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
  • 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
  • Stephanie Roy
  • 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.

A Toast to Women in Toastmasters

As I think about the upcoming District 53 conference theme “Breaking Barriers” the main notion grabbing my attention is we are celebrating 50 years of women’s membership in Toastmasters. From my perspective, it seems ludicrous that at one time this was a men-only group. We are a professional organization and very inclusive. Times were different.

This thought led me to wonder who was the first woman, and this would be a great topic for a blog post. Entering a few choice search terms into my search engine of choice, hint it rhymes with bugle, I discovered a great article in a fraction of a second from Toastmasters. It covers everything you’d want to know. I’ll provide a link to this source but let’s explore the highlights. (1)

Way back, before I was even born, in 1970 Helen Blanchard joined a Toastmasters club at the encouragement of her “fellow” members, she used the name Homer. Her joining paved the way leading to Toastmasters eventually opening up for women members. Toastmaster Blanchard later became the first Woman International President in 1985. What an inspiration!

In 2017, I first joined this organization. Women were and are well-established members. From my perspective, they are part of the foundation and the fabric that weaves us together. Many have been mentors to me for my speaking projects, and leadership.

I’d like to recognize a few women Toastmasters. Elizabeth Reed, DTM, is my longest Toastmasters mentor. She has encouraged me to take on many club leadership roles, and district roles. She is well regarded in our club as a mentor for all. Toastmaster Reed, a self-proclaimed bull in a china shop always gets things done in a way that everyone learns from. As a new member our club was struggling, and several officers had to step away. Together we took on many of the needed roles until other members were recruited. This provided much insight into how Toastmasters worked and the importance of stepping up when the chips are down. A lesson that has served me well professionally.

When I stepped up as an Area Director I served under Amy Chiu. She demonstrated lessons of organization for leaders, which was a tremendous help. I carried this lesson into my term as Division Director and continued in my professional life.

Fast forward to today and as I work with District Director Patti Walter, DTM, Program Quality Director Bettyann Peck DTM, and Region 9 Adviser Lynda Starr, DTM. They each demonstrate many great qualities of leadership for our organization and me personally.

Cheers to our ‘fellow’ women Toastmasters! You and your contributions are appreciated.


  1. https://www.toastmasters.org/magazine/magazine-issues/2020/nov/women-in-toastmasters#:~:text=In 1970—a time when,encouragement of her fellow members.

2024 District 53 Conference is Breaking Barriers


Toastmasters District 53 Announces “Breaking Barriers” as Theme for 2024 Conference

Southbury, CT February 13, 2024 – Toastmasters District 53 is thrilled to announce the theme for its highly anticipated 2024 conference: “Breaking Barriers.” This dynamic theme was carefully chosen to celebrate Toastmasters’ centennial year and to reflect on the remarkable milestone of 50 years of women’s membership within the organization.

“Breaking Barriers” holds profound significance as it resonates differently with each individual, capturing the essence of personal growth, empowerment, and achievement. As Toastmasters celebrates its 100th year, the theme serves as a poignant reminder of the organization’s enduring commitment to breaking down barriers to effective communication and leadership.

“We are incredibly excited to unveil ‘Breaking Barriers’ as the theme for our 2024 conference,” said Bettyann Peck, DTM, Program Quality Director. “This theme encapsulates the spirit of Toastmasters as we honor our rich history while embracing diversity, inclusivity, and the limitless potential of our members.”

The conference will feature a diverse range of workshops, keynote speeches, and networking opportunities designed to inspire and empower attendees to overcome obstacles, seize opportunities, and reach new heights in their personal and professional lives.

“We invite Toastmasters members and guests from across the region to join us for an unforgettable conference experience,” added Bettyann Peck, DTM. “Together, let’s break barriers, shatter limitations, and embark on a journey of growth, discovery, and transformation.”

The Toastmasters District 53 “Breaking Barriers” conference will take place May 10-11, 2024 at The Heritage Conference Center, Southbury, CT. Further details, registration, and updates can be found at https://d53tm.org/district-conference/

For media inquiries or more information, please contact Zachary Fisk, Public Relations Manager at prm@d53tm.org.

Marketing Campaign

Hello District 53 Club Officers,

I am writing to let you know that District 53 is partnering with Toastmasters International by participating in a global marketing campaign.

This campaign will begin on 8 January 2024 and run for 90 days until 7 April 2024.  It will consist of using brand recognition advertising on LinkedIn to educate prospective members about Toastmasters.  In order for this to be successful we need everyone’s assistance.  Here is how.

  1. Please check your Find A Club information at Toastmaster International and make sure all the information is correct
  2. Respond to all inquiries within 48 hours.  If you are a restricted club and unable to take this lead please forward to me at dd@d53tm.org. This is the most important part as it can make or break the success of the campaign
  3. If you receive the ad in your LinkedIn account please pass it on, and pass it on again and pass it on even one more time.  The more hits we get the better our chances at a success rate.

One of the benefits of this campaign is that I am able to receive reports on how we are doing.  This gives us the opportunity to maintain an open discussion on campaign progress.

I am including resources to assist you with this campaign. 

The Global Advertising Campaign—2024 Webinar recording to learn the objectives, user journey, campaign goals, and new ads that will be running in your District. The best practices learned will also be highlighted.

The straightforward Global Advertising Campaign Preparation Tips

The Prospective Member Conversion Guide. This valuable resource will help guide clubs to converting prospective members to members, contributing to the growth of your clubs. 

The Prospective Member Follow-Up Email template to use as you reply to prospects in a timely, consistent manner

Finally, please share this message with all your club members and ask them to assist too.  The more the merrier.

Thank you in advance for your assistance and all that you do each and every day for your clubs, your members and yourself.

Happy New Year.

Patti Walter, DTM
District Director, 2023-2024

Call for Nominations

Greetings to all of you from the District Leadership Committee!

This notice serves as the official Call for Candidates as mandated by Protocol 9 of Toastmasters International Governing Documents. District 53 seeks qualified candidates for the following offices:

  • Five Division Directors, one or more candidates for each Division: A, B, C, D, and E.
  • Club Growth Director, two or more candidates
  • Program Quality Director, one or more candidates
  • District Director, one or more candidates

Time is of the essence. Nominations are open now. Nominations shall close at 11:59 pm (EST) on February 15, 2024. Please read Form 450b, the Official Toastmasters Call for District Officer Nominations

All nominations, including incomplete nominations, received after this date and time shall be considered to have been received late and will not be evaluated nor scheduled for interview by the DLC. 

Any Toastmaster who self-nominates or is nominated by another Toastmaster after this date and time MAY have the option of running as a Floor Candidate. There are limiting criteria for running as a Floor Candidate. Don’t delay: submit your nomination today!

A complete nomination will include the following five items:

  1. Candidate Application Form
  2. District Leader Nominating Form
  3. Officer Agreement and Release Form
  4. District Leader Biographical Information
  5. Headshot image (JPG, 225 x 150 pixels)

Be sure to read the role descriptions for District Officers, and the core competencies learned in these roles, in the District Leadership Handbook.

Call for District Candidates

If you are interested in leading your District in building new clubs and supporting all clubs in achieving excellence, watch this video from 2023-2024 International President Morag Mathieson.

Please direct all questions to me at either nominations@D53tm.org or to IPDD@d53tm.org.

Yours in Toastmasters service,
John J. Hogan, DTM, IPDD
Chair – District Leadership Committee

Mastering Communication: Why Your Toastmasters Email Matters

Many of us joined Toastmasters in an effort to become comfortable with public speaking. Along our journeys, we learn that Toastmasters helps us become better communicators overall. Today, we are confronted with many modes of communication, and one of the tried and true methods over the past couple of decades is email. Email is the primary mode of communication between Toastmasters International and you, District 53 and you, and many clubs and their members. An email address also serves as half of your Toastmasters International account credentials. This is particularly crucial for accessing associated websites.

Losing access to an email address can quickly disrupt communication, making it challenging to be notified of opportunities and restricting your access to your Toastmasters education records. In this post, I would like to encourage you to consider changing to a personal email address for your Toastmasters email if you are using a work-assigned address. Additionally, I encourage you to check your spam/junk folders to ensure that communication from Toastmasters International, District 53, and your club are not getting trapped in those folders.

Now, let’s explore several benefits of using a personal email address for your Toastmasters correspondence.

1. This safeguards your ability to access education records, even if you no longer have a connection with the company providing your email account. Having a network of other Toastmasters may help you land another opportunity or at the very least help you continue to prepare for future interviews.

2. Using a personal email address ensures you have privacy over your professional development from an employer. A corporate account is company-owned and may be reviewed by management.

3. It can offer you personal branding by choosing a vanity domain address, or how your username and signature are displayed. This can set you apart and show others your involvement with Toastmasters and commitment to personal growth.

4. It ensures that you have control over accessing news from Toastmasters International and District 53. Both sources provide many opportunities to continue your growth such as news of upcoming training, or interesting articles with valuable insights.

We’ve noticed when sending out District 53 news that some company accounts are completely blocking our newsletters. It may be difficult to convince IT departments to adjust firewall settings to allow newsletters to flow in. Many personal address providers such as Gmail allow all subscribed information to flow in but may filter to promotion or spam folders. In these scenarios, a simple search will enable access to the email, and it can then be marked ‘safe’ for inbox delivery in the future.

Uninterrupted access to this information is helpful to you, and your club, which benefits each of the members, “you”.

As you continue your Toastmasters journey, consider the power of a personal email address — a gateway to uninterrupted education, a shield of privacy, personal branding, and a key to unlocking Toastmasters communications. Take control, update your Toastmasters profiles, and share the wisdom with your Toastmasters friends and peers.

Preparing for Changes to Pathways!

Pathways Changes – How to Prepare

Fellow Toastmasters,

Long requested and awaited changes to Pathways, the Toastmasters education program, are coming in 2024!  This is great news.  However, there will be a transition period where some patience will be needed.  

Per a recent advisory from the Toastmasters International Education team, Pathways BaseCamp managers (typically the club VPE) have been requested to ensure that all Pathways level completion requests and the associated award requests in Club Central be in sync and up to date by December 15, 2023.  If any level completions or awards are submitted after that or the 2 systems are not in sync, there may be impacts to the DCP credit for member level completion awards.

All members should prepare for these changes as follows.

  1. Submit completion approval requests for any Pathways levels already completed by Monday, December 11.
  2. For any paths completed after December 11, hold off on submitting the completion request until we are informed that it is OK to do so.
  3. Each member should check to make sure their Pathways completions and awards are in sync. Learn how in this short video prepared by Toastmasters International.  Inform your VPE of any discrepancies found immediately.
  4. You can continue to work on your path projects — just don’t submit any new approval requests during the transition period.

More news about the improvements to the Pathways education system will be announced as it becomes available.

Norm Thibodeau, DTM
District Administrative Manager, 2023-2024

Want to learn more?  Here are a few references:

From the District Director

September 26th, 2023

Dear District 53 Members,

As you may or may not have heard there was a phishing attempt made against me that affected the senior team.

Patti Walter, District Director 2023-2024
Patti Walter, District Director

Someone posed as me from two outside email accounts and asked the leaders to respond when it was a good time to chat. If they responded to the email they were asked to go and purchase gift cards for a secret recognition program. Once I was notified of this senior team members were notified to not respond and delete the emails.  We thought that was the end of it.

A few days later some of our clubs’ executive committee members received the same email this time with the hackers posing as the club’s president.  The emails appeared to be coming from them through Free Toast Host.  We have notified them of this. To date we are not aware of any one purchasing any tickets. We took these attempts very seriously and made attempts to contact all club presidents so that they could share with their members.  

We are not stopping there. District 53 will be holding a Cyber Security Fraud Workshop on Wed. Oct 4th from 6:00 pm to 7:00 pm. The link to the meeting can be found on the district 53 Website on the front page under Recognizing Cyber Fraud Workshop.

You can never be too safe. 

Let me also remind you that the International Dues deadline is fast approaching on September 30, 2023.

Thank you for all you do. 

Patti Walter, DTM
District 53 Director 2023-2024

A Change in Status for CATC

Founded in 2009, Capital Advanced Toastmasters Club is proud to be the Capital District’s only advanced club. The Executive Committee and club membership has recently voted and would like to announce that the club has decided to embark on a brand-new journey as an open, community club with no membership restrictions.

We are focused on communication and leadership skills, both basic and beyond the basics offered by most clubs! Let us help YOU with Level 4 and 5 & DTM projects or we can help you get started as a brand-new Toastmaster. Our next meeting is Monday, October 2nd at 6:30pm Eastern Time.

Please visit our website for more information. https://1360121.toastmastersclubs.org/