administration & staff

Kevin J. McCloskey

President

Kevin J. McCloskey is president of Direct Learning Systems, Inc. (DLS), a Lehigh Valley, PA, based distance education publishing company, which he founded in 1999. DLS owns Institute For Writers (IFW) which is approved by the Delaware Department of Education as a private business and trade school and provides an Internet-based distance learning curriculum.


Kevin’s previous experience includes over 15 years in senior management. He was Vice Chairman and managing partner of NLKK, Inc. the former operator of K12 owned Keystone School, a nationally accredited Internet-based secondary school with an enrollment of over 15,000 students. In 2000, he orchestrated the sale of NLKK, Inc. to KinderCare Learning Centers, Inc., a publicly traded firm. Prior to that time, he held various senior management positions in the medical equipment field. Kevin was primarily responsible for marketing, sales, business development and strategic planning throughout this period. He holds a bachelor’s degree in Communications Studies and Public Relations.


Professionally, Kevin is active within the Distance Education Accrediting Commission (DEAC), served on the Business Standards Committee (Vice Chairman), and was Chairman of the International Marketing Workshop in 2000. Other professional affiliations include the Pennsylvania Restaurant Association, the Pennsylvania Food Merchants Association, and the Pennsylvania Association of Private School Administrators. He has also served on the school board of St. Thomas More School as fundraising chairman.

Valerie L. Behrle McCloskey, B.S. M.Ed.

Director of Education

Since 1985, Valerie has lived, worked and raised children with her husband Kevin in the Lehigh Valley. She joined DLS as the Director of Education in 2001. Prior to joining DLS, Valerie worked as a teacher, tutor and reading specialist with students from K-12 in various educational settings. As the Director of Education, she oversees the internal and external faculty & instructors and is responsible for program research, editorial revisions and branded marketing strategies relating to DLS’ educational offerings. Valerie holds a Masters’ Degree in Education; her graduate thesis was titled Benefits of Reading Aloud to Children. For 30+ years, Valerie has devoted her career to assisting students to increase their skill sets through site-based and distance education.


Philanthropically, Valerie supports the Allentown Art Museum, Mercy School for Special Learning and Cay Galgon Life House whose mission is to provide shelter for homeless pregnant women and their newborns and offer them counseling and education opportunities leading to lives of self-reliance. This charity work reflects some of Valerie’s core values, which are rooted in supporting community, education and collaboration to make the world a better place.


In her personal life, Valerie is happiest entertaining family and friends. She enjoys reading, cooking, gardening and travel. One of her aspirations is to hike all of the national parks.

Donnita Fisher

Accounting / Finance Manager

Donnita is the Accounting/Finance Manager and joined IFW with over 25 years of experience. She graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Business Administration with a concentration in Accounting and a Minor in Finance. Her professional experiences and educational background in Accounting, Finances, and Human Resources enables her to coordinate the financial needs and human resources development at Direct Learning Systems, Inc.


She is a member of the National Association of Certified Accounting Paraprofessionals (NACAP), Pennsylvania Institute of Certified Public Accountants (PICPA) and the National Association of Tax Professionals (NATP). In addition to being certified in desktop QuickBooks and QuickBooks online, she is also a certified public notary.

Casey J. McCloskey

Director of Business Development & Student Services

Casey McCloskey is the Manager of Business Operations. Mr. McCloskey graduated a Bachelor of Science in Education (B.S.Ed.) and a Master of Education in Counseling & College Student Affairs (M.Ed.). In addition to his two degrees, Casey also earned his Teacher Certification through the Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE).


Before his role at Direct Learning Systems, Inc., he worked in Higher Education within Student Affairs. This included working and collaborating with Orientation, Admissions, Housing & Residence Life, and Career Development. After several years in Higher Education, Casey shifted to the world of Business and worked in Sales. During this time, he excelled, earned Sales Rep of the month several times, and attained President’s Club.


Mr. McCloskey’s background in Secondary and Post-Secondary Education along with his experience in business brings strong leadership to manage and support a team in the operational functions. In his current role, Casey works closely with school directors in his oversight of day-to-day operations, budgeting, technology, student data, compliance, and academic operations to support our mission and help students reach their personal and professional goals.

Micheal McCloskey

DLS Director of Operations & Production

Michael graduated from Pennsylvania State University with a Bachelor’s of Science in Business (B.S.), specializing in Project/Supply Chain Management. In addition to his degree, Michael earned an SAP certificate which focuses around ERP systems.


Prior to his role at Direct Learning Systems, Michael worked in sales for Sysco, the world’s largest broad line food distributor. While at Sysco he was involved in marketing and distributing food products, small wares, kitchen equipment and tabletop items to restaurants, healthcare and educational facilities, hospitality businesses like hotels and inns, and wholesale to other companies that provide foodservice (like Aramark and Sodexo). Before Sysco, Michael spent 8 years working in hospitality management for Ruby Tuesday INC. As General Manager, he was responsible for a 3 million dollar restaurant and 50+ employees.


Michael’s background in business, sales and management help bring strong leadership to the team and day to day functionality at Direct Learning Systems. In his current role, Michael works closely with other DLS Directors along with vendors and outside providers. He is responsible for handling inventories, budgeting, implementing new technologies, quality assurance, and supervising financial management.

Maggie McCloskey

DLS Marketing Manager

Maggie brings several years of experience in Customer Service, Management, Brand Awareness, Marketing, Strategic Lead Generation and Administration to DLS. In 2015, she graduated from the University of South Florida, earning a BA in Mass Communications with a concentration in Public Relations. After graduating, Maggie spent two years at a law firm in New York City, working in account management & brand research. For the next three years Maggie worked for Warby Parker, in their CX headquarters in Nashville, as a Customer Experience Lead—supervising a team of 15 advisors engaging with nationwide customers to provide solutions and seamless experiences. In her role at DLS, Maggie manages the day-to-day aspects of all DLS brand endeavors. She leads collaboration of the DLS brand teams on various projects, from ideation and strategy to implementation and reviewing results, in an effort to achieve company growth goals.

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Lori Ritch

IFW Operations & Marketing

Lori has over 30 years of experience in marketing with The Institute for Writers. She is responsible for reaching the hundreds of thousands of people who have taken our courses. In addition, she is involved in print production, IT projects with our programmers, helps to manage the daily processes, as well as systems management.

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Institute For Writers Staff

Christine Molnar

Student Services Representative

Christine is a graduate from Southern Connecticut State University with a Bachelor of Science degree in Communication. She has over 20 years of customer service experience starting out in the retail sector, then joining The Institute for Writers as a Student Services representative in 2005. Christine’s main role is to assist prospective, current, and former students, answering administrative questions as well as providing guidance with lesson, writing, and publishing related inquiries. She also supports IFW instructors to help foster student success. In addition to spending time with her family, Christine enjoys photography, running, crafting, and savoring the great outdoors.

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Kelli Panique

IFW Brand Marketer

Kelli is a proud graduate of the University of Redlands with a Bachelor of Science in Business Management and a minor in Economics. Believing you should always say yes when asked if you want to learn something new, she has used her skills and experience in a variety of ways.  Kelli’s diverse resume includes store management at Disneyland, member support for online membership groups, producing podcasts, facilitating online workshops, and project management for online writing conferences.


Kelli has worked with the Institute for Writers since 2016 where she edits weekly newsletters and blogs, assembles the elements for kidlit and adult writing contests, produces the Writing for Children podcasts, handles social media, and sets up weekly celebrations for our published graduates and contest winners in the IFW Winners’ Circle. In her free time, Kelli likes to read books and watch movies—and then look up trivia for said movies on IMDb, which makes her a great addition to any trivia team.  

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Stacy Feifel, B.S. M.Ed.

Education / Development Manager

Stacy has been with Direct Learning Systems since 2007 in various administrative and educational capacities.  She holds a Bachelor of Science Degree in Telecommunications from Kutztown University and a Masters’ Degree in Education with a specialization in Instructional Design and Technology from the American College of Education.  Her responsibilities include assisting the Director of Education, leading the educational and development team to construct and revise various educational material for the school, and working with the school’s administration to maintain and comply with licensure and accreditation standards.  She is also the administrator of the school’s online learning management system. Stacy also provides educational assistance to students with a special concentration on our veteran, military, and military spouse population.

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Jacque Irizarry

Student Services Manager / IT Project Manager

Jacque holds and associate degree in General Studies/Arts. She has over 8 years’ experience in Customer Service working for Telerx Marketing where she was responsible for several accounts including, M&M Mars. At IFW, her responsibilities include: inbound and outbound calls, student correspondence, providing educational assistance to students, and creating/coordinating various IT projects with our programmers. Jacque loves basketball and enjoys dabbling with black and white photography in her spare time.

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Laura Conaway

Student Services Representative / Content Writer / Editor

Laura is a graduate of Kutztown University and holds a B.S. Ed. degree in Library Science along with an add-on English teaching certificate, and a minor in Professional Writing. She has a few published works with various companies including Sadie Robertson’s organization, Live Original. At IFW, she works with the education department as a content writer and editor for blogs and social media. Outside of work, Laura enjoys writing creatively and maintaining a blog while dabbling in music and continually adding instruments to her repertoire of skills, which thus far includes violin, guitar, and piano. She also enjoys spending time outdoors with friends and family and volunteering with community events.

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Carolyn Nasto

Student Services Representative / Content Writer / Editor

Carolyn holds a Bachelor of Science Degree in Education, with a concentration in Community Health. Some of her professional experience includes previously working as a Program Coordinator at our local community college. While working at the community college, she created curriculum, instructed courses, and assisted students with career development. At IFW, she works with the education department in development, editing and content writing. Carolyn provides educational assistance to students and completes daily business operation tasks. In her spare time, Carolyn enjoys singing, cooking, and spending time with her family.

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Linda Bowers

Digital Production & Print Specialist

Linda has been working in the printing and graphic design field since the five inch floppy disk was considered state-of-the-art. She has contributed her skills to many corporations in the greater Lehigh Valley area, including local colleges and hospitals. At IFW, Linda is responsible for generating printed content for students and revising student courses as directed. Additionally, she provides printing support for our other brands. When not working, Linda enjoys attending concerts, visiting her daughter and finding incredible deals on Facebook Marketplace.

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Anthony Germani

Student Services Representative / Sales Development

Anthony is a Penn State graduate where he majored in Education. Professionally, he has worked in education and as a sales representative. At IFW, he is responsible for continuously evaluating and developing processes in order to grow business and provide quality experiences to attract and retain our students. Outside of work, Anthony enjoys spending time with his family and enjoys playing/watching sports (especially basketball and golf).

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Jamie Nerenberg

Student Services Representative / Shipping Associate

Jamie spent four years as an Operations Specialist on board USS Taylor, FFG-50. A Public Safety Management graduate of Florida State College at Jacksonville (FSCJ), Jamie has interned with the City of Orlando’s Office of Emergency Management. Jamie also acted as the Chapter President for FSCJ’s Student Veterans of America Club, advocating for student veterans and their future personal, and professional goals. Jamie has several years of experience in Inventory Management and Warehouse Operations with over 10 years in customer service and Public Safety. Jamie is currently pursuing a B.A.S. from Penn State in Information, Science and Technology, with a Minor in Security and Risk Analysis. His interests are in public health and safety, emergency management, security, and information technology. He enjoys reading, fishing, hunting and traveling.

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Tammy Kromer

Student Services Representative / Mail Room Coordinator

Tammy has over 20 years of experience in customer service and began at Direct Learning Systems in the fall of 2001. As a Senior Student Service Representative, Tammy serves as a mentor to the staff. Her responsibilities include processing student assignments and graduation documents. She also assures each student has their appropriate course resources. Tammy assists the Operations Manager in various duties including printing processes.

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Rhiannon Harwi

Student Services Representative / Content Writer / Media

Rhiannon graduated from Muhlenberg College’s School of Continuing Studies in May of 2020 with a double major in Media & Communication and Studio Art. While a student there, she worked as a Presidential Assistant in the Language Department for 2 years, where she assisted students, professors, and staff regularly with technological inquiries. Before transferring to Muhlenberg, she attended classes at LCCC and served as a student editor for the college newspaper during her last semester. She additionally has 8 years of retail experience. At DLS, she works with the Education, Development, and Marketing teams to improve course content and support brand awareness. Outside of work, Rhiannon enjoys spending time with her family and friends, beachcombing at the Jersey Shore, and creating art (especially painting and embroidery). 

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Cheyenne DeThomas

Shipping Associate / Administrative Assistant

Cheyenne, the newest member of the shipping room team, also works in student services as an administrative assistant. In the shipping room, Cheyenne assists in daily inbound and outbound production and shipping. As an administrative assistant, her daily responsibilities include grading, data entry, preparing graduate documents, and relaying student survey feedback to administration and staff.

Cheyenne is currently enrolled at Cedar Crest College pursuing a Bachelor’s degree in Political Science in hopes of one day becoming a Civil Rights Attorney. Interests outside of work include true crime television, investigative journalism, and mass communication through media. In her spare time she enjoys researching emergency preparedness, finding and making new recipes, and playing with her three cats.

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