The people who teach and work at HELP come from a wide background of language use and experience. Our close affiliation with the renowned Department of Second Language Studies at the University of Hawaiʻi makes us a solid choice for ESL/EFL learning, but it is our teachers and staff members that truly make us a unique institution. We simply think we have the best of the best!

Joel Weaver – Director

I was born and grew up in Kinshasa, Congo in central Africa. I came to Hawaii in 1986 to get my Master’s degree in teaching English, and have taught English at all levels in Africa, Micronesia, California, and Hawaii. I have been a teacher trainer, materials developer and language school administrator as well. Here at HELP, I am honored to lead a wonderful team of teachers and administrators who pour their hearts and minds into providing an absolutely incredible experience for all who come here to study. In my free time, I like spending time with my family and enjoying the ocean and other natural wonders of Hawaii. Come join us here in paradise–the most remote and most beautiful islands in the world. My staff and I are eager to give you the chance of a lifetime to learn English and store up golden memories to carry home!

Gina Redila – Assistant Director

I was born in the Philippines, moved to Guam when I was 3, came to Hawaii at 17, and have lived here a little over 30 years. I have a BA in Humanities, with a specialization in English Literature, an MA in Adult Education and Training from the University of Phoenix, and a second MA in TESOL from Hawaii Pacific University. I have been with HELP since 2013 and enjoyed every minute of it! In my free time, I like to hang out with my family every chance I get, and of course, cook for others when I can. As a former ESL learner, I was inspired to give back to the community like many teachers before me—dedicating their time and talent to diverse learners of English. HELP has an awesome academic English program and a learning environment full of many dedicated instructors. E komo mai!

Kimberly Imamura – Registrar & Front Office Manager

Aloha! I was born and raised here in sunny Hawaii on the Leeward side of Oahu. I graduated with a BBA in Human Resource Management from the University of Hawaii at Manoa with a minor in Japanese. For three years, I was a participant on the JET program in snowy Nagano, Japan, where I taught English to Elementary and Jr. High school students. Upon returning to Hawaii, I received my Masters of Education in Educational Administration for Higher Education. Here in Hawaii, I love hiking, shopping, and karaoke. Where there’s snow, I love snowboarding, and at HELP, I love helping out students! If you have any questions or concerns, feel free to drop by the Front Office and we will do our best to “HELP” you out.

Caitlyn Cagaoan – Admin & Fiscal Support

Hello! Born and raised here in the Aloha State, I also graduated from UH Manoa. I lived in sister city Uwajima, Japan for five years while on the JET Program and taught English to learners from middle school students to adults. When I returned to Hawaii, I assisted with the Diverse Learners Program at University Laboratory School before coming to work at HELP. I’ve also traveled to Korea, Philippines, Thailand, France, and New Zealand. In my free time, I love watching dramas and reading manga. I enjoy listening to a wide variety of music, so give me your recommendations! Come by to the Front Office, we’re here to HELP!

Chris Folan – Study & Stay Housing Coordinator

Aloha and welcome to Hawaii. I am originally from Seattle and earned my BSEE from the University of Washington. I also attended the University of San Francisco pursuing an MBA in International Business.

I’ve lived in San Francisco, Hong Kong and now Hawaii working in education, sales, marketing and management positions.

I was responsible for managing and launching education programs in Asia, this expanded to worldwide responsibility.

We moved to Honolulu to raise our two young children, Jesse and Elise. My kids are in college pursuing their dreams.

My interests include travel, tennis, pickleball, swimming, snorkeling, walking, skiing, reading and hanging out with my family and friends.

Stacey Kastar – Study & Stay Housing Coordinator

Aloha future students! I want to welcome you to your temporary Pacific island home. I am an Alaskan who has spent 20+ years on Oahu where I graduated from UHM. I have experienced homestay as a student as well as dorm life. Travelled to approximately 35 countries, and very much love to learn about cultural differences and similarities between the world’s populations. I have a son. We enjoy hiking the Oahu trails and jumping in the ocean. I think when young people open their minds to foreign experiences, it enriches them forever. Come and enrich your life ! see you soon. Stacey

Sandra Iwamura – Service Learning Coordinator & Instructor

I was born and raised in Honolulu, HI. I graduated from the University of Hawaii and have a Bachelor’s degree in Asian Studies and TESL. After graduating from UH, I got a chance to work in Japan for 3 years, specifically in Saga Prefecture. It was a great experience to work in a foreign country! I’ve had many jobs in my life, but teaching English is the most rewarding because of all the great friendships I’ve made throughout the years! Sports is my passion, but I also enjoy doing yard work and eating! Running and soccer are my favorite things to do on the weekend! I’m proud to call Hawaii my home and would love to share it with you someday at HELP!

Kristen Urada – Internship Coordinator & Instructor

Aloha! My name is Kristen and I was born and raised right here on the island of Oahu! I graduated with three Bachelor of Arts degrees in Biology, Japanese, and Second Language Studies from the University of Hawaiʻi at Manoa (UHM). I then earned my Master of Arts degree in 2018 in Second Language Studies at UHM. Currently, I am a PhD candidate in Second Language Studies at UHM with research interests in task-based language teaching and Hawaiʻi Creole (more commonly referred to as Pidgin by us locals). On the fun side, I have four dogs and so most of my free time is spent spoiling them. If I’m not with my dogs, I’m out foodventuring.

Grace Choi – Instructor

I am originally from Korea, but I have been living in Hawaii for over 15 years. I got my MA in Second Language Studies with a specialization in second language acquisition in 2005 and the Advanced Graduate Certificate in Second Language Studies (AGC) in 2006 from UH. I have been with HELP since 2004, and I really feel blessed to be a part of this wonderful program. I have taught English to all age groups, and I enjoy meeting and interacting with students from around the world. In my free time, I like to spend time with my family and go walking. Hawaii is a perfect place to live and HELP is in the center of Hawaii. I hope you will join us in Hawaii and become a part of our amazing HELP family.

Ayano Kawasaki – Instructor

I’m originally from Niigata, Japan–which is famous for the best brand of rice and lots of snow–but have spent most of my life in Tokyo for my career. I have taught English at Japanese high school and international university as well as the Community Language Program in New York.

To further improve my own English teaching skills and contribute to the improvement of the English education in Japan, I quit my job and am currently pursuing a PhD in Second Language Studies at UHM.

In the past, I have switched back and forth between Japan and the US: I studied as an exchange student in Minnesota, earned a TEFL certificate from University of California, Irvine, and graduated with a MA in TESOL from Teachers College, Columbia University, as a Fulbright Scholar.

I have dedicated my entire life to learning and teaching. In my free time, I love to travel around the world, play musical instruments (piano & oboe), and watch Disney movies and American sitcoms on Netflix etc. I’m so excited to work with you all!

Jeanine Markley – Instructor

My name is Jeanine Markley and I represent midwestern USA on our team at HELP. I am originally from St. Louis, Missouri but have spent the majority of my adult life exploring worlds near and far.

I will be a Graduate Assistant with the HELP program this year and am pursuing my Master’s degree in Second Language Studies. I started my English language instruction path over 10 years ago through volunteer work at the International Institute of St. Louis, editing my international friends’ CVs, and helping international colleagues with their pronunciation. After receiving the Certificate in English Language Teaching to Adults (CELTA) at UH-Mānoa in 2019, I joined the HELP team and stepped into the classroom environment. Since 2019, I’ve worked in a variety of capacities in a variety of English language learning environments including at Global Village Hawaii, IIE Hawaii (Institute of Intensive English), and Roosevelt High School.

However, my educational journey started with a focus on Violin Performance and took me to Connecticut; Mannheim, Germany; Ann Arbor, Michigan; Helsinki, Finland; South Beach Miami; Copenhagen, Denmark; and finally Honolulu.

I have great empathy for the challenges my students encounter as adult learners of a language because I also lived abroad on three separate occasions spanning 10 years total – and I also dealt with learning a new language, navigating a new set of cultural rules, and figuring out how to apply for study, work, and residency permits. I started learning German at the age of 19, and Danish at the age of 28. After many years of sustained effort, I managed to achieve a C1 (CEFR) language proficiency level in each language, which gave me the qualifications necessary to attend university-level courses in both languages. I’ve been on the same path as many of my students and I know they can achieve their language dreams with continued persistence!

Timothy Martin – Instructor

Hello All, I’m Tim. Over the years, I have had the opportunity to teach in several countries including Turkey, Thailand, and Japan. I have met many delightful students along the way. The pleasure has been all mine.

Tad Matsunaga – Instructor

Tad Matsunaga started working with HELP in the summer of 2022. He has taught Special Summer Programs, Writing, Reading, and currently International Business, also Tourism Workshop.

I enjoy meeting HELP’s International Students from China, Japan, Brazil, Korea, France, etc. One of my greatest joys is seeing students realize that their time spent in Hawai’i and with HELP has indeed transformed their lives and changed them to be better than before.

Maihan Nguyen – Instructor

Hello, my name is Mai Nguyen. I have been teaching at HELP for one year, but I have been teaching English as a second language for a long time. I have taught various levels of English from beginning to advanced. I am happy to help students improve their language skills as I know learning a new language is not always easy. In the classroom, I pay attention to each student and make sure they feel comfortable and confident to express themselves in English. In my free time, I like to read and write and watch Youtube videos about foods and travel. That’s all about me.

Magdalena Petko – Instructor

Originally from Kiel, Germany, I have lived in Hawai’i for over eleven years now. I have a BA in Second Language Studies and German and an MA degree in Second Language Studies from the University of Hawai’i. I joined the HELP ‘Ohana’ in January 2020 as a teacher. ‘Ohana’ means family in Hawaiian and describes how it feels to be a part of this program. When I am not teaching at HELP, I like to spend time with my husband, children, and friends. You can find me in the ocean (surfing, swimming, snorkeling) or exploring the island trails. Come join our program so we can create memories together!

David Riggs – Instructor

I was born and raised in upstate New York. My hometown, Elmira, is the home of Tommy Hilfiger and also where Mark Twain is buried. After high school I studied at the University of Arizona for one year and the University of Washington in Seattle for three years. I majored in East Asian Studies at Washington, and have two Masters degrees, one in TESL from the School for International Training in Brattleboro, Vermont, and the other a Master’s in Japanese Language from UH Manoa. I have taught English in Japan for fourteen years, Beijing, China for one year, and Puebla, Mexico for three months. I also taught Japanese language classes at Chaminade University for ten years. My hobbies are reading, watching sports in person and on TV, and also swimming. I have participated in 45 open water competitions in Hawaii. My wife, Ayako, is from Tokyo. My 26 year old daughter, Sara, is a 2018 graduate of UH Manoa.

Jasmine Stevens – Instructor

I’m originally from Michigan, but I moved to Hawaii 10 years ago! I graduated with a BA from the Second Language Studies Department here at the University of Hawaii at Manoa, and I’m pursuing my MA in TESOL from Arizona State University. In addition, I received my Certificate in English Language Teaching to Adults (CELTA) in 2019. I joined the HELP Program in Fall 2021 and have been here ever since! When I’m not teaching, I like to spend my time reading as much as possible or enjoying some video games with friends and family. So, feel free to come and chat with me about videos after class!