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Faculty

 

Kifah Abdulla

Emma Adams

Nela Alvarez-Sotomayor 

Fernanda Darrow

Enrico Della Pietra 

Alain (Alan) Fernald 

Valérie Guillet

Rommy Cornejo Holman

David Holman

Viveca Kwan

 

Andy MacDonald 

Deborah Gussoni Mohr 

Kaoru Watanabe Phillips

Marlies Reppenhagen

Nina Schmir  

Kathie Schneider 

Madoka Iriguchi Tonge

Camille Vande Berg

 

 

  

Kifah Abdulla 

Kifah was born in Baghdad, Iraq and attended the College of Science there in the 80’s from which he graduated with a bachelor’s degree in biology. His journey has then taken him from Iraq to Jordan, to the Netherlands and currently to Portland, Maine. Kifah is a visual artist, poet, activist, P.O.W., exile, and teacher. He has taught, painted, and written poetry mining his life experiences and yielding work with humanitarian and universal themes of love, freedom, hope, and peace.

Since 1997, Kifah has taught science and Arabic in the Netherlands and Jordan and more recently in Portland, he has taught Arabic to non-Arabic speakers in both its classic, academic form as well as its dialect forms, instilling in his students a sense of appreciation and greater curiosity for the cultures this unique language embodies. He is a natural teacher who loves to further share his talent by volunteering at The Telling Room.

We are pleased to welcome him to The Language Exchange where we offered Modern Standard Arabic for the first time in the winter of 2015.

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Kifah at the open house

   
  

Emma Adams

Emma has just returned to her home state of Maine after almost 5 years working at the American Embassy in Rome, Italy, where she was frequently a source of language and cultural tips and hints to both the American and Italian staff there. Emma always felt a strong connection to her Italian heritage - her great-grandparents had emigrated from Southern Italy to the US shortly after the turn of the century. She moved to Italy after recognizing this part of her personal history, and of course Italy in general, was a recurring theme in her whole adult life. At Smith College, Introduction to Italian was the one and only course she knew she wanted to take as a freshman. That led to a Junior Year Abroad experience in Florence, Italy, and a double major in Psychology and Italian Language & Literature.

After graduation, Emma moved to Boston, Massachusetts, to work for an Italian tour operator, where she had the amazing opportunity to not only design individual and group tours to Italy, but to continue using her language skills, to visit new destinations herself, and to provide destination assistance and customer service to her American clients, many traveling abroad for the first time. Three years later, she moved to Rome to fulfill an old dream of living abroad; she found an apartment near the Tiber River, a job at the Embassy, and began what would become a 5 year adventure as an American in Italy. She recently moved back to Maine and is thrilled to be able to help others experience the magical feeling of communicating in a second language, especially a language she particularly loves.

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Nela Alvarez-Sotomayor 

Nela comes from Puerto Rico and spent her childhood summers with her extended family in Spain. Growing up in a bilingual family, opened up the doors for her to pursue her undergraduate studies in Fine Art Photography at the Rochester Institute of Technology after her graduate studies in teaching at the University of Southern Maine. For the past 17 years she has been teaching Spanish and Photography at South Portland High School.

Throughout her life she has traveled to many countries in Central and South America, Europe and the Caribbean. She has led a group of students to Costa Rica to work with the leatherback turtles, and volunteer with a local school in Guatemala.

Nela always tells her students how lucky she is to be able to teach the two subject matters most adults want to learn but never get around to: Spanish and photography. She enjoys sharing her photography and all of her travel adventures.

Nela resides in Cape Elizabeth with her liver spotted Dalmatian, Carmina. When Nela is not teaching, you can find her playing tennis, skiing, baking, or making plans for her next trip.

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Fernanda Darrow

Fernanda passed away on September 20th, 2017. It is too soon for us, her colleagues of 15 years, to take down her bio from these pages. You can read her obituary on the Portland Press, following this link

This was her bio: Fernanda is a native of Salta, Argentina. She graduated from a Humanities Academy where she acquired a solid background in languages and literature. She moved to the United States to pursue her studies in Management Information Systems with emphasis in languages at Iowa State University. She worked as a Spanish translator, interpreter, and tutor with the United States Agriculture for International Development Agency.

Fernana taught Spanish and French to children in the Foreign Language Association program in Ames, Iowa. She currently works for the Iowa Council of International Understanding and Communications Data Corporation as a Spanish Language Consultant. This year she will be teaching Latin at Cheverus and Spanish at The Language Exchange to both adults and children. 

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Enrico Della Pietra

Enrico was born in the southern city of Naples, Italy, where he lived for most of his life. He received a degree in Physical Education at the University of Naples, and a degree in Education Sciences, with a specialization in History and Philosophy at the University of Cassino. Enrico has 20 years of experience working as a teacher, both at the University and high school levels while concurrently working as a coach and strength and conditioning trainer for soccer and basketball teams. He has been a prolific traveler throughout his life, having proudly stepped into nearly every continent. He recently relocated to Maine in the summer of 2015 with his American wife and Neapolitan cat, and he considers his residence in America another inspiring adventure. His two main passions in life are contemporary history and photography, so he is thrilled to have recently opened his very own photography studio here in Maine, where he can share his art with the community.  

He is proud and honored to share with other Italophiles the beauty of Italy’s language, arts, customs, and all other lesser known aspects of the Italian lifestyle. 

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Alain (Alan) Fernald

A native of Maine and Minnesota, Alan first became interested in French while volunteering with a mobile medical clinic in Leogâne, Haiti. He realized that he wanted to go further with the language while studying at College of the Atlantic in Bar Harbor, Maine. After months of independent preparation and college coursework, he studied abroad in Vichy, France, at CAVILAM (Centre d'Approches Vivantes des Langues et des Médias) where he stayed with a supportive host family and learned to live in French. Following that adventure, he completed an internship as a researcher for an environmental lawyer in Le Châble, Switzerland, furthering his practical knowledge of the language and also worked as an assistant teacher for CAVILAM’s visiting French professor at College of the Atlantic.

Throughout the end of his college studies, Alan also organized a weekly French language table for a group of passionate francophiles who watched French films, cooked French foods or shared French-language poetry. Having focused on elementary teacher training as well as French, Alan combined his interests by student teaching at L'École française du Maine in South Freeport. He received his certification to teach in Maine public schools in 2012. Alan has also taught French as part of language exchanges with foreign students. When not learning French, Alan can be found playing piano with local musicians or reading.

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Alain

   
  

Valérie Guillet

Valérie founded The Language Exchange in 1992 and has been its director since. She was born in France in a small town located between Annecy (Haute-Savoie) and Genève (Switzerland). She grew up in this French part of the Alps and lived there until 1986 when she began College at the Université Jean Moulin, Lyon III. She started a Master’s Degree in Business and Languages which she completed in the MBA program at SUNY Binghamton while on an exchange program. While at Binghamton, she started an interdisciplinary graduate program where she specialized in Social Sciences - adult development - and Translation, fields in which she had a keen interest.

Following her thesis, a translation of Joyce Carol Oates’ All The Good People I’ve Left Behind, she decided to move to Maine where she has lived ever since. It now feels like home to her although her heart and soul always seem to be rejuvenated when she has an opportunity to speak French and be around French people. Something with which most expatriates can identify. She goes to France every year, sometimes more than once, and receives the best of both worlds. Her travels have allowed her to see her country in a different light and in a way to keep a more objective opinion of the culture of which she is a product. As such, she has rediscovered Provence where she spent most of her summer vacations as a child - when not in Italy to visit her relatives - and continues to find it an idyllic place and hopes to be able to share this vision with you. As for Martinique, Dordogne, and wherever else her next immersion programs will take her, they are parts of France she first encountered through literature and later on explored and studied until it became impossible to not want to share all of their little secrets.

Valérie has taught children and adults alike for the past 25 years with the same passion and commitment to her students' progress and enjoyment. She has been a Lecturer at Southern Maine Community College, the University of Southern Maine, and Bowdoin College. She also spent 10 years as a three-season track coach for young women at Cheverus high school in Portland. When a teacher, always a teacher. it doesn't matter what you teach if it's your life's calling!

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Valerie et son chien Bouclette 

   
  

Rommy Cornejo Holman

Rommy grew up speaking Quechua and Spanish in her native Bolivia. There she graduated from college with a degree in Food Science and has worked in culinary arts in Bolivia, brewing in Germany, and now manages Sweetser's Apple Orchard in Cumberland.

Rommy co-founded The Spitting Llama Bookstore and Outfitter which has 3 locations in Bolivia and is recommend by Lonely Planet and other guidebooks. Rommy loves cooking traditional Bolivian and Latin American foods and brings a zest for culture to her classes.

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Rommy holding Biscochos de Semana Santa

   
   

David Holman

David, a fluent Spanish speaker,is from North Yarmouth, Maine but has lived in Central and South America for many years. He graduated from Carleton College majoring in Latin American Studies and also holds an MBA from the University of Southern Maine. In 2007 he and his wife Rommy founded Bolivia's first multi-lingual bookstore called The Spitting Llama. He and Rommy now manage three Spitting Llama stores in Bolivia while David also works as the Outreach and Communications Coordinator for Safe Passage, a non-profit dedicated to educating children in the Guatemala City garbage dump community.

David taught Spanish at The Fiddlehead Center for the Arts and Safe Passage in Yarmouth and has worked as a Spanish translator, interpreter, editor and tutor. He founded and edits the first English language news service to focus on Bolvia called Bolivia Weekly. In 2009 he co-authored the book Youth Renewing the Countryside and worked with the Bolivian Native Language Institute to translate an Aymara-Spanish dictionary into English. David loves to share his travel and cultural tips with others and looks forward to doing it through classes at The Language Exchange.

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Viveca Kwan

Viveca is an American born Chinese and was raised bilingually, speaking both Mandarin and English while growing up on the East Coast. With her dual perspectives and experiences Viveca is able to bridge both cultures and effectively teach Chinese language and culture especially to native English speaking students who may have had limited exposure to Mandarin Chinese. She has spoken Mandarin since birth and continued her formal language studies at Brown University, The American University Washington College of Law and abroad in China. She has participated in a Chinese law program at Peking University in Beijing during law school and has traveled extensively throughout China, Hong Kong, Taiwan and Japan.

Viveca Kwan is a Maine certified K-12 Mandarin Chinese teacher and has been teaching Mandarin and Chinese culture to students of all ages from pre-K to adults in the greater Portland area for over 10 years. Viveca has taught an introductory Mandarin course at Cape Elizabeth High School and also has taught Mandarin and Chinese culture enrichment courses at the Chinese American Friendship Association of Maine’s Chinese School in Portland. She has tutored adults in conversational and business Chinese. Viveca's classes are designed to be both instructional and fun, engaging students of all ages in interactive activities that appeal to various learning styles. Traditional and modern Chinese culture is integrated into each language lesson through music, art, games and multi-media materials.

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Viveca

   
   

Andy MacDonald

Andy MacDonald was born in Halifax, Nova Scotia, and grew up in Fredericton, New Brunswick, Canada. He holds a BA in French Studies from Mount Allison University, in Sackville, New Brunswick, and an MA and PhD in French Literature from the University of Colorado at Boulder. He has studied in Strasbourg, France, and lived and worked in Tours and Toulouse. He has taught in universities and colleges in Colorado, Iowa, and Pennsylvania.

He is a passionate scholar and practitioner of theatre and performance in French and English. He loves to engage students by helping them learn to express themselves, and to connect with others through language and self-expression. He is particularly fond of helping students develop their language skills in connection with their knowledge of francophone cultures, and brings a spirit of improvisational play to teaching.

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Deborah Gussoni Mohr

Deborah was born in Firenze, Italy where she grew up in a bilingual Italian/English family. Until 1994 she lived in the hills of the Chianti Fiorentino and visited her American family in Alabama and North Carolina during many summers. She earned her BA in Spanish and Business Administration in Alabama where she also discovered her enjoyment for teaching her native language. While a student at the University she founded the Critical Language Program within the Foreign Language Department. She continued her exploration of languages in the international business world where she worked for several companies training Italian, Spanish, and French customers on the companies’ technologies and directing translation projects.

In 2005 her husband’s employment gave them the opportunity to move to Maine where they could honor their love for vast nature and its exploration on foot or on a bike. While she has now made Portland her home with her husband, Michael, thier daughter, and their two cats, she continues to visit her family and friends in Italy a few times each year. She is looking forward to sharing her passion for the Italian world with students of The Language Exchange.

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Deborah mountain biking

   
  

Kaoru Watanabe Phillips

Kaoru is a native of Chiba, Japan. She received a BA in Anthropology/Geography and an MA in Adult Education from USM. She is currently Assistant Director of International Programs at USM. Kaoru advises and assists ESOL, international and study abroad students. She is also an advisor to USM's Asian American Association and Symposium student organization.

Kaoru is a member of Maine Aomori Sister State Advisory Council (MASSAC) and a member of the Japan American Society of Maine. 

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Marlies Reppenhagen

Marlies grew up in the Hanseatic city of Lübeck. Her interest in languages and other cultures first brought her to Maine as an exchange student, but her affection for Maine and its people eventually led her to move here permanently. For the last eighteen years, she has lived in Portland, where the proximity of the ocean and the handsome brick buildings remind her of her native city.

Marlies has a degree in teaching English and French from the University of Freiburg and a M.A. in German from Middlebury College; she has taught German at the high school and college level as well as in adult education programs. Her interests include hiking, biking, reading, and traveling - and always learning more languages!

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Nina Schmir

Nina’s love for the French language and culture began early in childhood growing up with a French father and an American mother. She studied French at the University of Maine before continuing with her studies at the University of Toulouse-Mirail, subsequently living in Toulouse for six years. She traveled extensively throughout Western Europe and spent several years teaching English as a Foreign Language.

She has a special affinity for the food and culture of Southern France, and has spent a good deal of time in smaller cities and villages, immersing herself fully into the lifestyle.

She visits her favorite regions as often as possible to see friends and family, and familiarize herself with the latest colloquialisms, new literature and music.

Nina moved to Maine from New York City in the summer of 2009. Recently, she has discovered the joy of translation and interpretation and has worked as an interpreter on several film shoots in New York City. She is currently enrolled in the translation certification program at New York University. 

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Kathie Schneider 

Inspired by childhood summers on Cape Cod, Kathie's life-long dream was to live by the ocean-a Peaks Islander for the past 13 years, she's gotten her wish. A native of Massachusetts, she received her BA in English History from Syracuse University and conducted post-graduate work in the U.K. and at Boston College. Before moving to Maine in 2002, Kathie worked in administration at the Harvard School of Public Health and as office manager for Emmanuel Music in Boston.

In Maine, she has had a great time participating in a variety of activities, from photography to seasonal tour guide at Victoria Mansion, ushering for Portland Ovations, singing in the Peaks Island Chorale, and bartending at the occasional Island wedding. She also gives tours on summer Sundays for P.I. Island Tours. In her professional life, Kathie is the school’s part-time executive assistant while her other part-time job finds her happily ensconced mornings in the Tech Services Department of the Portland Public Library working on acquisitions, periodicals, and cataloging.

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Madoka Iriguchi Tonge

Madoka was born and raised in Ehime, Japan. After she earned her degree in English Literature from the Women’s College of Kyoto, she worked for several Japanese companies such as Japan Financial News, Kanebo, and Sony. Since she was drawn to travel overseas, she went to Canada to further her studies of English and worked for a travel agency in Niagara Falls. Before coming to the United States, she traveled to many countries from Europe to Asia gaining many firsthand cultural experiences.
She attended the University of Southern Maine and earned her B.S. in Computer Science in 2004. She has been teaching Japanese in private lessons and group classes at The Language Exchange since 2006 as a way of staying connected and sharing her culture and language. She currently lives in Dover, New Hampshire.

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Camille Vande Berg

A native of Chicago, Camille attended the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, where she earned a BA, MA and PhD in French. Her passion for languages has led her to study French, Spanish, Italian, Portuguese, Romanian, Latin, Russian, German, Mandarin and Lingala. She has lived for a total of seven years in France, Spain and Italy and has also travelled extensively in Canada and Latin America.  

Camille has been a faculty member at a number of colleges and universities in the US and Europe, most recently at the University of New England.  She has published numerous articles and delivered many conference papers on language teaching and learning.

In her spare time Camille enjoys reading, solving Sudokus and taking long walks with her husband and their golden retriever.

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