Personal Enrichment Course Descriptions and Instructor Bios

Kathryn Swantee – Watercolor Florals and Birds Classes

Kathryn SwanteeKathryn is an award-winning artist and teacher, trained at the School of the Worcester Art Museum. She has worked in a variety of fields and mediums including graphic arts, stencil & upholstery fabric design, photo restoration and murals in acrylic. She is best known for her award winning watercolors and has taught this medium for more than 30 years. She has won a number of grants as a teacher of the arts, most recently for “Tribe Art,” a program at First Parish Church (Fitchburg) designed for area youth to learn a wide variety of artistic mediums. She has taught for numerous years at MWCC and the ALFA program at Fitchburg State. She uses a technique called “glazing”, which helps artists build up transparent layers of paint to create texture, color and depth in the painting. Her favorite painting subjects include cats, flowers, butterflies and birds. Kathryn’s work often focuses on environmental issues such as the decline of butterflies and bees and what we can do to help our environment recover.

Her next project is a second book with award-winning author Sally Cragin. Kathryn has illustrated “The Therapy Cat Book” soon to be published by Swan Hope Press, a new publishing house based in north Worcester county. “Whether I’m teaching kids or adults, I love seeing artists develop their talents,” she explains. “I get inspiration working with all my students.” For more on her work, visit “Karthryn Swantee” on Facebook and “Swan Hope Press.”

Mike Jablon – Voiceover Course

Virtual Voice Over Course ArtistA native of Boston, Mike Jablon is an actor and voiceover artist. he earned an A.S. degree in Broadcasting and Telecommunications from Mount Wachusett Community College. He went on to complete the Mass Comm Film program and earn his B.S. at Emerson College.  As a voiceover talent, he can be heard commercially providing his talents to global companies like Tyson Foods, MassSave, Poland Springs, and Nestle. He also enjoys lending his character voices to numerous projects. As an on-camera actor he was Binders Gast in the Brad L. Coley gothic thriller “East of Acadia”, Sam in the Eric Joslin dramatic film “Shoestrung”, Milo Redding in Jeremiah Johnson’s compelling film “Among Wolves”, and as Ezekiel in Comedy Central’s “Time Traveling Bong”. Mike also returned to the theater as Bill in George Masselem’s production of “Our Capital.” Most recently he can be seen in AMC’s upcoming horror TV Series “NOS4A2”.


Jon Leiberman – Brand Story Telling and Business Communications

Jon Leiberman headshotJon is currently a Vice President for SAP managing a global team of multi-media content creators within Global Marketing and Global Corporate Affairs. He oversees a team tasked with internal and external content strategy and creating audio, video and social media content along with assisting in Executive communications. His team has been honored with two dozen Telly Awards for excellence in corporate storytelling. He has also served as supervising producer for SAP’s largest ever virtual event – Sapphire Now. Within 6 months of starting at SAP, he was named to the “fast track” leadership program. He has a Bachelor’s degree in Journalism from the Northwestern University Medill School of Journalism and is currently pursuing his Master’s in Business Administration from the University of Illinois with a focus in Global Business/Entrepreneurship and Digital Marketing/Communications. Jon also does quite a bit of adjunct teaching.


Michelle Haggstron – Home Buyer Workshop, Selling Your Home Step by Step

Michelle HaggstronA Gold Top Producer and past president of the North Central Mass Association of Realtors®, Michelle received the Massachusetts Realtor® of the Year award in 2016.  Michelle is a Certified Residential Specialist and Seniors Real Estate Specialist.  As a Resort and Second-Home Property Specialist, Michelle helps clients purchase homes they’ve dreamed of owning.  Michelle has been recognized as a good neighbor by the local Realtor® board for her community service and involvement.  A member of the United Way Community Investment Team and Ambassador of the North Central Chamber of Commerce, Michelle supports our local non-profit agencies including the Boys & Girls Club and local animal shelters.  Michelle’s background as a Certified Public Accountant supplements her expertise in helping clients achieve their real estate financial goals.


Norm Wironen – Finance & Investing for Millenials, Finance & Investing for Gen-Zers, Finance & Investing for Baby Boomers

Norm WironenNorm Wironen is a well-known business owner in the Greater Gardner area. His first career spanned 26 years in the family photography business, which serviced most of the furniture manufacturers in New England.  With the decline of furniture manufacturing in New England, he switched careers and opened the first Edward Jones office in the Greater Gardner area.  With his significant involvement, Edward Jones now has 6 offices in Gardner, the contiguous towns and Athol.  Over his 47-year career in Gardner he served as an officer and director for numerous non-profit organizations in the community.  Upon his retirement in 2018, Norm was honored by the Greater Gardner Chamber of Commerce with its Lifetime Achievement Award.  Norm saw himself as an educator throughout his Edward Jones career.  He strongly believed that individuals must take control of their personal finances, understand the “why” of his recommendations and the alternatives so that they could make rational choices.  He taught investing courses for many years at MWCC and is pleased to be able to continue educating people in Personal Finance through his current engagement with MWCC. Norm earned an M.B.A and holds the Certified Financial Planner® (CFP®) and Chartered Financial Consultant® (ChFC®) professional designations.

Shelley Errington Nicholson, Ph.D. – Etsy 101

Shelley Errington Nicholson PhotoShelley Errington Nicholson is a graduate of Roger Williams University with a Bachelor’s degree in Corporate Communications and a minor in Music. She also received her Masters of Science degree in Human Development and Family Studies with a concentration in College Student Personnel from the University of Rhode Island. Finally, Shelley received a Ph.D. in Educational Policy and Leadership from the University of Massachusetts Amherst as well as a Graduate Certificate in Advanced Feminist Studies. Shelley has worked at several institutions including WPI, MCPHS, Rice University, and the University of Edinburgh. Shelley is the co-editor of the text Empowering Women in Higher Education and Student Affairs: Theory, Research, Narratives and Practice from Feminist Perspectives. In her current role at MWCC as the Director of the Brewer Center, Shelley coordinates service-learning and community-based internships for MWCC students, oversees the SOS Peer Mentoring Program and Food for Thought: Campus Pantry, as well as budget management and strategic planning.

Gregory Lambert, NRAEMT I/C – EMT Program

I began my EMS/medical career as a combat medic in the US Army in 2001 serving as medical section NCO of a battalion aid station/ambulance section completing 13 years of service. I became certified as an EMT in Massachusetts in 2003 and Advanced in 2005. I received my Massachusetts OEMS instructor certification in 2005 allowing me to instruct nationwide and have been instructing in all levels of EMS (EMR, EMT AEMT, Paramedic) since 2003. I have been certified as AHA CPR Instructor since 2003. I am currently Adjunct Faculty here at Mount Wachusett Community College as the Instructor/Coordinator for the EMT Program where I have served for 6 years. I am also currently employed as DICO, Field Supervisor, Training Officer for MedStar Ambulance out of Worcester, MA where I have been employed for 10 years

Karen Rich, CPDT-KA – Therapy Dog Training, Canine Good Citizen Prep, Getting Your First Dog

Karen RichKaren Rich, CPDT-KA is a certified professional dog trainer in the Gardner area. She was formerly a psychiatric nurse-clinician for many years, and taught psychiatric nursing to nursing students. Her lifelong love of dogs enabled her to combine both of her passions into her second career. She loves training and learning things from every dog that she trains. Karen enjoys teaching all levels of basic obedience classes. She is an American Kennel Club evaluator, as well as a tester/observer for the Alliance of Therapy Dogs. She has raised and trained therapy dogs since 1998, and actively does visits with her own dogs to hospitals, addiction centers, nursing homes, and many other facilities. She has been teaching obedience classes at the Gardner Animal Care Center for the last 10 years, and most recently at Mount Wachusett Community College. She also competes and coaches AKC competitive obedience with her own dogs. She is currently owned by 3 dogs and two cats of her own, that keep her very busy.

Joyce Miller, Fire Pit Barrel Classes, Summer Art Classes

Joyce Miller is Chair of the Art Dept. at MWCC and has instructed drawing, ceramics and foundation art courses for over 22 years. She founded the Art Dept.’s Annual Summer Art Program for Youth & Teens in 1994. She received a B.F.A. degree in painting from Illinois State University and an M.F.A. degree in sculpture from UMASS-Amherst. Upon graduating, she was a member of Soho 20 Gallery in NYC, was represented by East West Gallery in Chicago and worked in production ceramic studios. She has been awarded a National Endowment for the Arts grant, Innovation Fund grants and her work has been included in exhibitions throughout the U.S. Her current work includes sculptural clay pieces, mixed media sculpture and drawings.

Julie Millar, Home Staging for Home Owners

Julie MillarJulie Millar is a home stager who owns Home Staging by Julie. She has been staging, consulting, downsizing, and organizing since 2010. Julie is a graduate of Mount Wachusett Community College, Middlesex Community College and has certificates from the Association of Design Education and Home She has consulted and staged homes from $50,000 to $1,000,000, giving homeowners the knowledge to get their homes sold in the shortest amount of time and for the most money. Julie periodically writes articles for the Winchendon Currier on issues that are informative as well as relatable.  She is a member of the North Central Chamber of Commerce and also the North Central Massachusetts Association of Realtors. Other affiliations that she belongs to are RESA (Real Estate Staging Association) and ADE (Association of Design Education). She is certified in Interior Redesign and is a Certified Color Expert. Julie’s other hobbies and interests include biking, running, kayaking, hiking and Zumba.

Kevin Boucher, Astrophotography

Kevin BoucherA lifelong resident of Gardner, Kevin focuses his retirement time on his Astrophotography hobby. He is a founding member of the Astrophotography group of the Aldrich Astronomical Society. His interest in astronomy started around 20 years ago when on vacation in Arizona. At the resort where they were staying at there was an amateur astronomer who set up his telescope every night to show the guests various targets. From that point on he was hooked and it was not long before he purchased his first telescope, and was gifted an astronomy camera by a friend. He loves the idea of being able to share a view of what he was seeing through his telescope. The details and colors shown in a photo are far more detailed and vibrant than what you can see through a telescope eyepiece. His backyard Observatory is an 8 x 10 foot shed with a roll-off roof which allows him to be able to keep his equipment set up and take pictures whenever the sky is clear. Recently he has been using his skills to capture photometry light curves for the NASA TESS TFOP program to assist scientists in confirming the existence of Exoplanets around far off stars.

Theresa Kacian, Beginner Knitting, Knitting/Crocheting Combination Class, Adult and Me Knitting

Theresa KacianFormer Rehabilitation Counselor and current Academic Coordinator at Mount Wachusett Community College, Theresa has also taught fiber arts for over 35 years, including knitting, crochet, tatting, basketry, loom weaving, as well as fiber arts with plant materials, such as wreath making. Theresa loves teaching people to master a craft that will lead them to hours of relaxation and creativity. She has taught knitting and crochet at MWCC, as well as Montachusett Technical School. Knitting is a particular passion of hers and she loves teaching people new stitches and how to play with color and designs. She also loves the math behind knitting and how to interpret/decipher pattern directions. She holds a weekly knitting group that continued throughout the pandemic on Zoom. Sharing her love of this craft involves educating students about fiber contact, yarn dying, social media craft sites such as Ravelry, and understanding how to correct pattern errors. She hopes to teach this craft for many years to come.

Arllen Acevedo, Subconscious Painting, Self Hypnosis, 6 Different Types of Meditation, Discovering Your Purpose, Learning about Your Chakras: Your Energetic System

Arrlen AcevedoAcevedo is a retired certified art and English teacher with over 16 years of teaching experience. She obtained her B.A. from the Pontifical Catholic University of P.R.  and M.F.A. in Education from Boston University.  She is also a certified hypnotist and belongs to the National Guild of Hypnotists of MA and has been a member since 2011.  She uses her knowledge as a hypnotist to teach people how to make more meaningful meditations by using the “guided meditation” method.  Her purpose in life is to teach people how to empower themselves to lead more successful, healthier, and happier lives.  She has been a volunteer teaching guided meditation since 2011 at the Senior Center in Leominster, MA.

Dawn Stratchko

Dawn StratchkoDawn Stratchko is a painter, illustrator and designer located in Leominster, MA. She draws her inspiration from flowers, trees, lakes and beaches; the beauty of the land around her. Dawn uses acrylics and alcohol inks to produce her work, and always begins with a drawing from a still life or photo which she then edits in Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator for publication. Dawn welcomes each of you to her classes and looks forward to teaching you her techniques in class.

She has over 18 years’ experience in graphic design, textbook and e-book composition and project management, and is now working as an independent artist and designer from her studio in Gardner, MA. She received her B.F.A. from Notre Dame College and her B.S. in Information Technology from Kaplan University.  She has been featured in for Art Business: Success Design in Interiors and been published in Capsuls Books out of Australia for illustration.

Derek Skapars, Adirondak Chair Making

Derek SkaparsDerek Skapars is a well-recognized furniture maker with over thirty years of experience. Laying hardwood floors with his father at the age of 7 sparked his interest in woodworking. Derek graduated from Dover-Sherborn with 2 Excellence in Woodworking Awards. His project of choice, The Adirondack chair. After High School, Derek pursued and achieved degrees in Psychology from Arizona State University (2005), Furniture Making from North Bennet Street School (2007), Counseling from The Institute of Chemical Dependency Studies (2016), and received his Massachusetts Vocational Educators license (2020). Derek currently teaches woodworking at Stetson School in Barre, MA, and will be instructing his 26th Adirondack Chair Making Class for the first time at Mount Wachusett Community College. He has a systematic approach to teaching his craft.

Patricia Darby, Public Speaking, Learn to Play the Keyboard or Piano, and Accent on Composers – Music and Lives of the Great Composers

Patricia DarbyA graduate of Indiana University with a Bachelor of Music Education, Darby received a Master’s in Education: Curriculum and Instruction with a Specialization in Creative Arts in Learning from Lesley University and also holds a Director of Fine Arts Certification from Fitchburg State University.  She has taught in public and private schools for 36 years.  She was a flutist with the Central Massachusetts Symphony Orchestra for 25 years and currently plays in three professional bands in Leominster, Ashby and Fitchburg.  She has especially enjoyed playing in pit orchestras for musicals at Mount Wachusett Community College and directing and producing 13 major musicals at her past high school in Worcester.  She is the founder of Soundings Handbell Choir at the First Congregational Church in Gardner and has been its director for 37 years.  She has been active with the Fine Arts Woodwind Quartet for 40 years, performing at weddings, formal concerts and children’s performances.  She enjoys sharing her love of music with others and gives private lessons in her home.