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.


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.


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.


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.


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!


Italian Instructor

Roberta was born in the Veneto region of Northern Italy. After graduating from the University of Venice, Roberta worked for 20 years in export sales until she eventually changed her career when she and her husband moved to Charlotte in 2009. In 2018 she started teaching Italian and French for the Language Academy and has many loyal students. When she goes back home to visit she volunteers as a English teacher for local children. Roberta also has her own business, Con Gusto LLC, where she offers Italian cooking classes and personal chef services.


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.


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.


Spanish Instructor

Diego is a career journalist who has logged more than 25 years as a reporter, broadcaster, TV anchor, producer, screenwriter, and author, in both Ecuador, and in the United States. He is currently the editor of La Noticia, North Carolina’s most widely circulated Spanish-language newspaper. From 2016 to 2020 he was named the most awarded journalist in printed Spanish media in the U.S. by the National Association of Hispanic Publications. He is also the author of the best-selling book “¿Cómo leer a las personas?” In addition to all that, Diego somehow finds time to raise a family and teach numerous group and private classes for the Language Academy. His students are grateful that he does.


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.


Spanish Instructor

 Cecilia was born and raised in Mexico City where she lived happily as a high-heeled, caffeine-addicted Corporate Insurance Broker focused on risk management and international account management. Due to her husband’s job, in 2012 she moved to Tokyo and founded her own company that helped multicultural families in Tokyo, and later in Dubai where she moved in 2017. She also helped design and deliver country specific cross-cultural workshops for individuals and management teams to help them gain the skills and knowledge they needed for their personal and professional transitions. She started teaching Spanish while living in Tokyo, where she obtained her teaching certification from Instituto Cervantes. In her free time, she likes to work out, read, cook, and drink wine. Salud!


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.


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.


Italian Instructor

Laura Pagani was born in Saronno, where the famous “Amaretto di Saronno “ liqueur is made. She grew up in Lombardia, a region of Northern Italy, moving between the cities of Milano, Saronno and Bellagio – Lake Como. After graduating from the University of Milano, she launched her career as a registered journalist, combining her passion for travel and writing. While working for various Italian publications, she was able to visit all European countries, Northern Africa, the Middle East. She relocated to the USA in 2016 and then joined the Language Academy as Italian teacher. During her free time, she likes to run, ride her Moto Guzzi motorcycle, make delicious Italian meals and cuddle with her cat “Apple”.


Portuguese Instructor

Genezi was born and raised in the south of Brazil. She has a Master’s degree in Portuguese Language and Literature from UNICENTRO, PR also studied Intercultural Studies at Asbury Theological Seminary in Kentucky. She is the author of a myriad of educational materials and has also worked on countless translation projects related to Cross Cultural Training, a field in which She has over 20 years of experience. When she’s not teaching at the Language Academy you can find her working in her yard, reading, writing or traveling.


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.


Spanish Instructor

Catalina was born and raised in Bogota, Colombia where she studied Journalism and Social Communication. She later earned a Master’s Degree in TV and Video production from Bournemouth University in the UK and then moved to Charlotte with her husband in 2003. Catalina has lived in 5 countries and speaks 4 languages. She truly appreciates when someone wants to learn more about other countries and cultures, and especially when they want learn another language. She is very thankful for being able to help you through your journey into Spanish.


Portuguese Instructor

Jane is from Brazil, but has been living in Charlotte for about four years. She has a degree in Early Childhood Education and worked at both private and public schools in Brazil for more than 10 years. She has taught and at a local preschool and in May 2018 she joined Language Academy as a Portuguese teacher. In addition to teaching she enjoys improving her English and is working on her Spanish as well!


German Instructor

Rudolf (Rolf) Grau was born and raised near Stuttgart, Germany. He moved to the United States many years ago. After graduating with a BA in Economics from Long Island University he worked in NY City for an international bank as a foreign exchange trader until he and his family moved to Charlotte in 2004. Rolf has traveled to Europe, Sweden, Russia and Turkey. He is an avid photographer and currently teaches German classes for The Language Academy and is universally liked by his students.


French & Spanish Instructor

Kareen is a native French Speaker from the Ivory Coast. She moved to Charlotte, at the age of 14 with her family. She went on to earn Undergraduate Degrees in Spanish and International Studies with a Concentration in European Studies as well as a Graduate Degrees in Public Administration from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. Kareen is very passionate about the languages she knows and teaches. In addition to French and Spanish, Kareen also speaks Abbey, one of over sixty different languages spoken in her native country. In addition to teaching at the Language Academy of the Carolinas, Kareen also works as a Freelance Translator / Interpreter for several local organizations and government institutions. Kareen currently resides in Harrisburg, NC with her Guatemalan Husband, and her three children.


Mandarin Chinese Instructor

Julie was born in Nanning, Guangxi, China. She earned a Master’s Degree of Economics from Xiangtan University in the Hunan province of China in 2000. She then went back to her hometown and became a professor at a local university. There she taught a variety of economics and English courses. She also did research and subsequently published several peer-reviewed scholarly papers in various Chinese journals. After 11 years of teaching and researching in China, in 2011 she married her husband and moved to Charlotte, NC. She likes hiking, walking and traveling.


Spanish Instructor

Gilberto Velazco, born and raised in Caracas, Venezuela, is a Civil Engineer from UCV-Caracas and has a Master´s Degree in Structural Engineering from UIC-Chicago. He combined a career as a Construction Manager and a QA/QC Consultant with academics as a professor at the UCV school of Engineering for over 30 years. Gilberto, who has 4 children and 5 grandchildren, has taught Spanish at The Language Academy since March 2020, in person as well as online. His students appreciate Gilberto’s unique ability to challenge and guide them through the learning process. In his free time, he likes walking, reading, spending time with his family and taking care of his grandchildren.


English & Spanish Instructor

Dipti’s childhood on two sides of the globe, India and the US, inspired a lifelong appreciation of languages and cultures. She grew up with Hindi and English and started learning Spanish from an early age. She studied Business Administration and Spanish in college and also began training in yoga, meditation, and the arts. For over a decade, she has taught languages and yoga to students from more than fifty countries and of all ages. In addition, she has worked in bilingual international business, medical interpretation, and as a community volunteer. She has traveled to many countries, including Spain, and has co-led a student service trip to India. Her other interests include poetry and hiking. Learning languages can open the door to self-awareness and a deeper understanding of the unity of humanity.


Spanish Instructor

Rubi Herrera was born in Mexico. She studied Business Administration at the National Autonomous University of Mexico. She has had additional training in languages and physical therapy for children with special needs. She began as an English student with the Language Academy and later was hired as a Spanish Instructor. When she’s not teaching, she enjoys spending time with her husband and teenage children, reading and writing.



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We’ve Lost One of the Greats

People die every day, just ask anyone who works in a hospital, but that doesn’t make things any easier when it happens to someone you hold dear. Last week, while we were away in Basque Country, a...

An Italian Chef Among Us?

An Italian Chef Among Us?

We've been working with Roberta Pietrobon for over 10 years and I didn't know until recently that in addition to teaching Italian and French, she also teaches cooking classes! After learning this I...

Looking Back on 15 Years

Looking Back on 15 Years

The Language Academy turns 15 this week and anniversaries like this can make you reflective. As I look back, I can’t help but go over all the things that have happened, the lessons I’ve learned...