Key Words is led by Deborah Kennedy, who founded the company in 1998. Ms. Kennedy is an experienced teacher, instructional designer, and program director with a specialization in adult English language acquisition and English for the workplace. She has taught in and directed programs for adults at every level of English language proficiency from basic/beginning through advanced professional, and is experienced in online and face-to-face modes of instruction.

From 2005 to 2016, Deborah held a full-time position with the Center for Applied Linguistics (CAL) in Washington, DC. Her project work at CAL included direction of English for Heritage Language Speakers, a federally funded English for professional purposes program that prepares adults who are native speakers of critical languages for employment with the federal government; management of program evaluation and assessment activities for an online program in professional writing skills development provided by the Center for Advanced Proficiency in English, initially at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County and now at George Mason University; coordination of staff writing skills training and instructional materials development in connection with the Federal Trade Commission’s English-language and Spanish-language consumer protection websites; and coordination of an evaluation of the Saudi Aramco workplace English language program. Deborah served as CAL’s director of development from 2009 to 2012, and as associate vice president for adult English language education, with oversight responsibility for all of the organization’s activities in adult basic education, English as a second language, English for the workplace, and English for professional purposes, from 2012 to 2015.

As principal of Key Words from 1998 to 2005, Deborah provided writing, editing, and technical assistance services for a variety of clients in the nonprofit sector. Activities included development of federal- and state-level grant proposals; substantive editing and copyediting for book publishers; and service as a subject matter expert in adult basic education and English as a second language. For the National Capital Language Resource Center she developed The Essentials of Language Teaching, an informational website designed for new language teachers, particularly those unaccustomed to teaching in U.S. academic contexts. As an editor, she worked with the World Bank, BoardSource, TESOL International, and the Center for Applied Linguistics, among others. She served as editor of Washington Diocese, the newspaper of the Episcopal Diocese of Washington, from 2000 to 2003, and as the program officer for the Ruth Gregory Soper Memorial Trust during the same time period.

From 1991 to 1998 Deborah was director of operations at Language at Work, a corporate training firm based in Washington, DC. While there she designed and developed training programs and training materials in interpersonal communication, business writing, presentation skills, workplace literacy, job skills, career development, and time management for native and nonnative speakers of English. She developed and provided English for specific purposes training for employees in the federal government and in the financial, retail, and hospitality industries, and coordinated workplace literacy programs provided by the Office of the Architect of the Capitol and the Office of the Senate Sergeant at Arms.

Deborah is currently the president of the National Coalition for Literacy. She holds degrees from Boston University, Harvard University, and American University, as well as a certification in online instruction from Quality Matters. She is a member of the following professional associations: