Approximately half of our staff at Lesnoe Ozero are native or heritage speakers, and the rest are fluent non-native speakers. Often, several of our native staff do not speak English at all, and they are a huge motivation for kids to stay in the target language.
Several of our staff come directly from Russia and provide excellent linguistic and cultural models. Of our US-based staff, some are adult immigrants from Russian-speaking countries, others are native speakers who are temporarily in the US pursuing graduate studies, and others are heritage speakers who immigrated as children but have continued to study the language intensely.
The remaining staff are Americans, almost all of whom have lived in Russia for extended periods, and some of whom are professional teachers of Russian. While our non-native staff generally don’t have completely error-free Russian, we can comfortably tell you whether we prefer Tolstoy to Dostoevskiy and why, explain the difference between participles and gerunds, and debate the existence (or not) of a Russian preference for authoritarian rule to democracy.
In our high school credit program, all of our staff are certified or experienced language teachers. This benefits even our youngest children, as the high school teachers also work as cabin counselors, activity leaders, etc., in addition to their credit program teaching.
In the two-week program, we have excellent camp counselors: generally, college students or recent graduates who love Russian language and culture and want to share it with kids. We give them training every year, and often, many of the staff in this program are long-time returning staff with very strong teaching skills.
Lara has worked as the Dean of Lesnoe Ozero since 2005. Before she became dean, Lara worked as a teacher in the high school credit program, a counselor in the credit program and a kitchen helper. As a child, Lara attended both the two-week and four-week programs, and fell in love with both Lesnoe Ozero and Russian language and culture. She studied at Connecticut College, where she graduated with a double major in Russian and theater and had the opportunity to study in Moscow for a year, at both the Chekhov Moscow Art Theater and the Russian State University of the Humanities.
After graduation from college, Lara taught English in Moscow for two years. She then returned to the US and entered a master’s program in language teaching at the Monterey Institute of International Studies for both TESOL and Russian. Once she completed her MA, Lara worked for eight years as a professor in the Communications Department at Truman College in Chicago. She is now the coordinator of the Intensive English Program in the Linguistics Department at the University of Oregon.
During the school year, Lara lives with her family in Eugene, Ore. In her free time, Lara enjoys both outdoor activities and a good book, depending on the weather.
Natasha has been the facilitator of the intensive four-week High School Credit program since 2005. In high school, she attended the credit program and fell in love with Lesnoe Ozero and Russian History.
Natasha graduated from Miami University in Ohio with a BA in Russian and a BS in Marketing. After college, she worked in advertising for the Marriott hotels of Moscow. In 2002, Natasha returned to graduate school and received a master’s degree in Russian History from Northern Illinois University. She has worked as a World History teacher since then, first in the suburbs of Chicago and then in Pasadena, Calif.
Natasha’s academic interests are specifically in the everyday life of Russian women in the Imperial period, and she has also done graduate work in Russian language teaching through a federally funded STARTALK grant. During the school year, Natasha lives in Seattle with her family.
Masha has been on staff at Lesnoe Ozero for 11 years. She started as a teacher in the two-week heritage program and has worked as art program director, mentor counselor and assistant dean. She has also worked as an office assistant in the Concordia Language Villages Moorhead office as well as a Business manager at Lac du Bois, Bemidji. She began her Concordia Language Villages journey as a villager at Sen Lin Hu, the Chinese Language Village, and then as a participant in the college program at Lac du Bois.
Masha was born in Donetsk, Ukraine, and graduated from a music academy, where she specialized in classical piano and vocal performance and sang in a Ukrainian folk ensemble. Russian and Ukrainian are her native languages. Masha has always been passionate about Slavic folk art, and after moving to the U.S., she studied at The Art Institute International of Minnesota.
She worked for several years at the City of Lakes Waldorf School as a visiting art instructor and currently runs the Russian Family Weekend programs at Concordia Language Villages’ location in Stillwater, Minn., during the school year. When she’s not working for Concordia Language Villages, she lives in Seattle, Wash. with her family.