VOLUNTEER STAFF

Maria Lester
Director of Education
Maria oversees all volunteer operations and tours at The John Updike Childhood Home. A charter member of The John Updike Society, she wrote her Ph.D. dissertation on Updike and currently teaches at both Albright College and Reading High School. Maria served as program director for the 3rd Biennial John Updike Society Conference in Reading and also participated in society-sponsored panels at American Literature Association conferences. She previously taught writing and literature courses at Albright, Penn State, and Bucks New University in High Wycombe, England.

Charlie Adams
Docent
Charlie is a Trustee of the Berks History Center and editor of The Historical Review of Berks County. He is the author more than 30 nonfiction books, from such subjects as ghost stories, legends, and folklore to shipwrecks, train wrecks, and baseball. Charlie is also a retired travel writer, morning radio host, and musician.

Jill Koestel
Docent
Jill is an attorney, retired judge, and current member of the Governor Mifflin School Board. She is also past President of the Berks County Bar Association.

Ken Krawchuk
Docent
Ken is an English Literature graduate from Lebanon Valley College currently working as a Regional Coordinator in the Pennsylvania Department of Education, Division of Federal Programs. Ken’s hobbies include baseball, books, and (of course) all things Updike.

Maria McDonnell
Docent
Maria teaches writing and literature courses at Albright College. She is a poet and essayist with numerous publications and is a former Berks County Poet Laureate. She lives in Fleetwood with her husband and family.

Sara Peek
Docent
Sara is a Spanish teacher at Twin Valley High School. She has a B.A. in Spanish, a Master’s Degree in English and Secondary Education, and a Master’s Degree in Social Emotional Learning. In addition to teaching Spanish levels 2 and 3, she is currently the junior class officer, the prom advisor, baccalaureate coordinator, and the National Honor Society advisor. She also runs Twin Valley’s international travel club.

Travis Peek
Docent
Travis is a lifelong Berks County resident and an avid reader that has long admired the works of John Updike. He first encountered Updike when he was a student at Wilson High School through the Rabbit series. Travis works as a Premier Executive Underwriter for Chubb Limited. He attended Penn State, where he earned a degree in Economics, and also earned an MBA at Kutztown University and a designation from The Wharton School.

Barbara Post
Docent
Barbara is a Berks County artist working in a variety of media and subject matter. She has taught art classes and workshops throughout the region and elsewhere, and she particularly enjoys painting portraits.

David W. Ruoff
Docent
Dave rents the office space in the single-story annex to The John Updike Childhood Home for his business, Financial Alternatives. He has faithfully served the Updike Society for many years, giving tours, driving people to see the Plowville sites, and treating international visitors to Berks County specialties like ring bologna and Tom Sturgis pretzels—Updike’s favorite. Dave grew up on Philadelphia Avenue only blocks from the Updike house and had Wesley Updike, John’s father, for a teacher. He received the society’s Distinguished Service Award on October 2, 2021.

Paige Sechler
Docent
Paige is a Berks County native and University of Hartford grad who spent four years playing Division I basketball. She has worked 21 years at Reading High School, where she teaches AP English and Honors American Lit. Paige is also English Department chairperson, Poetry Outloud coordinator, and National Honor Society advisor.

Linda Sepeda
Docent
Linda is a Shillington native who left Berks County in 1978 and returned in 2019. In between, she finished graduate school and worked in the IT industry, starting as an entry-level developer and eventually becoming the head of IT. She left direct management to do project, program, and portfolio management of IT projects exclusively.

Elizabeth Siegfried
Docent
Elizabeth is a high school English teacher for the Twin Valley School District who loves anything to do with the writing craft and those who pursue it.

Jacki Theis
Docent
Jacki is currently a high school English as a Second Language teacher who has taught both in the United States and Japan.

Allen Wagner
Docent
Allen is a retired corporate Chief/Senior Vice President of Human Development, Corporate Training and Communications Officer. His artistic interests include sculpting, painting, occasional voice-over talent projects, and acting in industrial training films.

Susan Weiser
Docent
Susan attended Governor Mifflin schools from K-12. In addition to a lengthy career in the borough operating C.B. Atkins Real Estate and Appraisals at 311 W. Lancaster Ave., Shillington, she is a lifelong community volunteer who served as a trustee for the Reading Symphony Orchestra, Friends of Chamber Music, and Reform Congregation Oheb Sholom. On a regular basis she contributes articles to the Berks History Center’s Historical Review magazine.