Cove Staff

Pirates Cove Staff
Biographies - Click on BIO to be taken to the individual biographies or scroll down the page to see all staff.

Lester Leal- Student Success and Support Specialist [BIO]

Joey Ramirez- Co-founder, Interdisciplinary Studies faculty [BIO]
Liz Kraus- Interdisciplinary Studies faculty [BIO]
Gavrielle Blank- Interdisciplinary Studies faculty  [BIO]
Sheila Bernard - Interdisciplinary Studies faculty [BIO]



Lester Neal

Lester Neal is in his first season as Assistant Men’s Basketball Coach at Ventura College. He is not a stranger to the VC campus; Lester graduated from Ventura College in 1991. He was once a struggling student considering giving up, until he was encouraged to take advantage of the academic resources that VC offered. Those resources allowed him to change his academic outlook as he went on to graduate from Ventura with a 3.0 GPA and transfer to Arizona State University. After a professional basketball career, Lester earned his Bachelor’s Degree from Arizona State University and embarked on a new career working with youth and families from low income communities in Arizona. Lester spent eleven years working on the Salt River Pima-Indian Community concentrating on growth and development of youth. He was instrumental in establishing Casey Life Skills and Independent Living within the Youth Services Program. One of Lester’s most significant accomplishments was building a structure of organizational skills and techniques to the Foster Youth Services programming statewide. These skills allowed many students to graduate from high school and attend college; a feat that many thought was impossible.
Lester is excited to bring these same skills and attributes to the students of Ventura College and the Pirates Cove. Through partnerships with the campus, Lester is looking forward solidifying the Pirates Cove as a reliable pillar of student support service at VC.
Lester may be contacted at or 805-289-6280.


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Joey Ramirez

Joey Ramirez enters his 19th year in public education and 9th at Ventura College.
Joey has served as Assistant Men’s Basketball Coach, Head Men’s Basketball Coach, Health and Kinesiology Professor, and co-founder of the VC Pirates Cove. Joey was also a student at Ventura College and then transferred to Pepperdine University. He earned his bachelor’s degree from UC Riverside and master’s degree from Azusa Pacific University. He also taught Mathematics at Santa Paula High School (9 years), where he was also an integral part of the Summer Institute Program, which targeted at-risk, incoming freshmen with challenges in mathematics. He continued teaching mathematics at Oak Park High School for three more years; further developing a passion for assisting at-risk students. Ramirez relishes the opportunity to give back to the campus community at Ventura College, by assisting students in math on a daily basis. Ramirez enjoys the process of collaboration with all divisions on campus, as the VC Pirates Cove continues to connect students with campus resources.
Joey may be contacted at or 805-289-6139.



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Elizabeth (Liz) Kraus

Elizabeth (Liz) Kraus, English Professor, is entering her 18th year of education with Ventura College. A returning student, Liz earned her associate of arts degree at Ventura College. She then transferred to Cal State, Northridge, where she earned her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in English. It was with great pride that Liz was able to return to VC as a faculty member and proud alumna. While her teaching is now focused on English V01B, Critical Thinking and Composition, Liz also taught English V02 for many years. Beyond her teaching skills, Liz brings to her classroom as well as to the VC Pirates Cove a feeling of community and acceptance. She sees time spent at the Cove as an opportunity to assist students overcome any fear of writing and instead replace it with feeling comfortable with this process. When it comes to the students at VC, Liz is one who naturally encourages learners to reach their academic goals--including new goals never once imagined!
Liz may be contacted at or 805-289-6280.


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Gavrielle Blank

Gavrielle Blank has been working in Ventura College's Tutoring Center for 2 years, and has taught ESL to international students for 12 years. She is now joining us in the Pirates Cove to tutor reading and writing, as well as ELLs (English Language Learners). She earned her bachelor’s degree from Barnard College of Columbia University, her TESOL Certificate from UCLA Extension, her master’s degree from Claremont School of Theology, and is currently writing her dissertation to complete her PhD at Claremont Graduate University. Her goal is to help students realize that they can accomplish their academic goals no matter what obstacles they must overcome.
Gavrielle may be contacted at or 805-289-6280.

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Sheila Bernard

Sheila Bernard - This buccaneer-at-large grew up in the greater Los Angeles area.  She graduated from UCLA with an inter-disciplinary major, and embarked upon an inter-disciplinary life, including a 28-year career with Los Angeles Unified School District.  Her program served at-risk youth and young adults who were finishing their high school diploma or preparing for the GED.  The program offered all required high school subjects, including Math, English, “hard” science, and social science.  She experienced the advantages of one-on-one instruction for students who struggled with basic subjects because they had different styles of learning or gaps in their early education.  Now she is proud to bring her experience to Pirates Cove to help students discover the feeling of accomplishment that comes with mastery of difficult subjects.  Besides teaching, she has had a couple of adventures in community organizing, having to do with food co-ops and affordable housing.  She is interested in the environment as an ongoing issue affecting all of humanity.
Sheila may be contacted at or 805-289-6280

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