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Hi I’m Jessica - Co-Director of PELP, MA

How I became co-owner:

Believe it or not, my first encounter with Portland Early Learning Project was through a Craigslist ad. Yes - that’s right!! I started out as an employee. I fell in love with the program right away. The two (awesome!) PELP founders, Christina and Kara, both have Masters in Speech and Language Pathology. Together they created a systematic and brilliant way of teaching Spanish and Sign Language by creatively and expertly incorporating speech therapy techniques into thematic units.

I love the curriculum!

And I absolutely LOVE teaching this curriculum to children! Our classes, camps, and story times are full of books, songs, manipulatives, and games. The tried-and-true method that we use is not only fun - it’s functional! Children don’t even realize that they’re learning.

How fortunate am I to be able to teach this amazing curriculum that seamlessly incorporates singing, reading, and playing with children - the trifecta of my favorite things!?! (Raindrops on roses… )

The strongest aspect of our program is our focus on eliciting Spanish from our students through play.

Even with just one class per week, our students have the opportunity to develop great accents from the get-go. Our budding adventurers not only come out of our classes with a positive language learning experience but with the desire to understand and connect with the wider world around them. Hello, world peace!

How I learned Spanish

I spent the most magical, life-changing trimester in Cuautla, Mexico back in college. I made a pact with a friend not to speak a single word of English -- and both of us came out speaking with near-native fluency! It took me five years, but I found a way to make my way back to (my beloved) Mexico by working as a lab tech at the University of Mexico for two years. That single trimester in my second year of college set me on an incredible (albeit circuitous) path to where I am today - an owner of an amazing Spanish program where I get to share my passion for Spanish language and cultures through singing, reading, and playing.

Fun facts about me!

  • I was born and raised in Washington, DC, and have lived in seven different cities (two of which were in Mexico!).
    I have more than 150 relatives on my mother’s side (I’ve lost count!), and only 6 on my father’s side.
  • Georgetown University offered me scholarships in two different graduate programs: Latin American Studies and Microbiology and Immunology. I didn’t want to choose between the two, so I persuaded them to let me enroll in both programs at the same time!
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  • I regularly compete in local racquetball tournaments. I won a grant that covered all of my expenses to compete at Nationals in Fullerton, CA!
  • Growing up I sang in various church choirs, glee club, show choir, musicals, and gospel choir. I sought opportunities to sing wherever and whenever! Here in Portland, I found the perfect venue to satisfy my love for singing… The Low Bar Chorale! It’s a drop-in community chorus. (You should join us sometime!)
  • I have three wonderful children, Amanda (21), Danny (17), and Raquel (14). I’ve learned lots about teaching from being their parent (and had to unlearn a few things, too!). What I am most proud of is that they’re kind, curious, and love to read. And I am absolutely thrilled to provide a solid launching pad that will set them on their own adventures!!

Come and adventure with us! I can’t wait to adventure with your littles.

"My daughter absolutely adores Maestra Jessica! She is fantastic. My daughter enjoys telling me what she learned in class & practices speaking Spanish around the house. She's quite proud of all she knows & has learned."

Meet the Teachers

Kris
Kris Jensen

Adventures in Spanish Instructor

Kris started learning Spanish while working in a kitchen with all Spanish speakers. From there he went back to school to get his degree in Spanish and was also a medical interpreter.

Spanish is a passion of his; he is excited about teaching it to others and loves working with children. Kris grew up in SW Portland and lives there now with his wife and 3 children, ages 6, 4 and 1. He previously worked with Spanish speaking families in the Healthy Families program at Lifeworks Northwest, teaching families with children ages 0 to 3 child development, healthy attachment, and positive discipline.is loves being in nature with his family (or sometimes alone in silence!), enjoys playing music and cooking and spending time with his wife, Emily.

marcela
Marcela Rodas Bautista

Adventures in Spanish Instructor

Marcela is originally from Guatemala City. She moved to Portland, Oregon in 2016.

She started teaching Spanish as a second language in Turin, Italy where she obtained her Bachelor's in International Relations.

When she returned to Guatemala she continued to teach Spanish to children and adults. She is also a circus performer and a movement arts coach for people of all ages.

"My daughter absolutely adores Maestra Jessica! She is fantastic. My daughter enjoys telling me what she learned in class & practices speaking Spanish around the house. She's quite proud of all she knows & has learned."

Ximena
Ximena Morales Rosas

Adventures in Spanish instructor

Ximena was born and raised in Mexico City. As a girl she was very curious and wanted to know everything - that is how she discovered her fascination for languages, and even grammar rules! At the age of five, her mom took her to her very first English class, and by 7th grade, she had studied French, English and Spanish Literature. She continued studying those languages for 7 more years.

In high school she fell in love with theater. When she was 19 she decided to continue her education at a language school in Portland, the Kaplan International Center.

Seeking out even more education, she went on to the Chemeketa Community College where she completed every level of the ESOL program. Ximena currently lives in Beaverton with her husband and daughter. She loves spending time outdoors, surrounded by nature, eating Mediterranean food, and spending time with family and friends.

Seanya
Seanya Pastrana Mondragon

Adventures in Spanish instructor

Seanya was born and raised in Mexico City, Mexico. She came to Portland with her family and completed her diploma at Cleveland High School in 2010. She was involved in Milagro Theater as an actress where she developed her artistic skills and found passion in teaching young students and coordinating events. She is very involved with being an after school teacher and learned to gain trust with parents who came from different cultures and backgrounds.

She obtained her Associates and also received the Global Studies Focus award at PCC and was an active member in MECHa, International Club, Spanish Club and Muslim Student Association. She is currently at Portland State University finishing her double major in International Studies for Community Development and a B.A. in Spanish as well as being the official Dream PSU event Coordinator for DACA students. Her main goal is to teach young children how to love, respect and appreciate diversity in the United States by her knowledge of international studies as well as her Hispanic heritage.

Carolina
Carolina Jimenez

Adventures in Spanish instructor

Carolina was born and raised in Colombia, South America. She moved to Portland, Oregon in her late teens to learn English and to earn her Bachelor’s Degree in Theology at Portland Bible College.

Carolina has worked for various nonprofit organizations, including in administrative positions for the American Red Cross, but she has always loved working with kids. She has been a volunteer teacher at her church for the past 13 years, and still counting! She also works as an interpreter. She enjoys meeting new people and being a communication bridge between cultures.

Carolina loves spending time with her husband and two children, Daniel & Olivia, whom she enjoys teaching the most!

Ceci
Ana Cecilia (Ceci) Pratt Orozco

Adventures in Spanish Instructor

Ceci is originally from Guadalajara, Jalisco, Mexico. She holds a Bachelor's degree in Finance Administration but has always been involved in education projects.

When she moved to Portland in 2013 she volunteered with a Montessori School and for Happy Mindful People. Working with kids has been very inspiring and she looks forward to sharing a piece of her home country with her students. 

She's also a professional racquetball player and a certified yoga teacher. She plays tournaments in the United States and Mexico. When she's not playing racquetball, you can find her practicing lots of yoga, hiking the Gorge, cooking vegan meals with her husband, reading, and enjoying time with family and friends. Ceci has taught with us before and we are so excited to have her back teaching with us. 

Kate
Kate T. English

Adventures in Spanish Instructor

Kate’s post-university experience as a Peace Corps volunteer in the Dominican Republic was just the beginning of what has become her life-long passion for the Spanish language and Latino cultures. 

Kate has been very involved with Amigos de Las Americas, a youth leadership and cultural immersion program that trains and sends high school students to Latin American countries for summer projects. Over the past 20 years, Kate has traveled extensively throughout Latin America with her husband and two children. After a couple of recent trips to Nicaragua, Kate self-published a bilingual children's book about rescued street dogs to help fundraise for Mariposa, a non-profit community employment and animal rescue organization in rural Nicaragua. Just back from six months in Peru and Spain, Kate currently lives in NE Portland with her family.

Delia
Delia Garcia

Adventures in Spanish instructor

Delia was born and raised in Monterrey, Mexico. She received her degree in Education in 2000 and also obtained a diploma in Special Education Studies. She gained experience working in an elementary school for six years, and has worked with various groups of teachers performing social services in rural areas in Mexico.

Teaching is one of Delia's passions, as she enjoys being a part of the learning process with young children. Delia lives in Beaverton with her ​husband, Abraham, and their three children Alejandro, Zulianny, and Sebastian.

She loves spending time with family, traveling, and going to the theater.

Yolotzin
Yolotzin “Yoli” Pastrana Mondragón

Adventures in Spanish instructor

Yolotzin was born in Mexico City and raised in Portland, Oregon. She studied Spanish in the immersion programs at Atkinson Elementary and Mt. Tabor Middle School. She is so thankful that she was able to participate in the incredible Step Up program at Franklin High School where she received unconditional love and support. It was at her year-long internship at Atkinson, however, where she discovered her passion for teaching.

 She is currently taking classes at PCC and will enroll at Concordia University where she received a scholarship. Yolotzin is thrilled to be joining her older sister and mentor, Seanya, as part of the PELP team! Yolotzin’s main goal in teaching is to provide students the opportunity to fall in love with her native language, as well as opening new doors for expanding their knowledge in the diversity of Latin America.

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Anna Sanders

Adventures in Spanish instructor

Anna lives in Portland with her husband and three kids. She grew up in NE Portland and attended the same schools she now teaches at. Anna fell in love with the Spanish culture in college when she knew she wanted to teach young children. It was important to her to be able to communicate with families from different cultures.

She went to Oregon State University and received her Bachelor's degree from Portland State University. Anna spent her last term in Barcelona, Spain and attended the University of Barcelona. Anna was a teacher at Early Head Start for 12 years before she joined PELP 4 years ago. She enjoys dancing, music, cooking and spending time with her family and friends. She speaks Spanish and English in her home and is enjoying teaching the language to her children. She is incredibly excited to meet her students!! 

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Mayra Montero

Adventures in Spanish instructor

 

As a native Spanish speaker, Mayra enjoys sharing the love for the language and culture. She was born and raised in Los Angeles, California and moved to Portland to attend Portland State University.

During her college days, she studied finance and early childhood education. Her passion has evolved in becoming an educator in the financial industry and during the weekends coaching little kids soccer.

When she is not at PELP, she enjoys spending time with her partner Jason and their bulldog Lola. They enjoy working on projects in their Gresham home. She also enjoys fostering pups from California, cooking, and embroidering.

Tanya
Tanya Bae

Registration & Administrative Assistant

​Tanya grew up in Portland, Oregon. She has a Bachelor of Science in Psychology from Oregon State University and a Masters in Social Work from Portland State University.

Tanya worked for Oregon Department of Human Services/Child Welfare for 10 years before staying home with her children. She has volunteered extensively in her children’s schools and soccer teams over the last 10 years. As a volunteer, she has loved to help bring valuable experiences to children at school and in the community. She has also been a business manager for a family restaurant. Tanya lives in the Beaverton area with her husband and three children. She loves spending time with her family, playing games, going to the movies, and traveling.

KIND WORDS

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"Kate loved Spanish camp and her class throughout the school year. The PELP teachers are encouraging, fun and have a passion for teaching Spanish that really shows. Thank you for all you put into your program."

~ Sara Moyes

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"We are so happy with how Spanish is going! The kids all love it and are very positive about the experience. Just about every parent has commented on their child singing the songs at home (especially "Hola, hola" and the song with about the hidden color). We are already wanting PELP to be a part of our school next year!"

~ Amy, director of Heartwood Preschool

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"Both of my boys (ages 8 and 6) took the class and they loved it. They started out hesitant in the Fall, but soon fell into the program and have enjoyed class. They always leave the class smiling. Also, they have begun practicing Spanish pronunciation at home, which I am thrilled about. We plan to continue the classes next year if they are offered."

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AWARD WINNING PROGRAMS

2014 award
2014-26 award
2015 award
2016 red award
2016 award
2017 award
2019 parent award
2019 AWARD