 2016. He has taught English to students of all ages, from teenagers to adult professionals. In his spare time, he likes to travel, read, and play video games.

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Scott

Scott began teaching English as a foreign language when he was an exchange student at the University of Valencia in Spain. He later taught elementary and secondary-level English in New York City Public Schools. After finishing a Master of Arts in Photography and Mass Media Studies, Scott decided to live abroad and teach English in South Korea. He remained there for nearly twenty years, teaching at the primary, secondary, and tertiary levels. During that time, Scott worked and traveled in Japan and Thailand. His accumulated experiences have taught him the importance of maintaining a dynamic yet comfortable learning environment. Scott firmly believes that as long as students feel relaxed, there is no limit to what they can learn.

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Sam W

Sam was born in Alaska and has lived in several South American and Asian countries. He studied history at the University of British Columbia and is pursuing a Master's of Organizational Performance and Workplace Learning degree. Sam has been teaching English to all age groups and skill levels for over fifteen years. In his free time, Sam enjoys cooking, computer games, finding new restaurants, and hitting golf balls at the driving range.


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Haani

Haani completed a bachelor’s degree in linguistics/TESOL at Southern Illinois University in May 2018. Shortly after graduating, she moved to Costa Rica and began teaching English. Haani has taught primarily at private language institutes for adults. She has worked with students from every continent. Living in Costa Rica has taught Haani to empathize with her students' struggles learning languages. Haani has a special place in her heart for lavender, masala chai, and the poet Rumi.

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Ben V

Ben started working with exchange students and tutoring in English while attending Portland State University. He spent a year in Japan at Waseda University before graduating with a bachelor's degree in Applied Linguistics. After university, he moved to Shizuoka to teach English to children for a couple of years. Ben enjoys cooking, playing basketball at his local park, and trying new games on his PC.

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Patrick

Patrick earned his Bachelor of Design from MacEwan University. During and after his time at university, his entrepreneurial pursuits included creating 2D animation work for Discovery channel producers, writing books on philosophy and psychology, and spending five years as an marketing consultant with a focus on helping real estate firms raise syndication capital. His skills communicating with many different kinds of people are now being channeled into teaching.

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Estelle

Estelle has a B.A. in German Studies and English Literature from Pacific University. She has been teaching English since 2006. Upon graduation, she spent a year in Austria as a Fulbright teaching assistant. After returning to the U.S., she received her Master’s in TESOL from Portland State University and has taught in community, academic, and individual tutoring contexts. In her spare time, she enjoys spending time outdoors and traveling, and has visited nearly 35 countries.

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Katie

Katie's love of language and culture was cultivated in Costa Rica where she began teaching in a small village in 2015. As she perfected her Spanish, she was able to better develop English teaching methods and earn her TEFL Certification. Later, she moved to Argentina to complete a Fulbright English teaching assistantship, and her passion for Latin American culture and language acquisition grew even more. She now resides in Ecuador where she leads yoga and meditation workshops.


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Sam

Sam has a degree in Political Science from the University of California-Davis and holds an MA in Near and Middle Eastern Studies from the University of London. His interest in teaching and linguistics began as a volunteer teacher to Iranian and Afghan asylum seekers. He was TESL certified in 2011 and moved to Turkey, where he worked as a university language instructor and taught English and the TOEFL exam to Syrian refugees. More recently, Sam was the English Department manager in an international school in the Kurdish region of Iraq. He has over a decade of teaching experience and currently resides in Istanbul. His interests include history, studying foreign languages, and traveling.

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Gina-Marie

Gina-Marie was born in New York and has lived and worked in Germany, the United Kingdom, and Japan. She started her teaching career in 2001 and began teaching English in 2009. She earned her TESOL/TEFL license in the UK in 2013 and has worked with students of all ages since then. Her hobbies include art, travel, reading, listening to music, and learning. She currently lives in Tokyo with her husband and two cats.

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Raymond

Raymond’s love of language, culture, and teaching led him to move to Thailand to teach in 2001 and then to China to teach high school and university in Haerbin, Shenzhen, and Guangzhou. Since then, he has taught English in a variety of online contexts, including while living in Colombia and teaching at the Universidad Tecnológica de Pereira. His efforts to learn foreign languages, like Spanish and Chinese, have made him sensitive to the needs of English learners. Raymond holds an MBA with a focus in economics and finance, a Master of Common Law, and a Bachelor of Business Education with a business teaching certification from the State of Florida. In his free time, he enjoys jiujitsu, gaming, rock climbing, and travel.

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Kristie

Kristie obtained a PhD in veterinary medicine and an MS in Comparative Biomedical Sciences at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She is TESOL-certified and loves helping English Language Learners in the sciences. She is also a Registered Yoga Teacher and is learning to chant in Sanskrit! She lives in Greenfield, Wisconsin.

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Mike

Mike graduated from Bristol University with a Bachelor’s Degree in Business Administration and he earned his TEFL certification in Bangkok, Thailand. His hobbies include graphic design and electronic dance music(EDM). He is an EDM producer and musician with credits on the Thai Public Broadcasting Station and songs ranked in the Top 100 on major global music websites. He has been teaching students all over the world for more than 15 years.

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Ben

Ben has spent most of his life in Japan. He came to Japan at age six and attended an international school in Tokyo. Upon graduating from high school, he returned to the United States for a short time to attend North Park University in Chicago, Illinois. Since 2003 he has been living and teaching in Tokyo as a physical education and music teacher, while completing his studies in Sport Management from the University of New Hampshire. Ben also works for the Japan professional basketball and volleyball leagues as a media statistician, and is a musician in a variety of bands and music groups that travel all over Japan.

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Rachel

Rachel traveled around Southeast Asia after earning a degree in technology education. She fell in love with the cultures and languages during her time abroad. In 2016, Rachel began to teach in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Since then, she has enjoyed teaching classes to young learners and adults from North Africa, the Middle East, and Central Asia. When Rachel's not teaching, she's usually at home with her daughter, hiking in the jungle, or chatting with friends over a good cup of coffee.

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Jessica

Jessica earned her BA in Social Sciences, with a minor in Geography, at Chico State. After graduation, she moved to New Mexico where she began teaching English language learners from Mexico and Japan. She later earned her Master's in TESOL at Portland State, lived in Peru and Japan (twice!) where she taught English to learners of all ages. Her love of travel and connecting with people from around the globe inspires Jessica to share experiences and continue learning.

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Asad

Asad earned his BA in International Affairs from the University of Georgia. After spending a year in South Korea as a Fulbright grantee, he went on to teach English in Vietnam and Taiwan before returning to the United States for his MA in TESOL at Portland State University. Asad has formal training in French, Arabic, Korean, and Vietnamese.

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Elsa

Elsa earned her BA in Psychology and Spanish at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. After graduating, she completed her TESL certification, taught English in South Korea for one year, and then taught English to elementary school students in Portland, Oregon. Through these experiences, Elsa discovered her passion for teaching and went on to pursue her Master’s in TESOL at Portland State University in Oregon. Elsa speaks Spanish and Korean, but would like to learn many other languages! She loves to travel, play video games, go hiking, and listen to music.  

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Jeremy

Jeremy is from Upstate New York and has a Bachelor of Science degree in Education. For the past 10 years, he has enjoyed working abroad in Japan, Hong Kong, and now Thailand. In addition to his work as an English teacher, he is a certified and internationally recognized ice hockey game official supervisor and coach. In his spare time, he enjoys road trips, golf, and yoga.

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Suzanne

Suzanne earned her BA in Multilingual Education at Florida State University with a major in French and a minor in Spanish. After a brief stint of teaching French and Spanish in Florida, she decided to teach English as a foreign language overseas. She taught English to university students, children, and adults in South Korea for 20 years. During that time, she earned her MA in TESOL from the University of London, and her PhD in Naturopathic Medicine. When she isn’t teaching, Suzanne enjoys working out, hiking, swimming, reading, listening to podcasts, and spending time in nature.

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