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About About

The Chattanooga School of Language (CSL), founded in the summer of 2011, offers access to more than 10 different languages. Unlike what you might find in other classroom settings, CSL teachers take a holistic approach to teaching, with interactive methods that focus on language acquisition and cultural understanding.

Our Philosophy

To truly understand a language, one must too understand the culture from which it comes. So the teachers at CSL provide a broader base for understanding these new languages by delving into cultural aspects, such as customs, food, music and film. This method is not only more engaging than bending over a textbook, but it also helps students really get in touch with a culture outside of their own. By actively growing our knowledge of language, we stand to gain a broader, more culture-rich worldview. So CSL exists to bridge cultural gaps, and it does so—one class at a time.

Meet the Staff

Audi Wilken

Danish, German
Audi Wilken

Audi is a native of Berlin, Germany. A bilingual child, speaking both German and Danish, her love for language began early. She studied German and English at the Copenhagen Business School and has worked as a translator for KPMG in Denmark. She has worked as a private German tutor for the past 10 years, and she established an early childhood music program called SongSeedsTN. Register Now

Cécile Lainé

French, Spanish
Cécile Lainé

Cécile Lainé is a native speaker who grew up in the south of France and Paris. She was a middle and high school French teacher for 8 years in Ohio before moving to Chattanooga late 2015 with her husband and two daughters. In her very interactive classes, Cécile uses the art of storytelling to draw her students into the language. She also relies on music, film, and other authentic resources to build an understanding and appreciation of the culture. She strongly believes every child can and should learn a new language and is very passionate about sharing her passion for the French language and culture. Cécile also speaks Spanish fluently as she lived in Costa Rica and is married to a Costa Rican.

Emil Ayoub

Arabic
Emil Ayoub

Emil Ayoub was born in Jordan in the Middle East where he received two bachelor’s degrees in Agricultural Science and Theological Science, and later in 2014 he received a master’s degree in Biblical Studies. He has more than 30 years of experience teaching and training leaders, which includes his extensive work with The Program of Theological Education by Extension in Jordan. Emil’s experience in training tutors has given him the opportunity to travel and train in other countries in the Middle East, Africa and Europe. He also taught a vocational curriculum for one year for the Amman Baptist School in Jordan for grades 5-11. Emil moved to the USA in 2006 and has lived in Chattanooga since. For the past 8 years, he has taught Arabic at Covenant College. Emil also enjoys learning other languages, including French, Italian, NT Greek and Hebrew. Currently, he is learning the Syriac alphabets.

Ethan Pope

American Sign Language
Ethan Pope

For more than 20 years, Ethan has been involved in sign language. During this time, he worked for the Deaf Division of the Family Service Agency of Chattanooga for over six years. Ethan’s experience in sign language has given him the opportunity to travel and work in other places like New York, California and even sunny St. Thomas. He has always taught sign language basics with other Chattanooga area groups. He is a 2000 graduate from Covenant College with a degree in Organizational Management. PLEASE NOTE: He is in no way related to the man who signed at Nelson Mandela’s funeral. Register Now

Laurie Stevens

Owner/Operator
Laurie Stevens

Chattanooga native but world traveler at heart, Laurie has a passion for culture and language. She has more than eight years of experience in the Spanish language and culture through teaching, studying, working and living abroad. She holds a B.A. in Communications with a minor in Spanish from Berry College and spent a summer in college attending the Universidad de Salamanca in Salamanca, Spain. After graduation, she moved to Costa Rica to attend a language school and immerse herself fully in the language and culture. It was this experience that inspired her to create the Chattanooga School of Language. To her, it’s a result of a belief and first hand experiences of the life-changing effects of language learning and cultural immersion. She currently serves as a member of the Chattanooga Breakfast Rotary Club and has served on the Board of Directors for the International Business Council of the Chattanooga Area Chamber of Commerce.

Leslie Morrow

Italian
Leslie Morrow

Leslie is a Chattanooga native who lived in Italy for twenty years. After obtaining a degree in elementary education from Middle Tennessee State University, she satisfied a longstanding wanderlust by moving to California, then taking an extended backpack trip to Europe, and finally ending up in Italy in 1983. She first taught English in a private language school and later began working as a translator and interpreter. Since her return to Chattanooga in 2003, she has continued her translation/interpreting work as well as teaching Italian. She was adjunct professor of Italian at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga from 2008 to 2015.

Magdalena Jesiak

Polish, Russian, Spanish
Magdalena Jesiak

Magdalena grew up in Poland and moved to Chattanooga in 2003. She has always been fascinated with languages and different cultures. Already as a little girl she knew that she would become a language teacher.

She received a master’s degree in Russian Language and Culture in Poland. As a scholarship recipient, she completed her studies at the Pushkin Institute of Russian Language in Moscow. She also studied Spanish at Southern University and Lee University in the United States. She became a certified teacher of Spanish and Russian. Magdalena has 15 years of professional teaching experience in higher education institutions, public and language schools both in the United States and Poland. Her qualifications are not limited to language instructions. She is an active member of Russian and Spanish communities. She loves teaching and sharing her passion with others. As both teacher and learner of other languages, Magdalena is able to teach with sincere enthusiasm and empathy, which greatly impacts her students.

Maria Vives-Rodriguez

Spanish
Maria Vives-Rodriguez

María was born and raised in Puerto Rico. After completing her first college degree (BA, Physical Education from the University of Puerto Rico), she worked as a volunteer with AmeriCorps in Tallahassee, Florida. The experience with AmeriCorps was pivotal and influenced her decision to pursue two graduate degrees that concentrated on teaching young children (MS, Early Childhood Education and PhD, Early Childhood Education from Florida State University). Her professional experience includes teaching in a Pre-K classroom for 6 years, advocating on behalf of child welfare issues for the Florida Legislature, mentoring student teachers as a student teacher supervisor for Florida State University, and working in the Florida Department of Education monitoring the implementation of State Migrant Education programs for the children of migrant workers.

After moving to Chattanooga, María worked for five years as an advisor in the boarding student program and was a Leadership Instructor at the Baylor School. She served as lead teacher in St. Peter’s Junior Kindergarten and currently oversees the school’s organic gardening program.

Pedro Pons

Spanish
Pedro Pons

Pedro was born in Guatemala and immigrated to San Francisco in 1957. After obtaining citizenship, Pedro got a biology degree and went on to medical school. After practicing Podiatry for 26 years, he relocated to Chattanooga and worked as a medical consultant for Unum. He shared his language by teaching medical Spanish at Erlanger Hospital through Chattanooga State. He also spent three years teaching beginning Spanish to fellow Unum employees and volunteered at the Partnership for Families, Children and Adults, teaching beginning Spanish as well as ESL. Register Now

Rinko Kishimoto

Japanese
Rinko Kishimoto

Rinko was born and raised in Okinawa, Japan, in a household where both English and Japanese were spoken. She attended international school for twelve years, and the teachers and the students were literally from all over the world. Subsequently, she was exposed to different languages and culture at an early age and grew to cherish every moment while growing up in Okinawa. She received a bachelor’s degree in business administration from Maryville College in Maryville, TN, and has made multiple trips to Austria to give presentations on Japanese and American cultures and business practices. She has taught Japanese language and culture classes for Chattanooga State Technical Community College for 10 years. She also enjoys teaching Japanese cooking and origami classes. Register Now

Stefanie Bodkin

Greek
Stefanie Bodkin

Stefanie Bodkin was born and raised on the Greek island of Cyprus. She immigrated to the United States in 2007 to attend college at Lee University in Cleveland, TN. Stefanie graduated in 2011 with a double major in Theater and Television Production. She went on to attend Graduate school at the New York Film Academy in Los Angeles, CA and obtained an MFA in Acting for Film.

Bilingual in Greek and English, Stefanie partnered with the Pasadena Language Center in Pasadena, CA, and began teaching the Greek language and culture to students diverse in age, ability and cultural background. Stefanie is married to fellow Lee University Alum, and recent Fuller Seminary graduate, Daniel. They have recently relocated from California and are excited to call the south home again.

Yuanle Gao

Chinese
Yuanle Gao

Yuanle Gao (Gloria Yang) was raised in China. Her love for the Chinese language and literature began early. She received her PhD in Chinese language and literature in Peking University. She worked for the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences for nine years. She has a broad and deep knowledge of the Chinese language and literature, history, culture and Chinese rare books studies.  She is very knowledgeable in Modern Chinese, Classic Chinese and PinYin. Yuanle has excellent communication skills in both oral and written in Chinese. She was a middle school Chinese language teacher in China for six years and received an “Excellent Teacher” award certificate twice.

Yuanle immigrated to the United States in 2014 and currently also teaches Chinese for a beginner’s class at the Chattanooga Chinese School. She has excellent interpersonal skills and the ability to work successfully with a diverse group of others. She loves teaching and sharing her passion for the Chinese language and culture with others.

Teo Valdés

Spanish; ESL
Teo Valdés

Teo grew up in Central Florida and moved to Chattanooga in 2015. He has been fascinated with languages ever since he was a small child and decided to study Spanish formally when he went to Kennesaw State University for his B.A. He later earned an M.A. in Spanish at UNC Greensboro. He has taken classes in Spain, taught English in Argentina, and traveled extensively in Latin America. He is a certified teacher of Spanish and English and has years of professional experience teaching at the middle school, high school and university levels. Some of his favorite memories of language teaching and learning took place in the six summers he worked at the Concordia Language Villages, where he also met his wife Emily. Teo is enthusiastic and passionate about language learning, and he loves to share his knowledge and passion with others who want to learn. In addition to teaching for CSL, Teo and Emily are opening a Spanish-language immersion camp that will take place in Chattanooga in the summer of 2018.

Emily Valdés

Spanish
Emily Valdés

Emily fell in love with language learning and cultural exchange when she started studying Spanish as a middle school student. In high school she continued to study the Spanish language and culture in school and in Spanish immersion summer programs both in the US, Spain, and Costa Rica. While attending Elon University, Emily got her degree in Spanish and spent a semester studying in Toledo, Spain. She also spent the summers teaching Spanish through language immersion at Concordia Language Villages summer youth programs. Emily is a certified Spanish teacher who loves sharing her passion for the Spanish language and cultures. In addition to teaching for CSL, Emily and her husband Teo are opening a Spanish-language immersion camp that will take place in Chattanooga in the summer of 2018.

Keumtae (Brook) Mikus

Korean
Keumtae (Brook) Mikus

Keumtae (she uses the name Brook) is a native Korean speaker who was born and raised in Cheonan, South Korea. She earned B.A. degree in English Literature at Hoseo University in South Korea and continued after graduation teaching English at the Ewha English school.

After 4 years of teaching, she worked as Assistant Office Manager at KTI where her duties included English translation and interpretation related to international business and finance. She met her husband while working there, and they moved to Tennessee after being married in 2006. She loves exploring different cultures and languages and has traveled to the US for years, as well as France, Switzerland, Singapore, Mexico and the Caribbean. She found her enthusiasm and ability for teaching Korean while teaching at the Zion Korean School for the past four years. She is very proud of her home country, its culture, and its language and believes in sharing it with others in any way she can.

Claire Vassort

French
Claire Vassort

A French native, Claire Vassort was born in Châteaudun, France in the mid-sixties. During her schooling in France, she always showed a strong interest in language and the arts. Her interest in foreign languages and cultures has led her to travel the world extensively. In 2001, she put her bags down in Chattanooga, TN.

A teacher by trade, Claire holds a teaching degree in the French school system and is fully bilingual (French and English). She has been working as a professional French translator for three years and as a French tutor ever since she set foot on the American continent in 1988. Claire has a strong interest in language, art and culture and plans on sharing all of these with her students. Her other passions include silk painting, hang gliding and gardening. She makes a special effort to stay in close contact with France by making a yearly trip to her home land where her entire family still resides.

The Chattanooga School of Language, LLC, is a proud member of the Chattanooga Area Chamber of Commerce, the French American Chamber of Commerce (FACC) and the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages (ACTFL).