• Meet The Team

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.

Elyse Blanco

Elyse Blanco

Credentials:

- Native Speaker, Venezuela
- AA Degree, Marketing
- 6 Years of Experience
- Certified Sombrero Time Instructor

About Elyse:

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.

Carol Brown

Carol Brown

Credentials:

-Native Speaker, Chile & Brazil
-10 years of experience
-Certified Sombrero Time Instructor

About Carol:

Carol Brown is a native Spanish speaker. She grew up in Chile and Brazil and has been an instructor at Sombrero Time for 10 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.

Juan Pablo Fuertes

Juan Pablo Fuertes

Credentials:

-Native Speaker, Colombia
-10 years of experience
-Certified Sombrero Time Instructor
-M.A. Language Instruction

About Juan:

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.

Arlene Hill

Arlene Hill

Credentials:

- Native Speaker, Mexico
- 10 Years experience
- Certified Sombrero Time Instructor
- B.A. Political Science
- BCLAD

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.

Amanda Jackson

Amanda Jackson

Credentials:

-Native Speaker, Mexican/American Bilingual Family
-10 years of experience
-Certified Sombrero Time Master Instructor
-B.A. Spanish and Latin American Studies

About Amanda:

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.

Zoraida Mckeon

Zoraida Mckeon

Credentials:

-Native Speaker, Colombia
-4 years of experience
-Certified Sombrero Time Instructor
-B.A. Organizational Communication

About Zoraida:

Zoraida is a fun and enthusiastic teacher. She has a range of experience with many student ages and levels. She brings a wealth of knowledge from her extensive world travels to her instruction.

Zoraida is also passionate about instilling her enthusiasm for multilingualism in her students to help them become adaptable, understanding global citizens.

Ana Reed

Ana Reed

Credentials:

-Native Speaker, Guatemala
-23 years of experience
-Certified Sombrero Time Instructor
-B.S. Religious Studies

About Ana:

Ana has more than 20 years in education and enjoys working all age groups. Ana Reed grew up in Guatemala and brings a passion for developing cultural awareness and helping students acquire language skills to communicate in their community and beyond.

Sandra Steibler

Sandra Steibler

Credentials:

-Native Speaker, Colombia
-22 years of experience
-Certified Sombrero Time Instructor
-B.A. Modern Languages (Spanish & English)

About Sandra:

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

Celina Ulloa

Celina Ulloa

Credentials:

-Native Speaker, Mexico
-3 years of experience
-Certified Sombrero Time Instructor
-B.A. Liberal Studies

About Celina:

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

Angie Valderrama

Angie Valderrama

Credentials:

-Native Speaker, Colombia
-10 Years Experience
- Certified Sombrero Time Master Instructor
- DDS Dental Science

About Angie:

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.

Become a Part of the Team

To learn all about being a part of the talented and dedicated Sombrero Time team, visit our JOIN page by clicking HERE. We look forward to speaking with you soon.

Did You Know?

U.S. classrooms produce proficiency in less than one percent of American adults

AND

The U.S. job market has doubled its demand for bilingual candidates in the last 5 years

Leadership Team

David Finsthwait

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,

Erika Burton-Minard, Ph.D.

Erika Burton-Minard, Ph.D.

Director of Operations

Erika is the Director of Operations at Sombrero Time. Erika wasborn 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

Ruth Finsthwait

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.

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!”

Serving Families and Communities through Spanish Language Learning.

4500+

Students & families served

35+

Spanish Speaking Countries Studied and/or Visited

10+

Years of experience

8

Team Members

Learn more about the difference a second language makes

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