COSSI Instructor Biographies

Armando Alcalde

Armando Alcalde
Armando Alcalde was born in Venezuela to Cuban parents.  Armando teaches field ecology courses in both English and Spanish as well as bilingual ski and other mountain sports workshops.  He is passionate about sharing his knowledge of the natural world and the combination of the beautiful Spanish language in a beautiful natural setting is especially appealing. Armando is also a professional musician and having Cuban blood, of course loves to Salsa dance!

Academic background and professional experiences include:

  • Zoology; M.S. Environmental Health Science
  • River restoration design and implementation
  • Environmental Science Instructor – College of Southern Idaho
  • Field ecology workshop instruction for schools, private and public organizations
  • Surface water, ground water, soil and air pollution investigations and project management
  • Outdoor skills instructor and guide:
    • Certified alpine and nordic ski instructor
    • Whitewater river guide
    • Ski mountaineering guide

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Holly BenningtonHolly Bennington
Holly Bennington was born and raised in Southern California but always dreamed of living in Oregon. After completing her undergraduate work in Spanish at UC Irvine (B.A. 2004), Holly spent the summer traveling Spain, and then moved to Eugene, Oregon, to begin her Master's Degree in Spanish Literature at the University of Oregon. Although reading thousands upon thousands of pages of Spanish literature and poetry was a pure delight, Holly's favorite part of graduate school was teaching the undergraduate language courses. Getting other people excited about language and linguistics is her passion! After moving to Bend in 2006, Holly taught Spanish for several years at COCC. Holly is now a mother of five and educates her children at home. She enjoys camping with her family, sitting outside on her patio swing in the summertime, reading books, drinking coffee, singing hymns, and taking way too many photos and videos of her children. She hopes to one day travel to a Spanish speaking country with her whole family.

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Jessica BollingerJessica Bollinger
Jessica Bollinger earned a Bachelor of Arts in Spanish from the University of Puget Sound (2000) and then completed her Master of Arts in Spanish and a teaching fellowship at the University of Oregon (2001-2003). She has taught Spanish at several colleges and universities including the University of Oregon, University of Hawaii, Hilo, Olympic College in Bremerton, WA, College of the Desert in Palm Desert, CA as well as a Kindergarten - 5th grade program at a small independent school on the Big Island of Hawaii. Currently, she teaches classes at both COCC and OSU-Cascades. Her Spanish journey began in Bend as a freshman at Bend Senior High. She eventually traveled to Spain where she lived for a semester while in college and then revisited with her husband after graduation.  She loves the energy and excitement of the language classroom and always looks forward to sharing experiences, stories, laughs and lots of "Aha!" moments with students.

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Gina Chylak
Gina Chylak recently retired from a 20 year career teaching Spanish. During that time, she had the opportunity to teach at our local high schools, COCC and OSU-Cascades. She currently works as a Spanish tutor at COCC and also does some private tutoring. She particularly enjoys working with students who are just beginning to learn Spanish because it is rewarding for her to see people gain confidence as their ability to understand, and communicate, quickly increases.

Academic background:

  • MA Spanish from University of California Santa Barbara in an immersion program designed specifically for teachers.
  • BA Secondary Education / Spanish from Western Oregon University
  • Spent 6 summers attending language schools in Mexico, Costa Rica and Spain.

Gina is very happy to be part of COSSI.

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Laurie ClarcqLaurie Clarcq
Laurie Clarcq is originally from Rochester, N.Y. and has traveled the globe as a teacher and a learner.  Her classrooms have always reflected her love for language, learning and laughter.  The students are, by far, her favorite part of teaching, but she has a special passion for exploring ways to connect students with the curriculum, and teachers with their students.

Laurie is a graduate of the State University of New York at Cortland, and holds a Bachelor of Arts in both Spanish and Early Childhood/ Elementary Education, and a Master of Science in Education with a concentration in Reading and Curriculum Development. She has over 36 years of teaching experience in Spanish and English as a Second Language and has enjoyed working with students at many levels from preschool through university, adult education and professional development. She has twice received the President's Award by the New York State Foreign Language Teachers' Association for her contributions to the profession.'

Laurie has been a presenter, consultant and trainer on a local, state, national and international level. Her recent work in Australia, France and Canada has successfully  introduced the skills of Comprehensible Input-based teaching to teachers in other areas of the world.   In 2008, She and Michele Whaley of Anchorage, Alaska began to implement an approach to reading that they titled​ ​Embedded Reading​.  It has been successfully and joyfully shared with and utilized by teachers internationally.   A long-time blogger and contributor to written publications on and off-line, her work can be found on her two websites ( and​).

Most important to Laurie is the message that we are human beings teaching other human beings.   It is the heart, imagination and spirit that we honor in the classroom, and in life.  It is our ability to develop confidence, curiosity and insight in our students that will change the world.  It is our ability to appreciate what we each offer our students and each other that will strengthen and honor the profession. Whatever the topic, Laurie loves having the chance to interact with other teachers and connect with other kindred spirits!!

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Skip CrosbySkip Crosby, MS, BSED, BS
Skip Crosby has been teaching Spanish in Maine public high schools for 28.5 years. Skip gained proficiency in the Spanish language during a two-year stay in Colombia after college. While in Columbia, he earned a Diploma de Español como Lengua Extranjera from the Javeriana University in Bogotá, Colombia in 1989. In 1998, he earned a Masters Degree in Spanish from Middlebury College in Vermont. He has taught as an adjunct at the college level for a total of nine years. He also teaches high school Spanish online.

In 2014, Skip was named Maine Foreign Language Teacher of the year, Northeast Conference on the teaching of Foreign Language Teacher of the Year Finalist, Androscoggin County Teacher of the year and the 2015 was the Maine Teacher of the Year, Finalist. Skip earned National Board Certification (NBCT) in 2018. For the past six years, Skip has taken groups of students to Guatemala City to work with Safe Passage, an organization dedicated to helping the families working in the Guatemala City dump with education, food and medical care. Skip lives in Poland, Maine with Beth, his wife of 27 years, his 18-year old son, Gabe, and Lexi, the 9.25 pound Mini Dachshund.Color-Block Divider

Abram DitmanAbram Ditman
Before moving to Bend for the third time, Abram taught Spanish in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada mountains and Rogue Valley. He also taught English in Galicia, Spain. He lived in Chile and Ireland before attending college where he studied World Trade and Development and Spanish at UC Davis. Abram and his wife have traveled in central Mexico and Honduras. He has also taken student groups to central Mexico and Cuba. He lives on a farm and loves to eat and raise heritage hogs and hens; in Spain, he was inducted into the "Os Cacholeiros" gastronomic society. Abram is now at Bend Senior High School teaching various levels of Spanish, including International Baccalaureate. He plans to accompany his wife and daughters on more adventures in the future! 

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Michelle EricksenMichelle Ericksen
Michelle Ericksen is a former K-12 educator who has lived and worked in six Latin American countries. She received her masters degree from Stanford, and her Ph.D. from the University of Oregon. She has held faculty positions at University of Oregon, Oregon State University Cascades, and The Oregon Mind Body Institute, and is a certified international change coach. She enjoys paddle boarding, mountain biking and hiking with dog Tucker, book-surfing with friends and traveling around the world with her husband Martin and son Kai.  Color-Block Divider

John GormanJohn Gorman
John Gorman received BA degrees in International Relations and Spanish at San Francisco State University. He received his initial training as a bilingual/ESL teacher at San Diego State University. John completed his MA degree in education at Lewis and Clark College.

While enrolled at SFSU, Mr. Gorman spent a year in Spain studying Spanish history, art and language at the University of Complutense, Madrid.  He also spent several years in Switzerland studying French at the University of Lausanne.  He has traveled widely through Europe and Latin America.   

John has worked as a bilingual educator for 27 years in California and Oregon.  Throughout his career, he has contributed in the planning and implementation of federal bilingual grants and bilingual program development as bilingual program coordinator. His work as a language development specialist spans public K-12 schools as well as the college level.

Currently, John is employed as an English language development specialist in the North Clackamas School District, Oregon.Color-Block Divider

Andrea HppkinsAndrea Hopkins
Andrea Hopkins, a Southern Californian native, has taught for 30 years in a variety of locations in Oregon. Her roots have been a strong influence in her career as an instructor in language and culture. During college and as a teacher, she has had many opportunities to travel and further her expertise in education.

First, she focused her studies on Spanish and English for Language Learners (ELL). Her first teaching positions were at Western Oregon State and Oregon State University. However, in 1989 she became a Spanish teacher for the Corvallis School District and taught middle and high school. In addition, Andrea has taught in the Immersion Program at Linfield College and at INTO-OSU, the English Language Center on the Corvallis campus.

Finally, her professional development has focused on language and culture by studying and traveling. Her travels include: California, New Mexico, Arizona, Mexico, Peru, Venezuela, Colombia, Costa Rica, Spain, and Cuba.

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Chuck HutchingsChuck Hutchings
Chuck (Carlos) has been teaching Spanish at COCC since 1992. Prior to that, he lived in Spain for two years before receiving a Masters Degree in Spanish from California State University, Fresno. During most of his time at COCC, he has chaired or co-chaired the Foreign Language Faculty and has organized and led multiple group visits to Spain and Mexico. COSSI is a natural extension of everything he has tried to do to help students improve their proficiency in the language and increase their love of the cultures that give it life. Color-Block Divider

Pedro NunezPedro Núñez
Pedro Núñez received his B.A. in Education from the University of Valladolid and his Master’s Degree from the University of Salamanca. He has taught in Bilingual and Dual Immersion programs and is currently part of an educational - cultural exchange between the US and Spain. At the moment teaches Spanish at COCC in Continuing Education.

Pedro has always used teaching as a vehicle to communicate his knowledge and the culture of his country to students of different ages. Teaching in continuing education had given him an amazing prospective to reach out to the local community and bridging American Culture and Spanish Culture.

His maxim in life is: "I touch the future, I teach" (Christa McAuliffe). Teaching really allows him to touch the future of the students who pass through his classes each year.

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Eileen PoxonEileen Poxon
Eileen Poxon graduated from the University of California, Los Angeles with a degree in Spanish.  She then promptly moved to Spain for 5 years and continued her education at Mangold Language school and New York University, Madrid.  She later became a high school Spanish teacher in California where she taught years one through four, honors and AP.  To further enhance her language instruction, she attended the Stanford University California Language Project and the University of Salamanca, Spain.

Since moving to Bend, Oregon Eileen has taught Spanish for Central Oregon Community College, Continuing Education and tutors adults one on one in the language.

Eileen prioritizes her family, friends and beloved students. She loves to travel, especially to Spanish speaking countries, and has a passion for the beautiful state of Oregon.

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Maria SantosMaria Santos
Maria Santos has 30+ years of experience as a Language instructor. She is a native Spanish teacher and has taught in Spain and US. She has taught in Bilingual and Dual Immersion programs and is currently part of an educational - cultural exchange between the US and Spain. She is in Bend as a visiting professor and is also teaching Spanish at COCC. Maria became a teacher as soon as she graduated from Universidad de Salamanca and is passionate about her profession. She believes that education is the most important factor, if not the only one, that gives access to equity. Teaching allows her to train her students and guide them to become educated, creative, respectful and open-minded people, citizens for a better world. She is looking forward to COSSI.

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Glennys SchwartzGlennys Schwartz
Glennys Schwartz is from Cartagena, Colombia. She attended the Universidad Pedagógica Nacional where she received her BA in Lenguas Modernas. She attended the Instituto Caro y Cuervo where she fell in love with the Spanish linguistics. She taught in Colombia for nine years where she worked for private and public high schools and universities. She moved to USA eighteen years ago with her daughter Katherine. Glennys lived in Florida for a couple of years and then moved to Bend with her daughter and husband, and they love it. She got her endorsement in ESOL with Eastern Oregon University and she is currently finishing her second Masters in Spanish Linguistics with New Mexico State University.

Glennys has taught in Oregon since 2006. She taught at Redmond High School for five years and has been teaching at Bend High School for seven. When Glennys is not working on school assignments, she loves to cook various ethnic foods and hangout with family and friends. She is passionate about teaching Spanish and studying sociolinguistics and dialectal phenomena of the Spanish language.

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Leslie Veenstra
Hola! Me llamo Leslie Veenstra and I am honored to be a part of the Spanish Immersion Week at COCC. The travel bug hit me when I was 16 years old and I have lived and traveled in many countries since then and speak several languages. I currently work for the Bend - La Pine Schools as a language evaluator, interpreter and translator. I have also taught Spanish at UO and OSU-Cascades, as well as an AP Spanish teacher at one of Bend's local high schools. Hasta el 26 de junio!

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Michelle WhaleyMichele Whaley
Michele Whaley has taught languages in Alaska for more than thirty years. She has mentored teachers for the last fifteen, sharing methodology techniques locally, nationally and internationally at language conferences and workshops. A recent focus is on preserving indigenous languages. Michele believes that languages open our eyes to new ways of thinking and communicating, and she works to find and share the most effective techniques for language acquisition. Michele was the 2016 Pacific Northwest Language teacher of the year and she was a national finalist in 2017. She teaches Russian at the University of Alaska and kindergarten through fifth-grade Spanish at Pacific Northern Academy in Anchorage. She has been part of COSSI since its inception.