Staff

ChiCeLaCu!’
s cadre of native Spanish-speaking teachers are seasoned educators who possess between 15 and 25 years of classroom experience in schools, colleges and universities in the United States, Mexico, Colombia, Peru, Nicaragua, Honduras, Bolivia, Ecuador, and Cuba. At a minimum, each teacher possesses a bachelor’s degree in one of the following: education, early childhood education, special education, music, dance and physical education. As an official Fairfax County Public School vendor, all ChiCeLaCu! staff is required to be fingerprinted and pass background checks for the Child Protective Service Registry, receive CPR /First Aid training and undergo TB screening.  

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 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, gardening and specifically recreating habitats for bees and butterflies in her backyard.

ADMINISTRATIVE STAFF

Administrator, Mr. Yurii Goncharov

Originally from Ukraine, Mr. Goncharov is a multilingual business professional with experience in international consulting, the service industry and education. He received his bachelor’s degree in education from Kharkiv National Pedagogical University in Ukraine and later another bachelor’s degree in business administration and economics from Marymount University in Arlington, VA. He joined ChiCeLaCu!’s team as administrator in 2017 and is responsible for all administrative, financial and logistical matters related to the Center’s day-to-day operations. In addition to his excellent interpersonal skills, Mr. Goncharov is highly skilled in intercultural communication and is fluent in Ukranian and Russian, has working knowledge of German and Chinese and is proficient in Spanish. He enjoys traveling, swimming and hiking with his wife and dog Tito.

Communications Officer, Ms. Monica Marini

A native of Peru, Ms. Marini is a bilingual communications professional with over 10 years of experience working in international public health evaluating and managing information, education and communication materials. She received her Bachelor of Arts in international affairs from the George Washington University and a Master of Arts in public communication from 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 expand enrollment and 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.

TEACHING STAFF

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 ChiCeLaCu! 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  4th, 5th and 6th graders. In addition to being a gifted teacher, she is a talented jewelry maker, seamstress and artist.

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 of 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 Teacher, Mr. Angel Galindo

Mr. Galindo holds a bachelor’s degree in Spanish and English from Universidad Pedagogica Nacional, the only University in Colombia specializing in education and teacher training. A native of Colombia, he has studied languages in London and Boston and is working on a master’s degree in foreign language education. With over 9 years of teaching experience, Mr. Galindo has taught business Spanish and English at embassies, nongovernmental organizations, private companies and language schools. In addition, he has taught Spanish at the university level as well as provided his editing expertise to the journalism department at CUN university. An excellent writer, he is also a freelance journalist and contributor to the Movie Critics and Reviewers Association of Bogota. In 2011, he received an award for his article Mucho mas que un achis. Mr. Galindo teaches advanced Spanish in ChiCeLaCu!’s After School and Saturday Programs and is working to develop and implement the Center’s adult Spanish and English language programs. He loves cinema and the fine arts and is excited to use these as vehicles to engage his students and make learning Spanish effective and fun! 

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 for the Honduran embassy. She has taught Spanish for over 10 years to a full spectrum of clients, including foreign service professionals, adult learners and children from elementary through high school. Currently on her 7th year with ChiCeLaCu!, Ms. Lenigan teaches children from kindergarten through sixth grade. A dedicated professional, Ms. Lenigan enjoys connecting with her students, applies technology to engage them and is passionate about making learning Spanish a fun experience. 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. Sandra Lizzette Brizuela

A graduate of Universidad Francisco Gavidia in El Salvador, Ms. Brizuela received her bachelor’s degree in secondary education with specialization in biology. She has over 25 years of teaching experience in both private and public schools in El Salvador and has a strong background in literacy, grammar and public speaking. She was heavily involved in Ministry of Education efforts aimed at improving science curricula at the institutional, regional and federal level as well as led the development and implementation of science fair programs. A dynamic teacher, she applies dance, music and storytelling in the teaching-learning process and feels that this is particularly important when teaching young children. In addition to being a fantastic cook who trained under Chef Christopher Garcia, Ms. Brizuela, a museum enthusiast, loves nature and enjoys spending time outdoors with her children.

Dance Teacher, Ms. Araceli Nuñez

Ms. Araceli Nuñez, a native of Mexico, has been a professional dancer for the past 10 years. As part of The Maru Montero Dance Company in Washington D.C., Mi Herencia Mexicana in Centreville and Los Quetzales Dance Company in Arlington, she has performed at the Kennedy Center, the Embassy of Mexico, the National Zoo, the Smithsonian Institute and at Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS). Sharing Mexico’s traditional dances (bailes folkloricos) has been her passion for years. Between 2007 and 2008 she was the dance teacher at ChiCeLaCu! where her daughter was also a student. Ms. Nuñez believes that dancing improves brain function, coordination, and body awareness, all while encouraging greater creative expression. She received her certification in Early Childhood Development from Northern Virginia Community College. She has worked for FCPS as Bilingual Assistant Coordinator for a preschool program and is currently working for the  Student Registration Department. She enjoys painting, music, and spending time with her family.

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, 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.

Substitute Spanish Teacher, Mrs. Liszt Paredes

With over 20 years of teaching experience and a native of Peru, Mrs. Liszt holds a Bachelor of Arts 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 the lead third grade teacher at a two-way immersion school in the Fa system. 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 her colleagues consider her an expert in Peruvian cuisine! She is an active member of the Peruvian community and organizes charity events for Peru’s impoverished communities.

Substitute Spanish Teacher, Miss Mina Mayorga Carlín

Miss Mayorga’s diverse experience makes her teaching style unique. She received her Bachelor of Arts in Biology from the University of Mary Washington and a master’s degree in public health from Eastern Virginia Medical School (EVMS). Currently a researcher at the University of Maryland in Baltimore, Ms. Mayorga is also a certified EMT. While finishing her degrees, she tutored high school and college students in Spanish and biostatistics and worked as teacher assistant in ChiCeLaCu!’s summer immersion program. She taught Spanish to children ages 2 to 12 at the Montessori Academy of Virginia and at ChiCeLaCu!’s At Your School and Saturday School programs. In addition, Miss Mayorga works with young adults with intellectual and physical disabilities to develop work and life skills. Originally from Mexico, Miss Mayorga is fully bilingual in English and Spanish. In her free time, she enjoys exploring traditional Mexican cuisine and preparing exquisite dishes that fuse European and indigenous ingredients. She also enjoys crocheting, drawing caricatures of friends and family, meditating, and exploring new hiking trails with her dog, Milo.

Assistant Teacher and Video Editor, Mr. Braulio Mayorga

Fluent in English, Spanish and French, Mr. Mayorga is a young and tech-oriented teacher 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!!