Touchstones Staff

Lynn Cloutier – Business and Office Operations

Lynn first became involved with Touchstones through the prison program as a volunteer while working in the Advancement Office at St. John’s College. Lynn comes to Touchstones from the Anne Arundel Medical Center Foundation where she was the Executive Assistant to the President. Previous to AAMC, Lynn worked as the Major Gifts Coordinator for the United States Naval Academy Foundation. Originally from Virginia, Lynn met her husband while attending the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. The Cloutier’s live in Grasonville and have three children.

Lynn will be responsible for the day to day office operations, and is delighted to become a part of this organization that is concerned with the power and purpose of discussion and its role in modern education.

Craven Engels – Global Business Development

Craven joined Touchstones to provide direction and impact in developing new revenue opportunities for the K-12 market. Aligning the mission and strategic goals of Touchstones with a global business development strategy will combine the best of Touchstones’ not-for-profit philanthropic focus with the changing needs and opportunities of the education market. Craven spent over 17 years in the technology industry in executive sales and marketing positions. Her interest in education and education advocacy led to engagement with the parent-teacher-student association. Craven volunteers at her daughter’s school and is currently the President of the PTSA. Through these opportunities, Craven has developed a deep sense of commitment to education and social innovation for all students.

Jennifer Macris – Advancement Coordinator

Jennifer serves as Touchstone’s advancement coordinator. She is responsible for advancing existing and potential strategic partnerships with the organization. She also manages Touchstones’ annual fundraising plan and provides support for Touchstones’ first capital campaign. She is a mother of five children whose ages range from elementary to high school, and as such, is an active supporter of the public school system. A native of California, she received undergraduate degrees in sociology and Spanish from the University of California, Santa Barbara. She subsequently earned an MBA in international business from Middlebury College’s Monterey Institute of International Studies. While in Monterey, she married her husband, a U.S. Navy pilot, and has been a proud military spouse ever since. Now living in Annapolis, she loves to travel and enjoys the chance to interact with fascinating people dedicated to global learning. She is excited to be part of the Touchstone team and to be furthering TDP’s mission to utilize collaborative discussion to build critical thinking, communication, and leadership skills.

Stefanie Takacs – Executive Director

Stefanie joined Touchstones first as a volunteer in 2004 and then as Executive Director in 2009. She has a BA from St. John’s College and an MS in Educational Psychology with an emphasis in education evaluation from Fordham University in New York City. For Stefanie, joining the Touchstones staff was a natural progression in her professional development, which includes content development and extensive management experience in educational publishing, as well as program, fundraising, and organizational management in the non-profit sector. Prior to joining Touchstones, Stefanie was the Director of Development at St. John’s College; the Assistant Director of Abraham House, an alternative to incarceration program in the South Bronx; the Director of Content Development for the Princeton Review K-12 Services Division; Managing Editor for the Princeton Review K-12 Services Division; and Prevention and Outreach Programmer for the New Milford Youth Agency.

Stefanie is a member of the APA, AFP, and ASCD and is the published author of five titles on First Peoples for Children’s Press (Scholastic): The Maya, The Inca, The Nez Perce, The Iroquios, and The Seminole. She is also the author of Touchstones middle grades volume Courage to Care: Building Community through Service, co-author of Touchstones ‘Alif: Readings from the Arab Tradition, and the primary editor for the Touchstones Discussion Project.

Howard Zeiderman – Co-founder & President

Howard Zeiderman attended Dartmouth College and St. John’s College in Annapolis, Maryland, and completed graduate and post-graduate studies in philosophy at Freiberg, Oxford, Cambridge, and Princeton Universities.  Since 1973, Zeiderman has been on the faculty of St. John’sCollege in Annapolis. He teaches there as a senior member of the faculty and has nearly fifty years of experience with the college’s cross-disciplinary program in which all students read primary source materials that are explored entirely through seminar classes.

On the basis of this experience, Zeiderman co-founded the Touchstones Discussion Project in 1984. Since the late 1990s, Zeiderman has served as the organization’s president, in addition to other professional work with seminar environments.  Zeiderman’s work in custom seminar design, program implementation, and seminar moderating include the Democratic Leadership Council, the Federal Executive Institute in Charlottesville, Virginia; the National Security Agency; the Central Intelligence Agency; Leadership Metro Richmond; the Enhanced Public Service Leadership Programme (Office of the President of Tanzania); Hampden-Sydney College; Baltimore City Police Department; Aspen Italia (Young Fellows  and Senior Fellows Programs); Aspen Institute; St. Mary’s College in Moraga Hills, CA; Bureau of French Education for the Province of Manitoba, Canada; and African Leadership Academy (South Africa).  From 2004–2008, Zeiderman also served as Director of the Aspen Institute’s Executive Seminar Program, where he was responsible for seminar curriculum development and implementation and moderator corps training. Programs he developed for Aspen include seminars on creativity, women’s leadership, society and wilderness, projects in China, and customized leadership seminars for several multinational corporations.

Zeiderman has authored and co-authored more than 26 original Touchstones volumes, including student editions and leader’s guides, and several articles about his work in varied seminar environments, which have appeared in Educational Leadership, The St. John’s College Review, and the International Educator. He also received the Alumni Award of Merit from St. John’sCollege, given in recognition of his exceptional work in education.

Under Zeiderman’s leadership, more than five million students around the world have participated in Touchstones programs and the Touchstones method has spread to more than 38 countries. Touchstones materials have been translated into Spanish, French, Haitian Kreyòl, Burmese, and Arabic for use in schools, colleges, and in workforce development programming around the world.

Zeiderman has lectured and presented at numerous conferences and institutions, including the International Freshman Year Experience Conference; National Students in Transition Conference; Maryland Association of Independent Middle Schools; International Baccalaureate Mid-Atlantic Conferences; Maryland Educators for Gifted Students Conference; Annapolis League of Women Voters; Annapolis Rotary; Correctional Educators Conference (Ottawa); Rowan University (NJ); St. Mary’s College in Moraga Hills, CA; AVID Summer Institutes; St. John’s College in Annapolis, MD and in Santa Fe, NM; Maple Center Senior Peer Counselors (Los Angeles); Maryland Association of Adult Community and Continuing Education; and the Open Society and Creative Alliance Panel on Views of Justice film series. Over the course of his tenure with Touchstones, Zeiderman has trained more than ten thousand teachers in the Touchstones discussion method.