Meet the Team
My Spanish Journey Instructors
Get to know our amazing My Spanish Journey teaching staff! All of our teachers have been trained and certified as My Spanish Journey teachers. With extensive knowledge of our proprietary curriculum, they have helped many My Spanish Journey kids speak Spanish.
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 is a native Spanish speaker. She grew up in Chile and Brazil and has been an instructor at My Spanish Journey for 12 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 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.
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
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.
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.
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.
Celina is a fun and outgoing Spanish instructor. She enjoys working with all student ages and levels and is huge Giants baseball fan!
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.
Co-Founder and COO
David Finsthwait is co-founder and chief operating officer at My Spanish Journey 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,
Co-Founder and CEO
Ruth Finsthwait, co-founder & CEO of My Spanish Journey 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.
Erika Burton-Minard, Ph.D.
Director of Operations
Erika is the Director of Operations at My Spanish Journey. Erika was born 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 My Spanish Journey.
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, My Spanish Journey 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!”
The Values We Learn, Teach, and Live By
Learning Spanish in an immersive learning setting introduces children to a bigger world. It prepares them to be contributors in a global environment. In a community of teachers, parents and other students, our students experience the joy of learning another language and culture.
As a community, we shape and craft experiences for our students and their parents. Language and culture happen in the context of community, and our most meaningful experiences are those we share with others.
The Sombrero hat image represents two important qualities that we see in many Latin American cultures, which value hard work and the importance of celebration. Simply, we work hard and have fun. Our students also learn to respect and value other cultures as much as they learn to speak Spanish.
We aspire to achieve the very best results possible. As a result, we collect, measure and analyze data in order to improve our program. We also listen carefully to our parents and students, and seek to be a learning organization. For this reason our students achieve great outcomes even after they complete our program.
The Value of RISK and REWARD
Learning a second language helps children become life-long learners because they experience “pressing into the unknown”. They learn the language while using it. They become persistent, resilient, and patient with the difficulties of acquiring a language. These strengths contribute to their ability to learn in other settings and areas, which pay off for a lifetime.
Immersive language settings create the best learning experiences, and there is no greater immersive setting than visiting another country. We seek to provide cross-cultural opportunities for our students and their families over the course of their time in our program.
Let the Numbers Talk
Students & Families Served
Spanish Speaking Countries Studied and/or Visited
Years of Experience
Don't take our word for it. Take theirs.
“The magic of My Spanish Journey is that the children not only learn Spanish—they learn how to apply their language skills in a real-world setting.”
“Thank you, My Spanish Journey, for immersion style learning. And thank you for providing such high quality teachers.”
“As PTC President for the past two years and current board member, I have received consistent positive feedback from parents and faculty regarding My Spanish Journey and the value this program brings to the kids.”
“I feel very lucky that I was able to be a student in your program for so long as well as go to Costa Rica with the My Spanish Journey Team. I know my life wouldn’t be the same if I had not been in My Spanish Journey. This year I took a Spanish literature class and read my first Spanish novel called Primera Memoria and I started translating documents for an immigration lawyer in Sante Fe! I am now planning to minor in Spanish, hopefully keep translating, and study abroad to keep learning. I can’t thank My Spanish Journey enough!”
“Thank you for your teaching and encouragement. Thanks to My Spanish Journey, I was able to test into Spanish 3 freshman year and take AP 4 and AP Literature my Sophomore year and Junior year, and I got a 4 and a 5 on both exams! I really enjoyed taking the classes, especially literature, and I wouldn’t have gotten to take them if it weren’t for your fun classes!”
“Our children love their My Spanish Journey online classes. We were skeptical but willing to give it a try. After one week, our five and seven year olds are speaking Spanish around our home. The classes are interesting and engaging. I appreciate the fun, creative, and knowledgeable teachers. Thank you!”
“We love My Spanish Journey! I can’t believe how well my son and daughter are doing in Spanish class. So glad I found the program! I highly recommend!”
“The friendships my son has with his My Spanish Journey classmates have been so valuable. He has been encouraged and supported every step of the way with compassionate, highly trained instructors who gently guide him toward an acceptance of other cultures with the goal of building a global citizen.”
“I was very hesitant to sign my son up for distance learning due to the fact that I didn’t think he would be paying attention and daydreaming the half-hour away!! I decided to give it a go for a week and I was pleasantly surprised by how engaged the teacher keeps the students. My son has to pay attention when the teacher has questions for him! I can hear him speaking Spanish, singing songs, and playing challenging games that keep the children involved. I decided after the first week to enroll my son for the full school year and stay dedicated to him learning a second language.”
“We appreciate My Spanish Journey very much. Juan is an amazing teacher and not only do we thank him for teaching our son Spanish, but also for genuinely caring about him. Being a part of the class has blessed me and helped me connect more with my son outside of the classroom, especially during a really hard time. Because of his Spanish class, he is improving so much better in general and has more self-confidence.”