Director Spotlight – Gaby Martinez del Rio

Gaby Martinez del Rio

Spanish Schoolhouse is often compared to a family.  But for SSH Castle Hills Director, Gaby Martinez del Rio, SSH means family in more ways than one!  It’s not only warm and loving like a family – for Gaby, Spanish Schoolhouse is also a family business!  Gaby co-owns the school with her mother, Gaby Ramirez.  In fact, her whole family has been in the business for more than 15 years!  

Growing up with SSH

Originally from Estado de México, Gaby’s affinity for languages started at a young age. She attended a trilingual school, learning English, Spanish, and French!  At age 16, she moved with her family to the U.S. and experienced what it was like to be fully immersed in the English language and the American culture. She also discovered that her private school didn’t really teach her American slang words!

Gaby’s mother began working for Spanish Schoolhouse as an after-school Spanish teacher in 2003.  She then accepted a position as a preschool teacher at the Frisco school.  Eventually, she became director of the SSH Coppell location when it opened in 2005.  Along the way, Gaby’s mom recruited her to work as a summer camp teacher.  Though she was planning to study fashion design in college, Gaby quickly discovered her love of teaching young children and shifted her focus to education.

Spanish Schoolhouse students with Gaby Martinez del Rio

In 2008, the family was thrilled to open one of the first Spanish Schoolhouse franchise locations in Carrollton (Castle Hills)!  The whole family was involved in this labor of love.  Gaby has fond memories of decorating the classrooms and dreaming of the hundreds and thousands of children they would educate together.  Her brother, Guillermo (fondly known at the school as “Coach Memo”) serves as the CFO. Sister Mariel was a summer camp teacher, Gaby (mom) was the director, and Gaby (daughter) was a teacher in the Kindergarten class. In 2016, Gaby’s mom moved back to Mexico and Gaby assumed the role of director. 

Gaby Ramirez and Gaby Martinez del Rio

Memories of Mexico

When you ask Gaby about growing up in Mexico, the first memories that jump to mind are all the family events and celebrations.   “We have a different definition of family.  You don’t have to be related.  Close friends are considered cousins, aunts, and uncles!  We always celebrated holidays to the MAX!” she recalls.  

In December, they had Posadas celebrations.  These featured re-enactments of the nativity, with each child taking a role as shepherd, angel, animal, or the coveted role of the Virgin Mary.  Gaby has special memories of the year she was finally chosen to play the role of Mary in the annual play.  Different relatives would host the party and the children would carry lit (not electric!) candles, knocking at various doors to ask for lodging or posada.  The first several adults would tell them there was no room at the inn.  They would continue on, singing, until they were finally welcomed in at the last door!

The celebration would continue with too much food, plenty of music and dancing, and of course, the piñata.  Gaby recalls that the piñatas were made from clay, so when they broke, you really needed to duck and cover!  The treats that spilled out were not candy, but fruit and Mexican sugar cane. 

Martinez del Rio family

Creating a Family Culture at Work

As the leader of the teaching team, Gaby strives to create that sense of extended family among the staff.  “Many of our teachers have left their countries and have no family here.  We want to be family for each other,” says Gaby.  They share in each other’s celebrations and challenges.  It has been extra-important to support each other this year as we’ve faced a global pandemic.  Even when the school initially shut down in the spring, Gaby worked hard to maintain that sense of community among her team with frequent communication and encouragement.  

Spanish Schoolhouse Castle Hills Staff

Goals for Today’s Students and Beyond

Gaby’s #1 goal is for the children to feel loved and safe at SSH. She gets excited to see connections grow between students and staff.  Those connections are what inspire and fuel students’ appetites for learning.  She enjoys watching children’s self-confidence grow as they begin to express their unique personalities and share their ideas.  

And of course, Gaby hopes to inspire a passion for the Spanish language in all of her students so they’ll keep studying, traveling, and discovering!  Having a curiosity about the world and other cultures is a trait she inherited from her family and wants to pass down to her students.

Spanish Schoolhouse Castle Hills

The newest member of Gaby’s family is not a student yet, but she’s already an inspiration!   In June 2020, Gaby and her husband, Daniel, welcomed their first child, Aria Kelman Martinez Del Río.  They can’t wait for the next generation of the Martinez Del Río Kelman family to carry on the traditions of celebrating culture and education.  Maybe someday we’ll see the third generation of SSH directors in this family!  

Gaby is honored to be able to touch the lives of her students as she shares her language and culture with them.  As a company, Spanish Schoolhouse is grateful for Gaby’s dedication to our shared mission. We appreciate her creativity, positive spirit, and all of her many contributions to Spanish Schoolhouse over the years.  

Gaby Martinez del Rio and daughter Aria

So, what do you think?