Ahwatukee resident Janet Collins has always shown a passion and desire when it came to Spanish, and eight years ago she was able to share her passion with the Ahwatukee community by beginning Los Niños Spanish School.

Before starting the school, Collins worked as a bilingual counselor with at-risk families, and made the decision in 1999 to pursue obtaining her master’s degree in Spanish in order to have a much deeper understanding of the language.

“It was a very personal endeavor; I never thought I would put the degree to use,” she said.

In 2002, Collins and her family moved to Ahwatukee and enrolled her children at Foothills Montessori Preschool.

Noticing the school did not offer any bilingual programs, Collins pitched the idea of her teaching students and received the green light.

“I jumped at the chance, especially because my own children would benefit from it as well,” she said. “I developed a preschool program and was fortunate to have an immediate following.”

Showing some early success with her prosperous business, Collins found herself enjoying every minute of what she was offering to her students and believed the knowledge they are gaining will benefit them as they continue their education.

However, during the beginning years she noticed there was an educational gap between preschool and middle school, where students were not being taught any Spanish courses during their elementary years.

“I realized there was nowhere for them to continue their Spanish studies until the sixth grade, so I developed a program for K-5,” Collins said. “I went to Kyrene School District to propose my idea. They brought me on to teach at two schools and before I knew it, Los Niños had 17 classes and I had a staff of seven instructors.”

The material taught is based on what Collins feels is important, with preschoolers learning letters and numbers and elementary students learning the different congregations.

“I love Spanish and all of my instructors have the same passion for the language,” Collins said. “My focus is to present the most academically challenging material while still having a lot of fun. My students, as early as third grade, are learning material they will see again in the seventh grade.

“I provide age-appropriate curriculum (the only program at Kyrene to divide kids by age group, K-2 and 3-5), and for the available six years a student will not see the same curriculum twice.”

Collins and her staff have also expanded their ventures in areas such as Gilbert and work with local preschool programs in the Ahwatukee area like Magical Journey Learning Center, 1442 E. Chandler Blvd.

“I love seeing the kids I teach year after year in my classes, or at the Walgreens, or at a volleyball game ... wherever. The school has allowed me to share my passion with hundreds of kids over the years, but also has given me the opportunity to be a part of this wonderful community,” Collins said. “In addition, the school is homage to my own kids, they are the inspiration for my logo and the reason I began this journey.”

For more information about Los Niños Spanish School, visit www.kyrene.org.

• Contact writer: (480) 898-4903 or dochoa@ahwatukee.com.

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