Teacher Feature: Jacqueline Peláez

Born in Venezuela with a master’s in opera performance and teaching experience at Harvard University, Profe Peláez has arrived to teach upper school Spanish.

Ada Green

Q: Where are you from originally?

A: I am from a country that is very far away. It’s in the north of South America, and the country’s coast is Mar Caribe—the Caribbean Sea. That country is Venezuela.


Q: Where have you taught before you
came to Laguna?

A: I started teaching at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts. A friend of mine told me they needed people to teach Spanish because so many students were interested in studying Spanish and didn’t have enough instructors. Then, my husband, my son, Santiago, and I moved here to California. I’ve taught Spanish and cultural classes at UCSB, Westmont College, Cal Lutheran, Santa Barbara City College and at Anacapa School. Also, I taught the ukulele to older adults for four years. Now I’m here! I’m very thrilled to be here at Laguna Blanca.


Q: What is your background in music?

A: From the very beginning, when I was 14 years old, I wanted to be a rock star. I learned to play acoustic guitar, then electric and classical. I started at the conservatory with the classical guitar, and I thought that was going to be my instrument. Then, they required me to do some choral work at the conservatory to be in a chorus. That experience changed my life forever. I was in love with the human voice and the possibilities for what you can do with your voice. After getting my degree in economics, I moved to the United States, got a scholarship at LongySchool of Music in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and got a master’s in opera performance. Of course, I love to sing. I’ve been an educator for 20 years, which is my passion.


Q: What were you like as a student in high school?

A: I liked literature. At my high school, we called it “Castellano y literatura” or “Spanish and literature.” In high school, I really liked geography and economics.


Q: What are your hobbies?

A: I love to play African drums and the djembe. I have a group of ladies, and we meet every other week, if possible. We feel free when we play the drums. Also, now I’m singing medieval and renaissance music. I really enjoy my husband’s cooking. His paella is especially delicious.


Q: What is your favorite song?

A: There is a Venezuelan song called “Venezuela.” Everybody knows that song. It’s so beautiful and inspirational. I like the Beatles a lot. Even though I didn’t understand the lyrics, I fell in love with the music, the harmonies, and the rhythm when I was little. One of my favorite songs of all time is “Imagine” by John Lennon. The lyrics of that song touch me profoundly.


Q: What are your hopes for your students this year in your class?

A: I want them to learn about culture—especially knowing that Latin American countries are all different. It’s the same language, but a lot of different cultures and customs, art and music. And obviously, to learn as much as they can in Spanish. The most important thing is that they can communicate and anybody can understand them. Even though they can make mistakes, speaking grammatically correct is not the most important thing. The most important thing is that people understand what you want to say.