On Thursday, we filled you in on local personality The Poetess at Green Lake.
LEONARDO, GREEN LAKE’S PERIPATETIC `PROFESSOR’
SUSAN PAYNTER P-I COLUMNIST
Wednesday, October 27, 1999
Section: News, Page: B1
Two sounds penetrated the gauze on Seattle’s Green Lake one morning this week. Ducks sharing a laugh at the grim joggers pounding past. And Leonardo, the strolling Spanish teacher, describing the trees to a student straining to match his accent.
Regulars at Green Lake are accustomed to the sight of the elegant older man in the vest fashioned from a pillow case. Others tend to gawk at what Leonardo, himself, describes as an apparition.
But even through the mist, it’s easy to read the bright orange letters, front and back, that say “Spanish Lessons.”
Fit and charming at 73, Leonardo has been walking students around the lake – and on many a philosophical detour – for more than five years now. Some days he circles the lake a half-dozen times, rain or shine. He teaches 15 students, some male, more female.
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He was born in northern Spain near the city of Santander and the famous Altamira Caverns. Despite the advertising in bright orange letters on his chest, Leonardo is fiercely private. He’ll tell his last name, but does not want it in print.
Leonardo has worked as a fisherman, an Arthur Murray dance teacher – tango, of course – and as a driving instructor for Seattle’s Kirshner Driving School.
He landed here after heading to Alaska on an aborted adventure.
A born walker and a country boy at heart, Leonardo says he despises skyscrapers and paved streets. He hit on the idea of walking the lake while teaching partly because he loves the green space and three-mile circle of water smack in the center of the city.
He has taught English to a Cuban refugee and Spanish to a woman whose family lives on the island of Majorca. His fees depend. For some, there is no charge. “If Mr. Gates wanted a lesson, I would probably charge him $1,000 a minute.”
Some students are preparing for vacations, some are polishing their Spanish for a work assignment. And some just find the language musical.
Personally, Leonardo doesn’t agree. “It may be good for poetry, but it isn’t practical. The words are too long,” he said.
But as long as students want to learn, Leonardo will walk the talk.