Craig Snyder

Owner & President

The Language Academy of the Carolinas is locally owned and operated in Charlotte, NC by Craig Snyder. Craig has a master's degree in Spanish from UNC-Chapel Hill and has lived in both Spain and Mexico. He has authored numerous textbooks designed to teach small groups of adults to converse in Spanish and has designed the curriculum for The Language Academy. His work is being used throughout the Triangle and Charlotte Metro areas and has been adapted to fit a variety of workplace environments. He has taught hundreds of people to successfully communicate in Spanish and has many loyal students at The Language Academy.

Rodrigo Rión

Vice President

Rodrigo Rión is of both Spanish and Mexican descent. His mother's side of the family is from Spain and his father's side is Mexican. He graduated from UNC – Charlotte in 2007 with a major in International Business and minors in both German and French. He joined The Language Academy in August of 2008 as an instructor and now handles the day to day operations of the office along with his regular teaching duties. His love of languages and wealth of knowledge have made him one of our most requested instructors.

Bob Dickens

Business Manager

Bob is a CPA from Durham, NC. He graduated from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte with a Bachelor of Science degree in Accounting. Bob started his career in public accounting and since has worked at many companies, large and small, as Controller and Chief Financial Officer. He now manages the business affairs of The Language Academy. Bob is married to a French teacher with two children, sings in the choir, and enjoys reading.

Heather Sutorius

Assistant Business Manager

Heather joined The Language Academy of the Carolinas team in September 2015. Heather is a native North Carolinian. She graduated from East Carolina University with a Bachelors degree in Business Administration. Having worked at Bank of America, United Way, Communities in Schools, The Family Center and Dermatology Group of the Carolinas, she has experience in the banking, nonprofit, and medical fields. She has lived in the Charlotte area for more than 16 years. She enjoys crafting, reading, biking and spending time with her family and friends.

Elaine Tolbert

English Instructor

Elaine was born in Sao Paulo, Brazil and lived in Rio de Janeiro as a child. She attended the Escola Americana do Rio de Janeiro and completed her educational studies at Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, VA. She has also lived in Quetta, Pakistan and has traveled extensively to countries such as Argentina, Germany, Portugal, Holland, and Spain. Elaine started teaching English in Washington, DC in 1997. She moved to Charlotte in 2009 to work for Berlitz Languages where she held the titles of Business Development Manager for the Southeast and Language Director. She currently teaches many English classes for The Language Academy and is universally loved by her students.

Myrna Guatemala

Spanish Instructor

Myrna Guatemala was born and raised in San Salvador, El Salvador. She studied at Francisco Gavidia University and has a bachelor’s degree in Special Education. She also earned a scholarship to study at the University of South Florida. She moved to Charlotte in 2006 and currently works with special needs children for Charlotte Mecklenburg Schools. She likes to travel and loves to spend time with her two sons, Rene Mauricio and Jonathan. Myrna has been working with The Language Academy since September 2008 and currently teaches after-school Spanish classes and summer camps.

Alex Vigo

French Instructor

Alexandre was born in the Champagne region of France, in the City of Troyes. He studied Law at the University of Paris and moved to the U.S in 1998 to continue his education at the Boston University School of Law. After coming to the states he lived in New York City, Boston, and Charlotte. He is an avid runner and a fan of French Literature as well as French Cinema. He has been a French instructor for many years and keeps his classes fresh and interesting. He is proud and happy to be a part of The Language Academy and is looking forward to sharing his passion for his language and culture with you!

Marion Slabbers

German Instructor

Marion Slabbers is one of the more recent additions to our team. She is from The Netherlands and moved to Charlotte in 2015. Marion has a bachelor's degree in Speech and Language Pathology and a master's degree in Human and Organizational Behavior. She is an experienced teacher of all levels of German. Marion learned to speak German as a child, living close to the German border. Later she lived in Germany and worked there as a speech therapist. Marion loves to coach her students along the path to reaching their goals.

Beate Dornburg

German Instructor

Beate Dornburg was born and raised in Germany. She has been living in Huntersville, NC with her husband and three children since 2011. This is her second time in the US. Between 2001 and 2004 she already lived in Cumming, GA. Beate joined The Language Academy in the spring of 2013. She graduated from the University of Leipzig-Germany with a bachelor's degree and from the University of Frankfurt-Germany with a master's degree in Psychology. She gained professional experience in the field of neuropsychological rehabilitation, educational psychology, cognitive behavioral therapy, and in brain research. Teaching comes rather naturally to her in a wide spectrum of situations: from coaching elementary children, cognitive training for adults and groups, to teaching and tutoring German. Beate enjoys working with students of all ages. In cooperation with Craig Snyder, she offers intercultural workshops for companies that collaborate with German colleagues and/or customers. In the era of globalization, businesses are becoming more and more international. Improving their cultural awareness and helping employees to behave and communicate effectively in cross-cultural situations is one of her goals. In her free time she enjoys going for walks, attending classical music concerts, reading, and spending time with her family and friends.

Peter Yu Jia Wu, Ph.D.

Mandarin Chinese Instructor

Peter Wu was born and raised in Xi’An, China, home of the famous Terracotta Warriors of China’s legendary first emperor. He received a B.S. in Plant Physiology from Northwestern University in Xi’An and went on to receive a Ph.D. in Botany with a concentration in Molecular Biology from Washington State University. He has taught Mandarin Chinese and Chinese culture to a wide range of students in the United States for over 20 years. Peter joined The Language Academy in February of 2013. Currently, he is a senior scientist working at the Federal Seed Lab in the greater Charlotte area.

Elizabeth Bertrand

French Instructor

Elizabeth Bertrand has taught French at The Language Academy of the Carolinas since 2010. She also manages its blog, Lingua Franca, and led the company’s first summer travel program to France. A Colorado native, she fell in love with the French language early in her life. Her parents, both avid francophiles, would speak French when they didn't want the children to understand. As a result, she and her siblings all studied French with abandon. She holds a degree in European history from Brown University. Passionate about French language, arts, culture, and cuisine, she met her French-born husband while living and teaching in the South of France. She also writes frequently on the topics of foreign language learning and travel for various publications. She lives in Charlotte with her bilingual family.

Robert Vanderford

German Instructor

Robert Vanderford was born in Charlotte, NC. He graduated from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte with a bachelor's degree in German and from the University of Georgia in Athens, GA with a master’s degree in German. He also studied linguistics and German at the Pädagogische Hochschule Ludwigsburg in Southern Germany. Presently, Robert teaches German at Rowan Cabarrus Community College and tutors German at the high school level when time allows. He also translates documents from German into English. He enjoys spending time with his wife and Siegfried, their dachshund. He also enjoys running, reading, and listening to detective novels ("Krimis") in German.

Nadia De Martino-Reel

Italian Instructor

Nadia De Martino was born and raised in Capri, an island in the Tyrrhenian Sea off the Sorrentine Peninsula of Italy. Growing up in Capri, she learned English and French and lived in Rome before coming to the States in 1996. During her first years in Charlotte she enjoyed volunteering at the International House for the Italian conversation hour and tutoring students at Davidson College. She joined The Language Academy in the fall of 2012. When she’s not teaching Italian, Nadia enjoys cooking, reading, taking pictures, zumba, yoga, pilates, and going for walks. She also loves swimming and spending time with her two daughters, Shani and Naomi.

Bettina Ponisch

German Instructor

Bettina Pönisch was born and raised in Dresden, Germany. She decided to follow in both her grandparents' footsteps and become a teacher. After majoring in German as a Foreign Language and American Studies at Technische Universität Dresden, she moved to Düsseldorf to teach German to foreign students and adults, preparing them for their careers in Germany and German-speaking companies all over the world. Following her dream of working in an English-speaking country, she moved to the U.S. in 2014. She has been working with The Language Academy since January 2015.

Chayree Santiago Thomas

Spanish Instructor

Chayree Santiago Thomas is a native Spanish speaker from Colombia and moved to The United States in 2005. She comes from a family of teachers and most of her life she has been involved in teaching and training activities. She received her B.S. in Chemical Engineering and started her professional career as an Engineer for Gelatins of Colombia. She has also received a Master's Degree in Latin American Studies from UNCC and has worked as a Spanish Instructor at the Language Academy and at area colleges since 2008. Additionally, she has been a volunteer for Habitat for Humanity and the Latin American Chamber of Commerce.

Irene Vidal

Spanish Instructor

Irene is a native from Barcelona, Spain. When she first moved to the United States in 2006 she did not speak any English. Then she started to teach Spanish for fun and learning English to survive! She fell so in love with sharing her culture and language that she got certified as a Spanish as a Second Language Teacher by International House Barcelona. She enjoys helping people understand their own learning process by teaching Spanish in a very personalized and enjoyable way.

María Isabel Ramírez Kintner

Spanish Instructor

María Isabel Ramírez Kintner is from Colombia and came to the USA in 2009 with a program that brings teachers from other countries to teach in the USA. She has a degree in Philology and Languages from Universidad Nacional de Colombia and is about to finish her master's degree – Master en Formación de de profesores de Español como lengua extranjera. She has been teaching Spanish to people of different ages and has been working at The Language Academy since 2014. She loves traveling and has taken students to Spain, Costa Rica and Puerto Rico. As a native speaker of Spanish, she loves sharing with her students not only the language but cultural references about Hispanic culture. ¡Qué viva el español!

Renata Komers

Portuguese Instructor

Renata Komers was born and raised in Rio de Janeiro, but has lived much of her life in Sao Paulo. She earned a Bachelor of Arts in Portuguese and Italian Language and Literature from the University of Sao Paulo (USP). In addition, after completing a three-phase placement exam, she was chosen over 300 other candidates to receive a one-year scholarship to study abroad in Italy. There she learned Italian, worked, traveled around Europe, and had the opportunity to discover different cultures from the people she met and places she visited. In 2007, she got married in Brazil and came to live in New Orleans, LA, where she acquired a Post Baccalaureate in International Studies/ Diplomacy & International Organizations from the University of New Orleans. She has two young daughters, to whom she speaks and teaches Portuguese at home. From her own experience, she strongly believes that learning a language empowers your mind, boosts your knowledge, and opens doors to the world.

Jacques M. Whettnall

French Instructor

Jacques M. Whettnall was born and raised in Paris. With a Licence de philosophie/psychologie at the University of Vincennes/Sorbonne he participated in the founding of Recherche and Application Pedagogic JDK alternative school. He has a strong interest in the subject of personal development and the study of creative, innovative, and proven methods of learning and understanding. He previously taught adult professionals French at the Alliance Française and Berlitz in California. He also has taught in Japan and presently is co-director and teacher at Charlotte’s Ecole du Samedi, in addition to teaching at the Language Academy. "Mr Jacques" considers teaching an honor and believes you have to trust the student’s own capabilities to foster the discovery of their talents. It is his great pleasure to build confidence in students, for learning a language is a means to learning more about oneself. He believes in the situational approach, using authentic French as it applies to one's personal interests and enjoyment. He is very pleased to join the total immersion program at the Language Academy. With his Wife Delia and their two genius cats, they enjoy Charlotte, which he considers a mix between Fontainebleau and the South of France.

Alison Muesing

English Instructor

Alison Muesing was born and raised in the Chicago area. She has been an educator her entire career, working with students from 35 nations, as a teacher, tutor, writer and founder/director of University of the Nations School of Journalism on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC and School of Government & International Studies in Switzerland. She is passionate about helping ESL students and professionals succeed in their academic and career goals. She also volunteers with International Campus Connections at UNCC, which assists international university students in their transition to American culture. She has traveled to 30 countries and studied five languages, including French at the University of Lausanne. Alison earned a certificate in TESOL from Oxford Seminars, a Master's degree in Journalism from Northwestern University, and completed Ph.D. coursework in Education & Intercultural Studies. She loves reading, cross-country skiing, and trips to the mountains.

Charlotte Rouchouze

French Instructor

Charlotte Rouchouze is originally from Pittsburgh but can hardly remember a time when she wasn't learning, speaking, or teaching French. She recently moved to Charlotte from Chicago. She and her husband have two young sons. She holds a PhD in French from Northwestern University and loves teaching students at all different levels. She also enjoys cooking, food blogging, making beaded jewelry, and helping out at her older son's school.

Thuy - Anh Duong

German Instructor

Thuy - Anh Duong was born in Vietnam. At the age of 8, her family moved to Germany. She grew up bilingual, speaking Vietnamese at home and studying in German from elementary school through her master’s degree in Clothing Technology Engineering. She worked at the German apparel company, “s.Oliver” as a clothing technician. In 2005, her husband was transferred to Shanghai for work. She studied Chinese and Traditional Chinese Medicine there. After returning to Germany in 2012, she worked for Adidas as a Product Development Manager, where daily business communication was conducted in German and English. In 2014 her husband was transferred to Charlotte on business. She has lived in 4 different cultures: Vietnam, Germany, China and the USA. Thuy - Anh volunteers at International House as a German conversation facilitator. She is also interested in yoga, cultural exchange and discovering the world. She has worked as a German teacher at The Language Academy since summer 2015.