Train the Trainer Events announced

District 53 is pleased to host two events for Toastmasters who want to learn to be facilitators of Club Officer Training (COT) events, either this summer or in the future.

The two events are scheduled for:

Training will be led by David Freedman, DTM.

Members can register here directly.

Please note, attending this training does not guarantee that you will be asked to take a facilitator role. IT also does not qualify as Club Officer Training in itself; you must attend one of the other Club Officer Training events either as a facilitator or as an attending club officer, for your club to receive credit for your training.

From the desk of District Director Patti Walter, DTM

Hello District Members,

I hope this message finds you well.

I am excited to extend a special invitation to all District 53 members to join me at our upcoming “Breaking Barriers” District Conference on May 10th and 11th in Southbury, CT.

You will have access to 2 great contests, 2 education sessions, lunch, breakfast and much more. We are also blessed to have Sheryl Roush, DTM and Accredited Speaker join us not only for a keynote session but a second educational session and networking event.

Spend some time investing in your own personal growth.

Did I mention we are extending our pre-sale price to May 4th?

Hope to see you there…you won’t be disappointed.

Register and check out more details at


PS: We’re rallying 100 members to stand alongside us as we celebrate Toastmasters’ 100-year legacy and the vibrant spirit of District 53. Will you be one of them? Join us and make history!

In the Spotlight: Conversations with Our Conference Co-Chairs

To shed light on the dedication and passion fueling our upcoming conference, I reached out to our esteemed co-chairs, David Freedman (DF) and Richard Peck (RP), to learn more about their motivation and behind-the-scenes conference planning with a few short questions. Their tireless efforts and strategic insights have been instrumental in shaping the conference’s direction and ensuring a memorable experience for all attendees. Through this brief interview, I aim to offer our readers an exclusive glimpse into the planning and thoughtful decision-making driving this event. 

ZF: How many times have you chaired the Toastmasters District conference, and how has each experience shaped your approach to leading such an event?

DF: Over my 37 years in Toastmasters, I’ve been involved in approximately 40 District 53 Conferences – we used to have 2 a year. This is my sixth time chairing/co-chairing. No matter the length of time I’ve been involved I always look at each year as a blank canvas. It’s about keeping the members first…I am a member first and foremost and I ask, “Are we giving them an exceptional experience where they can learn and grow? Is the day of value that I would jump to register?” The conference committee always has great lessons learned and best practices that come from each year – that and participant evaluations we use when starting to plan future conferences.

RP: This is the first Toastmasters District Conference that I have chaired.

ZF: What motivates you to take on the role of conference chair, and how do you stay inspired throughout the planning and execution process?

DF: I enjoy logistics and planning events, whether Toastmasters or other professional organizations I’ve been a part of. Planning an event and seeing it come to fruition is very satisfying. Hearing attendees’ comments about how much they enjoyed the day makes any issues we may have come across in the planning fall away. I’ll be involved in planning conferences as long as the District leadership wants me to be!

RP: The District Conference is an opportunity for members to gather from throughout the district to celebrate the year, hear from inspiring keynote speakers, immerse themselves in great educational sessions, and witness the best speakers from the district as they compete in various speech contests. Who will go on to represent District 53 in the World Championship of Public Speaking? Wanting to provide the best member experience possible by helping to coordinate these various aspects of the conference is what motivates me. It’s not about having the title of Conference Chair…it’s about contributing to the experience. I stay inspired because throughout the process I am constantly learning something new. Thanks to those who have served on the conference committees before, and some who still do, there is a depth of knowledge that helps with the planning and execution and is vital to the success of the conference.

ZF: Reflecting on your past conferences, what are some of the most memorable moments or highlights that stand out to you?

DF:  The high caliber keynote speakers stand out as do the outstanding sessions our own members deliver. Our members knock it out of the park! Seeing the skillset of our members delivering educational sessions – some have come so far in their Toastmasters journey.

RP: In 2008, I was the Division D Governor which was the host Division for the District Fall Conference. District Governor Karin Von Kaenel asked me to open the District Council meeting by reading the District Mission but she had a request, “Please present it in a way beyond the normal read-through.” So, I dressed up as a Town Crier and delivered it with a colonial approach. I also had the honor of hosting the Friday night talent show which showcased over 20 performances from individuals and groups. There was something for everyone, from magicians to musicians, and everything in between. If that wasn’t enough, International President Jana Barnhill made her official visit to the district. Memories that will last a lifetime!

ZF: Can you share a particular challenge you’ve faced as a conference chair and how you overcame it, or what you learned from the experience?

DF: There are challenges that always pop up whether venue, speakers, keynotes, etc. The key to big issues is to work with your team to resolve them. No one has all the answers – you have a talented team so leverage their insights. No matter the experience level, every member of the team brings skills to the table to enhance the experience and overcome challenges.

May Greetings

Dear Toastmasters,

I hope this message finds you all well and thriving in your speaking and leadership journeys. As we move forward, I have some important updates and reminders to share with you all.

Firstly, I’m pleased to announce that I was elected to a second term as Division E Director for 2024-2025. I am excited to continue serving District 53! I encourage anyone who might want to be an Area Director next year to send their information to me, so we can have a conversation.

As we gear up for the District Conference on May 11, I urge you all to plan to attend. It’s a fantastic opportunity to connect with fellow Toastmasters, learn from inspiring speakers, and support our Division E champions in the contests. 

Now, let’s talk about Club Officer elections. Nominations should be made by the last meeting in April, with elections taking place by the first meeting in June. It’s crucial that the new officers are reported on the website by June 30. 

There are ten Club Officer Training events scheduled already. If you’d like to be involved in facilitating those events, please let Bettyann Peck and Mohan Padamati know. Make sure to mark these events in your schedules to ensure you don’t miss out on valuable training opportunities.

In closing, I want to express my gratitude to each and every one of you for your dedication and commitment to Toastmasters. I have learned that I cannot do this alone. I need your support to bring positive change and growth to Division E. 

Warm regards,

Elizabeth (Liz)  Keeling
Division E Director 2023-2024-2025!

Norwich Open House Success!

Maroon banner announcing an open house on 17 April 2024,  in front of a range of photos depicting guests and speakers from the event.

On Thursday, April 17th, 2024, Norwich Toastmasters club held an open house at Chelsea Groton Bank in Norwich. We had 19 attendees, including 6 guests at our club meeting. Of our six guests, we had one guest from District 38 who gave a speech and our District 53 District Director, Distinguished Toastmaster Patti Walter.

To get us started, Ed Watkins, our Toastmaster of the Day, introduced our technicians that were filled by members from both Norwich Toastmasters club and our sister club, Colonel Ledyard Toastmasters. This meeting focused on spreading the word about Toastmasters and what Toastmasters has to offer. If you are looking for somewhere to challenge yourself to grow personally and professionally, you need to check out Toastmasters, as we all know the number-one fear is public speaking. The first section of the meeting focused on prepared speeches. At this meeting, we had three electrifying speakers!

  • The first speaker this evening was Christine Gabel, her speech was titled, “Find Your Voice, What Norwich Toastmasters Can Do for You?”. Christine’s speech was a very compelling speech about Toastmasters and what it has to offer, to help you find your voice because Toastmasters is an affordable continuing education that teaches you skills and allows you to practice them in a positive and supportive environment without fear of failure. Christine is new to Toastmasters and it is very evidence she is passionate about Toastmasters.
  • Our second speaker, Dennis Stevens, gave his speech titled, “Be Brave!” Dennis joined the club this past February and is already giving his 3rd speech. Dennis was inspired to give this speech after attending several club meetings and notice people refrain from participating. He talked about what does bravery mean? in reference to public speaking. He told us about the tale of two arrows in Buddhism. The first arrow we can’t always control, but the second is our response to the first arrow. He ended by giving us suggestions on how to handle our fear of failure and challenged us to let go of our fear, be brave and start right now by volunteering for Table Topics.

Photo provided by Christine (Christine and Mary were missing from the photo)

  • Our final speaker was Frank Vowinkel from Lehigh Valley Toastmasters in Pennsylvania, a club in District 38. Frank came to practice his contest speech titled, “The Funcle”, and to receive informal feedback prior to competing at his District’s Humorous Speech Contest. It was a hilarious story on how he was the fun uncle. His niece and nephew are so lucky to have a Funcle!!! We wish him all the best at the contest and look forward to hear how he placed.

We then moved to the impromptu section of the meeting, Table Topics. This part of the meeting allows us to practice thinking on our feet. Darrell Fox, our Table Topics Master, introduced school days as the theme for this session. Darrell asked questions about favorite teachers, best school topics, favorite toys and/or activities when we were all growing up. It was a lot of fun!

The final section of the meeting was evaluations led by our General Evaluator, Nate Jaycox. In this section we received constructive feedback to help us continue to improve our skills. Toastmasters provides a positive and supportive environment to allow us to learn and practice without fear of failure.

Are you looking to improve your communication skills? Are you looking to become a more effective leader? Are you looking for somewhere to challenge yourself to grow personally and professionally? If you answer yes to any of these questions, please attend our next Toastmasters club meeting in person or online.

DATE: Wednesday, May 1st

TIME: 7-8:30 pm


  • The Congregational Church of Salem
    at the Community Building across the street from the church.
    244 Hartford Road
    Salem, Connecticut 06420


  • LINK:
  • Meeting ID: 847 3287 2267
  • Passcode: 4779255

For more information about the upcoming club meeting, contact Dennis Stevens at 760-802-4103 or Sharon Mercado at 860-367-4195.

Spring Blooms

Hello Division C Toastmasters, 

I hope your Toastmasters spring is going well!  

I have a few updates and reminders of now, there is no successor for the Division C Director for the 2024-2025 Toastmasters’ year.  The incoming District Director will appoint someone, and indeed already has a candidate in mind!  Please let me know if you would like to be an Area Director next year so I can pass it on to my successor to-be and the District Director-elect.

Division C will have its own gathering in early June. Save the date for a social and educational event for all our members to celebrate this year.  Come and relax, eat, mingle with others and bring your questions about Pathways or anything else. Please let me know you’re coming!

If you haven’t made plans yet, you should plan to attend the District Conference on Saturday May 11.  We have a great range of speakers and workshop presenters, including Accredited Speaker Sheryl Roush DTM! I’ll be there and hope to see you — if you see me, come say hi. I also hope your club will be represented to cheer on the Division champions in the contests: the Evaluation contest is Friday night, and the International Contest is on Saturday. Cheer on your fellow Division members!

Your club should also be deep in planning for next year’s officer slate. By the Club constitution, nominations for incoming Club Officers are due by the last meeting in April, and the election takes place by the first meeting in June — with the new officers reported on the website by the current secretary or other club officer no later than June 30. 

To help prepare next year’s club officer teams, Club Officer Training events are starting to be scheduled. Please let Bettyann Peck and Mohan Padamati know if you’d like to be involved in facilitating those events — and add the first two events, June 20 and June 22, to your own schedules!

As your Division C Director this year, I’ve learned a lot, especially how important it is to collaborate with others in events such as the Area and Division Contests, while trying to complete my own Pathways projects.  I hope you continue to grow as speakers and leaders.  Lastly, remember that the DCP (Distinguished Club Program) year ends on June 30, so get those education credits in!

Selina Tourjee
Division C Director 2023-2024

First Summer 2024 Club Officer Trainings announced

Program Quality Directors Bettyann Peck (2023-2024), and Mohan Padamati (2024-2025) invite you to Summer Club Officer Training (COT)!

All District 53 COT events are online via Zoom!

Please see more information and register at

Summer Club Officer Training is targeted for incoming club officers for the 2024-2025 program year, but all club members are welcome to attend.

The June COT dates have been scheduled, as listed below.  July and August dates will be announced soon.

Join Us for the District 53 Toastmasters Annual Conference – May 10-11!

Dear Fellow District 53 Toastmaster,

As Program Quality Director for District 53, I’d like to extend a personal invitation for you to attend this year’s District 53 Toastmasters Annual Conference on May 10-11 at the Heritage Inn & Conference Center in Southbury, CT. The Conference Committee has put together an amazing program and the theme “Breaking Barriers” is something we can all relate to, whether it is a barrier in the way we network with others or a barrier to our own personal growth.

You will have the opportunity to experience two special workshops with a world-class Toastmaster and Accredited Speaker, Sheryl Roush. Her engaging, heart-centered keynote message will make you feel re-energized and inspire you even beyond your Toastmasters journey.

There will also be two additional morning breakout sessions led by outstanding District 53 Toastmasters. These interactive sessions will provide great tips on how to take your presentations to the next level as well as more advanced and cutting-edge topics. Plus, celebrate this year’s Communication & Leadership Award winner Alisa Klein with an all-inclusive luncheon. We close the conference with the fourth level of competition in the International Speech Contest – come see some of the best speakers in the District!

As Cathy K., a 2023 conference attendee, said “At first, I wasn’t sure I wanted to spend a whole day, traveling to another state for the District conference but I’m SO glad I did! It gave me an opportunity to enhance my Toastmasters experience, and meet cool, new people, and I was blown away by the speech contest participants. It was a fun day- well worth it!”

Ticket prices go up on April 27th to the At Door rate, so please register to join us for this exciting opportunity to meet new people and invest in your own personal and professional development. Looking forward to seeing you there! There is a club rate, three or more people from the same club get a 10% rebate. Bring your fellow members and share this experience!

Additionally, don’t miss out on the FREE Friday night District Evaluation Speech Contest and socializing gathering on, May 10th at 7 pm. Click here for directions

Yours in Toastmasters Service,

Bettyann Peck, DTM
Program Quality Director 2023-2024

Toastmasters District 53 | Region 9
Serving Connecticut, Western Massachusetts, and Eastern New York
“We build new clubs and support all clubs in achieving excellence”

2024-2025 District Officers Elected

On Thursday 11 April 2024 by unanimous ballot, District 53 elected its slate of officers for the 2024-2025 program year during the spring business meeting of the District Council.

Serving in the District Leadership Trio are:

  • Bettyann Peck, DTM, District Director 2024-2025
  • Mohan Padamati, DTM, District Program Quality Director 2024-2025
  • Jackie Kessler, DTM, District Club Growth Director 2024-2025
  • Bettyann Peck joined Toastmasters in 2016 as a member of Park City Toastmasters in Division B and is a veteran of the U.S. Navy. Her proudest achievements in Toastmasters is seeing members she has mentored grow in their communication and leadership skills beyond anything ever expected to achieve. Her professional career spans over 40 years; as the owner of a renovation company, she enjoys designing and installing her clients’ visions of the perfect kitchen, bath or living space.   She lives in Seymour, CT with her husband Richard (also an active Toastmaster) and their dog Indi. Bettyann loves being mom to three amazing children and spends time with 5 grandchildren. In her spare time when she’s not renovating her own vintage home, she serves her town as an elected member on the Board of Finance, an active Lions Club member, World Vision International Board Member and an officer at various Veteran posts.
  • Mohan Padamati joined Talk It Up Toastmasters in Windsor, Connecticut in 2011. He is also a member of Screaming Eagles Toastmasters club & Talking Tomorrow Together Toastmasters club in Division C. He has completed the Distinguished Toastmaster award twice and he was a Division Director of the year in 2021. He is currently working for Cyient Incorporated as an Associate Vice President (AVP). He collaborates with multiple leaders on daily basis and works with very diversified human capital. He lives with his wife Madhu and their two boys in Glastonbury, CT.  His hobbies are Toastmasters, reading the books and watching Bollywood & Tollywood movies.
  • Jackie Kessler joined Bethlehem Toastmasters in 2016. Her journey has included completing five paths in Pathways; serving in nearly all club officer positions in her home club; being a charter member of New York State Forum Toastmasters; serving District 53 as an Area Director, Division Director, and Club New Source Research Chair; taking first place in two District-level speech contests; and receiving the District 53 Toastmaster of the Year Award for 2021-2022. For more than 20 years, Jackie has worked in marketing and communications, with skills including strategic communications, content development, and editorial. She lives with her husband Brett (also a member of Bethlehem Toastmasters) in Delmar, NY, along with their recent college graduate son, currently matriculating son, and two cats. 

Elected alongside them are four of the five Division Directors. Due to a last-minute withdrawal from the campaign, District Director-elect Bettyann Peck will appoint a suitable Toastmaster to the role of Division C Director, who will then be confirmed by majority vote at the fall business meeting of the District Council.

Serving for the Divisions are:

  • For Division A: Melanie Lee
  • For Division B: Scott R. Davis
  • For Division C:
  • For Division D: Stephanie Roy
  • For Division E: Elizabeth Keeling
  • Melanie Lee  joined Toastmasters in December of 2020 as a member of Greater Stamford Toastmasters in Division A.  She is most proud of being able to serve the membership of Area 11 as the Area Director from 2022 to 2024.  Melanie is a retired NYC certified English teacher having served for 25 years in Brooklyn and the Bronx.  She lives in Stamford with her husband Michael and their canine companion, Blue.  In her spare time, she talks up Toastmasters at her current place of employment, The Ferguson Library, church-Union Baptist Church and, as a member of the board of directors of C.O.N.E.C.T. (Congregations Organized for a New Connecticut).
  • Scott R. Davis joined Toastmasters in 2011 as a member of Greater Bridgeport Toastmasters in Division B, and is also a member of Park City Toastmasters.  The first time he passed through District leadership roles, he received Area Governor of the Year in 2015 and the U-Rock Award in 2016.  Professionally, he holds the unique role of being the Chief Encouraging Officer of Life (CEOOL). In his free time, he loves write, taking photos, solving puzzles and being surrounded by his faith community.
  • Stephanie Roy joined Toastmasters in November 2020 as a member of Talk It Up Toastmasters (2020-present) and Nathan Hale Toastmasters (2020-2023). She immediately fell in love with the opportunities for growth and D53 community. In April 2024, will also earne the distinction of Distinguished Toastmaster. Stephanie is a seasoned entrepreneur and a dedicated coach and consultant for entrepreneurs, helping them design businesses that align with their passion for making a positive impact. She owns a martial arts school and has a passion for building empowering, community-focused villages within brick-and-mortar businesses. She balances her professional pursuits with homeschooling her son, nerding out on Zettelkasten, and playing way too much Dungeons and Dragons.
  • Elizabeth Keeling joined NYISO Toastmasters in Rensselaer, NY in 2017. She is also a dual member of Capital Advanced Toastmasters in Division E. She was awarded District 53 Toastmaster of the year for 2022-2023 at the District 53 Annual Conference. She is currently working as a Project Manager for the New York ISO (NYISO) and brings experience from the healthcare and energy/utility industries. Elizabeth lives with her husband, Grant, and their two cats in Rensselaer, NY. In her spare time, she enjoys traveling, playing video games, and reading.

The new District Trio and Division Directors will make their promises and be formally installed at the District 53 Annual Conference on May 11, 2024 in the afternoon; and take office on July 1, 2024 at midnight.

The whole volunteer staff of District 53, and all the Toastmasters membership of the District and beyond, wish them great success in 2024-2025!

Communication & Leadership Award 2024

For immediate release —

District 53 is pleased to announce the 2024 recipient of its Communication and Leadership Award. The Communication and Leadership Award is presented by the District to a non-Toastmaster in the community who is an outstanding communicator or leader.  The recipient will have distinguished himself/herself as a leader or spokesperson for a worthy cause or purpose, especially as it exemplified their communication and leadership skills. 

Alisa Klein, Executive Director of Grow Food Northampton (GFN), manages and stewards access to farmland and healthy food to create what they call a “local food system” in Hampshire County, Massachusetts. The organization: 

  • Offers 320 organic community garden plots on six acres to provide gardening space to 400 community members; 
  • Leases prime farmland and provides infrastructure and resources to ten small farms on the 121-acre Grow Food Northampton Community Farm;
  • Manages year-long weekly farmers markets to connect local farms directly with customers;
  • Runs a free mobile farmers market that, weekly, delivers fresh local produce and other quality ingredients to hundreds of individuals and families grappling with food insecurity and hunger;
  • Operates a Giving Garden that grows and donates thousands of pounds of organic produce annually to local food pantries and community meal sites; and
  • Conducts collaborative research projects with academics and others on sustainable and climate resilience-enhancing agricultural practices.
Alisa Klein, executive director of Grow Food Northampton, and recipient of the 2024 District 53 Communication and Leadership Award
Alisa Klein,
executive director
Grow Food Northampton

On the Community Farm, GFN leases land to farmers who have traditionally been denied access to farmland, including refugees from war-torn places like Somalia, women farmers, and others. In addition to its farm-based Community Garden, GFN has established community gardens at nine public housing communities to enable low-income families to have access to green spaces and grow their own food. Working together with local business sponsors, Grow Food Northampton doubles the purchasing power of low-income individuals so they can afford more healthy local foods at GFN’s farmers markets. The organization also collaborates with the local school system to deliver hands-on education about nutrition, cooking with locally grown food, and gardening to all K-12 students, while also offering workshops to adults on a variety of local food system-related topics. 

Ms. Klein is a long-time activist and community organizer working on issues as diverse, yet interconnected, as the climate emergency and peace and justice in Palestine and Israel. She has been deeply involved in bringing restorative and transformative justice models to addressing harm in communities. Between 2014 and 2020, Alisa served as a Northampton, Massachusetts, city councilor where she established a Select Committee on Pesticide Reduction and wrote and sponsored legislation to prohibit the use of pesticides in municipal spaces. She has a bachelor’s degree from Smith College and a Master’s in International Policy from the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey.

Alisa Klein will receive the award at the District 53 Annual Conference in Southbury, CT, on May 11, 2024.

District 53 Toastmasters is an administrative unit of Toastmasters International that supports the Toastmasters clubs in Connecticut and Western Massachusetts, and the Albany, Hudson Valley and upper triangle of New York State. Clubs are open to all adults 18 years of age and older through the payment of membership fees; all members of clubs are members of District 53 Toastmasters. You can find a club near you through the Find a Club feature, or learn how to Start a Club in your community or in your corporate or government environment.