About 'Risas y Sonrisas'
When I started teaching Spanish to children 13 years ago, it was very difficult to find quality Spanish teaching aids for children. Because my Spanish classes were after school, I had to make them fun so that my students would want to stay those extra hours.
They also had to be effective so that parents could see how much their children were learning and would happily send them back for future sessions. As others heard about my program, it began to grow. I started hiring other teachers to help me in other schools and before I knew it, I had more after school Spanish classes than I could handle. At the same time, I was volunteering at my children's school coordinating a program for parent volunteers to teach Spanish to K-5 students, thirty minutes once a week. These great experiences provided me with the best opportunity to test the songs, games and materials I had developed at different grade levels.
As a result of this, more parents became aware of how important it was to teach Spanish to their children. They began asking me how this could be achieved in their schools. It was then that I decided to start offering my program to more schools. I finally gave up the after school classes and devoted my full time and effort to developing "Risas y Sonrisas". That's Spanish for "Laughter and Smiles," which is what this program is all about -- the joy of learning Spanish.
Today schools all over the country and around the world are following what I started years ago. In Austin, TX there are now over 25 elementary schools teaching Spanish with parent volunteers. Risas y Sonrisas has won prestigious awards, and its accomplishments and success have been cited in newspaper articles and broadcast media. Public and private schools in the United States and as far away as China, London, Australia and South Africa are using "Risas y Sonrisas" now to enrich their Spanish language programs.
It has been an amazing journey with results that have been incredibly rewarding. Through Risas y Sonrisas I can share that success with others – schools, parents, independent instructors and especially the children who benefit the most from learning to speak and love Spanish from an early age.
About the Founder
Leticia Smith is originally from Mexico City and has lived in Austin, TX for 23 years. She received a BBA with a Minor in Marketing from Texas State University and an Accelerated Learning certificate from the University of Houston. Not knowing then the impact it was going to have in her future, she worked four consecutive years in the University's Spanish Department where she acquired invaluable experience teaching college students twice a week and offering tutoring services. Later on when she had the opportunity to teach children, she discovered that her true vocation was to teach and inspire others to put joy into learning. Her 14 years of experience as a Spanish instructor teaching children in elementary schools eventually led to the development of her award-winning program, Risas y Sonrisas.