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About Us - The Spanish Teaching Team and Advisors

The SW Florida Spanish instructional team is comprised of a group of instructors who have been teaching Spanish for many years at the former Cultural Center of Charlotte County. That program was led by Kay Parker for many years, before her retirement at the end of March 2022. She continues to serve as an advisor to our program. The current instructional team includes the following, many of whom are native Spanish speakers:

Betty Barriga
Teaches beginner Spanish in classroom format

Betty has taught beginner Spanish at the Cultural Center of Charlotte County, and now for SW Florida Spanish for many years. Students continue to enroll in subsequent sessions with her because she is extremely effective at introducing new learners to her native language.

Aureliz Leduc
Teaches beginner and intermediate Spanish in classroom format

Aureliz was born and raised in Puerto Rico and moved to Punta Gorda FL with her family in 2014. She worked as a Human Resources specialist for five years and currently runs her own business, Aureliz Designs, making custom-designed items for all occasions. She would love it if you would visit her website. Aureliz is a happy, bubbly, people-person who enjoys and feels honored to teach her native language to anyone who wants to learn.

Rita Silvia
Teaches beginner & intermediate Spanish in Zoom format

Rita is a talented, creative, and energetic language instructor who has taught in our program for many years. She holds a bachelor's degree in Spanish from University of Massachusetts and a Master of Education from Cambridge College. Her full-time occupation is one-on-one private language instructor, but she kindly makes time to teach our online Beginner Spanish class. New students benefit greatly from Rita's vast knowledge and experience and her trove of teaching resources.

Ana Alvarez Garay
Teaches intermediate and advanced conversational Spanish

Ana lives in Costa Rica and has many years of experience as a language instructor. She typically provides instruction for the conversational sessions.

Luzmarina Linares Buttner
Teaches intermediate and advanced online classes

Luzmarina has worked with the program for many years. She is an effective communicator and has done an excellent job of instructing students in her native language. She is from Bogotá, Columbia.

Dorca Figueroa Navedo
Teaches intermediate & advanced Spanish in classroom format

Hello, my name is Dorca E. Figueroa. I was born in Puerto Rico and have lived in Florida for four years. I have worked with adult Spanish learners for three years. As a native Spanish speaker, I would love to share my first language with you. You will enjoy it. Come and spend time with us and we will help you learn and improve.

Cindy Vega Arce
Teaches beginner,
intermediate, and advanced Spanish in online format

Cindy lives in Heredia, San Jose, Costa Rica.  She has many years of experience as a Profesora de Idiomas at a well-regarded language school in Costa Rica. She also teaches primary school and tutors adults trying to strengthen their Spanish skills. She is licensed to teach primary school by the Universidad Estatal a Distancia de Costa Rica. Her pleasant demeanor and flexibility are excellent teaching assets.  

Tom Kessler
Course registrar and occasional beginner Spanish substitute instructor

Tom currently serves as the program registrar and advisor. He is available to teach beginner-level classes if needed. He taught university business and technology courses for more than 40 years and has been learning Spanish since 2015. He and his wife traveled to Costa Rica twice and Guatemala one time to attend intensive immersion classes. 

Program Advisors

The transition from working within the Cultural Center of Charlotte County to being a standalone Spanish program has been challenging. Its success is due to the continuing support of several key program advisors who meet regularly with the instructors and make recommendations about how to effectively continue the program. The teaching staff is indebted to their program advisors:

  • Kay Parker, former program director and instructor

  • Patty Kelley


Spanish Class News - March 2024

We are now serving over 70 learners in our face-to-face and online classes. The latter provide opportunity for those located throughout the U.S. and, in some cases, outside the U.S., to take advantage of our affordable Spanish program.

Spanish Class News - November 2022

Although the program was slightly disrupted because of Hurricane Ian, classes continue and are well-attended. We have added an evening program for working adults and our most recent addition is private lessons. Our talented team of instructors continues to expand and students offer very positive comments about our teaching approach and the sense that they are getting very good value for their money. Many of our participants remain in the program session after session. We hope you will try a class and become one of our "regulars."

Spanish Class News - August 2022

The SW Florida Spanish program continues to grow. Session 3, which ran in April and May had 20 participants. Session 5 has 34 participants. We have two beginner classes in a classroom format and one in a Zoom format. We have added an evening beginner Spanish session for working adults. There is an intermediate class in classroom format and one in Zoom format, and an advanced class in Zoom format. We anticipate adding an advanced Spanish in classroom format in Session 7 starting in November of this year if there is sufficient demand. The program is popular, we think, because there is no other program like it, and because we have kept the price at a very affordable level. Where else can participants have the opportunity to meet weekly with native Spanish speakers, progress through various topics and levels at their own pace, and enjoy the fun atmosphere of a great learning environment? Consider joining the program. We look forward to working with you.


Spanish Class News as of July 1, 2022

Over the years, many students have “passed through the door” of the Cultural Center of Charlotte County’s Spanish language program. The program, however, has faced a number of challenges since 2020:

  • When the pandemic started in March of 2020, the Cultural Center stopped offering most of its activities, including Spanish classes.

  • Then in November 2021, the Cultural Center closed its doors, negating the possibility of returning to face-to-face classes even after the pandemic subsides.

  • Finally, and sadly, Kay Parker, our long-time leader and program director announced her retirement from the program at the end of March 2022.


Despite these obstacles, however, the Spanish program did not close its doors and classes are available to those who are interested.


When the pandemic forced the Cultural Center to discontinue classes, Spanish classes were not initially available. Soon thereafter, however, Kay, our intrepid leader decided to experiment by offering her classes online using Zoom. Although there was a bit of a learning curve in terms of using Zoom and dealing with occasional technical issues, the intermediate and advanced classes adapted, and the program has continued meeting via Zoom for the past two years.


Many have come to prefer the Zoom format to the face-to-face format. An added benefit is that seasonal residents are able to continue participating after returning north. In addition to intermediate and advanced Spanish, a beginner class was taught last year via Zoom for three sessions (18 classes), and those who participated then joined the intermediate class.


We realize, however, that Zoom is not for everyone. So face-to-face classes are again available for beginner and intermediate students. 

Even though Kay is retired from teaching, she continues to work tirelessly with our talented team of instructors to ensure that the program would continue. The team:

  • Participated in training sessions to ensure that the same instructional methods used for many years are continued,

  • Found classroom locations to replace the Cultural Center classrooms,

  • Adopted a name – SW Florida Spanish – and established a website and email address,

  • Established a variety of payment methods including check, credit card, and Venmo online payments, and

  • Advertised classes.

  • Conducted classes at all levels from March to July 2022 timeframe.


The instructional team is excited to work with you to advance your Spanish comprehension in terms of listening, speaking, reading and writing. During the April-May session, there were 20 participants taking classes at different levels. The next session grew to more than 30 participants.


We hope that when you are ready you will give us a chance and take advantage of the program, which is designed to improve your proficiency with the beautiful Spanish language. We also greatly appreciate your recommendation of our program to family, friends, and neighbors who may be interested in learning Spanish.

In Memorian.jpg

Evelyn Stevens

Aug 7, 1927-Mar 12, 2023

Message from

Evelyn's daughter: 

My Mom certainly enjoyed the Spanish lessons. Language classes kept her mind sharp, and she loved the opportunity for socializing.

Donald 'Don' Birdsall

Apr 6, 1942-Nov 25, 2022

A Spanish learner in our program for many years.

2016-02-27 Don Birdsall in Costa Rica.jpg

Costa Rica
Feb 2016

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