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 Lara Ravitch has been the dean of Lesnoe Ozero, the Russian Language Village, since 2005. She has worked in the kitchen and as program staff at both the Russian and French Language Villages since 2002. Lara lived in Moscow for three years, is fluent in Russian and French, and has studied Spanish and Czech.
Lara graduated from Connecticut College with an international studies certificate and a Bachelor of Arts in Russian and European studies and theater. She studied at the Moscow Art Theater and then taught English in Russia for several years. Lara completed her M.A. in teaching foreign languages (Russian), with a language program administration concentration from the Monterey Institute of International Studies.
In addition to her work at Concordia Language Villages, Lara has taught and administered language programs in community college and university settings, and is a frequent presenter at language education conferences. She currently works as the coordinator of the Intensive English Program at the University of Oregon.
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 B.A. in Russian and a B.S. 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 since 2011. 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 Sēn Lín Hú, 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 during the school year. When she’s not working for Concordia Language Villages, she lives in Seattle with her family.