Interview With Emi and Teo

Hilary Leslie interviewed Emi and Teo for her blog in November and we thought we should share it again here for those that missed it before! Learn a bit more about our directors and El Pueblo Spanish Camp in the interview below.

I met Emily and Teo at Elon University when Emily and I were the only two Spanish majors in the semester’s Senior Seminar class. We had a great time discussing Spanish culture and sharing stories about our adventures abroad in Spain. Now, Emily and her husband, Teo, have started a Spanish language camp and love encouraging young learners to be the best students and people they can be. – Hilary Leslie

El Pueblo Spanish Camp Directors: Emi and TeoNovember 2018

1. Where are you two from?

Emily: I grew up in Rome, Georgia.

Teo: I grew up in Orlando, Florida but I’ve lived in Georgia more years than any other state.

2. What’s your background in Spanish language and culture?

Emily: I got interested in Spanish starting in middle school and got to go to a Concordia Language Villages (CLV) Spanish camp after my 9th grade year. I loved camp and wanted to be just like my counselors who were all bilingual and had had interesting international experiences. After high school, I began working at Spanish camp every summer, majored in Spanish in college, traveled and studied to Spanish-speaking countries and taught Spanish once I graduated.

Teo: My dad’s side of the family is Cuban-American, so I heard Spanish during family get-togethers and holidays. I learned to drink Cuban coffee and eat Cuban food, but I didn’t really learn Spanish until I majored in it in college. Since then I’ve been able to travel to a lot of Spanish-speaking countries and also did a master’s in Spanish.

3. What inspired you to start El Pueblo Language South Spanish camp?

Teo: When we reflected on what we wanted to do with our lives, we realized that we had never felt more fulfilled than when we worked at Spanish camp. Our experiences working at CLV inspired us to dream of starting our own camp that could bring that kind of language and cultural learning opportunity to our region.

Emily: After all of the dreaming and talking about this crazy idea of starting our own camp, we decided to take spring break in March of 2017 to determine if we were really going to try to do this thing! We worked every day of that break and decided to go for it!

Emi playing an outdoor game at camp.

4. What would you like a parent to know about your program?

Emily: Our goal at Language South goes beyond language learning, though that’s certainly a cool part of our program. Our mission is about developing lifelong learners and lovers of languages and cultures. We love creating a community in which we all (staff and campers alike) get to be more intentional about growing as lifelong learners and lovers of others. We think our campers will go home knowing more Spanish, and will also have taken time to reflect on the kind of person they want to be!

5. When can you attend El Pueblo? Where is it?

Teo: Next summer we’re offering two programs. We’ll have a three-night mini camp from June 4th to June 7th, and our main camp from June 9th to June 15th. The mini camp is open to kids currently in elementary school (K-5) and the main camp is open to kids and teens currently in grades 3 through 10. Camp takes place in Chattanooga, TN at the Oaks Group Camp in Booker T. Washington State Park.

Counselors and campers preparing for a game.

6. What does a typical camp day look like?

Emily: Campers spend the day having fun while immersed in Spanish. They wake up with their cabin group in the morning, go to meals in the dining hall, make art and play sports, and sing songs, all while engaging with the Spanish language and learning about the cultures of people who speak Spanish.

Teo: One of the highlights of every day is the all-camp night program. There were two night programs that stood out as camper favorites this year: “La Caja Misteriosa” and “La Inmigración.” La Caja Misteriosa was kinda like an escape room, but instead of getting out of a room campers had to work together to solve clues and find their way into a box with a surprise inside. In La Inmigración, campers participated in a game that later served as a springboard for a conversation about the experiences many people have when they immigrate to other countries.

Check out some video from the Caja Misteriosa program here:

Campers learning a traditional Dominican dance.

7. How did your campers respond to El Pueblo’s first year?

Teo: They told us that they enjoyed making new friends, hanging out and learning from their counselors. Many of them said they grew in their Spanish ability and learned new things about the cultures of Spanish-speaking people. A number of them said that they will remember the songs, the night programs, and playing four square in front of the dining hall. Also, a lot of campers told us the food was great!

Emily: We have a big focus on loving the other people in our camp community, and when a reporter asked one of our campers about camp he told her, “I’m loving the love here.” And I think that’s pretty awesome!
Camp Superhero "Súper Español" celebrates campers who took on a Spanish challenge.

8. What are the benefits of being a camper or counselor with El Pueblo?

Teo: Our counselors get to work closely with others in a dynamic team united by shared values and a passion for the language and cultures of Spanish-speaking people. They have opportunities to take initiative and problem solve in a way that drives personal growth. Working at a summer camp is an excellent leadership development opportunity. I’ve often cited my experiences as a counselor when asked questions in an interview about my previous jobs.

Emily: Our campers get to experience success with Spanish even if they’re brand new to the language. Learning the word for “water” in Spanish doesn’t feel like much of a success in the classroom, but singing a song about “agua” along with “La Capitana Agua” or recognizing the word and realizing it means you’re going to be playing with water balloons…that’s the kind of success that can make you fall in love with language learning.
Teo plays guitar during song time.

9. How can prospective campers and counselors contact you?

Teo: Anyone interested in sending a young person to our camp or coming to work with us next summer should give us a call (423-771-9137). We’d love to talk with them! We are still a small camp organization, and that allows us to give personalized attention to our counselors, our campers and their families.

¡Mil gracias, Emily y Teo!

To learn more about Language South and El Pueblo, visit them on the web:

Website – Facebook – Instagram – YouTube