by Kelly Nickerson.
Bita Guzman owns and operates Mi Clase Spanish Academy, a West Island Spanish language education program designed especially for children. This busy mother of three lives in Beaconsfield, QC.
I’m originally from Colombia, and grew up reading the works of Gabriel Garcia Marquez. “One Hundred Years Of Solitude” is my favorite. I’m also a fan of neuroscience and how the mind works. “Moonwalking with Einstein, The Art and Science of Remembering Everything”, by Joshua Foer, talks about how critical the use of five senses is to forming memories. The more senses you employ when learning something, the higher your capacity to retain. Think of an apple, for example; if you focus on its distinct smell, brilliant color, sweet-tangy taste and soft-crisp textures, you will remember more about it. I’ve always been fascinated by how the brain works, particularly how children adapt to learning languages. In teaching Spanish I am hands-on with music and visual aids like colorful drawings to make it fun and memorable at the same time.
Family is hugely important to me and I love being a Mom. Right now I’m watching my three girls pass through important early life stages, experiencing their milestones, and I think that helps me with my teaching. They are all completely different, and I’m trying to understand their unique personalities to help them grow in their own ways. I want to expose my girls to all cultures and appreciate the richness of diversity we have living in Quebec. I have extended family in Canada, the States and Colombia, and like to travel; my husband is Portuguese, born in South Africa with a Scottish/Irish mother. Multiculturalism is a way of life for us.
We listen to a lot of music at home. Sometimes we boogie along to Jennifer Lopez, Ricky Martin, Bruno Mars and Pitbull on the radio; sometimes we dance to traditional Colombian music in the living room from singers like Fonseca, Juanes and Carlos Vives. We all like classical music too. My younger daughters love to do Zumba…anything that gets them grooving to a rhythm.
I’m involved with the Beacon Hill Community Association, the Beacon Hill Pool and I’m on the Beacon Hill Elementary Home & School committee. Right now I’m making chili, lots of it, to help raise funds for community activities and things like new lifeguard chairs for the pool. Metro Beaconsfield is a big supporter of ours, donating the ingredients, while local families all pitch in to cook. My little sister Andrea is also very active in the community, and has volunteered with Girl Guides of Canada for 4 years now; she’s a great example for my daughters and other girls.
I grew up playing tennis, and played softball and volleyball in high school. In the last year I started doing 5K runs and obstacle course races with other Moms from school, and their kids. We’ve done the Foamfest twice, BMO Kids Help Phone Walk, Montreal Color-Me-Rad, the Course Extrême up north and the Mud Hero in St. Bruno. My Mom pals are all unique and dedicated to their work and families, keeping positive attitudes, supporting each other, encouraging our kids, and most importantly HAVING FUN. We try to lead our kids by example that exercise and achievement are about determination…if you want it, you can accomplish anything with hard work.
When I was a child my Mom always told me I jumped more than a crazy goat! I loved adventures, jumping and climbing, and now I see that same spirit in my kids.
I liked to play teacher as a kid; my little brother would sit and clutch his Teddy Bear while learning his vowels, and I think I’ve been involved with education ever since. My high school was associated with a kindergarten in a poor neighborhood; I’d go in and teach the students about colors, numbers and the calendar as part of our activities. I was so proud when they’d progress to the next level! Later I studied psychology, moving to Canada for a year to study English at university…and then, stayed. I met my husband at McGill, we got married and I’ve been here ever since. I worked in early childhood education before having my first child, and then one day a friend mentioned I should open a Spanish school. It took me about a year to research and make my business plan, and I just fully launched Mi Clase this fall. Our class schedule and prices are online at www.miclase.ca.
By number of countries, Spanish is the most popular language in the world. Language and culture are deeply interconnected, and I try to immerse kids in both, capitalizing on their young capacity to learn with both hemispheres of the brain and make those natural, organic associations so crucial to learning. Given the growing importance of Spanish in North America I think it’s a useful language to know here. As Canadians I think we pride ourselves on a multi-culturally diverse heritage, whereas in the US it’s more of a melting pot. You can’t go wrong with having a good handle on French, English and Spanish.
Children don’t have to have a prior knowledge of Spanish in my classes; I always run the activities in at least two or three groups so all kids receive the right level. My hopes are that kids become world travelers and really understand the depth and breadth of all various country cultures well.
I love cruising the Boardwalk in Saint-Anne-de-Bellevue to be close to the water. As a family we enjoy exploring Centennial park. My kids love spending time at Babar books in Pointe-Claire Village. To eat out I enjoy La Perle in DDO, or heading downtown to Gibby’s for a special treat.
One day I want to open up a pre-school integrating Spanish language and culture into the curriculum. I hope to impart my love of all languages and cultures with the children I teach. And at some point in my future I’d like to live near the ocean. The print below of a famous painting by Regis de Bouvier de Cachard has been in my family since I remember; when my Dad passed away my Mom gave me the picture. I love it for the colors, the scenery and the boats. As a kid, if I got to pick a vacation spot, I’d always opt for the beach so I could be near the sea.
Kelly Nickerson works full‐time as Senior Director of Marketing & Analytics for a Fortune 500 company, and writes
in her spare time. She lives in Beaconsfield, QC.