Meet Our Team

AFDC Staff


    Executive Director - Sarah DILIGENTI

    Sarah comes from a multicultural and multilingual family. She spent her childhood in the West Indies and arrived in Toulouse, France at age 6. She was educated in France and obtained an LLM in International Law in 1986 and a Master of Philosophy in Political Science at the University of Toulouse. Her thesis in 1988 covered History, War, and Cinema. She also passed two National Certifications to Teach French (1992) and English (1993) at the High School and University levels.

    Sarah moved to the US in 1995. She joined the Alliance in 2004 as a teacher, then in 2005 as Academic and Deputy Director, and finally in 2013 as Executive Director.

    Sarah is a 1984 Young Poet Laureate of the Académie des Jeux Floraux. She has published poems in anthologies in France and in the US and was invited to submit a text for a book written by 100 authors, published in October 2017 in Beirut, Lebanon. She is currently preparing to publish her first poetry chapbook for Fall 2018 and is writing a series of short stories as well as her first novel.

    She was a Founding Director of Word Fest, the Annual DC International Poetry Festival and sat on its Board from 2001 to 2006. Sarah was invited on the Diane Rehm Show in 2009 to speak about The Elegance of the Hedgehog, a literary phenomenon in France.

    She was president of Washington Accueil Association, -an association dedicated to helping French and francophone expatriates coming to live in the Greater Washington area- from 1998 to 2000 and founded a book club in 1997, “Avid Readers in DC” to introduce American Literature to French expatriates, which she managed until 2014.

    In January 2017, Sarah was made a Knight in the Order of the Academic Palms, the oldest non-military distinction of the French Republic. Presented by the French Ministry of Education, it recognizes those who have rendered eminent service to French education and have contributed actively to the prestige of French culture. Sarah was recognized specifically for her continuous efforts in the promotion of the French language and to her commitment to grow the Alliance Française D.C. as the premier French Cultural and Language Center in the Nation’s Capital.

  • Ameneh MADJLESSI

    Deputy and Academic Director - Ameneh MADJLESSI

    Originally from Iran, Ameneh learned the French language at the age of 3 in Belgium where her father was a diplomat. After doing a BA in French/Persian Translation and interpretation in Tehran, she obtained a Master 2 FLE (French as a Foreign Language) from the Université Stendhal in Grenoble, France. She moved back to Iran after her Master’s. She founded her own private language school and linguistic lab in Tehran and taught French at all levels. She also worked as a French Instructor and Administrator at the Service de Coopération et d’Action Culturelle (Cultural Services) of the French Embassy in Tehran. In 2004, she moved to DC and started work as a teacher at Alliance Francaise of Washington in September 2005 until November 2013. She also taught French at the World Bank from 2006 to 2016; she was an Adjunct Professor at George Washington University from 2010 to 2016 and has been adjunct Lecturer at Georgetown University since September 2015. She came back to AFDC in October 2016 as Deputy and Academic Director.

  • Adeline D'HONDT

    Children’s Programs Manager - Adeline D'HONDT

    Adeline d’Hondt has been the Children’s Programs Manager at Alliance Française de Washington, D.C. since September 2013. Originally from Amiens, France, she holds a Master’s in Modern Literature. She worked as a librarian in a library system close to Amiens and after passing the DEUST in Library Science, managed the library as its Director for 11 years. She passed the DAEFLE at the same time that she received her green card and moved to the U.S. in November 2012, where she worked for Language Stars before being recruited by AFDC as a teacher, and then as Children’s Programs Manager.

  • Kelsey HAMMER

    Librarian - Kelsey HAMMER

    Originally hailing from Colorado, Kelsey has been in the AFDC Library for the past two years. A lifelong lover of books and libraries, Kelsey worked in the University of Denver’s library all throughout undergrad before joining the AF Library in DC. With degrees in French, Criminology, and a minor in International Studies, being a part of the AFDC has been a great compliment to her studies. Recent favorite reads include Soleil by David Bouchet. When not reading, you can find Kelsey exploring any number of used book stores and trying to befriend as many dogs and cats as possible.

  • Sophie LECLERC

    Executive Assistant & Cultural Coordinator - Sophie LECLERC

    Born and raised in Picardy, a historical region of Northern France, Sophie studied Hotel and Tourism Management at the ESSEC-Cornell University joint program in France, where she obtained her Master degree. Sophie occupied various management positions in hotels before she became a hotel manager for the last 15 years. Sophie then started exploring the world, following her husband to Turkey, Beijing (where she worked as an Administrative Assistant at the Lycée Français de Pékin), Indonesia, and Cairo, where she witnessed the 2011 revolution. Sophie moved to the DC area with her husband two years ago. She started working at the AFDC as a part time administrative officer in Summer 2017, and joined the team as the Executive Assistant in October 2017.

    Sophie is full of enthusiasm and passion. She is very often called “our Octopus” by her coworkers because of her passion and her capacity of taking care of multiple tasks all at once. In addition to being the Executive Assistant and Cultural Events Coordinator, she helps AFDC with administrative tasks, is the AFDC handy(wo)man, gardener, and cooking adviser!

    Sophie enjoys books, plays, movies, traveling and everything about food and beverages. Her favorite quote is: « La vie est comme un arc-en-ciel, il faut la pluie et le soleil pour en voir les couleurs ! » (Life is like a rainbow, we need the rain and the sun to be able to see its colors!)

  • Natasha ZAVADSKAIA

    Certification Coordinator - Natasha ZAVADSKAIA

    Originally from Russia, Natasha studied and worked in Paris for three years before moving to the United States in the summer of 2017. She received a Master’s degree in International Relations and Interpreting in Russia, as well a Master’s in International Affairs and Intercultural Communication at the Université Paris Nanterre. Natasha has been teaching and tutoring Russian, English and French for many years, and traveled a lot among Russia, Finland and France before settling down in Washington. She is very grateful for the opportunity to maintain her ties with French culture and language. When not at work, Natasha is fond of chatting over a cup of tea (and a couple of croissants), going off to discover a new place or visit old friends, skiing, or trying out a new recipe.

  • Jessica STRATTON

    Administrative Assistant / Adult Private Lessons Advisor - Jessica STRATTON

    Jessie has been a part of the AFDC team as the Office Administrator since May 2018. A U.S.-native, Jessie began her multicultural experience at a young age, living in Germany for 3 years where her father was stationed in the Air Force. Inspired by world history and culture, Jessie began to pursue French at the age of 18, as a first-year student at James Madison University. After spending 6 months in Lyon, France and 2 months in Paris to complete her studies, Jessie graduated with her degree in French and Psychology in 2017. Returning to Lyon shortly after, she enjoyed teaching English to French students for 8 months through the TAPIF program before moving to the D.C. area. Outside of work, she might be found reading, going to cat cafés, or trying to recreate a brioche aux pralines, her favorite pastry.

  • Iris HINAULT

    Instructional Coordinator, Kids & Teens - Iris HINAULT

    Originally from the South of France, Iris spent her first ten years in Périgord before moving to Provence. She graduated from the University of Aix-Marseille with a bachelor’s degree in Modern Literature and a Master’s in Education. Iris also followed the eLeSI training (e-learning for Social Inclusion) about intellectual disabilities, autism spectrum conditions and mental health problems. Iris worked with children in several organizations in France (Bouches-du-Rhône) as a camp counselor, an education assistant and as a teacher for children with special needs. In 2016 she moved to Montreal, Canada, where she worked as a care worker for adults with intellectual disabilities and special needs, as an academic support program worker and as an educational workshop coordinator. She moved to the USA in October 2017 and joined the Alliance Française of Washington DC in March as a teacher for adults, kids and teens. Since September 2018 she is our Instructional Coordinator – Kids and Teens, Camps.

  • Bassima El MASRI

    Instructional Coordinator, Adults - Bassima El MASRI

    When Bassima joined the Alliance Française of Washington DC in 2016 little did she know she would fall for the charm of this incomparable place and the people who step in through its door every day. With three decades of teaching enriching her craft she still witnesses marvel every time she meets with her students. An avid learner herself she seized opportunities in the area taking various courses over the years including at Northern Virginia Community College, Johns Hopkins University, and, at George Mason University where she taught both French and Arabic as an Adjunct Professor. Bassima holds a Master’s degree (D.E.S) in French Literature from the Lebanese University in Tripoli where she grew up and was first hired as a teacher. In addition to her lifelong travels following her parents since early childhood Bassima’s first study abroad trip was to Montpellier where she studied archeology and art history for a year in 1985-1986, and her most recent one was to Vichy in summer 2018 starting an M.A. in Teaching French as a Second Language (M2 en FLE). In October 2018, Bassima joined the staff as an instructional coordinator.    

  • Liz NUTI

    Controller - Liz NUTI

  • Dr. Raphaela Kitson-Pantano

    Communications Coordinator - Dr. Raphaela KITSON-PANTANO

    A true European, Raphaela is an anglo-italian born in France. A Genetics PhD Graduate from the University of Edinburgh and holder of a Masters in European Politics and Administration from the College of Europe, Raphaela was for several years the Executive Director of the European Association for the Promotion of Science and Technology. Raphaela then joined the L’Oreal Foundation where she was in charge of Scientific Programmes including the L’Oréal-UNESCO For Women in Science Awards. AXA recruited Raphaela in 2014 as the AXA Research Fund Life & Health Risks Research Officer and she later became Head of International Health Relations at AXA Global Life. Before moving to Washington, Raphaela was Senior Policy Advisor to the AXA France CEO on the topic of Brexit. In her spare time, Raphaela is a Consultant for several NGOs in the realms of science and politics. Raphaela was formerly Vice-President of Euroscience, a member of the ESOF2018 International Steering Committee, and Secretary General of Europ’Attitude.

AFDC Instructors



Francis AGOLA
Ghislaine AKHAVI
Adults (Beginner Specialist)
Achille ANGO
Musical Story Time
Adults, Kids & Teens
Marie-Yasmine AUCLERT
Private, Sub
Laure-Anne BADEY (DELF)
Private, Skype, Corporate
Private, Children
Littérature & Actualiés, Advanced
Specialized French
Specialized French
Kids & Teens, Adults
Kids & Teens, Camps
Kids & Teens, AP Specialist
Jennifer GORE
Translation Specialist
Stéphanie GUERIN
Specialized French, Advanced
Instructional Coordinator - Kids & Teens, Camps
Frederic HOCDE
Judo for Kids
Kids & Teens, Adults
Hortense KOUAME
Kids & Teens, Adults
Kids & Teens, Adults
Kids & Teens, Adults
Story Time
Hervé-Boris NGATE
Adults, Private
Cécile RUEL
Kids & Teens