“I try to make my students feel confident by empowering them. Each child is unique and we try to be creative about teaching them uniquely and supporting each child’s individual development.”
The director of the Walnut Creek campus has a strong foundation in bilingual education. As an educator in her hometown of Lima, Peru, Claudia worked at an English immersion school for three years before coming to the United States to perfect her English. After returning to Lima to work for a few years, Claudia made a permanent move to the Bay Area. She taught kindergarten at a Montessori school in Oakland for six years before taking a break to raise her two young daughters. After being introduced to KSS, Claudia was compelled to begin teaching again. She started working at the Oakland campus in 2009, the year her younger daughter entered the program.
In 2011 Claudia became the director of the Walnut Creek campus and lead instructor of the 4’s class. She is an enthusiastic and imaginative teacher who focuses on empowering her students and encouraging them to make good decisions by using positive reinforcement and redirecting their behavior in a positive way. Claudia loves the cultural diversity of KSS and teaching in her own language. She is beloved by the parents of KSS students and her fellow teachers – they often describe themselves as a family.
“Every day I enjoy giving and receiving love. My job is the best in the world!”
Paula spent ten years as an engineer in a mineral company in Chile, working long hours and traveling all over the country. She enjoyed her work but didn’t have much time for a family life. Her sister Marcela lived in the U.S. and introduced her best friend to Paula when she visited for the first time in 2000. They became friends and fell in love. In 2007, Paula left her career and life behind to move with her husband to California; a year after they had a daughter, Amelia.
Paula began attending a number of classes at Diablo Valley College, including Child Development, while her daughter attended a daycare in the same institution. Paula volunteered at this daycare and discovered the joy children brought to her life. When Amelia started kindergarten in 2013, Paula joined her sister Marcela at KSS. She was surprised at the high quality of education at KSS compared to other preschools she’d seen. “The program here is wonderful. When I arrived, I didn’t know children could do so much so early – all in Spanish!”
“I love teaching the Three’s class. The children are using their new language in full sentences and get so excited about learning new things!”
Vilma has a passion for teaching and loves to be surrounded by children. In her home country of Guatemala, Vilma taught elementary school for eight years, and moved to the United States in 1987 with her husband, son and daughter. They built a successful business together but Vilma missed teaching every day.
In 2005, she saw an ad in the paper for the KSS program and was thrilled at the opportunity to bring her language and her culture to a Spanish Immersion preschool. She began teaching at KSS’s very first location in Lafayette and she’s been with the program ever since. Now with ten years of experience teaching preschool at KSS, Vilma is a mentor to many of the teachers in all three locations. She is also a proud grandmother of three.
“The children bring me such joy; they make my job fun! I’m truly sad when school is closed for holidays because I miss my students.”
Marcela danced her way into the KSS family in 2008 while sending her younger son through the program. A former dancer and dance instructor with the Ballet Folclórico Nacional in Chile, she toured the world for seven years before moving to the United States in 1999. Her work with preschool children began almost immediately.
“In my experience, Immersion works best for children to truly learn another language and be immersed in the culture as well.” After working for several preschools in the Bay Area, Marcela learned of KSS in 2008 and joined the Walnut Creek campus shortly thereafter. “This immersion program works,” she says, “because the children start to understand Spanish in the 2’s class, start to speak Spanish in the 3’s class, and they know Spanish by the 4’s class.”
“Most of our students don’t know Spanish when they begin our program, but by the time they leave, I get to see the kids who started with me graduate nearly fluent.”
After 24 years living in the United States, Carmen fell in love again with her native Peruvian culture when she found KSS. She had been looking for a Spanish Immersion preschool for her daughter when she found the program. As her daughter attended the school, Carmen began working as an administrator for the Walnut Creek campus. She loved the children so much that she eventually earned her teaching credentials and became an instructor for the 2’s class.
It had been decades since Carmen spoke Spanish on a regular basis, and she delighted in teaching her young students the language and diversity of Latin American cultures.
In Carmen’s 2’s class, the children learn by active play, model behavior, and introduction to the Spanish language. Carmen’s approach is loving and kind, warm and nurturing; her goal is to help the children feel at home in their new environment.
“It’s such a gift that parents are encouraging their children to speak more than one language with our program. It’s going to make a huge difference in their future.”
Maria Jose moved to the United States in 1988 and spent her first years here caring for her son and as a nanny for other children. She soon joined the staff of a local daycare and later a preschool here in the Bay Area.
Maria Jose joined the KSS team in 2008; first at Montclair, then Berkeley, and later the Walnut Creek campus, where she currently teaches in the 2’s class and leads the after-school care program. She loves that KSS emphasizes academics as well as play, and that she works in such a warm and loving environment. She is incredibly close with her students and co-workers.