Stefanie Takacs, MS.Ed.
As Touchstones’ Executive Director, it’s a privilege to represent and advance an organization recognized globally as a leader in discussion-based educational programs and collaborative leadership development. My daily work at Touchstones leans heavily on extensive training and experience in educational psychology and evaluation, psychosocial programming, non-profit management, and educational publishing. My passion for Touchstones is rooted in a belief that education can and must value and empower every person both as individual and member of society.
Brittany Usiak, Ed.M.
As the Operations Manager, I’m passionate about creating inclusive and diverse spaces where people can build meaningful relationships with others. I want to empower people to become confident leaders and receptive listeners through Touchstones discussions. I hold a B.S. in Business Management from Skidmore College with minor studies in Music Theory and Technology. As a Maryland native, I’m always excited to partner with local schools and community spaces. Outside of work, I spend time in nature, hiking and backpacking, and I also perform music.
I am a co-founder of Touchstones Discussion Project. I have authored and co-authored more than 60 Touchstones discussion program volumes and have trained tens of thousands of educators around the world in the Touchstones method over the last 35 years. I did my undergraduate work at Dartmouth College and at St. John’s College in Annapolis, MD, and I completed my graduate work in philosophy at Princeton University from 1968-1973. In 1973, I joined the faculty of St. John’s College, where I remained until my retirement in 2019.
I first learned about Touchstones when it was newly formed in 1984, yet it wasn’t until 2000 that I began volunteering for Touchstones in the Advisory Council’s Fundraising committee. In 2019, upon my retirement from St. John’s College, I transitioned from a volunteer to an employee. I was drawn to Touchstones for many reasons, but it was speaking to others about Touchstones’ impact that most compelled me. Over the years, I’ve spoken with teachers about their students’ love for the discussion method, heard from veterans how life-changing the opportunity to share their stories in Touchstones can be, and participated in programs with Incarcerated Individuals where I saw people find their voice through Touchstones.
Connecting with and welcoming people into the Touchstones community are my primary tasks as Social Media Manager. During my internship at Touchstones over the summer of 2022, I discovered on a first-hand basis how transformative it is to participate in a discussion environment where active listening and shared leadership are priorities. I am also a student at St. John’s College in Annapolis, MD. Everyday I am grateful that my experiences in Touchstones discussions have made me more self-aware and devoted to collaborative inquiry. I adore learning languages, dancing, and working with children.
Sharon Thomas, M.Ed.
I am a National Board Certified English teacher, instructional coach, student advocate, and writer. I earned a B.A. in English at James Madison University in Harrisonburg, Virginia, and an M.Ed. in secondary education at Towson University in Towson, Maryland. A public high school teacher for nearly two decades, I am a Senior Consultant at the Instructional Coaching Group. I am the founder of the Cecil County [Maryland] Teacher Leadership Network and have presented at conferences across North America on the issues of secondary school literacy, teacher leadership, and instructional coaching.