Our Coaches

Coaches Janet Shepard, Susie Bender, Joanna Lawson, Robert van Dusen

From left: Robert Van Deusen, Janet Shepherd, Joanna Lawson.

Each coach has had a different path to coaching; each brings her or his own passion. Here are the paths.

Janet Shepherd took her Core Courses in 1995-1996; she also completed the Art of Coaching in 1996. She began to train with Paul Johnson as a Stage II Coach in 1998, having declared at her own Stage II her desire to become a coach. She has officially been coaching Stage II since 2003 and began coaching Stage I with Kay Mescher after Paul went back to the ministry. After Kay died, Janet was the only coach for both Stages I & II until she helped train the other four.

Joanna Lawson took the Core Courses in 1998 and started staffing them right away, having decided that she wanted to learn “how to do this stuff.” The Smith-Heller Art of Coaching course was no longer offered, so she began staffing Core Courses as a way of learning. She began a series of breakfast conversations with Kay, Janet, and Stephanie Manning . In 2000-2001 Joanna took a Couples Coaching course through the Imago Institute. In 2006 she attended the College of Executive Coaching, taking a series of courses.

Robert van Deusen took the Core Courses in 1998 and immediately became committed to involvement with them and the ICLF community. He has probably staffed more Stage I & II courses than anyone else. He became the voice of “Dad” in those courses after Paul Johnson went back to the ministry. Robert has a strong background as a teacher, a school principal and more recently as a teacher of teachers. He has developed many distinctions about teaching and learning that he finds useful in front of the room.

FAQ about the coaches
(Background for the following Q & A Article)
With suggestions from the ICLF Board, President Jimmy Pinkham suggested he would prepare a few questions for the Coaches if they would provide answers for the 2014 ICLF Newsletter. Joanna Lawson drafted initial responses, gave her draft to the other coaches to review, edit, and respond as they liked. She said one of the Board members would also appreciate some definitional comments on the term “Ontological Coaching.” Susie Bender offered to address the term Ontological Coaching and to site a reference for those who might like to read more. All Q & A responses were compiled, returned to Jimmy Pinkham and are presented here.

Coaches: In 2010 we formed a Coaches Group with the support of the Board, and started to train in earnest to teach the Core Courses for ICLF. We met weekly for over a year. We practiced all of the processes and each piece of the teaching of Stage I. We coached one another many times, recorded ourselves, and used that to see what we needed to learn. We also read Brothers Chalmers’s book, Language and the Pursuit of Happiness. We read old logs—notes from past courses—and anything else that we could find. Janet walked us through the contexts for each piece of Stage I. In March of 2011 we had our “final exam” and we coached a Stage I consisting of Board members and a few others. On our staff for this Stage I, we had Janet, Denise, and other very experienced people. Bobbi Jo van Deusen used her court reporter skills to record the whole thing. We each met with Denise; we got feedback from all in the course.

Jim: As our local coaches, you successfully conduct the first two Core Courses. You must always be prepared, fresh. How do you do it?

Coaches: Every class is made up of a different group of individuals. One of the joys of teaching Education for Living - I & II is discovering the themes inherent in the current group and seeing how everyone will learn from everyone else. Every workshop is a new workshop! We keep ourselves fresh by reading, talking with other coaches, and creating new course possibilities. Watch for a new course, Effective Listening for Life, coming out in April 2015. Our group continues to meet every other week. Now we are reading and discussing the book series, Coaching to the Human Soul by Alan Sieler of Newfield Australia. We are grateful to the Board for reimbursing a portion of the cost of books & shipping from Australia.

Jim: Sounds like the classic recipe of love of mission mixed with earnest efforts. You have told about your efforts. Now tell about your love of mission. What bedrock values motivate and unite coaches?

Coaches: The learning is powerful. It can provide so much peace that we believe in it and think everyone should have the opportunity to learn these language concepts. We see growth and transformation in people taking these courses. We see it in our own lives; we continue to find that exciting. We are committed to making this learning available to as many as possible. We are committed to volunteering in various ways. In the past, four of us have served as ICLF Board President. Each has staffed courses for other coaches. We have done ICLF Coffees, offered free M &M courses, served on ICLF committees.

Jim: As coaches, you epitomize lifelong learners. In the domain we call Education for Living, what do you recommend for ICLF alums?

Coaches: Graduates of the Core Courses would benefit from staying connected to the ICLF community. Talk to coaches about ideas for new courses as our community evolves. Read relevant books. [At the end of Stage I, we give out a booklist that includes such books as Language and the Pursuit of Happiness by Chalmers Brothers & You Are What You Say by Matthew Budd and Larry Rothstein.] We suggest anything by Fernando Flores or Julio Olalla. We urge all in the ICLF Community to refresh their learning by re-taking any of the Core Courses. As time passes, you change; refresh your learning. Our courses also evolve as we learn—even as they stay true to their Ontological roots. Our teaching materials improve; we sometimes design new charts, new processes. For the most recent Stage II, we added a chart that we got from a conversation that Joanna had with Mike Papania on his recent visit. Take the Special Courses and grad courses. Come to M& M’s at the Iowa City Public Library and attend the ICLF Socials. These are places you can reconnect with your learning and with those you learned with. The food isn’t the only thing that’s yummy.

Jim: Thank you. You guys are the jewels in our tiara.


Susie Bender provided an excerpt from What Is Ontological Coaching? by Julio Olalla, her coach/teacher and founder of The Newfield Network. Olalla writes,
"The essays that comprise this book began as a historical and philosophical exploration into the background of ontological coaching which I have been practicing for over 20 years. I am convinced that ontological coaching is one of the most effective methodologies for transformation available today -- both personal transformation and organizational transformation.

…. One way to define ontological coaching—a practice that facilitates the emergence of new possibilities in the personal and/or professional life of an individual (or group) by making him aware of his participation in the construction and co-creation of the reality he perceives. More simply put, ontological coaching addresses the concern for more effective action while also addressing the concerns of the human soul that are mostly left out of our learning practices today." *

* From Knowledge to Wisdom: Essays on the Crisis of Contemporary Learning, Julio Olalla, 2004