Coalition Language Representatives

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Aerin W. Benavides, Ph.D., is the President of Immersion for Spanish Language Acquisition (ISLA), a 501(c)3 nonprofit heritage language Saturday program based in Chapel Hill, NC; President of JBQ Charitable Foundation, a nonprofit supporting international educational exchange, specifically with Peru; and a postdoctoral researcher at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. Her work focuses on building instructional curriculum and teacher training curriculum for the Spanish heritage language immersion program, putting the most current research findings and cutting edge education theory into practice; promoting an Environmental Education exchange for preservice teachers in the United States with South America; and conducting research on identity building for marginalized populations in the U.S., funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF).

Aerin lived in Peru for many years and developed a love for and fascination with Latin American peoples, food, history, and cultures. Through compassion for challenges that Latin American immigrants face in the United States and a desire to help promote deeper knowledge of Latin American culture for immigrants, her research on heritage language programs led her to design a child-centered program for heritage Spanish speakers. Her career in Spanish language education began when she designed an immersion program for Winhold Montessori preschool in 1994, and more recently, when she designed a custom Spanish for Spanish Speakers (SSS) program for St. Thomas More School, Chapel Hill, NC heritage language speakers in 2007.

She works extensively on building a viable, replicable, vanguard free heritage language program (ISLA,, customized to offer Latin American heritage language speakers top quality, content-rich, cutting edge education. ISLA is based on her Saturday school curriculum written in 2007, as part of her Masters degree coursework ( Her chapter on Building Bilingualism in Community: A Case Study of ISLA’s First Year as a Spanish Language Heritage Program, in Raising Children Bilingually in the United States (Norman & Benavides, 2015), describes the early ISLA program. ISLA has grown from serving 14 PreK and Kindergarten-age children in 2012, to currently serving over 140 children age 4-15 and their parents.

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Teresita J. Eldredge is an Adjunct Professor in the Department of Urban Education at Rutgers University, lecturing in Curriculum & Instruction and Understanding Educational Evaluation. She has served in Jersey City Public Schools since 2001, as a Spanish and ESL Instructor. In June 2015, she spoke on her expertise with developing language acquisition curricula at a discussion panel for the Eighth Heritage Language Research Institute at Harvard University.

At Liberty High School, she serves on the School Improvement Panel; the AP-Advance Placement Team; and the Harassment, Intimidation, and Bullying Committee and the Assessment Committee; as the school data coordinator; and as New Jersey Future Education Association advisor. She has developed ESL, Chinese, English, French, Italian, and Spanish Language Curricula for Jersey City Public Schools since 2003.

She earned a Bachelor’s degree in Spanish Language Education at Inca Garcilaso de la Vega University in Lima, Peru in 1995; and worked as an English Language professor at the Peruvian Police Academy from 1995 to 1998. She earned a Master's degree in Applied Linguistics in 2009, and a Master’s degree in Educational Leadership in 2017, both at Montclair State University.

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Jennifer de Lima is a board member of ISLA (Immersion for Spanish Language Acquisition). ISLA is a nonprofit organization in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, that seeks to strengthen Latino children and their families through innovative Spanish immersion programs. ISLA includes a Saturday Spanish heritage language program, now serving over 160 students and their families. Jennifer is founder of Immersion Island, which offers language immersion camps and experiences for children and adults, also in North Carolina. She has taught middle school Spanish in Chapel Hill area schools for over 20 years. She has international business and nonprofit experience in California. She graduated from the University of California, Irvine, in Spanish Literature and Language. She also speaks fluent Portuguese.

Mariano Alejandro Escutia Ochoa, Ph.D. (Universidad Autónoma Metropolitana, Metropolitan Autonomous University, UAM, Mexico City)is a professor in the Language Faculty of the Autonomous University of Baja California (UABC) in the city of Tecate. He teaches courses in Spanish discourse analysis, syntax, and morphology. As part of this program, he is doing a dissertation focused on the teaching of Spanish as a heritage language in a binational region, San Diego and Tijuana.

Mariano specializes in geolinguistics, bilingualism, and heritage languages. He earned a Bachelors's Degree in Language Teaching (2016) and a Master's Degree in Modern Languages (2018) at UABC. He is the leader of the Foreign Languages Academy at the Facultad de la Ingenieria y Tecologia (FCITEC-UABC), and he has implemented new strategies to teach language to commuter students.


Published: Wednesday, October 9, 2019