Set the Foundation for Success



Frona Kahn

President, DesignWorlds for College

Frona L. Kahn, Vice President and co-founder of DesignWorlds, has helped shape and continuously influence the education technology industry for over 20 years. Her work with top Fortune 500 companies and non-profit organizations, including major players like Apple, PBS, Compaq and Fisher-Price, Computer Curriculum Corporation, Microsoft, Grolier, and Gateway Learning Corporation, have made technology desirable, fashionable, marketable, and accessible to schools and families across California.

​In 1981, as a co-founder of The Learning Company (TLC), Mrs. Kahn pioneered innovative, award-winning educational computer software products for young children such as Reader Rabbit. Frona developed the strategy for addressing the entire home market segment for TLC. She also pioneered and directed the Educational Sales and Marketing Division, which became a cornerstone of TLC’s business. With her help, The Learning Company was bought by Mattel for $8 billion.

Frona is also an award-winning author and recipient of the Parents Choice Award, for Play Together, Learn Together, one of the first combination book and software products for parents and children. She was a member of the founding Board of Directors of the Silicon Valley-based Children’s Discovery Museum, a major museum which has since won national and international acclaim. Frona was responsible for spearheading the first introduction of software into bookstores with Simon and Schuster.

Frona has now been in the business of college coaching for over 20 years and has served over 1,000 students in helping them accomplish their goals, find their paths, and get them on track to realizing their dreams.

Ted Kahn

CEO and Chief Learning and Future Career Paths Coach

Dr. Ted M. Kahn is the co-founder, President and CEO of DesignWorlds for Learning, Inc. and Chief Learning Officer for DesignWords for College and Careers. Dr. Kahn is also the  Founding Creative & Executive Director of the Bay Area Science Museum/Education Collaboratory and The Mindseum. He has been actively involved in developing and marketing innovative uses of interactive technologies for creative lifelong learning for more than 45 years, specializing in uses of digital and computational multimedia on the Internet and the Web in developing free, open education resources for use in globally distributed learning and knowledge design communities.

Over the past 20 years, Dr. Kahn’s main focus has  been with DesignWorlds for College & Careers, where he has coached and advised over 1,000 high school and college students in helping them prepare for and apply to college & graduate school, including helping them successfully explore multiple possible areas of academic study and alternate future career paths. Dr. Kahn is also a member of the National Advisory Council for the Campaign for Free College Tuition (

Ted and his DesignWorlds team applied this background in creating the key web content and web educational marketing messages for Apple in 2000 to support their launch of iMovie, and some of this web content still remains on Apple’s digital movies and education web site today. He has recently been the founding director of the Bay Area Science Education Collaboratory. This project, initially funded by grants from the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation and the S. D. Bechtel, Jr. Foundation, is a dynamic web-based resource and learning community for middle school science teachers.

As a member or advisor for numerous museums, government organizations, and public-private collaborations, Ted is actively engaged with contemporary trends in technology, education, artificial and augmented intelligence, and science literacy. He has also been the keynote speaker at national and international conferences on creative education, technology and learning In 2003, the NMC: New Media Consortium named Ted as its first NMC Fellow, its highest individual honor, for his lifelong work in the development and use of digital media and interactive technologies for learning, teaching and creative expression, and he has also been a Senior Fellow  at UCLA’s Graduate School of Education and Information Studies and a Distinguished Visiting Scholar with the MediaX Project at Stanford University. Upcoming engagements include presentations at the annual convention of the American Psychological Association (APA).

Ted received his B.A. in computer science (with distinction), and his M.A and Ph.D. in psychology from University of California, Berkeley.

Dr. Kahn’s Curriculum Vitae

Liz Tadman

Coach and Project Manager

Liz Tadman, Designworlds’ Project Manager, works diligently to ensure our numerous programs are running smoothly. She loves working with our students and parents as well as our coaches.

Liz believes deeply in all of the students and is often amazed at their many talents. She particularly enjoys uncovering their passions and talents by meeting with them and listening closely to their stories.

Liz was active as a parent volunteer when her children were school aged, and served as President of the Parents Teachers and Students Association. She also has been a member with the Quota International Mountain View/Los Altos club, which raises fund to assist underserved children and women in our community.

Born in Taiwan, Liz moved to California at the beginning of her High School years. She holds a BA in Computer Science and a BS in Mathematics from University of California in Irvine. She has worked as a Software Engineer, Release Manager, Project Manager, and Marketing Consultant.

Sarah Tondreau

Essay Coach

Sarah received a B.A. in chemistry from Carleton College in Northfield, Minnesota, where she was also a member of the women’s tennis team and earned NCAA Division III All-American honors. After college, she attended Cornell University and graduated with a PhD in chemistry and five first-author papers published in high-level, peer-reviewed journals. She then completed a two-year postdoctoral position at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH) in Zurich, Switzerland, where she worked with students and researchers from around the world.

Currently, Sarah works from home, raising her two kids and helping DWC students craft their admissions essays.

Leilani Serafin

Essay Coach and Lead Editor

Leilani Serafin is an instructional designer and e-learning developer who promotes anti-anxiety and trauma-informed educational experiences in all areas of life. She started her teaching journey as a university writing instructor, working at California State University, Los Angeles, and at the University of California, Davis. After eight years of classroom teaching experience, she transitioned into educational consulting, assessment development and coordination, higher ed operations, and finally, instructional design. Now, she helps her fellow employees develop and advance their knowledge on the job.

She lives with her husband in beautiful Mendocino, California, where they are owned by two rabbits who run the entire household and generally judge their life choices.

Shannah Markow Whithaus

Essay Coach

I am a teacher, writer, and entrepreneur who has appeared on TV and radio talking about her work coaching women entrepreneurs for a business incubator in the New York area. My experience includes creating courses and promotional materials for 1, 2, and 3-day training sessions on a variety of technical and communication topics, teaching people how to communicate their values in high-pressure situations, teaching advanced undergraduates how to communicate in business and scientific settings, and helping individuals talk about themselves in compelling ways.

I have helped MBA candidates at Drexel’s Center for Graduate Studies in Sacramento to communicate clearly when writing, speaking, or developing PowerPoint presentations. I have also taught technical, business, and scientific writing to advanced undergraduates at the University of California, Davis, Old Dominion University, and Thomas Nelson Community College. Previous clients include the Thomas Jefferson National Accelerator Facility, Old Dominion University’s Darden College of Education, Old Dominion University Research Foundation, Baruch College’s Bernard L. Schwartz Communication Institute, Hoboken’s Monroe Center for the Arts, and professors and advanced degree candidates in various disciplines, such as sociology, biology, religion, and psychology.

I work with students in one of two ways:

  • In group settings in long or short courses focused on specific topics like “Writing for Science Majors” or “Developing the Personal Essay.”
  • One-on-one in individual or a series of coaching sessions to develop particular pieces of writing, from college essays to dissertations.

Besides writing, editing, and teaching, I enjoy riding bikes around town, doing yoga with my kids, hiking, reading, and gardening. I look forward to getting to know you.

Erin Lilly-Davison

Essay Coach

Born and raised mostly in the Bay Area, Erin is the middle child of three. She feels very fortunate that her family hosted many exchange students and traveled to Europe as these experiences helped broaden her view of the world. Her Freshman year of high school she spent with a French family and attended school in Paris, France. She credits this experience with fostering her confidence and independence. In high school she was active in many clubs, ran long-distance track for a season, participated and planned many retreats, and enjoyed service to others. Her favorite classes were English and Philosophy.

After earning her Bachelor’s Degree in English with a French minor from The University of Portland, she continued with her Master of Arts in Teaching from Portland State University. She taught French and Religious Studies at St. Francis High School in Mountain View, California for three years before moving to her husband’s alma mater in Salem, Oregon. She has taught English and French at Sprague High School in Salem, Oregon the last 17 years. This spring, she will instruct a French for Travelers class at the local community college.

She enjoys challenging students to reach their potential. She is always looking for more effective ways to reach her students with engaging curriculum and connections. She can often be found in her room at lunch or late into the afternoon helping students. It is important for her to breakdown the aspects of good writing to demystify the writing process and help students build awareness of their craft.

Summer is a chance for Erin to refresh herself. Once an avid home gardener, she now appreciates the bounty and variety of fruits and vegetables – as well as great camaraderie – she finds while volunteering summers at her friend’s farm. She enjoys jumping waves with her youngest, dancing with her middle child, and sharing good books with her oldest. She would love to travel more, but she doesn’t always get the chance to go very far. Luckily for her, the Oregon Coast and Cascade Mountain Range are both close by, and she sneaks in hikes or camping trips when she can.

Rebecca Kling

Essay Coach

Rebecca is a writer, poet and academic. Currently an online lecturer at San Jose State University, she earned her Ph.D. in English from University of California at Davis in 2019. She has experience in secondary and post-secondary education, instructional design, nonprofit work, and publishing.

She lives in the Hudson Valley with her husband and two sons. She loves hiking, yoga, cooking, and dreaming up more projects than she can possibly undertake in a lifetime.

Matthew Schmidt

Essay Coach

Veteran communicator in B2B and B2C environments, with deep knowledge in multiple high technology segments and ability to serve as trusted counselor and collaborator with staff, peers, product teams and senior management. Have worked across nearly four decades with an equal mix of start-ups and multinational companies in dozens of industry and technology areas, including wired/wireless communications, authentication and systems security, green engineering and design, extended reality, industrial/operational technology, and the IoT.

Aaron Kahn

Senior Editor, Writer and Researcher

Aaron Kahn is a professional writer, professional trumpet player, entrepreneur, and events producer – a true millennial! An employee of DesignWorlds for Learning and DesignWorlds for College for over six years, he has helped students tell their stories uniquely and effectively. With Aaron’s help, DWC students were accepted to schools such as UC Berkeley, UCLA, Northeastern, and many more of some of the best, most unique colleges and universities in the US. For over two years he also worked at one of the fastest-growing content writing platforms on the continent, part of the 15% selected to work for Crowd Content and writing for its most advanced projects. His work has spanned genres such as academic essays, product marketing, blog posts, specialized science and technology articles, website copy and content, and more. He also served as the lead public relations and marketing point person for one of Berkeley’s first synagogues, various technological means and tools as well as marketing writing and SEO strategy.

As a musician, he has performed at Davies Symphony Hall, the Berlin Philharmonie, Merkin Concert Hall, the Munich Philharmonie, and more. He has collaborated with renowned names in the music industry such as Mason Bates, David Rozenblatt, and Chicago (all Grammy winners). Aaron studied cognitive psychology and Music Performance at McGill University for two years, got his BFA from CalArts, and received his Master’s in Trumpet Performance from the UO in 2021. In 2015 he won a Graduate Teaching Fellowship at the University of Oregon studying with international pedagogue Brian McWhorter. He has also won a number of other awards for his music, including a John Audino scholarship in Los Angeles, being the representative of the province of Quebec for the Canadian National Music Competition, and a grantee of the Regional Arts and Culture Council of the City of Portland. He was recently hired by Stanford University’s Online High School (his alma mater) to do a performance presentation and educational Q+A for students, faculty, and staff.

His creative enterprises are also diverse. These include overseeing and managing every aspect of a fully-sponsored contemporary music installation in the desert, generating his own initiatives as a solo artist in Portland, proposing creative new ways to address gun violence and legislation through music that has created dialogue with City and State government.

Aaron believes language and communication are windows into the nature of the human experience, and is a proud representative of his family for DesignWorlds.