Abigail is a Chattanooga native with a passion for traveling, learning about other cultures, and learning and teaching languages. She has spent time in several Latin American countries, including a semester abroad in Costa Rica where she discovered her love for the Spanish language. After receiving her B.A. in Early Childhood Education from the University of Tennessee Chattanooga, she moved to Ecuador to teach for two years. She is now pursuing her masters degree in teaching Spanish from Covenant College and is TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) certified.
Angie Shimabukuro - Spanish Teacher
Angie is a native Spanish speaker who was born and raised in Peru. She is a third-generation Japanese-Peruvian, and she is passionate about learning languages, experiencing different cultures, and giving back to her community.
She graduated with a B.A. in Architecture in Peru. After graduation, she moved to France for 3 years and holds a M.A. in History and Comparative Civilizations from University of Paris. When she returned to Peru in 2017, she discovered her passion for teaching when she joined Universidad Peruana de Ciencias Aplicadas as a part-time Professor of Architecture.
Angie loves to travel and explore differents cultures. Learning other languages, like English and French, has given her the opportunity to connect with people and expand her cultural horizons.
Audi Wilken - German & Danish Teacher
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 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.
Cesia Mortera - Spanish Teacher
Cesia is a native Spanish speaker from Mexico, and she also serves as a Spanish teacher in Bradley County Schools. She earned her B.A. in Psychology, as well an M.A. in Teaching from Lee University. She also holds a Master’s of Divinity from the Pentecostal Theological Seminary and teaches Old Testament studies at the Center for Latino Studies.
With over 5 years of Spanish teaching experience, Cesia has developed a passion for language instruction. She believes that creating relationships is vital for a positive, nurturing, and creative environment. Developing a shared language, she believes, creates community in a language classroom.
In her spare time, she loves traveling, salsa dancing, and working out.
Chip Arnold - English & Spanish Teacher
Chip is a Chattanooga area native and a graduate of the McCallie School where he teaches currently. Chip first became interested in Spanish in high school where he was encouraged by some passionate teachers. After graduating from McCallie, Chip repeated his high school senior year at the AULA School in Barcelona. He then went on to graduate with a B.A. from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville majoring in Spanish with a business minor. After using his Spanish in the workplace in Atlanta, GA and Raleigh, NC, Chip moved back to Chattanooga in 2005 to take a job teaching Spanish at McCallie. He went on to earn an M.Ed. from the University of Tennessee, Chattanooga with teaching licensure endorsements in Spanish and ESL.
Chip has also traveled and pursued graduate work in Santiago de Compostela, Spain and Querétaro, Mexico. He is delighted to bring his passion for the English and Spanish languages and cultures to his CSL colleagues and students!
Claire Vassort - French Teacher
Claire was born in Châteaudun, France. 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 shares 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 Reyes Molina - Spanish Teacher
Diana is a native Spanish speaker and was born and raised in El Salvador. She graduated with honors with a Bachelor’s Degree in Tourism and Hospitality from the Dr. José Matías Delgado University. Diana moved to the U.S. in 2017 to continue her studies. Currently, she serves as a Spanish interpreter assisting the Hispanic community in Chattanooga.
Diana’s love for languages and other cultures began early. She started learning English in a bilingual school at the age of 11, and French at the age of 21. She loves to travel, and she has traveled to Mexico and all of the countries in Central America. Dancing is her favorite hobby and way of connecting with her roots and with other cultures.
Emil Ayoub - Arabic Teacher
Emil 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. He has been teaching Arabic language at Covenant College since 2008.
Emil also enjoys learning other languages, including French, Italian, NT Greek, and OT Hebrew. Currently, he is learning the Syriac-Aramaic language.
Giselle Joy Burke - English & Spanish Teacher
Giselle Joy was born and raised in South Florida where she developed a love and appreciation for diversity. Her love for language and culture continued to grow over the years as she developed a passion for using language to engage and connect with those around her. She has lived abroad in Spain where she studied the Spanish language, in Costa Rica where she earned a TESOL certification, and in Colombia as a missionary teacher for 6.5 years.
Giselle Joy holds a B.S. in education from Florida State University and multiple teaching certificates in Florida and Tennessee, including Spanish and ESOL. She has taught all ages, from preschool to adults, both domestically and internationally for almost 20 years. Although she has taught other subject areas, she is most passionate about sharing her love for language with her students. She is a firm believer that language learning expands your horizons and fosters deeper connections with people of other cultures. Her focus is on learning real world, conversational language that you can apply outside the classroom.
Giselle Joy would love to be your guide on your language learning journey and help boost your speaking confidence!
Gennell Green - American Sign Language (ASL) Teacher
Teaching is a natural joy for Gennell, and she loves watching others learn ASL. She is a native of Missouri, but has lived in Georgia now for over 15 years. After moving to the South, she discovered a whole new world in the deaf community. In the late 1990s, she obtained an associate’s degree in office technology; and she returned to school in 2009 to earn her B.S. in ASL Interpreting.
In summer 2015, she met her husband (who is deaf). Together, they have many friends who are deaf and socialize with them often. Gennell is a strong supporter of deaf rights and an advocate for the deaf community. This is why she enjoys teaching others about the language. And she loves when her students see the impact of just attempting to sign (even though they are not fluent) with a deaf individual and how this makes them feel like they are truly a part of the community as a whole.
In addition to teaching for CSL, Gennell is an ASL interpreter in an educational setting. She enjoys anything computer-related, including virtual classes, computer design, and making videos for learning ASL.
Janet Geerlings - Brazilian Portuguese, French, German & Spanish Teacher
Janet was born in Brazil, and she grew up speaking both English and Portuguese. In college, she majored in French and German. She has been teaching ever since in public, private, and home schools, as well as a couple of years in a secondary school in Sárospatak, Hungary.
Since college, Janet has added Spanish and basic Hungarian to her languages and promotes being a polyglot everywhere she goes. Besides languages and traveling, Janet enjoys music, reading, and most of all her grandchildren. She is thrilled to be back at CSL.
Fun fact: Janet was one of CSL’s first teachers when the school was founded in 2011!
Jennifer Benson - American Sign Language (ASL) Immersion Guide/Mentor
Jennifer was born in Pennsylvania. When she was 7 months old, she got sick with meningitis and became profoundly deaf. As a result, her mom and sister went to Pennsylvania School for the Deaf (PSD) to learn sign language so they could teach her as she grew up. Jennifer attended PSD herself until she was 7 years old and her family moved to California. There, she went to a public school that had a deaf program with sign language teachers. In middle and high school, she attended public schools with ASL interpreters. After graduating from high school, she went on to the National Technical Institute of the Deaf (NTID) for 5 years, studying in the optical field.
Throughout her life, she has taught many (hearing) friends and neighbors sign language. She always enjoy teaching people who really want to learn and connect with the deaf community and culture.
She has been married to her deaf husband, David, for 25 years. They have three hearing children who are CODA (Children of Deaf Adults). Her first daughter is an ASL interpreter at Sorenson Video Relay Service, and her two sons also know signs very well to communicate.
Joohee Bae - Korean Teacher
Joohee is a native Korean speaker and has B.A. in English Literature from Dan-Kook University in South Korea.
She recognized her passion for linguistics early on when she learned English for the first time while in middle school. She decided she wanted to become an English teacher and was hired as English instructor for Sogang Language Institute in Seoul, South Korea, where she worked for five years.
She married in 2006 and that led to relocation to Atlanta where she received her TESOL certification from Kennesaw University. In 2011, Joohee moved to Tennessee where she studied Psychology at Middle Tennessee State University.
Joohee retains her passion for cultural and language exchange as she continues to help and teach English to Koreans, as well as Korean to non-Korean speakers (including second generation Korean-Americans).
Joohee also works as a preschool teacher in Ooltewah and enjoys interacting and working with people. In her spare time, she enjoys reading and yoga.
Josh Barrett - Manager of Continuous Improvement & Learning / Lead English Teacher
A native of North Carolina, Josh has lived in the Chattanooga area since 2013. He holds a B.A. in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL) from Lee University, as well as an M.A. in Theological Ethics. He is also TEFL certified in teaching Business English.
For Josh, English classes at CSL are not only about learning language, but also about becoming better citizens, businesspeople, listeners, and learners. Josh loves working creatively to serve his students and help them communicate confidently.
In his free time, Josh enjoys reading and spending time with his family and friends.
Laurie Stevens - Founder/CEO
Chattanooga native but a traveler at heart, Laurie has a passion for different cultures and languages. She has more than 12 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 in 2011.
In 2018 Laurie led her CSL team to win the honor of Small Business of the Year (1-20 employees) from the Chattanooga Area Chamber of Commerce and was also selected for first place in the TVFCU Idea Leap Grant competition with the award of $20,000. She currently serves as the VP of Programs for the Southside Council of the Chamber of Commerce. She previously served as a member of the Chattanooga Breakfast Rotary Club and on the Board of Directors for the International Business Council of the Chamber. She is a graduate of Leadership Chattanooga (2018-19) and was selected for Chattanooga's "20 Under 40" in 2018.
Leigh Griffith - English & Spanish Teacher
Leigh studied Spanish in college and discovered her love for language and culture during her time studying abroad in Spain. A few years later, she spent time working and living in Costa Rica where she began tutoring local students in English and improving her Spanish. Back in the U.S., she earned her Master's in Teaching from the University of Georgia and taught high school Spanish. Leigh began teaching adult English classes in Illinois and earned an ESOL endorsement when she relocated to Chattanooga in 2016, where she has previously taught English in local schools.
Leigh loves travel and the adventure and insight it brings. She has studied Spanish in San Jose, Costa Rica and Cusco, Peru, and has traveled throughout Latin America. Leigh recognizes that learning a language opens doors to unique and wonderful connections that make a positive impact on our community as well as in our own personal lives.
Leslie Morrow - Italian Teacher
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.
Liz Gibbons - Lead Spanish Teacher
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 at Oceano Idiomas where she guided the teaching and administrative staff.
A true lover of her culture and language, Liz has continued her career in Chattanooga, teaching Spanish at Belvoir Christian Academy and CSL.
Liz feels fortunate to have the opportunity to empower others through language learning.
Marissia Tiller - French & Italian Teacher
Marissia is a Tennessee native and EU dual citizen who has spent the last ten years living in and out of Europe. Her love for language began as a child growing up around Spanish speaking family and then in high school where she began pursuing the French language and culture. She holds a B.A. in foreign languages and literature and completed her M.A. in global communications in Paris. She has taught foreign languages both domestically and abroad and does freelance communications work in France and Italy, which she considers second homes. Her love for language and culture serves as a source of inspiration and also a means of fostering connection and community with others from all over the world.
Melissa, a first generation Mexican-American, is a compound bilingual who is native in both Spanish and English. She was born and raised in Jackson, Tennessee, frequenting Jalisco, Mexico to spend time with extended family.
She graduated from the University of Tennessee Chattanooga in 2015 with a B.A. in Spanish and further cultivated her passion for languages by attainting her Master’s in Linguistics. Melissa graduated from Syracuse University in 2021 and also received a Certificate of Advanced studies in TESOL/TLOTE. While studying at Syracuse, Melissa formally taught English as a Second Language and worked at the University’s Writing Center where she assisted various students with their assignments.
As a former ESL student herself, Melissa is impassioned by her past experiences and wants to help others find their voice and accomplish their language goals.
Melissa is an avid reader, so she's often buried in a book during her free time.
Michelle Bertani - Spanish Teacher
Michelle is from Memphis, TN. The daughter of a Memphian dad and a Puertorrican mom, she was very motivated to learn Spanish. She graduated from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville with a BA in Spanish and Secondary Education and an MS in Curriculum and Instruction. She earned an EdS in Administration from Lincoln Memorial University.
She has traveled to Puerto Rico, Mexico, Spain, Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands, and has studied at Intensa Language Institute in Costa Rica. She began her teaching career in Chattanooga in 1994 and has experience teaching Spanish in high school, elementary school, public school and private school. A self-described language nerd, Michelle is eager to ignite the passion for language learning in her students.
Nicole Wellington - English & French Teacher
Nicole was born in Prince George’s County, Maryland. Since her father was in the United States Navy, she and her family later moved to Virginia Beach, VA, where the Norfolk naval base is located. In her formative years, she had an enriching life, growing up in an area of diverse cultures from around the world. Nicole moved to Chattanooga, TN during middle school and graduated from Brainerd High School, and later from the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga with a B.A. in French. Her first teaching assignment was at a small private school in Stony Brook, New York. She later moved to Brooklyn to teach in the sister school location. Nicole returned to Chattanooga to teach and get her Master’s in Education, and taught twenty years at the Paideia magnet school, Chattanooga School for the Liberals Arts. She is currently teaching high school in Dalton, GA. Nicole is privileged to have taught K-12 throughout her career and is excited to continue building community through the power of language at CSL.
Rachel Caine - Chinese Teacher / Visual Communicator
Rachel was born and raised in Sichuan, a province in the central south of China where she grew up speaking Mandarin and Sichuanese dialect. In high school, she began learning English before coming to the United States for college. At Covenant College on Lookout Mountain, she discovered her passion for learning languages when she began learning her third language as a French major. In 2021, she graduated from Covenant College majoring in two dimensional Art and French.Rachel is passionate about making art, learning languages, and exploring cultures. Additionally, she loves cooking and eating food from different cultures (but her favorite will always be Chinese food!).