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TEC Student of the Month Award

June 2014 - Emmy Ivarsson

Hailing from Sweden, though you’d never guess it as she speaks perfect English, Emmy has taken on the task to achieve comparable mastery of the Spanish language with gusto. An immigration lawyer, her determination to put her professional skills to use and help Spanish-speaking immigrants in Portland navigate the legal process has motivated her focused dedication to learning the language. She’s advanced with impressive speed, recently testing out of several course levels after a month long immersion trip to Mexico during which she took classes and enjoyed practicing with locals. Cheerful and optimistic, Emmy emanates positive energy and is a model of how a second (or third) language can be acquired rapidly when one is truly committed to that goal. We congratulate her on her success thus far and for the important work she does with the local immigrant community.

May 2014 - Kate English

An enthusiastic and focused student with an ever-growing passion for Spanish and Latin America, Kate sets the bar high for her own achievement goals and takes advantage of class time to the fullest. For her, learning Spanish is a family effort as both of her children also study Spanish and share with their mother an appreciation of cultural immersion and desire to volunteer and make a positive difference at home and during trips abroad. Of late, they’ve been busy preparing for their trip to Nicaragua this summer which will include Spanish study and community service work.  Kate has also included her children in her experience at Tierra,  frequently participating together in our community fiesta events and enrolling her daughter in Spanish classes. Kate’s example of whole-family education and involvement in community-building and social change is a true inspiration and wonderful illustration of the doors language study can open.

April 2014 - Joshua Strickland

With a hearty laugh and humourous take on life (and learning Spanish), Joshua’s presence adds vitality and a sense of playfulness to any class he joins. His ambition to understand his wife’s native language and culture as deeply as possible has provided the impetus behind Joshua’s unwavering resolve to achieve fluency in Spanish, giving him the stamina to overcome the inevitable plateaus in language acquisition in order to reach new periods of tangible progress and refinement. Instinctively friendly and sociable, he thrives in Tierra’s small-group setting, forming meaningful relationships with classmates and integrating the class interaction and energy into his learning process. His spirit of fun and genuine eagerness to learn make Joshua an excellent example of how attitude contributes to success in attaining language skills and we look forward to continuing to watch him accomplish his goals!

March 2014 - Ann Parsons

Ann ParsonsPossessing a infectiously sunny attitude, Ann approaches perfecting her Spanish skills with inexhaustible determination and curiosity. Her story is an inspiring one: after a decades-long career as a successful engineer, she decided she wanted to shift gears and do something that would give back to the community and particularly help Spanish-speaking youth. She chose the field of education and this year has been learning the ropes of public schooling as a tutor in math and science for students who are not native English-speakers. Open and honest, Ann’s willingness to share anecdotes and opinions in the name of Spanish practice contribute to making class a deeper and more enriching experience for all. We honor Ann and people like her who feel so called to a particular mission that they take risks and make sacrifices to make it happen.

February 2014 - Althea Sails

Althea Sails
A diligent student equipped with an ever-growing stack of color-coded flashcards, Althea demonstrates the will and perseverance it takes to acquire second-language skills as an adult. Driven in her quest to learn Spanish by her desire to communicate with Spanish-speaking patients at the clinic she manages, her cheery dedication and meticulous study habits have set her on the path to success. Having started in a Beginner 1 course at Tierra, she’s impressively advanced through the Beginner and lower Intermediate levels and has taken advantage of our Student Support Session and Conversation Nights to get extra practice. Gracious and kind, Althea’s presence makes the classroom a more welcoming and friendly place as she and her classmates support one another in their learning processes.


January 2014 - Cole Brown

Cole BrownA committed student with a stellar attitude, Cole’s presence charges the classroom with positive vibes. A pastor at a local church, he was inspired to acquire Spanish language skills by the desire to communicate and connect with Spanish-speaking congregants and neighbors. A fan of our twice-weekly intensive courses, he has impressively advanced from the Beginner 3 level to High Intermediate courses in less than one year of classes at Tierra. Cole’s creative approach to learning has manifested itself in countless ways, from instructing his classmates how to decorate calaveras for Día de Muertos (when they were practicing giving commands) to composing and performing a rap about the process of learning Spanish with his teacher and classmates. This New Year we want to express our gratitude to Cole and to all of our students for you are the lifeblood of the school who make Tierra a dynamic and stimulating community!

December 2013 - Julie Pietila

Warm and generous, Julie (“Julia”) brims with enthusiasm for learning Spanish and takes every opportunity to use her burgeoning skills and connect with Spanish speakers and learners of all walks of life. She is a dedicated and hard-working student with a special interest in deepening her knowledge of Latin American culture, and her travels have only whetted her thirst for discovering new places and peoples. Innately sociable and driven to practice, she not only frequently attends Tierra’s conversation nights and fiestas but also hosts her own bi-weekly Spanish conversation events, offering her home to friends and classmates as a special venue in which to get to know one another and exercise their speaking skills. We congratulate Julie for her boundlessly positive attitude and proactive determination, and feel lucky to count her as part of our community at Tierra!


November 2013 - Marissa Dorais

With a broad smile and seemingly limitless enthusiasm for learning, Marissa brings positive energy and constructive focus to the classroom. An adventurous spirit whose travels have led her around the world, her genuine desire to communicate with the locals she encountered in Spanish-speaking countries was the impetus that sparked her dedication to develop her Spanish skills. In her professional life, Marissa works to restore and maintain natural areas along the Willamette River, and her passion and concern for the environment and world around her shine through in thought-provoking classroom conversations. A committed student who clearly enjoys diving into the depths of Spanish structure, her natural sense of humor perfectly balances her resolute drive. Through her open and meaningful contributions in Spanish class, Marissa reminds us that language is what connects people and every moment is an opportunity to share and learn from one another.


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