Meet the Team

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Sombrero Time Instructors

Get to know our amazing Sombrero Time teaching staff! All of our teachers have been trained and certified as Sombrero Time teachers. With extensive knowledge of our proprietary curriculum, they have helped many Sombrero Time kids speak Spanish.

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Elyse Blanco

Elyse was born and raised in Venezuela and brings her passion to reach students at all levels and instill in them a love of learning a new language.

Elyse and her family have traveled around the world and have lived on 3 different continents. She loves going to the gym, biking, listening and dancing to Latin music, and cooking for her family and friends.

Credentials
  • Native Speaker, Venezuela
  • AA Degree, Marketing
  • 6 Years of Experience
  • Certified Sombrero Time Instructor
Carol

Carol Brown

Carol Brown is a native Spanish speaker. She grew up in Chile and Brazil and has been an instructor at Sombrero Time for 12 years.

Carol specializes in working with younger PK-4 Grade Beginner, and Intermediate students. She loves to see students’ self-confidence grow as they learn to communicate in Spanish

Credentials
  • Native Speaker, Chile & Brazil
  • 12 Years of Experience
  • Certified Sombrero Time Instructor
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Juan Pablo Fuertes

Juan holds a Master’s degree in Language Teaching for Self-Directed Learning. He is passionate about helping people acquire and use new languages. Juan has an energetic and creative teaching style and is wonderful at building a connection and challenging his students.

Credentials
  • Native Speaker, Colombia
  • M.A. in Language Instruction
  • 10 Years of Experience
  • Certified Sombrero Time Instructor
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Sandra Stiebler

Sandra is passionate educator and enjoys connecting with children and enjoys witnessing her students grow. She offers a nurturing and calming presence to all her students.

Sandra’s passion for life is based on a strong commitment to being happy every single day and to help others achieve the same while learning the Spanish Language

Credentials
  • Native Speaker, Colombia
  • B.A. in Modern Languages (Spanish & English)
  • 22 Years of Experience
  • Certified Sombrero Time Instructor
Amanda

Amanda Jackson

Amanda has experience working with students of all ages and levels. She is passionate about teaching children, from 2-year-olds learning their first words to high school seniors studying for AP exams.

She loves singing, playing guitar, and teaching yoga, pilates, and cycling classes.

Credentials
  • Native Speaker, Mexican/American Bilingual Family
  • B.A. in Spanish and Latin American Studies
  • 12 Years of Experience
  • Certified Sombrero Time Instructor
Angie

Angie Martinez

Angie loves working with children every day, sharing her culture with them and expanding their world through language. Angie was born and raised in Bogotá, Colombia, before coming to Sacramento, and instantly fell in love with California. She loves cooking, sightseeing, going to the movies and spending time at home with her family.

Credentials
  • Native Speaker, Colombia
  • 12 Years of Experience
  • DDS Dental Science
  • Certified Sombrero Time Instructor
Arlene

Arlene Hill

Arlene has a passion for opening young minds to be appreciative of other cultures. Arlene learned Spanish from her parents who immigrated from Mexico. Growing up in Sacramento, the culture and language were always at the center of family gatherings.

Credentials
  • Native Speaker, Mexico
  • 10 Years of Experience
  • B.A. in Political Science
  • BCLAD
  • Certified Sombrero Time Instructor
Celina

Celina Ulloa

Celina is a fun and outgoing Spanish instructor. She enjoys working with all student ages and levels and is huge Giants baseball fan!

Credentials
  • Native Speaker, Mexico
  • 4 Years of Experience
  • B.A. in Liberal Studies
  • Certified Sombrero Time Instructor
Zoriada

Zoraida Mckeon

Angie loves working with children every day, sharing her culture with them and expanding their world through language. Angie was born and raised in Bogotá, Colombia, before coming to Sacramento, and instantly fell in love with California. She loves cooking, sightseeing, going to the movies and spending time at home with her family.

Credentials
  • Native Speaker, Colombia
  • 4 Years of Experience
  • B.A. Organizational Communication
  • Certified Sombrero Time Instructor
Fun Team

Become a Part of the Team

Start by sending us a cover letter, 2 recommendations, and a resume to [email protected].

fun facts

Did You Know?

  • U.S. classrooms produce proficiency in less than one percent of American adults
  • The U.S. job market has doubled its demand for bilingual candidates in the last 5 years

Leadership Team

dave

David Finsthwait

Co-Founder and COO

David Finsthwait is co-founder and chief operating officer at Sombrero Time and Spanish Curriculum. With a background in sales and operations in technology, retail sports equipment, and start-ups, he manages the day to day operations of the two organizations. He graduated from Sonoma State University with a degree in Kinesiology. He’s an avid outdoor enthusiast and mountain bike racer. He is married to Ruth and is the father of three children. He currently resides in Granite Bay, CA,

Ruth

Ruth Finsthwait

Co-Founder and CEO

Ruth Finsthwait, co-founder & CEO of Sombrero Time and Spanish Curriculum, is dedicated to teaching Spanish through immersion and to developing the whole child. She is the author of Spanish Curriculum and a sought-after speaker at conferences and workshops. Ruth graduated from UC Davis with a degree in human development, earning her Masters of Science degree in special education and her BCLAD from San Jose State University. She is married to David Finsthwait, has three children and resides in Granite Bay, CA.

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Erika Burton-Minard, Ph.D.

Director of Operations

Erika is the Director of Operations at Sombrero Time. Erika was born in Viña del Mar, Chile, and, as the daughter of a U.S. Foreign Service Officer, lived in various Latin American and European countries. She moved to New Orleans for her undergraduate degree and stayed to complete both her Master’s degree and her Ph.D. Erika is both fluent in Spanish and has experience in teaching and education. She brings her passion for education and culture to her responsibilities at Sombrero Time.

We Started With Our Neighbors

Co-Founder Ruth Finsthwait’s life was forever changed by a six-month trip to Costa Rica. After taking seven years of conventional Spanish classes in her youth, she found her skills lacking, and enrolled in the Costa Rican immersion program to further develop her growing passion for the language and culture. Ruth emerged from that experience fluent in Spanish, prepared to enter a bilingual credential program, and convinced that immersion was the best way to learn a language.

As she began her career, Ruth experienced firsthand the professional and personal opportunities and competitive advantages that come with being bilingual: enhanced cultural empathy, strong work ethic and resilience in varied learning environments.

Desiring these same benefits for their own children, Ruth and her husband Dave searched for immersive language opportunities in their community. Finding none, they gathered a group of neighborhood kids and started their own! With a sombrero on her head, she spoke only Spanish to the group of kids who came to learn. From those early days teaching out of their garage, Sombrero Time has been fueled by the mission of providing children the advantages to help them become better young people, in a fun and hardworking learning environment.

“Language immersion is hard work and a long journey, but the ability to really speak Spanish is incredibly fun and rewarding. I want my own children to have a language education that produces functional skills, unlike my early experience. Plus, it’s always more fun to take others along for the adventure!”

-Ruth Finsthwait

The Sombrero Time Difference

The Values We Learn, Teach, and Live By

Learning Spanish in an immersive learning setting introduces children to a bigger world. It prepares them to be contributors in a global environment. In a community of teachers, parents and other students, our students experience the joy of learning another language and culture.

As a community, we shape and craft experiences for our students and their parents. Language and culture happen in the context of community, and our most meaningful experiences are those we share with others.

The Sombrero hat image represents two important qualities that we see in many Latin American cultures, which value hard work and the importance of celebration. Simply, we work hard and have fun. Our students also learn to respect and value other cultures as much as they learn to speak Spanish.

We aspire to achieve the very best results possible. As a result, we collect, measure and analyze data in order to improve our program. We also listen carefully to our parents and students, and seek to be a learning organization. For this reason our students achieve great outcomes even after they complete our program.

The Value of RISK and REWARD

Learning a second language helps children become life-long learners because they experience “pressing into the unknown”. They learn the language while using it. They become persistent, resilient, and patient with the difficulties of acquiring a language. These strengths contribute to their ability to learn in other settings and areas, which pay off for a lifetime.

Immersive language settings create the best learning experiences, and there is no greater immersive setting than visiting another country. We seek to provide cross-cultural opportunities for our students and their families over the course of their time in our program.

Let Numbers Talk

4500+

Students & families served

35+

Spanish Speaking Countries Studied and/or Visited

10+

Years of experience

12

Team Members

Testimonials

Don't take our word for it. Take theirs.

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