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ESL Tutoring Program  

In response to the increasing number of seminarians who enter Immaculate Conception Seminary from countries in which English is not their first language, the Seminary instituted an English as a Second Language (ESL) program in 2008. The program is currently headed by Chandler S. Cohen, Coordinator of ESL Services, effective July 2014. Her primary responsibility is to assist seminarians in upgrading their English skills so that they can benefit more fully from the academic Theology courses offered by the Seminary. Ms. Cohen accomplishes this goal by planning, organizing and implementing the ESL program; coordinating with the University-wide Seton Hall University ESL program; serving as a liaison to archdiocesan, diocesan and University officials; implementing the Seminary's English tutorial program; participating in the University's Academic Resource Program's Consortium; and assessing the students and the Seminary's ESL program.

In the past six years, almost 60 percent of the Seminary population has participated to some degree in the ESL program. The dedication of the ESL program's many volunteer tutors, as well as that of staff member Sister Geraldine Romano, M.P.F., who has served on the Seminary staff as ESL Tutor since 2006, has been a major reason for the program's success. Seminarians for whom English is not their first language require assistance, encouragement, and reinforcement as they learn skills associated with reading comprehension, critical listening, academic writing, speaking and liturgical proclamation. The Seminary provides this assistance by assigning students to level-appropriate University ESL classes and by assigning each international seminarian to a personal tutor for at least one hour intensive instruction per week. In addition, the seminarians are encouraged to benefit from programs offered on campus, particularly the Language Resource Center, where they regularly practice their English skills through the use of interactive online programs. The Writing Center also assists students with organizing papers and editing.Gradual mastery of English language skills enables students to perform at a higher level, thereby facilitating the learning process in each individual class in which they are enrolled.Improvement in students' ability to comprehend, to speak and to write English contributes to the academic quality of the Seminary, which thereby strengthens the intellectual climate of the University as a whole.

Volunteer Tutors

John Coakley
John Coakley has served as a former associate professor of English at Salve Regina University, an instructor in Effective Writing at the U.S. Naval War College, Newport, Rhode Island and Chair of English Language and Literature at Bermuda College. After returning to the United States in 1994, he continued to pursue research interests in Literature of Incarceration, cultural history, religious anthropology and trends in American education, focusing on issues of student success and retention and teacher training.  He has held adjunct faculty appointments at Fairleigh Dickinson, Drew and Kean Universities and Stevens Institute of Technology. Until his retirement, he worked full-time as the Director of Composition and teacher in the Humanities Department at New Jersey Institute of Technology. His current volunteer activity includes tutoring in English as a Second Language at Immaculate Conception Seminary, editing a book of Naga folktales and guest teaching in college-level writing, elocution and art at St. Joseph’s College, Nagaland, India. He holds Master of Arts degrees from Hunter College and Brown University, as well as a Ph.D. from Brown.

Lydia Samatar
After two years of teaching high school English in Pennsylvania, Lydia volunteered to join a Mennonite agency which sent her to teach English to adults in Mogadishu, the capital of then-independent Somalia, where she joined a team of educators and medical personnel.  Eager to learn the Somali language, a task made all the more difficult as at that time it lacked any orthography, she worked toward near-fluency (although the “perennially modest” Lydia still jokes that she was “handicapped in Somali”!). Lydia spent seven years in Somalia and never saw the official written language until after leaving the country.  By then she had fallen in love with teaching ESL.  Later she settled in NJ and earned a Master’s Degree in TESL at Seton Hall University which enabled her to teach in the US.  Lydia then taught English at Jewish Vocational Service (JVS) in East Orange for 17 years.  Her students were refugees, primarily from Russia, and this intensive program enabled them to find entry-level jobs after several months of study.  She was also a Director of ESL, as well as an instructor at Upsala College in East Orange for three years preceding her career at JVS.

Currently retired, Lydia is delighted to use her skills in tutoring and happy to find an opportunity at ICS through friend and colleague, Chandler Cohen. She still enjoys the fascinating challenge of language learning and working with students!

Deborah Lerner Duane
A public relations professional since 1973, Deborah formed Lerner Duane Communication, LLC, a public relations consulting firm in 1990, representing business and nonprofit clients.  In 2012, Deborah received a Master of Arts degree in Jewish-Christian Studies from Seton Hall University. She is currently chairman of The Sister Rose Thering Fund for Education in Jewish-Christian Studies, and has served on the Maplewood/South Orange Interfaith Holocaust Remembrance Committee since 1996.  In 2008, she began volunteer ESL tutoring at the Seminary.  Deborah is happy to facilitate the seminarians' transition to life in America by assisting them as they gain fluency in English.  Her tutoring hours at ICS are among her favorite hours each week.

Marie Kelly
An ESL tutor at Immaculate Conception Seminary since 2009, Marie has worked as an administrative assistant for a Department Chair of Rutgers Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences and as instructor of adult education.  She considers tutoring a purposeful service to the community.  Marie is familiar with the adjustments one must make while adapting to life in a new country and particularly in an academic environment.  She is happy to be supportive of the seminarians and hopes her efforts will enhance their knowledge and enable them to respond effectively to any challenges they may encounter in their ministry.  She is encouraged by the noticeable progress in their English skill development. Marie feels privileged to work with the men and finds her association with them enjoyable and edifying.

Renata Renee Kessler
Renata Renee Kessler is a doctoral candidate at Drew University, School of Arts  Letters. She began tutoring at ICS during the summer of 2014.  Professor Kessler currently teaches Conversational English at County College of Morris in New Jersey. She has edited and written chapters for The Wartime Diary of Edmund Kessler, her father's eye-witness account of the Holocaust. Renata has given presentations about her book at The Jewish Historical Institute, 2008; Seton Hall University, 2010; The Galicia Jewish Museum, 2010; the 42nd and 44th Annual Scholars' Conference, 2011 and 2014; University College, London, 2013. She received her Master's degree from the Graduate Department of Jewish-Christian Studies in 2009 at Seton Hall University.

Donna Monaco
Donna Monaco is a recent retiree following a thirty-four year career with the United States Department of Justice in the Office of the U.S. Attorney for the District of New Jersey.  Her duties included overall administration of, and responsibility for, the office's case management system. Her report writing utilizing that system provided district supervisors with the statistical information necessary to manage resources at the local level.  Combined with cumulative data from the remainder of the districts, it enabled the Executive Office for United States Attorneys to manage resources at the national level.  Donna also provided training for all required applications to Assistant United States Attorneys, support staff, contractors and investigators which entailed designing classes and creating instructional guides.  She was responsible for New Jersey users, as well as any other district users who requested training assistance.  This is Donna's first semester as a tutor and she is finding it very rewarding and a lot of fun.

Joyce Smith
Joyce Smith, a tutor in the Immaculate Conception Seminary ESL Tutoring Program, is a graduate of Seton Hall University and the Katharine Gibbs School in New York City.  Mrs. Smith tutors ESL seminarians using the editing skills she acquired at Katharine Gibbs, where she was employed for four years, and at the ATT Training Division, where she edited, proofread, and wrote training materials for eight years.  Mrs. Smith also worked with the best-selling author, Belva Plain, on each of her novels, and was the program editor for Seton Hall’s Classical Music Series of the 1980s and 1990s.  She is married to Professor William Smith of the Philosophy Department at Seton Hall, and is the mother of five children and the grandmother of thirteen.

To volunteer for the Seminary's ESL Program, please contact Ms. Chandler S. Cohen at (973) 761-9226 or at


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