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.
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.
Daniella Bozzone - Italian and Spanish Teacher
Daniella is a native of the Chattanooga area. She has a BA in English Literature from UTC and an MA in American Dance Studies from FSU. From 1999-2000, she spent a year abroad in Florence, Italy, getting in touch with her Italian heritage and studying art at Florence Academy of Art. While there, she learned Italian via lessons and immersion. After graduate school, she spent a year teaching English in Orvieto, Italy, and in Ascoli Piceno, Italy. Upon her return to the US, she became an Italian Language flight attendant for Delta Airlines, where she worked from 2007 to 2019. She could be found flying to and from Venice, Rome, and Milan making announcements and translating for passengers in English and Italian.She taught private lessons in Italian and English as a Second Language and in more recent years has picked up a newer love of the Spanish language and culture. Daniella currently teaches Spanish to a local family with young children and is excited to share her love of language with others!
Daniella Silva - English & Spanish Teacher
Daniella is a native English and Spanish speaker from Lima, Peru. Raised by a Peruvian father and an American mother, she attended an American school in Lima and then moved to the United States to get her bachelor’s degree in Environmental Studies and Art History at Middlebury College.She spent the last four years in Bellingham, Washington working at agricultural non-profits, where she also gained experienced teaching English. She is TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) certified, which she most recently applied to her experience volunteer teaching English in Kathmandu. She is currently pursuing a master’s degree in Applied Linguistics through UMass Boston.
Daniella loves to travel, and she finds joy in discovering the nuances across languages as she attempts to communicate (and find the best pastries!).
Deborah Nauman - Korean and English Teacher
Deborah is a native Korean speaker and has traveled significantly, not only as a military child, but also as a military spouse. After a life of military moves, she and her family excitedly chose to call Chattanooga home in 2021.
Growing up with Korean as her first language, she has put her bilingual expertise to practical use over the years, from working as a translator for professional organizations and businesses in college, to being the office manager at a Korean medical center. She feels so much gratitude to have had those opportunities to uniquely develop her language skills in a native setting and is passionate about relaying her love of languages into her teaching.
Deborah recently earned an Advanced Certificate in Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL) and Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL) for completing the Teaching Business English course from The TEFL Org.
A teacher by trade, she loves working creatively with her students to meet their potential. She has a deep passion for her Korean culture and language, and looks forward to empowering others on their language journey. She loves traveling and learning about other cultures, and truly believes we are all connected in this amazing world.
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.
Emmanuel Becquet - Language Immersion Program Consultant
Born and raised in France, Emmanuel has lived in North America for more than 25 years and worked in software and telecom sectors, using the French language in companies in the United States and Canada.
He joined Chattanooga School of Language in 2012 as a French teacher and then decided to focus his efforts on CSL's Travel Immersion program. In Emmanuel's role as Language Immersion Program Consultant, he designs and packages language immersion trips for high schools, universities and groups of adults for French and Spanish learning. He is also currently the President of the Tennessee branch of the French American Chamber of Commerce.
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.
Hélène Janeway - French Teacher
Hélène was born and raised in Versailles, France. She grew up in a multicultural family as her father is French and mother German, yet American born. At a young age, she began speaking all three languages, French, English and German. Later, she studied communication and art negotiation in Paris and was able to travel to many parts of the world and discover different cultures. Her love for traveling, cultures and languages led her to wanting to learn even more languages, such as Italian, Spanish, Dutch and Portuguese.In May 2021, after living in Colorado and California, Hélène finally settled down in Chattanooga, TN, with her husband and daughter. Pursuing an associate’s degree in computer science at Chattanooga State Community College has reconnected her with the love of learning and indirectly the love of teaching (both her father and brother are teachers). She now strives to share her love and passion of French cultures to others and is MOOC certified (Enseigner le français langue étrangère aujourd'hui) by the French Alliance and Institute Français.
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!
Judy Millener - Spanish Teacher
Judy grew up in a suburb of Boston, Massachusetts. She loves living in Chattanooga, but remains totally loyal to her beloved Boston Red Sox.
She studied French in high school, but had the opportunity to go to Salamanca, Spain, for her first year of college in one of the school's original immersion experiments. She fell in love with the language and culture (especially the literature) and earned both a BA and MA in Hispanic Language and Literature at Boston University.
For two years, Judy taught all levels of Spanish from first year through AP Language at the Foxcroft School in Middleburg, Virginia. She and her husband, Philip, a native New Zealander, then spent six years in Wellington, New Zealand where she taught adult education classes and worked for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs training diplomats in Hispanic language and culture. Their two children were born in New Zealand—true American-Kiwis.
In 1993, Judy and family arrived in Chattanooga, and she began a 29-year career at Baylor School where she served as Department Chair and taught every level from Spanish 100 through AP Spanish Literature and Culture.She retired in 2022, but soon found that she missed the classroom and making connections with her students. She is delighted to be a part of the CSL Team!
Judy loves her family, teaching, reading, people, and pets. Fun fact: she has spent every summer of her life on an island off the coast of Maine, a community that is still living without conventional electricity—though the inhabitants absolutely embrace solar power!
Julie is a Chattanooga native who has spent her whole life immersed in different cultures and languages. As a first-generation Asian American, there were always three different languages spoken in her household: Japanese, English, and Sinhalese. While receiving her B.A. in Humanities: International Studies & Modern and Classical Languages: Spanish from UTC, she received a Benjamin A. Gilman Scholarship which she used to study abroad in Alcalá de Henares, Spain. This experience deepened her love of Spanish and studying languages, which led her to CSL where she hopes to help others experience the joys of language learning.
Along with her love of traveling, she finds joy in podcasts, music, and cooking.
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 & Manager of Teacher Training and Development
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 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 León - English & Spanish Teacher
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.
Merari Tucker - Spanish Teacher
Merari was born in Mexico but grew up in North Carolina. She is fluent in Spanish and English. She enjoys art and hiking and spending time with her loved ones. In 2011, she graduated with a B.A. in Spanish Language & Literature from North Carolina State University. During her undergrad years, she worked at the Boys & Girls Club where she discovered her passion for teaching. As a result, after completing her B.A., she went back to school to complete a licensure program in K-12 education.Merari’s first teaching assignment was at a public high school in her North Carolina hometown. However, in pursuit of her master's degree, she moved to Cleveland, TN, to attend The Pentecostal Theological Seminary where she obtained her M.A. in Biblical Studies. During her time in TN, she taught for six years at the Paideia Magnet school, Chattanooga School for the Liberal Arts. She is currently a Spanish teacher at Dalton High School.During the past ten years, she has had the opportunity to teach Spanish K-12 and is excited for the opportunity to teach at CSL.
Michelle Myers - French and English Teacher
In 2021, Michelle relocated to Chattanooga from Birmingham, Alabama, where she taught English and all levels of French - beginners through Advanced Placement. She first fell in love with the French language and culture when, at 17 years old, she lived in Fontainebleau, France, as an exchange student. Later, at Auburn University, she double majored in French and International Trade, dabbling a bit in Japanese and Spanish as well. She went on to earn her master's degree in French and Foreign Language Education at the University of Alabama in Birmingham.
She is currently building a new French program at a local high school. Michelle loves to share her passion for language learning and for Francophone cultures with her students through music, art, film and literature. She also enjoys leading student tours to France and other European countries.
Michelle recently earned an Advanced Certificate in Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL) and Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL) for completing the Teaching Business English course from The TEFL Org.
Aside from teaching and traveling, Michelle enjoys running, reading and cooking. But mostly, she enjoys spending time with her family and friends. She is expecting her first grandchild this fall!!
Michelle Trochez-Brown - Spanish Teacher
Michelle was born in Miami, Florida, but she spent much of her childhood in Tegucigalpa, Honduras with family. She's a native speaker of both English and Spanish.In Miami, Michelle established the Move Build Play program focusing on outdoor nature play immersions. She has over a decade of experience working with school-aged children. After traveling extensively, her family chose Chattanooga as their new home base. Michelle is thrilled to bring her passion for Spanish and Hispanic cultures to the students at CSL!
When not teaching Spanish, you can find her out hiking the nearby trails around Chattanooga.
Mike Green - American Sign Language Teacher
Mike was born deaf and grew up in Indiana. He attended Indiana School for the Deaf (ISD) where he learned ASL for 5 years before transferring to a Christian School where he studied with a small group of deaf students. He graduated high school in 1985 and moved to Georgia in 1988 to attend Tennessee Temple University (TTU) where he majored in Biblical Theology. He finished his studies online through Liberty University in 2005.
In the summer of 2015, Mike met his wife, Gennell, who was studying sign language interpreting in college. Now, they both enjoy connecting with the deaf community in the greater Chattanooga area. He has experience teaching many people ASL throughout his life in various countries and cultural contexts. In recent years, he's been assisting in Gennell's ASL classes at CSL and has discovered how much he enjoys communicating with and getting to know the students at CSL.
Mike's favorite hobby is fishing, and he currently competes in deaf bass fishing tournaments. He and Gennell also enjoy hiking and camping together.
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
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!).
Rosie Graber - German Teacher
Rosie is a music and language enthusiast whose interest in German began while studying music and living abroad in Berlin. Since then, she received a B.A. in German and Music as well as her teaching certificate in German Education from Lawrence University in Appleton, WI and a Master’s in Early Childhood Education from Portland State University. She has taught in various German immersion settings in Minnesota, Oregon and Tennessee including the renowned Concordia Language Villages in Bemidji, MN, teaching preschool and kindergarten at multiple German immersion schools and co-leading a German and nature immersion camp through the Wauhatchie Nature Program here in Chattanooga. An opportunity to start a band with her sisters brought her to Chattanooga five years ago where she fell in love and has newly become a mother.
Samara Davis - Spanish Teacher
Samara is from North Carolina but is no stranger to Chattanooga, having studied Spanish at Covenant College. She spent a semester in Ecuador learning how to engage in a different culture and improving her Spanish. Living abroad reinforced her love of culture and languages, so after graduating, she moved to the jungle of Ecuador for a year to work as a basketball coach at a local rural school. Now back in Chattanooga, she is passionate about sharing her enthusiasm for Spanish with others. In addition to languages, she also loves hiking, baking, and playing with her new puppy!