Faculty & Staff

The English Learning Institute has assembled a knowledgeable team of educators dedicated to each student’s success. The team is committed to sharing and imparting their considerable knowledge of every subject taught through ELI. Each team member possesses extensive academic training, professional experience and education know-how to provide every student with the highest quality outcome.

Director of Curriculum and Assessment

Jason Mercer is ELI’s Director of Curriculum and Assessment as well as Academic English Program instructor. He obtained an MA in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL) from Azusa Pacific University. Mercer has successfully taught English as a Second Language (ESL) to many students in the United States, Argentina and South Korea and gained considerable knowledge related to academic issues. Mercer is committed to guiding each ELI student towards success as Student Service Coach.

AEP Instructor

Dr. Vander Zwaag began teaching English as a Peace Corps volunteer in Poland. He lived abroad for nine years and completed degrees in English Philology and Cultural Studies. Since returning to the United States, he has been the English Department Chair at Delbarton School (NJ) and an adjunct professor at Westchester Community College (NY). In addition, he has presented papers on Cultural Studies at conferences and published several articles. Dr. Vander Zwaag has taught English to hundreds of students pursuing the goal of completing their higher education in the United States.

Jackie Diaz, Instructor

AEP Instructor

Jackie Diaz has been in education for over 26 years and holds a Master of Science in Reading Education. She has taught in Miami Florida and North Carolina in the areas of Regular, English as a Second Language, and Intensive Reading Education.  Her work experience has been in Elementary, Middle, High School, Vocational Education, Adult Education and At Risk populations. She is originally from Cuba.

Jessica Mjelde, Communications

Director of Communications

Jessica Mielde started her teaching career teaching science on live television in Vancouver, WA. After receiving a Master of Science from the University of Washington and Philipps Universitaet, Germany, her career moved from research into education, including teaching in Uganda for the Peace Corps, tutoring English as a Second Language for the Refugee Support Center, presenting to multi-national visitors for the National Park Service and serving as the Media Coordinator for the North Carolina State Beekeepers Association. Her duties include editing web content, tutoring students, and helping students navigate living in the United States.

Senior Advisor

David Jacobson’s work with higher education stems from his time as an entrepreneur in the USA and Asia. He teaches global collaboration, topics related to innovation and works closely with the UNCP School of Management in their work building the entrepreneurial community in Robeson County, NC. Robeson County is one of the most impoverished counties in the USA. David has worked with high performing high school teachers and principals from Shanghai. His work with them relates to innovation in the classroom for setting new standards for student / teacher performance.

He is on the faculty of the School of Business, University of North Carolina Pembroke, NC. He is also on the faculty of UNC Kenan Flagler Business School and Tsinghua University School of Management. He recently became affiliated with the graduate faculty at the Harvard University Extension School.

David’s passion is helping underperforming communities create opportunities through innovation, education and entrepreneurship.

Director of International Relations

HanFu Shi, Director of International Relations, has been a dedicated staff member at ELI since 2014. He obtained both a BA in Communication Studies and a BA in Journalism from  Eastern Washington University; he also holds an MS in Public Health in Leadership from University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. As Director of International Relations, he is dedicated to ensuring his job responsibilities which include promoting programs overseas, communicating with partners abroad, and designing promotional materials for the Institute, are completed in a timely and professional manner. His experience and education are an essential component to his success.