For over three decades, our Founder and Director, Maria Pellet Lastra, has inspired young students with her passion for the Spanish language. Through innovative lessons, teaching materials, and play, she not only equips the children with impeccable speaking skills but also immerses them in the customs and heritage of Latin culture, which creates a fun, comprehensive educational experience.
in Manhattan Beach
As a child growing up in Buenos Aires, Argentina, Maria enjoyed studying English and French. Her teachers taught with such heart and devotion that Maria felt as if she was transported to the streets of faraway places where those languages were spoken, though she never left the classroom.
Her language instructors bridged the culture gap by sharing unique, interactive lessons that captured the soul of each culture and cultivated a love for learning.
When Maria arrived in the United States in 1986 and began teaching shortly thereafter, she discovered that American educators taught languages in a very different way—one that she found uninspiring. She knew from her own educational journey that the most effective way to learn a second language is through spirited, fun instruction and teaching materials, so she set about to reinvent the classroom in her first U.S. teaching job at a local Montessori school.
The Difference in Teaching Styles
Maria observed that in the United States, children were not excited about learning Spanish. There were no teaching programs, fun materials, or music, available to teach and play in the classroom. American institutions focused on high school and college programs (without achieving much success for their students) and the formality of grammar, vocabulary, and sentence structure. They were missing crucial components: teaching from a young age (when kids are naturally equipped to learn several languages without a problem), emphasis on conversation, and connection with Latin culture. She found that most language students had had such a poor experience learning Spanish in high school and college; they often graduated without the ability to speak simple, practical sentences or original thoughts, and carried very heavy accents. This was not an ideal way to master a language.
A Magnificent New Method of Teaching
Maria also recognized other missing elements from the American classrooms: the magic of learning in a fun, motivating environment, which included exciting materials, music, and games to teach and play in class. In response, she invented her own radically different approach and launched her signature program that same year—Spanish in Action ™.
As she continued to develop and refine her curriculum, Maria partnered with many prestigious Montessori and public schools, as well as after-school programs. She also taught students from her home. With the help of a life-changing business coach and fueled by her desire to capture kids’ hearts to inspire learning a language at an early age, her classrooms grew, and her program blossomed. Now, in a bright, vibrant brick-and-mortar space adorned with flags from Spanish-speaking countries, Maria incorporates original songs, original YouTube cartoon music videos, and custom-made materials into her popular lessons.
A Community Gem
Since the inception of Spanish in Action, Maria has taught over 8,000 students—only a handful of language teachers in the Los Angeles area, perhaps even in the USA, share the same wealth of experience and time in the classroom. She’s proud to have organically grown her Spanish in Action Program through decades of hard work and genuine passion.
First, she developed the original program and curriculum, as she headed the Spanish program for many prestigious schools in the South Bay. In 2020, Maria and her team of Argentinean Spanish teachers went virtual during the pandemic. She expanded her School of Language for Children in Manhattan Beach by offering online learning to students worldwide.
In 2023, her pioneering spirit continues with the upcoming opening of her online store, where she will reveal her teaching tips and radically different educational materials for kids to learn Spanish from a young age. She is also producing fun music videos on YouTube for kids to learn and enjoy learning Spanish worldwide.
A favorite of the local community and the leading School of Language for Kids in the South Bay area of Los Angeles, she now serves more than 170 students in small groups each year.
A Personal Note
Maria is the proud mother of three biliterate adult children who are first-generation Argentineans in the United States. She believes in making a difference by being a person of integrity in all areas of life, influencing her students by teaching with passion, leading by example, and lovingly supporting them and their families in all possible ways.