Mary Grace
PLL Executive Director

Mary K. Grace, M.Ed., Executive Director

Mary is the founding Executive Director of Partnerships for Literacy and Learning.  Prior to that, she was the Director of the Vermont Reads Institute at UVM for 12 years.  Over the course of her career, she has focused on high quality professional development for educators, adult learning theory, and program development.  She began her work in education as an adult basic education teacher and the Director of Literacy Programs at the Vermont Humanities Council.  In addition to her dedication to literacy and learning, Mary has served on the Council of the Vermont Women’s Fund and is the Vice-Chair of Central Vermont Adult Basic Education.  She lives in Morrisville, Vermont with her husband and two children.


Ellen A. Thompson, Ed.D., Literacy Consultant

PLL Literacy Consultant

Ellen A. Thompson has been an educator for over 43 years.  She taught as a classroom teacher in Vermont for over twenty years with many of those years in a multiage setting teaching children aged 6-9 years of age. Ellen was named the Vermont State Teacher of the Year in 1993 and she achieved her National Board Certification as an Early Childhood Generalist in 1999. Ellen began consulting nationally in 1993 and has continued this work throughout her years as an educator.  Upon leaving the classroom, Ellen joined the Elementary Education literacy faculty at the University of Vermont in 2000.  At the University, she taught undergraduate literacy courses, supervised student teachers and also worked as a literacy consultant in two large scale literacy research projects which spanned the grades K-6. For twelve years Ellen worked with the Essex Town School District as the Director of Instruction and Information Services.  During this time, Ellen completed her doctoral studies in Educational Leadership and Policy Studies at the University of Vermont in the fall of 2007.  After the merging of the Essex Town School District and the Chittenden Central Supervisory Union, Ellen continued working with educators in the newly created Essex Westford School District as the Director of Learning Design.  Ellen is currently a literacy consultant for Partnerships in Literacy and Learning.


Melanie Stultz-Backus, M.Ed., Literacy Consultant

PLL Literacy Consultant

Melanie is a retired English teacher whose career spanned thirty years at Mount Abraham Union High School in Bristol, Vermont. She first worked as a Chapter I teacher of reading, collaborating in many classrooms across the disciplines in Grades 7-12; next, she taught an array of required and elective courses in grades 9-12.  American Studies, a course in 20th century Literature, History and Culture she team-taught for over twenty years, was critical to her growth as a practitioner of collaborative teaching and performance based learning. Influenced by mentors from her high school and college years, she strove to make student agency central to her teaching. Mount Abraham’s early initiative of a school-within-a-school focused on both personalized learning and rigorous development of competencies and performance based assessments. Melanie was privileged to integrate her roles as teacher leader, literacy coach and English instructor into efforts to refine and forward the goals of the Performance Assessment Working Group under the Investing in Innovation (i3) grant through the Center for Secondary School Redesign (CSSR, Providence, RI). This culminating experience deepened her interest and expertise in authentic learning, the art of coaching, and cooperative approaches to professional development as exemplified by Critical Friends Groups’ philosophies. She treasured her twenty-year tenure as a member of the Coordinating Committee of the New England Young Writers’ Conference at Breadloaf. In 2008 Melanie was named a UVM Outstanding Teacher for the Addison Northeast Supervisory Union.


Lisa V. Driver, Ed.D., Literacy Consultant

Lisa V. Driver
PLL Literacy Consultant

Lisa has been an educator for over 35 years in Vermont schools as a middle school teacher, literacy coach, literacy interventionist, and literacy coordinator. In 1993 she was named a UVM Outstanding Teacher for the FWSU Supervisory Union. Lisa completed her doctoral studies in Educational Leadership and Policy Studies at the University of Vermont in the spring of 2010. Over the course of her career, she has worked to develop high quality adolescent literacy instruction with a special emphasis on struggling readers and writers. She has a passion for providing literacy instruction to ALL students. Lisa is currently a literacy consultant for Partnerships in Literacy and Learning. She lives in Georgia, Vermont with her husband spending springtime making VT maple syrup!


Sarah Miller M.Ed, Literacy Consultant

PLL Literacy Consultant

Sarah Miller has worked with teachers and students in Vermont schools since 2009. Prior to that, she began her career working with K-8 Dreamers at the “I Have a Dream” Foundation of Boulder County. Since then, Sarah has taught middle school English-Language Arts and Social Studies.  She has also served as both a school and a district Literacy Instructional Coach in Chittenden County. In 2012, Sarah completed her M.Ed. at Saint Michael’s College in Reading. Across her years in education, Sarah has been focused on engaging readers and writers in meaningful ways, with access to literature and nonfiction that is relevant and accessible. She is particularly interested in supporting young people in developing robust reading and writing identities that build on their lives, interests, and passions. Sarah has worked to build vibrant literate communities in schools. Currently, Sarah is a literacy consultant with Partnerships for Literacy and Learning. She lives in Underhill, Vermont with her husband, son, daughter, two dogs, and a cat. 


Audrey Richardson, Ph.D., NEXIS Program Coordinator

Audrey NEXIS
PLL NEXIS Program Coordinator

Audrey has been an educator for over 15 years as a high school English Teacher, literacy interventionist and literacy coach in Woodstock, Vermont.  Audrey is a graduate of The University of Vermont with a Ph.D. in Educational Leadership and Policy Studies.  Audrey’s central focus, in both her research and work with PLL, is the implementation of equitable systems that support literacy learning for ALL students. As PLL’s NEXIS coordinator Audrey is committed to bringing education stakeholders together from around the state to engage in actionable literacy change.  Audrey lives in Taftsville, Vermont with her dairy farmer husband and two daughters.



Barbara Murphy, Office Manager

PLL Office Manager

Barbara joined PLL 3 years ago bringing with her over 45 years of managerial and bookkeeping experience. For over 29 of those years she worked wearing many different hats at an advertising based franchise company. With her passion for helping people she was thrilled to become part of the Non-Profit sector. An added benefit to this was working with an amazing group of people who are dedicated to enriching the lives of children. She lives in Warren with her high school sweetheart and husband of 50 years and is surrounded by her loving family, friends and 2 beautiful grandchildren.



Karen Weeks, M.Ed. Media Coordinator

PLL Media Coordinator

Karen Weeks joined Partnerships for Literacy and Learning in October of 2019 after retiring from a 35 year career in teaching and school administration. Karen taught in elementary classrooms although the majority of her career was in special education, with a specific focus on literacy instruction. She was a district level Director of Special Education and her last years were with her favorite age level student, as a principal at a middle school. Middle school students keep you young! Karen has served on the board at the Lamoille Restorative Center for many years. She’s enjoying working with PLL as well as spending time with her husband, two grown daughters and 9 grandchildren.