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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

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, Spanish
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.

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

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 directors of a Spanish-language immersion camp here in Chattanooga.

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 directors of a Spanish-language immersion camp here in Chattanooga.

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.

Diana Sweet

Chinese
Diana Sweet

Diana started learning Mandarin Chinese as a Rotary International Exchange Student in Taichung, Taiwan. That year left an immense mark on her life and led her to double major in Chinese and Russian language in college. She has spent over two years in China and Taiwan where she focused solely on learning Chinese language, including one year at Peking University. Later, as a doctoral candidate at George Mason University, she was awarded a one-month scholarship to attend Beijing Language and Culture University. In 2017 she earned her Ph.D. from George Mason University in political science. Her dissertation focused on an aspect of Chinese public diplomacy. Over the past 15 years, she has participated in many Chinese language speech contests in the U.S., China, and Taiwan. Previously, she has tutored in Chinese and taught other subjects. Originally from Maine, she is excited to live in Chattanooga now and have the opportunity to teach and share her passion for Chinese language and culture.

Claudia Rodriguez

Spanish
Claudia Rodriguez

A native Spanish speaker, Claudia was born and raised in Mexico City. She earned her bachelor’s and a master’s degrees in Psychology, but she soon discovered her passion for teaching right after she completed her bachelor’s degree. While living in Mexico City, she taught at elementary schools where she loved being a part of an immersion English program. She moved to Chattanooga with her husband in 2015 and since then, has been teaching Spanish to children and adults in a variety of settings. She loves traveling, being a lifelong learner, and having fun with her students of all ages. She’s also studying French!

Barbara Stauch

German
Barbara Stauch

Barbara Stauch was born and raised in Germany. She had an early interest in languages, which led her to study French and Spanish at the University of Bochum. She learned Farsi as well. She holds a master’s degree in French and Education and earned a teaching certificate in German as a Foreign Language.  She has more than 20 years of experience and has taught German at Goethe Institutes and at the universities in Bochum and Essen, Germany. In 2016 she moved to Sweetwater, TN, with her son, who is a senior in a high school in Knoxville. She loves to teach German and make her classes very interactive. She uses authentic materials as much as possible, like music and current magazines. By integrating specific vocabulary and resources into her lessons, she is able to meet the unique needs and interests of her students.

Liz Gibbons

Spanish
Liz Gibbons

Liz was born and raised in San Salvador, El Salvador. She graduated from the Evangelical University of El Salvador with a master’s degree in Business and Human Resources. After teaching as a professor at her alma mater, Liz entered the business world, eventually becoming director in Oceano Idiomas where she guided the teaching and administative staff.

A true lover of her culture and language, Liz continued her career in Chattanooga, teaching Spanish at Belvoir Christian Academy. Liz feels fortunate to have the opportunity to empower others through language learning.

Selena Chavez

Spanish
Selena Chavez

Selena Chavez was born and raised in Chattanooga, TN. She is of first generation being born in Tennessee from two Colombian parents. She graduated with honors from The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga with her bachelor’s degree in Spanish and International Studies and a minor in Political Science. She currently works at Chattanooga Neighborhood Enterprise while also teaching Spanish classes to students of the Chattanooga School of Language. She loves to meet people and share her culture with them. Selena is very happy to be a part of CSL.

Shelley Thomas

Spanish, French
Shelley Thomas

Shelley Thomas is from Memphis, TN, but has been living in Chattanooga for the past five years. She studied Spanish and French language and literature at UTC, graduating with a 4.0 GPA in Modern and Classical Languages and Literature: Spanish and French. Her passion for languages and cultures started with Spanish, but she quickly realized that she didn’t want to stop there, so she decided to begin learning French as well. She spent two summers abroad, one in Spain and one in France, and they are both experiences that she loves to share with other people.

Along with her own goals in learning about languages, she has the same passion for others. Due to this, she is very excited to teach with the Chattanooga School of Language and to have the opportunity to share her passion with others and hopefully allow them to see the greatness of learning other languages and cultures.

Ufuk Bozbey

Turkish
Ufuk Bozbey

Ufuk Bozbey is a native Turkish speaker who grew up in the Mediterranean coast of Turkey in Mersin. She studied English literature in Bilkent University in Turkey and started her teaching career in her hometown at Mersin University as a lecturer in the ESL department for eight years. After she got married, she spent time in the United Kingdom, northeast of England, Yorkshire for two years, volunteering to help young children ages 2-5 develop their language skills. In 2005 she returned to Turkey and started working in Çağ University as a lecturer for the ESL department and continued teaching until they moved to Chattanooga in 2007 due to her husband’s job as an expat family. After five years, they decided to make Chattanooga their home.

She enjoys being in Chattanooga with her two kids and husband. Her children are bilingual, and her daughter is learning German as a third language. She strongly believes in the importance of language learning and cultural awareness in children and people of all ages. She loves being hospitable and cooking for special cuisines for her friends and family.

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).