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April 26, 2011

Former Spanish Teacher's Foreign-Language Education Business Carves Out Job-Training Niche

A former Spanish teacher in Atlantic County schools, Stacey Kammerman's business started from the concept of teaching simple phrases to help schools communicate with Spanish-speaking parents.

From there, she saw an opportunity to expand the business to English-speakers who could benefit from learning functional Spanish as it related to their jobs, including bankers, construction workers and park rangers.

Kammerman, 42, of Ventnor, founded her company KAMMS World Wide in 2002. The company produces educational material for retail sale and opened a location in Ventnor in January.

"The thing that was the most desirable is that (the program) was specific to their particular needs. They didn't learn the whole language, which takes the average person five years," she said. "They learned what they needed for their job so they could use it immediately."

Kammerman, who taught at Absegami High School and Ventnor Educational Community Complex before opting to run her business full-time, said she noticed a niche in the competitive language product market, which seemed to stress general conversation learning instead of job specific.

The business evolved from customized on-site job training to a more product-based line of educational materials.

Some of the programs are designed specifically for employees to talk to customers, or for supervisors to talk to employees. For construction trades, these include, "cut the rafters," and "mount the hinges."

The learning techniques differ from ones she taught in schools, which put a main focus on grammar and included vocabulary words like "skiing" and "scuba diving," she said.

"This way we teach one verb tense and short simple phrases so you can communicate right away," she said.

The business evolved from classes to producing educational material, including interactive DVD programs, audios, workbooks and preloaded MP3 players that were carried in some major retail stores, including Borders, she said.

The courses include English to Spanish and Spanish to English.

Kammerman said the company sells a few thousand units a month.

The decline in the retail industry from the recession affected her business as some distributors and buyers of the products were going out of business, she said.

"It's not that the customer wasn't buying our product, but the large companies that were selling to retail were going out of business. It's funny how it all trickled down to us," she said.

Kammerman said she has been focusing the business now on a location in Ventnor that sells the material and is also geared toward offering classes.

"In the beginning we were doing on-site job training and then the products took over. Now I see, let's try to manage being able to have the products and tutoring and a lot more diversification so we're not hit too hard like the retail industry," she said.

Kammerman sees strong potential in the region, particularly among its casinos and other industries.

"We see the service industries are strong for us," she said. "Health care, educators and law enforcement, as well as hospitality. Construction was strong for a while. We expect to see that come back again."

By BRIAN IANIERI, Staff Writer pressofAtlanticCity.com

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