Skip to main content

Saint Louis University Header Logo Center

Menu Search & Directory

Pietropola (M.A.‘08) Launches International Bilingual Literacy Program

by Katherine Gortz on 10/01/2019

A true innovator in education, Spanish language teacher Lisa Magnelli Pietropola (M.A.‘08) has taken the learning of her students far beyond the walls of her classroom. Through Creo en Ti Media, Pietropola’s students have published bilingual children’s stories that are being used to foster English and Spanish literacy among local children in Pennsylvania as well as others as far away as the Dominican Republic, the U.S.-Mexico border and Guatemala.

As a language educator, Pietropola has always had interest in bilingual publishing. “I would have high school seniors write and illustrate bilingual children’s stories in Spanish and English and we would read them to our elementary school,” she recalls. The project captured the attention of a Pennsylvania publishing company, and Creo en Ti Media was born. Creo en Ti Media prints student-to-student, bilingual children’s books that have been created within high school classrooms. Its first publishing success was Dante el Elefante, a story Pietropola summarizes as “a little character that goes through the jungle struggling to find friends but then, of course, makes friends by the end.” Due to its impact, Creo en Ti Media published four additional books in the two subsequent years, two in Spanish and two in French.

Lisa Pietropola at Milton Hershey School

Pietropola currently teaches students in grades 9-12 at Milton Hershey School in Hershey, PA, a cost-free, private, co-residential school and home for children from lower income families.  Through Creo en Ti Media, the students in her classes have written and published bilingual children's stories which are being used to promote literacy among local children in Pennsylvania as well as in the Dominican Republic, the U.S.-Mexico border and Guatemala.

The main goal of Creo en Ti Media is “to empower students through bilingual literacy,” explains Pietropola. In May 2019, Dante el Elefante was used by a group of students from Shippensburg University while working with children in the Dominican Republic. Three of Creo en Ti Media’s Spanish-English children’s books have been used in Guatemala on medical mission trips to comfort children in hospitals. And most recently, the books have been requested for use in refugee camps on the U.S.-Mexico border. “[The growth] is happening organically,” she says.

Pietropola earned her M.A. in Spanish from SLU-Madrid in 2008. She originally studied abroad for a semester at the Universidad de Salamanca in 2003 while pursuing an undergraduate major in secondary education at Penn State University. “I absolutely fell in love with the culture, the language and the Spanish people,” Pietropola says. “Spain embraced me and I felt a connection to the culture that energized and motivated me to learn as much as I could. That one semester was not long enough.” She knew that she would find a way to return to Spain.

When Pietropola began researching universities offering a study abroad experience as part of the M.A. in Spanish program, she encountered SLU-Madrid. She completed her master’s in Madrid over the course of three consecutive summers plus an extended fall semester thanks to the educational sabbatical that her home teaching district allowed her to take. “There is no place like Spain and there is no school quite like SLU-Madrid,” she comments.

Pietropola currently teaches students in grades 9-12 at Milton Hershey School in Hershey, PA, a cost-free, private, co-residential school and home for children from lower income families. Apart from being certified in Spanish, she also holds a certification in English as a Second Language and has received awards for outstanding teaching.