Staff

ChiCeLaCu!
’s cadre of native Spanish-speaking teachers are active in or retired from the Fairfax County Public School System and many possess from 15 to 25 years of classroom experience in schools, colleges and Universities in Mexico, Colombia, Peru, Nicaragua, Honduras, Bolivia, Ecuador, and Cuba. At a minimum, each teacher has a Bachelor’s Degree in one of the following: Education, Early Childhood Education, Special Education, Music Education, Dance and Physical Education. All staff is required to be fingerprinted and pass a background check for the Child Protective Service Registry, receive CPR /First Aid training and undergo TB screening every two years.  

Director, Ms. Maureen Santamaria Barrera

A native of Nicaragua, Ms. Santamaría is the founder of the Children’s Center for Language and Culture, Inc. A teacher by vocation and training, she is also part of the teaching staff and has over 35 years of teaching experience in Latin America and the United States. She worked as an elementary and high school Spanish teacher in Maryland and Virginia and was the director of the Spanish reading program at Bailey’s Elementary School for the Arts and Sciences in Fairfax County. For 7 years she worked as an international consultant and educational researcher for the United Nations (UNICEF) in Latin America. She authored and co-authored six books on curriculum development and statistics and child poverty. She holds a bachelor’s degree in education, and master’s degrees in urban development and demography. An active member of Fairfax Public Access, Ms. Santamaría is an amateur camera operator and certificated radio producer. She is currently working on producing her own Spanish radio show for children. She loves traveling with her family to islands, natural parks, and caves in the U.S., Central America and Mexico. Ms. Santamaría enjoys reading, walking, photography and gardening and works hard in her free time to recreate habitats for bees and butterflies in her garden.

Spanish Teacher / Administrator, Miss Mina Mayorga Carlín

Miss Mayorga’s diverse experience makes her teaching style unique. She is guided by a constructivist teaching model where learning happens through active participation in the process itself. She received her Bachelor of Arts in biology from the University of Mary Washington and her Master’s Degree in Public Health from Eastern Virginia Medical School (EVMS). In addition to being a certified EMT, Miss Mayorga assisted in local environmental research projects. While finishing her degrees, she tutored high school and college students in Spanish, among other subjects, and worked as Teacher Assistant in ChiCeLaCu!’s summer immersion program. She also taught Spanish to children ages 2 to 13 at the Montessori Academy of Virginia. As a graduate assistant at EVMS, she tutored other master-level students on biostatistics as well as participated in research projects. In addition to teaching Spanish at Great Falls ES by way of ChiCeLaCu!, Miss Mayorga coaches young adults with intellectual and physical disabilities to develop workplace and life skills and lead more independent lives. Miss Mayorga is fluent in English and Spanish, having grown up in Mexico City. She also studied Latin and Italian. In her free time, Miss Mayorga enjoys exploring traditional Mexican cuisine and preparing exquisite dishes by fusing European and indigenous ingredients. She also enjoys crocheting, drawing caricatures of friends and family, meditating, and exploring new hiking trails with her dog, Milo.

Spanish Teacher, Ms. Marisa Lazo

A graduate of La Universidad Sagrado Corazon de Jesus in Lima, Peru, Ms. Lazo holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Education with a specialization in education and speech disorders. She expanded her knowledge of new teaching methodologies while attending La Universidad de Santiago de Chile. With more than 25 years of teaching experience in Peru and the United States, she has been a great asset to the center for the past 9 years. She currently teaches middle school students in the Fairfax County Public School system. At ChiCeLaCu!, she teaches advanced Spanish to 2nd, 3rd and 4th graders. In addition to being a gifted teacher, she is a talented jewelry maker, seamstress and artist (painter).

Spanish Teacher, Mrs. Liszt Paredes

With over 20 years of teaching experience, Mrs. Paredes, a native of Peru, holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Elementary School Education from the University Inca Garcilaso de la Vega. She received her teacher certification in General Education K-6 from the Commonwealth of Virginia. Currently, she is a classroom teacher at a two-way immersion program in the FCPS system and specializes in new educational methods. Her professional certifications include: Peruvian Folk Music and Education, Creative Curriculum Teacher Training, Literacy Development through Media and Supporting Literacy in the Kindergarten Classroom. She is proficient in American Sign Language. Since joining ChiCeLaCu! in 2008, she has taught kindergarten, first and second grades. Ms. Paredes enjoys dancing, and cooking- her colleagues consider her an expert in Peruvian cuisine! She is an active member of the Peruvian community and organizes charity events for impoverished communities in Peru.

Communications Officer, Ms. Monica Marini

A native of Peru, Ms. Marini is a bilingual communications professional with more than 8 years of experience working in international public health evaluating and managing information, education and communication materials. She received her Bachelor’s Degree in International Affairs from the George Washington University and her Master of Arts in Public Communication from the American University. In her capacity as Communications Officer, Ms. Marini focuses on establishing the ChiCeLaCu! brand and raising the Center’s visibility as a premier Spanish Immersion center in Northern Virginia. In addition, she supports the Center’s efforts to explore business opportunities. She received a certification in training from the Georgetown University and has developed curricula as well as delivered trainings for international family planning and disease prevention initiatives. Ms. Marini spent one wonderful year abroad in Spain with her husband and young children. She enjoys traveling, exploring and learning about new people, places and cultures.

Spanish Teacher, Ms. Ivette Reyes

A native of Puerto Rico, Ms. Reyes received her bachelor’s degree in elementary education and her teaching certification from the University of Puerto Rico. With over 20 years of classroom experience and 7 years as a preschool teacher, she brings to ChiCeLaCu! a passion for educating young minds and fostering creativity. Currently, she incorporates her expertise in theater and dance when teaching preschoolers at ChiCeLaCu!’s Vienna location and students at FCPS by way of ChiCeLaCu!’s programs. Ms. Reyes has a strong background in dance, elementary school and early childhood education, languages (French, Spanish and English) and is a member of the Puerto Rican Accreditation Board of Theater. For her outstanding work as a teacher, she received special recognition from Puerto Rico’s House of Representatives. A seasoned educator, she prides herself in being both flexible and dynamic, which are instrumental in meeting the challenges from the ever-changing demands of schools and the teaching profession as a whole. In her free time, she enjoys traveling, dancing, the outdoors, playing with children and her three little dogs Mia, Bella and Cuqui!

Spanish Substitute Teacher / Administrative Assistant, Ms. Claudia Sol

A young and talented teacher, Miss Sol obtained her Bachelor of Arts in English with a linguistics concentration and a minor in Spanish from the George Mason University in May 2016. In 2015, she completed an internship at Colegio San Tarsicio in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Before finishing her second year as one of the lead teachers for the Saturday program, she served as instructional assistant to ChiCeLaCu!'s Director for the Before School and Saturday Programs. Prior to joining ChiCeLaCu! she worked for Fairfax County Public Schools as Activity Specialist for the VIP Summer Program and as Program Assistant for the after school program at Luther Jackson Middle School. In addition to teaching, Ms. Sol has conceptualized and developed several of ChiCeLaCu!’s educational materials. Her passion for teaching Spanish developed early on, having been raised in a bilingual household. In her free time, she enjoys photography, drawing, watching films, and reading about philosophy.

Art Teacher, Mrs. Magoly Tovias


Mrs. Tovias, a native of Bolivia with more than 8 years of experience working with children, received her certification in Art and Design from the Universidad Privada de Santa Cruz de la Sierra in Bolivia. She contributes to ChiCeLaCu!’s philosophy of making learning fun by implementing an art component to the curriculum for the After School and Saturday Programs. Her students enjoy fun-filled and engaging arts-and-crafts activities, which reinforce language instruction and enhance students’ overall learning experience. In her free time, Mrs. Tovias enjoys sewing, interior decoration and spending time with her family.

Spanish Teacher, Ms. Lorna Lenigan

Ms. Lenigan, a native Spanish speaker from Honduras, earned her degree in business administration from the Universidad de Concepción in Chile while working as a tourist advisor in the Honduran embassy. She has taught Spanish for more than ten years to a full spectrum of clients, including Foreign Service professionals, adult learners and children from elementary through high school. Going on her 5th year at ChiCeLaCu!, Ms. Lenigan teaches children from kindergarten through sixth grade. She is dedicated to her craft, enjoys connecting with her students and is passionate about making learning Spanish a fun experience. Ms. Lenigan likes to use the technology in the classroom using many audiovisual presentations for the students. Her classes at the Reston Community Center have introduced Spanish to hundreds of students over the years. In her personal time, Ms. Lenigan enjoys meditation, travel, fine dining, opera, art museums, walking and life-enriching books.

Spanish Teacher, Ms. Viridiana Dorantes


A native of Mexico, Ms. Dorantes received her Bachelor’s Degree in Graphic Design from the Universidad del Noreste (UNE) in Tampico, Mexico, and a Master’s Degree in Design from Universidad Autonoma de Tamaulipa (UAT) also in Tampico, Mexico. She is a professional artist (oil/acrylic) and teaches graphic design at a Parks and Recreation center in Hyattsville, MD. While in Mexico, she was creator and producer of the children’s television show Clowns for Children,which ran in a national educational network for 4 yearsHer experience working with children expands two decades. Ms Dorantes teaches in ChiCeLaCu!’s before and after school programs. Painting, drawing, watching movies and reading are a few of her many interests.

Assistant Teacher, Jose Celis

A former Dean of Students with more than 25 years of teaching experience, Mr. Celis strives to shape independent learners. Mr. Celis has degrees in psychology and elementary school education. He attributes his success in making the learning process comfortable, effective and fun to his many years of experience and passion for teaching. He enjoys teaching Spanish using a communicative approach to learning, which creates opportunities to practice speaking the language from the very beginning. Since he strongly believes that what you learn while having fun is never forgotten, he uses games and humor to make each lesson a fun social activity. In his free time, he enjoys gardening, reading, photography, walking and spending time with his family. 

Teacher's Assistant and Video Editor, Mr. Braulio Mayorga

Fluent in English, Spanish and French, Mr. Mayorga is a young and tech-oriented teacher’s assistant. He was part of ChiCeLaCu!’s first graduating class after participating in the program for 4 years. He is currently working on his associate’s degree in social sciences at Northern Virginia Community College and plans to study anthropology and archaeology. Mr. Mayorga is a member of Fairfax Public Access, where he frequently volunteers as a camera operator and floor director. He is also certified as a producer and video editor and is proficient in the use of Adobe Premier Pro and Adobe Photoshop. In addition to serving as teacher’s assistant for the before-school program and lead teacher in the after-school program, Mr. Mayorga has filmed, produced and edited many of ChiCeLaCu!’s promotional materials. His interests include photography, drawing, history, fitness, reading and writing. He is currently working on a fantasy and sci-fi novel.

Physical Education Teacher, Henry Torres 

ChiCeLaCu contracts with JumpBunch Fitness and Sports for Children to provide students with physical activity in a structured and fun format. During the spring and summer, students have a weekly lesson with Mr. Torres who introduces them to a wide variety of sports and activities that help build coordination, balance and confidence—all activities are in Spanish!!