Welcome to Portland Early Learning Project!
Jessica Swartz Amezcua
I’m Jessica - Co-Director of PELP, MA
I spent the most magical, life-changing trimester in Cuautla, Mexico. A newfound friend and I made a pact with each other 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. That single trimester in my second year of college set me on an incredible 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.
Honestly, I never dreamed that I’d become a business owner. Looking back at my journey, however, it makes complete sense. I wanted to learn Spanish because I had so many Spanish speaking classmates in school. When I came back from Mexico for the first time, in fact, the first thing I did was call up my Salvadoran friends and speak to them in Spanish. They couldn’t believe it! They invited me to dance in the best Latin clubs in DC, and that’s how I learned to dance salsa and merengue. What fun times!!
I was a quiet child, and very observant. Especially of my teachers. I had a natural tendency to take mental notes about my teachers, what I liked and didn’t like, about their teaching styles. Those observations have served me well in my multiple teaching experiences since. All of my jobs at college were teaching-related. I worked as a TA in as many Spanish classes as I could, and served as a lab assistant in biology classes. In my last year of college I led a weekly Spanish conversational class. Years later, I worked as a substitute in bilingual and immersion elementary classes in SoCal for seven years.
But believe it or not, my first encounter with Portland Early Learning Project was actually 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 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!
After three years of working as a PELP employee, I was offered the incredible opportunity to become the owner of the Spanish half of PELP. 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!!
The strongest aspects of our program is that we focus on eliciting Spanish from our students. Even with just one zoom class a week, our budding adventurers have the opportunity to form great accents from the get go! They 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.
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 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!)