Meet the Team

Marla Heath


Marla Heath, a graduate of Indiana University and the Philadelphia Academy of Vocal Arts, brings to the ESL classroom an extensive music and performing arts background.  She is an accomplished performing artist and voice over actor.  From her years of experience as a performer and now as an effective instructor, Ms. Heath's first priority is to continue to encourage and motivate students through the learning process.  Currently, on the ESL Teaching Staff at Sacred Heart University and Norwalk Community College.

Noel Cleary


Noel has been an instructor in ELI since 2012 and has taught grammar, writing and pronunciation.

He has earned the following qualifications over the years: B.A. (English), M.A. (Teaching), MAT (Religious Studies), Higher Diploma in Education (Ireland), Diploma TEFL (Ireland) and PGC in TESOL (Scotland). He is also certified IELTS examiner.

He has taught ESL for many years in the U.S., Ireland, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia at secondary, baccalaureate and post-baccalaureate levels, and in industry and the military.

He is married, has 3 children and 6 grandchildren and likes to hike, run, swim and play tennis. 

Lisa Newman

Lisa Newman has been an instructor in the ESL program since 2012 and currently serves as Director of the Online ESL program, which she launched for the English Language Institute in 2013. Read more about the online ESL program.

Lisa earned her Master of Arts in English Education from the University of Connecticut and her Bachelor of Arts in English from the University of Rhode Island. She has taught secondary English in the Connecticut public schools since 2004 and English and composition at Norwalk Community College since 2007.

With additional experience in technology and web design, Lisa is passionate about educational technology, social media, and online education. She is excited to utilize this background to oversee the growth of online learning at the English Language Institute.

Lisa is also a proud mom to her three children. She enjoys reading, traveling with her husband, spending time outdoors and learning about different people and cultures. 

David Bedell

David Bedell

David has been an instructor in the ESL program since 2012. He has a Master of Arts in TESOL and a Bachelor of Arts in Linguistics with Computer Applications. He began his career as an English teacher in China and over the years has taught ESL in colleges and adult education programs in Connecticut, Alabama, and Kansas. He is especially interested in helping students to develop and appreciate multiple learning strategies.

In addition to ESL, David has worked in the field of global health, and, as a Connecticut Justice of the Peace, he performs wedding ceremonies (often for international couples). He serves on the board of Teachers Against Prejudice, a grassroots organization promoting understanding and respect for all.

Jon De Benedictis

Jon De Benedictis is a Recruiter/Admissions Coordinator for University College, the part-time undergraduate studies program at Sacred Heart University.  For more than a decade, he has taught English, writing, and public speaking to students of all ages.  Jon has presented at conferences for UPCEA (University Professional Continuing Education Association) and CONNTESOL (Connecticut Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages) on the importance of recruiting a culturally-diverse student body and the significance of preparing ESL students for academic success in the United States.  As a writer, Jon’s articles on higher education have appeared in La Tribuna CT and The Haitian Voice of Connecticut have been published in five different languages.  Jon is a two-time alumnus of Sacred Heart University, where he holds an MA in Communications and a BA in Media Studies.  

Richard Bruce Stirling

Richard Bruce Stirling

Professor Stirling is a TOEFL expert with five TOEFL books in print, one of which has been translated into Chinese. His business texts include Don’t Bury the Message, Speaking and Writing Strategies for Business Professionals. Professor Stirling has taught at the University of Connecticut, Southern Connecticut State University, and at the University of New Haven. His latest TOEFL book, No Time for TOEFL! will be published in the summer of 2015.

Donna Tagliarino


Donna is an accomplished communications professional with over twenty years of experience in teaching, training and media production. She is passionate about helping people improve their lives by improving their communication skills.  Donna has worked with students and professionals at every level, from classrooms to corporate boardrooms, on their interpersonal communications and public speaking skills.  She loves working with people from all over the world.

Donna received her Master of Arts in Educational Technology from Fairfield University and her Bachelor of Science in Radio-TV-Film Production from the University of Texas.  She is currently working on obtaining Connecticut TESOL certification.

Originally from Austin, TX, Donna loves music, tennis, yoga and dogs of all kinds.  Her husband, Scott, is also a communications professional, and they have two children, Nicholas and Leah.