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About Us

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I Heart Spanish: Nuestra historia

I Heart Spanish started as a small after-school program at Roosevelt Elementary School in Southwest Michigan. We hoped that 15 students would register--and within a week we had 53 registrations! The community had spoken--there is a need and a desire for a language and culture experience for our young children! Our goal at I Heart Spanish is to create confidence and excitement for the language and culture at a young age. We do that through playing games, singing together, doing hands-on activities and most of all...by having fun!

Christine Velasco: Mi historia

Since I was a child I have always been drawn to the Spanish language. I learned my first phrase around 5 years old and I used it every chance I could! Years later I was able to study it formally in high school, college and as a service missionary for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. In my years as a bilingual mom of four, many people have commented "I wish my children knew Spanish!" And that, my friends, is how “I Heart Spanish” was born. I get to share my love for all things Spanish and plant that seed into children in our community- and throughout the world.


I. Heart. Spanish!

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I heart Our Teachers

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Our teachers are what make I Heart Spanish shine! Each teacher brings a deep love of the language, culture, food and music-and teaching these to your children comes so naturally! Our teachers have traveled around the world and bring a unique experience to the classes!

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Danielle Plichta: Danielle is better known as "Señora Plichta" at Lakeshore Middle School and Lakeshore High School and has been teaching Spanish for over 20 years! Danielle was born with the travel bug. Her love for cultural experiences has taken her to Cuba, Spain, Costa Rica, Mexico, Chile, Italy, France and Brazil. Each of these experiences has prepared her for a love of both learning and teaching.

Diana Navarro: Diana is from Guanajuato, Mexico. Her degree is in communication with a focus on children. While working as a Middle School teacher teaching reading and grammar in Mexico, she realized that education is her passion. She has now taught children from 3 years old -13 years old and knows how to cater a class just right to keep their attention. Diana loves sharing her culture and tradition with others!

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Jena Pedroza: Jena has been traveling since she was a child. Her mom introduced her to different cultures and the Spanish language through traveling and practicing the language together at home. These cultural and family experiences and her extensive professional and volunteer work with the local migrant community would guide her to her current career of teaching Spanish at Lake Michigan Catholic School. Her personal experiences with Spanish show students how fun and fulfilling learning new cultures and languages can be.

Karina Garcia: Karina hails from the beautiful Guanajuato, Mexico. Though her work in Mexico was as an Accountant, she found a new love when she moved to the U.S. and started teaching Spanish to children. Her family returns to Mexico regularly to see their relatives, but also to be “tourists” in their own country. Karina loves to explore new places and cultures with her family and wants to instill that love in her students. 

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Lauren Cooper:

Lauren Cooper joins us from Indianapolis, Indiana. She recently moved to Michigan and we are thrilled to have her! 

Lauren's story is incredible-she began learning Spanish at 5 years old at a Spanish Immersion School in Indianapolis and continued through college at Indiana University. How lucky that she was able to attend a bilingual school and start learning Spanish at such a young age! She has also traveled to many Spanish-speaking countries. Her experience as a student, teacher and traveler make her an amazing addition to our community and to I Heart Spanish!

Jessica Lopez: Jessica joins us all the way from Puebla, Mexico. She and her husband have two beautiful daughters and love spending time as a family. They moved to Michigan in 2022 and have fallen in love with southwest Michigan and the community. Jessica loves cooking, dancing, and trying new things. Being a Spanish teacher is an exciting new adventure for her, much different than her job in Mexico as a lawyer! She is excited to share her culture and language with us and we are excited to have her on the team!

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Cecelia Leal: 

Cecilia Leal spent most of her life in Monterrey, Mexico and of course speaks Spanish fluently, but she also speaks English and Italian fluently!

Her love for travel has taken her all around the world--she loves to explore new places, cultures and food. Before moving to the United States she worked as a lawyer. She realized how much she loves working with children and now she teaches children's art classes and Spanish classes. When she's not traveling or teaching she enjoys painting and cooking. 

Yolanda Broehm: Yolanda's experience as a bilingual Para-Professional allows her to work with children moving to the United States for the first time. She sees first-hand what their needs and struggles are as they experience life and school in a completely different country and language. She has a heart of gold and loves working with children. 

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