MLT: What’s your personal history with Spanish?
MPP: I grew up in Fort Worth, Texas, where I attended a school with a bilingual kindergarten and Spanish programs for all students. My family visited Mexico several times a year, where I learned more about the language and culture. I earned a bachelor’s degree in Spanish from Washington University in St. Louis, a master’s degree in business from Southern Methodist University in Dallas, and a master’s degree in education from Chestnut Hill College. Before opening my first Mi Casita in Philadelphia’s Fairmont section in 2015, I taught Spanish and French at the Girard Academic Music Program.
MLT: Tell us about the new school in Ardmore.
MPP: This is my third. We’re completely renovating the Ardmore facility to offer eight classrooms and an outdoor play area, and it will open in Spring 2020.
MLT: What about the staff?
MPP: All our teachers are native Spanish speakers from various Spanish-speaking countries. Yet we don’t sacrifice educational goals at the expense of creating a Spanish-speaking environment. We’re not teaching Spanish in the traditional sense. Rather, children are learning Spanish in tandem with hands-on life skills.
MLT: And the curriculum?
MPP: We use project-based learning where children experience creative units like underwater life, museum life or dinosaurs. We follow the nationally recognized Creative Curriculum, which inspires authentic cultural experiences, activities, crafts, reading and games.
MLT: And what role do parents play in all of this?
MPP: At Mi Casita, they receive general information and target vocabulary for each month’s theme. As parents become more familiar with the program, we hope they’ll become comfortable speaking in Spanish. We encourage them to use flashcards, to watch Spanish-language television and Spanish YouTube with their children, and to spend time with Spanish speakers—and that includes other Mi Casita families.
MLT: Your baby boy was born in August. Does he come to school with you?
MPP: Absolutely. And so does Rosie, our hypoallergenic therapy dog, as her schedule allows.