Staff & Board
An Asheville native, Ashley Vandewart Lasher has a deep love for Western North Carolina. She wants Buncombe County residents to have the same fulfilling community experience that she grew up with, so she chose a career in non-profit leadership.
Ashley is a graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill with a degree in Journalism and Mass Communication and a minor in Women’s Studies. She has worked in nonprofit fundraising and leadership in Buncombe County since 2005. Her first introduction to the Literacy Council was as a guest at the original Authors for Literacy Dinner & Silent Auction. As a lifelong reader and writer, she was immediately drawn to the Literacy Council’s mission and program impact. After nearly three years as the Literacy Council’s Development Director, she became the Executive Director in Nov. 2012.
Outside of the Literacy Council, Ashley serves on the board of the Asheville Jewish Community Center. She enjoys reading to her daughter, crafting, and spending time outdoors with her husband, daughter, and two dogs.
Erin, a lover of languages and cultural exchange, believes she has the perfect job.
“Helping immigrants communicate in the language of their new home is especially rewarding because of the empowerment that comes for them,” Erin says. “I just glow every time I hear that one of our ESOL students has gotten a promotion, found a better job, or been able to help a child with homework.”
Erin lists some pretty impressive credentials for managing the Literacy Council’s English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) program. She earned a B.A. in German from San Diego State University, a master’s degree in cross-cultural education from National University in San Diego, and a California teaching certificate. She has five years experience teaching English, German, and Spanish to middle and high school students and ESOL to adults, as well as teaching English and math while living in Tijuana, Mexico for two years. Erin is a ProLiteracy certified trainer, past president of the Asheville Area Director of Volunteers in Agencies (DOVIA), and member of the executive board of Carolina Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL).
Working at the Literacy Council since 2005, Erin conducts all ESOL tutor trainings and oversees all ESOL tutor volunteer activities. She remarks, “Our volunteer tutors are folks who care enough to give freely of their time, talents, and love. I am continually humbled and inspired by both our students and our volunteers!”
Erin ’s home life revolves around husband, Sam, two children, Elan and Marlise, and their dog, T-Bone. She likes to read and travel whenever possible.
Adult Education and Augustine Project® Director
Lily has seen multi-sensory language instruction work in the inner city of Chicago (her hometown) and in the deserts of Arizona. Now that she resides in beautiful Buncombe County, she vows to do her part to spread the love of literacy throughout Western North Carolina. Lily feels incredibly fortunate to work at the Literacy Council as the Adult Education and Augustine Project® Director among such inspiring students and tutors.
Lily’s career began as a teacher of deaf children. In this role, she learned the importance of early language skills as it relates to literacy. Lily became fluent in American Sign Language in order to communicate concepts with her students and implemented Cued Speech in order to provide a visual/tactile method of understanding phonics, letter sounds, rhyming skills, and patterns of written language. Lily’s deaf students, contrary to widely held expectations, learned to read at or near grade level.
Her passion ignited, Lily branched out and taught literacy skills to children, teens and adults with dyslexia, dysgraphia, apraxia, auditory and visual processing disorders, ADD/ADHD, Autism Spectrum Disorder, Academically Gifted students and students with other learning differences. She then began to train parents, teachers and other professionals in the use of multi-sensory strategies including Orton-Gillingham, Wilson, Cued Speech and American Sign Language.
Outside of the Literacy Council, Lily enjoys spending time with family and friends, she sings in a barbershop-style show chorus, creates mixed media artwork, relishes nature walks in any kind of weather, and is a voracious reader.
Office Manager and ESOL Specialist
Born and raised in Kazan, Russia – a large city 600 miles from Moscow, Irina came to the U.S. in 1994 following the collapse of the Soviet Union. She adopted Asheville as her new home when her husband secured a research position in the area. Irina began studying English with the Literacy Council and soon became an ESOL tutor herself, working with students from the Ukraine. In 2000, she joined the Literacy Council staff.
“Our students and their stories make my job especially meaningful. I know first hand how difficult it is for adults to learn a new language,” Irina remembers. “It is very hard work. At the Literacy Council, we see small but significant victories every day. It’s really rewarding to give people something now that helps them long term.”
Irina earned a masters degree in Physics from Kazan State University and taught math courses at the Kazan State Power Engineering University. She and her husband, Airat, have two grown sons and enjoy reading, hiking, and traveling.
LuAnn Arena has a strong background in literacy tutoring. LuAnn first became a literacy tutor in her hometown of Rochester, NY. After spending several years traveling the U.S. as a musician she returned to school at SUNY New Paltz earning a BFA in Graphic Design. She has run a successful freelance design business since 2006. LuAnn relocated to Asheville in the fall of 2013 and returned to tutoring at the Literacy Council of Buncombe County. LuAnn was ready for a change and the opportunity to become a team member of the Literacy Council’s staff was the perfect fit. LuAnn is looking forward to using her skills in support of the Literacy Council and its mission. In her off time LuAnn enjoys making music and art as well as practicing yoga, biking, blading and reading. She also enjoys spoiling her friends and her two cats.
Recruitment and Awareness Coordinator
Niki is the Literacy Council’s 2016/17 AmeriCorps Member. She has a background in social justice education, formerly working in Intercultural Affairs at Western Carolina University and the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. She recently completed her Master’s in Higher Education Administration at UNCG and holds a Political Science degree from North Carolina State University. Niki is deeply committed to community organizing and looks forward to playing an active role in literacy initatives. In her free time she enjoys hiking in the Pisgah National Forest, tubing down the river, long-distance running, and reading a good book outside.
Board of Directors
- Anne Bleynat, Ferikes & Bleynat
- Laurie Chess, Carolina Pediatric Therapy
- Aaron Dahlstrom, UNC-Asheville
- Greg Hammer (Vice-Chair), National Climatic Data Center
- Joe Mann-Stadt (Chair), M-S Consulting Services
- Debbie Motz-Bryenton (Treasurer), Eastern Outdoor Reps. Association
- Carrie Myers, NC Outward Bound School
- Karen Pauly (Secretary), A-B Tech
- Leah Quintal, JB Media Group
- Barbara Kolack Veach, Community Volunteer
- Kelly Stokes CPA, Dixon Hughes Goodman LLP