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TEC Student of the Month Award

October 2013 - Steve Leven

A student who’s advanced with extraordinary speed, Steve (“Esteban”) embarked on his journey to learn Spanish just one year ago in a Beginner 1 course at Tierra and is now a Higher Intermediate student. Inquisitive and thirsty for knowledge, he spends sizable amounts of time studying Spanish outside of class and always takes advantage of his instructors’ expertise to ask pertinent questions and solidify his understanding. A doctor who’s now (semi) retired, he’s been able to apply his newly-acquired language skills to better serve his Spanish-speaking patients. A jokester at heart, he revels in the camaraderie established among classmates and misses no opportunity to test out his humor in Spanish. As he plans for a future immersion experience south of the border, we applaud Steve for his impressive drive to master the Spanish language in all its nuances.

September 2013 - Lana Gelman

Lana GelmanWholeheartedly committed to learning Spanish, Lana is a student who sets the bar high for her goals and whose unfailingly positive attitude is truly an inspiration. A speech-language pathologist helping elementary school children to overcome speech impediments and communication barriers, she’s already fluent in Russian and English and is driven to master the Spanish language by her desire to connect with and best serve her Spanish-speaking students and their families. In her time at Tierra, her notable dedication to studying Spanish outside of class has facilitated her impressive progress. In her genuine desire to use Spanish to build bridges between English speaking and Spanish speaking communities, Lana embodies the spirit of our mission at Tierra. We wish Lana and all educators and youngsters a wonderful start to the new school year!

August 2013 - Reed McDowell

Reed McDowellWith an infectiously upbeat attitude, Reed’s presence inspires all around him to adopt a rosier view of life. Since retiring from his career as a civil engineer, he has pursued learning the Spanish language with remarkable intent, utilizing a winning combination of group and private classes at Tierra, self-study, and immersion abroad. Motivated in part by his desire to explore the Spanish-speaking world, this year he enjoyed several weeks of studying Spanish in the Basque city of San Sebastián in northern Spain. Always up for a challenge, Reed is comfortable in environments that push his skill level and rises to the occasion with grace.  His enthusiasm for Spanish and commitment to learning shine through in every activity, assignment, and conversation, making Reed a model student we’re delighted to have in the Tierra community.

July 2013 - Mary Laughlin

Passionate about learning and fascinated by everything to do with Latin America, Mary's eyes sparkle with curiosity as she discovers the nuances of the Spanish language and deepens her cultural understanding. A particularly committed student, she has a penchant for joining two back to back courses at a time and exudes enthusiasm throughout the four straight hours of Spanish classes. Motivated to sharpen her language skills in part by her love of travel, Mary's an adventurer who treasures exploring new territory and is always seeking to cultivate her knowledge and appreciation of the people, places, and cultures she encounters. Having taught for decades, Mary's love of education is unceasing and she's become an esteemed member of the Tierra community!

June 2013 - Mary Watkins

With a keen interest in language and a dry sense of humor, Mary approaches learning Spanish with creativity and determination. An early childhood educator who helps kids with special needs, Mary’s dedication to her work is the principal force that motivates her to become fluent in Spanish. Inquisitive and thorough, she investigates the nature of Spanish structure, asking pertinent questions that bring clarity to the topic at hand. In writing assignments, her focus and commitment shine through as she imaginatively employs the communicative tools she’s learned thus far. We congratulate Mary for the progress she’s made and for her goal of using her Spanish abilities to make school a more welcoming place for her young students and their families.

May 2013 - Mike & Bonnie Vawter

Since deciding to study Spanish together, this married couple has become a mainstay in their Spanish classes at Tierra. Committed students who clearly enjoy learning, Mike and Bonnie add creativity, intelligence, and good-natured fun to the classroom dynamic. With travel plans in the making, they are motivated to develop their language skills in part by the desire to explore new places and be able to interact on a deep level with the people they encounter. Diligent and thorough, Mike and Bonnie are truly laudable students whose genuine interest and dedication have led them to make great progress in their time at Tierra.

April 2013 - Mark Griffin

Driven in his quest towards fluency in Spanish, Mark’s dedication and inspiring community work make him a true asset to the Tierra community. An attorney who focuses his practice on protecting workers and consumers from fraud, discrimination, and illegal employment practices, he has positively impacted the lives of many in the region in his tireless fight for justice. He takes advantage of his language skills to communicate with his Spanish-speaking clients, as well as with his multi-cultural family. Endowed with a great sense of humor and fascinated by the diverse cultures of Latin America, Mark’s warmth and curiosity enrich Spanish class  for everyone.

March 2013 - Mindy Gramberg

Enamored with the language and Latin American culture, Mindy surrounds herself with Spanish in every way she can - when she’s not planning her next  trip abroad she can be found paging through Spanish-language magazines or enjoying the beats of Latin music. Her travels have included several stints in Spanish immersion programs in which she had the opportunity to work on learning Spanish while exploring Central America and soaking up the cultural experience. A dedicated research nurse who conducts oncology studies, she’s also offered her nursing skills on volunteer trips to Guatemala, providing needed medical services in rural communities. We’re happy to recognize Mindy for her commitment to studying Spanish and determination to broaden her cultural awareness and make a positive impact.


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