Our Instructors


Tim Cavnar
I’m originally from Ann Arbor, Michigan, and I graduated from the University of Michigan with a BA in English. After graduating, I taught in China for three years: first at Shihezi University in Xinjiang province, China, as a Princeton in Asia fellow, and then in a variety of teaching roles in Shanghai. I’ve enjoyed teaching English to people from many age groups (from three-year-olds to university professors), but I especially love the unique learning opportunities of working with college students. As a current Master’s student in UW-Madison’s Applied English Linguistics program, my passion is English—reading it, teaching it, and learning about its history and quirks. Beyond that, I love food (the weirder, the better), heavy metal, guitars, and cats.

Contact: tcavnar@wisc.edu
Kristin Dalby
I started teaching English in South Korea in 2000. After that, I was hooked and went on to earn a Master's in Applied Linguistics and Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages from Leicester University in the UK. I have enjoyed many different kinds of classrooms, from business English to English for academic purposes, from intensive English programs to teacher training and even exam preparation. My English language teaching career has taken me to a variety of cities including Prague, Auckland, Christchurch, Jeonju and Seoul. However, Wisconsin is home! I am fortunate to teach some of the best and brightest international students in the world here at UW-Madison.  I hope you will join us on this vibrant campus and become a fellow Sconnie!

Contact: kdalby@wisc.edu
Hadis Ghaedi
I have been teaching English Language and Literature since 2009. I began teaching English in the ESL program at UW-Madison in Fall 2014. I am currently a PhD student in English Language and Linguistics. I hold a Master’s in Teaching English as a Foreign Language from Shiraz University in Iran. I always have a passion for learning languages and cultures and nothing can amuse me more than that and I hope that it would result in a major transformation in my thinking and understanding. Coming from any culture or language, you are always welcome in my office and also feel free to email me so that we can share our knowledge of languages and cultures.

Contact: ghaedi@wisc.edu
Tracy Iftikar
I was born in China and immigrated to the U.S. when I was 2 years old. I’ve been teaching English since 1998 and have taught adult immigrants in Los Angeles, hospitality workers in Boston, college students in Japan, and international students in Los Angeles and Madison. I hold a Master’s in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages from California State University in Los Angeles and a Bachelor of Arts in Chinese with a minor in Education from University of California Los Angeles. I enjoy reading, running, watching football, and spending time with my family. I’ve been part of the UW-Madison ESL program since 2012.

Contact: tracy.iftikar@wisc.edu
Jane Koenig
I have been teaching English for more than 25 years. I received my Master’s Degree in Applied English Linguistics from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 1987 and I’ve been teaching in the UW-Madison ESL program ever since.  Previously, I taught English in Japan.   I love to see the world, and have traveled extensively in Asia–Nepal, India, Thailand, Burma, China, Korea, Singapore, Hong Kong, and Sri Lanka. I’ve also traveled extensively in the U.S., Europe and some in Mexico. I enjoy meeting international students from around the world in my classes because this helps me to be connected to the world and travel. I live in Madison, where I enjoy riding my bike and hanging out with friends and family. I have two teenagers, one in high school and the other in college. I was born and grew up in Calgary, Alberta, Canada  where I loved downhill skiing in the Rockies. Now, I love cross-country skiing in Wisconsin, where the rolling hills pretend to be mountains. I’m looking forward to meeting you.

Contact: jakoenig@wisc.edu

Renee Lajak

I come from Wisconsin, but I’ve also lived and taught English in Japan and Indonesia. I received a master’s in Curriculum and Instruction with an emphasis on teaching English from UW-Milwaukee.  I’ve taught students of all ages and levels, and I’ve trained many English teachers, both here and abroad.  I love bad puns and good chocolate, biking, growing vegetables, and keeping in touch with friends all over the world. I hope to see you in my class one day soon!  

Contact: lajcak@wisc.edu

Adam Pergament

I've been a member of the UW ESL Program staff for over 15 years and before that lived and taught in Taiwan, ROC and Indonesia.  My MA is in Languages And Cultures of Asia with an emphasis on Chinese and Japanese literature and religion.  I co-edited the Minne/Witesol Journal from 2011-13 and have experience teaching all levels of academic English from intermediate under-graduates to those working on their Ph.D. dissertations and research journal articles for publication.  In 2014 and 2015, I was selected by Madison Magazine as one of the best spoken word artists in the city.   I grew up in St. Paul, Minnesota and love to travel, listen to music and write poetry.  UW-Madison is really an exciting campus and perhaps I will get the chance to meet you here soon!

Contact: agpergam@wisc.edu

Lidka Rao
I discovered my passion for teaching English as a second language in 2000 when, guided mostly by my curiosity, I enrolled in and completed a TEFL program here in Madison. After receiving my Master’s Degree in English and Music Education from Masaryk University in the Czech Republic in 2002, I was fortunate to be able to return to Madison and continue to pursue my interest in teaching here at the University of Wisconsin. I received both my Master’s Degree in Applied English Linguistics and TESOL certificate in 2005 from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and have been part of the wonderful ESL team ever since. I have taught English in the Czech Republic, Argentina, and the US to students of varied of levels and backgrounds. I love teaching grammar and writing, but I find teaching reading and oral skills just as rewarding. In my free time I sing with the UW Madrigal Singers, do puzzles, read, bake, and travel, but most importantly spend time with my family, enjoying the outdoors during all seasons. 

Contact: lmikulasova@wisc.edu
Parthy Schachter
I was born here in Madison and I grew up here, so I know the city really well! I went to UW for my undergraduate degree, and then I studied for my Master’s degree in English as a Second Language at the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities. I spent two years living in Israel and now I speak Hebrew at home with my family. I have also studied Arabic and I lived in Morocco for one summer. I love animals, especially cats, rabbits, and chickens. When I’m not at work I’m usually reading, growing vegetables in my garden, and playing with my son. I have been teaching in the ESL program at UW since 2011 and I enjoy helping students improve their writing and grammar skills as well as their confidence with spoken English. I think that students who come to study in the U.S. from other countries are very brave!

Contact: pbschachter@wisc.edu
Iman Sheydaei Baghdadeh
I started teaching English in 2009 when I started a graduate program in Teaching English as a Foreign Language at the University of Tehran in Iran. I came to UW-Madison on a Fulbright scholarship and taught Persian for a year on campus. When I started my Ph.D. program in English Language and Linguistics at UW-Madison, I taught Asian American studies at the Department of History. I have also taught critical writing and thinking with the Summer Collegiate Experience program at UW-Madison. And here I am now, teaching ESL at my own department. I love the vibrant dynamics of an ESL class where we all learn from each other with our valuable and diverse repertoires of all the different cultures and languages that we bring to the classroom. I love teaching because I love learning and I learn from all of my students. I look forward to meeting you and learning from you.

Thatcher Spero
I’ve been teaching English since 2001 when I moved to Japan. There I lived in Tokyo and taught at Waseda University (mostly courses in ESL, intercultural communication, and English for Academic Purposes) until 2014. I’m originally from Boston, Massachusetts. I love experiencing and learning about cultural practices of different groups of people, and I have travelled all around the world. I read a lot and enjoy the challenge of learning new things (like new languages)! More than anything, I love spending time (especially doing outdoor activities) with my wife and my daughter, who is just 1 ½ years old. I have a BA in Psychology, an MA in Education Policy (focused on Global Studies of Education) and I am currently pursuing a PhD in Education Policy (with a concentration in Sociology and a focus on International Education). I love teaching, and I especially enjoy working with international students. I look forward to meeting you in Madison if you choose to come here to UW! 

Contact: tspero@wisc.edu
Glenn Starr
I've had the good fortune of teaching English for many years in both the People's Republic of China and the Republic of Korea. I'm now pursuing a Master's degree in Applied Linguistics here at the University of Wisconsin - Madison and am lucky enough to be able to continue teaching and meeting people from all over the world. I'm a local Wisconsinite and I have a wide variety of interests including hiking, cooking, ceramics, botany, art, philosophy and many others! I also like talking about all things under the sun with anyone who is willing to listen. I hope to talk with you soon here at UW-Madison.  

Contact: gstarr2@wisc.edu
Scott Stillar
My entire life has been dedicated to teaching and learning languages.  I have a B.A. in English Linguistics /Japanese studies and a M.A. in TESOL from the University of Nevada. I am currently working on a PhD in Second Language Acquisition here in Madison.  I most recently spent 13 years living in Japan teaching English and Intercultural Studies at schools such as Tsukuba University, Waseda and Hitotsubashi.  I enjoy martial arts, reading and spending time with my two wild daughters and wife.