2013- 2014 Faculty and Staff
The Cloud Forest School currently employs 39 faculty and staff members. Of those 39 employees, 24 are teaching staff. While many of our local teachers and administrators are long-term, local employees, we also have a tradition of hiring international teachers and staff who typically commit to 2-3 years of employment at the Cloud Forest School before returning home. Our staff is roughly half Costa Rican and half North American, providing a dynamic and diverse mix of cultures and languages.
Kimberly Acosta Cruz, Child Life Specialist: A native of Southern California, she was first introduced to Monteverde in 2006 as a undergrad bio student, and immediately fell in love with the beautiful nature and people of the community. After finishing up her degree, Kim became “bi-county” and lived part-time in Monteverde and So Cal, until moving here permanently in 2010. She earned her bachelor’s degree in biological sciences from University of California, Irvine, and her master’s degree in Child Life from University of La Verne. While her speciality is working with medically fragile kids, she loves being in the school environment, empowering students to work through their roadblocks and live happier, healthier lives.
Eduardo Alfaro, Maintenance Staff & Land Stewardship Teacher: Eduardo grew up in Puerto Viejo de Sarapiqui and came to Monteverde for the first time when he was 16 years old to visit family. He returned to Monteverde 12 years ago and has lived here ever since. Before joining the Cloud Forest School, Eduardo worked in construction and also painted houses. Later he worked for 5 years as a guide and trainer for the zip lining company, SkyTrek. Eduardo has a lot of experience with snakes and worked for a time for Monteverde’s Serpentario. His favorite snake is the clelia clelia. Eduardo feels the Cloud Forest School is his second home and family
Xeonny Arguedas, Finance Coordinator: Xeonny was born in Las Juntas de Abangares, and raised in Turin on a coffee farm. She received a degree in home economics from the Universidad de Alajuela before coming to Monteverde in 1991. She met her husband at the Monteverde Lodge, where she was working for a short period of time to earn extra money, and since then has been based in Monteverde. Xeonny also holds a degree in administrative finance and previously worked for Sky Adventure, a canopy tour company, in their accounting department. Xeonny feels proud to be part of the Cloud Forest School family and has been involved with the school since 1999 as part of the Parents’ Commission. She loves and gives thanks to God primarily for being part of the school.
Dixia Artavia Custodial Staff: Dixia was born in Puntarenas, Costa Rica and has lived in Monteverde her whole life. She attended primary school in La Lindora, a short distance from downtown Santa Elena. Dixia has worked as custodial staff at the Cloud Forest School since 2008, is a homestay parent for visiting volunteers and students, and has two daughters who attend the elementary school. She feels lucky to be part of a school community where the motivation to work is driven by love and by the desire to interact with unique and interesting individuals in such a special place. In Dixia’s free time, she enjoys sewing, painting and cooking.
Alejandro Ramírez Urías, Third Grade Teacher: Having grown up in a remote town in Mexico, Alejandro comes to Monteverde eager to return to the small town lifestyle of his childhood. With a bachelor’s degree in Physical Education and Sports Science from the Autonomous University of Chihuahua and a Masters in Teaching from Oregon State University, Alejandro has worked the last 8 years teaching 3rd, 4th and 5th grades at a dual immersion public school in Oregon. Alejandro has come to Monteverde to teach 3rd grade and is excited to be here with his 3 children and wife. In his spare time Alejandro likes to play his guitar, ukulele and play basketball and soccer. He is looking forward to his family being part of an environmental based bilingual school and to being surrounded by the beauty and tranquility of the Monteverde area.
Gabriel Barrantes, Operations Manager: Gabriel is originally from Alajuela, Costa Rica but has lived in Monteverde for 15 years. He came to this area looking for a place that would provide a special educational experience for his children. Although Gabriel works in educational administration, he also teaches mathematics to adults in a graduate equivalency program provided by the Costa Rican Ministry of Education. Gabriel has been with the CFS since 2009 and respects the school’s commitment to provide a quality bilingual education to students who would not otherwise be able to provide it for themselves. Gabriel’s objective is to do all he can to provide CFS students an ideal learning environment.
Milton Brenes Mendez, Land Steward & Environmental Education Teacher: Milton began at the Cloud Forest School in 2000. He takes great pride in his work and enjoys instilling interest in and teaching others to respect our natural environment. Milton believes that through the education of our children we can help promote conservation and a relationship of mutual respect between humans beings and their surroundings. He appreciates the CFS’s international exchange programming because it allows outsiders to familiarize themselves with the grand significance of such a small country. Milton has three children and he hopes all will graduate from the CFS to continue spreading the school’s mission.
Renee Burgos, Kinder (Pre-School) Teacher: In July of 2012, Renee moved to Monteverde with her family from Washington, D.C., but she is originally from the state of Pennsylvania. In the States, she taught English as a Second Language to adults at the community college level, as well as facilitated a type of conflict resolution called Community Conferencing as an alternative to the juvenile justice system. She is also mother to two fanciful girls, ages 4 and 6. Renée enjoys teaching alongside Esperanza as the English teacher in the Kinder classroom. In her free time, she likes to spend time with friends, get lost in a novel or go hiking, among other things.
Cristina Castro, Receptionist Cristina was born in San Luis, a short distance from Monteverde. She’s the 5th of 11 children. She obtained a degree is small business administration in El Paso, Texas. Cristina has been married for 23 years and has three children, two boys and a girl. Her eldest son and daughter graduated from CEC and her younger son is in the 7th grade. She lives in Santa Elena and has worked at the Cloud Forest School as a receptionist for 8 years. She loves the Cloud Forest School and feels as though it is her second home.
Kathia Corrales, Volunteer & Intern Coordinator: Kathia is from Monteverde – she is Costa Rican through and through. She comes to CFS with 19 years of experience working in hotels throughout the Monteverde zone, directly in client relations, sales and merchandising. For two years, she worked as a guide throughout all of Costa Rica and last year worked at Selvatura. She is the mother of 3 children, one is a current student at CFS, and two have graduated from CFS. Kathia loves the school and its philosophy. Her goal is to make stronger links between the Santa Elena/Monteverde community and the school. In this way, she hopes to work for national recognition of the school and its model. She loves animals and loves to ride her horses!
Shari Exo, 4th Grade Teacher: Shari came to visit Monteverde one year ago with her son, Sebastian and they liked it so much that now they have returned to be part of the CFS family. They come from Oregon and thus are used to the rain. Her specialty is in environmental education, although she has been teaching in a bilingual school for the past 10 years, giving all her classes in Spanish. Both Shari and Sebastian are excited to follow their passion for nature and already enjoy the people and incredible flora and fauna in Costa Rica.
Molly Egger, Middle School Math and Science Teacher: Molly first heard about CFS through her brother, who attended school in Sewanee. She came to the school as a volunteer in 2005 as part of an Independent Learning Experience scholarship from St. Louis University. The experience inspired Molly to pursue international teaching. For the past three years she taught English and Social Studies in Guangzhou, China and is overjoyed to have the opportunity to return to Monteverde to continue her teaching career. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in Education form Middle Tennessee State University. In her free time, Molly enjoys reading, sports, playing card and board games, and cooking. She is thrilled about the staff, students, and community that she will be working with here at the CFS!
Jodi Goodman, 1st Grade Teacher: Jodi grew up in a small, country town in North Carolina. She studied Elementary Education at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte and taught elementary school for four years in Charlotte – two years at Community Charter School and two years at Socrates Academy (a partial Greek Immersion school) after graduating. Her passion for travel, culture, and education has brought her to the Cloud Forest School where she is taken away daily by the beauty and new experiences here. Jodi enjoys hiking, cooking, and spending time with friends and loved ones. She feels fortunate for the opportunity to be a part of the Cloud Forest School family and is looking forward to all this year will bring!
Laura Grenholm, Director: Laura is celebrating her fourth wonderful year as Director at the CEC. She previously worked with Chicago Public Schools to recruit, develop, and support new and innovative charter schools. Prior to CPS, Laura served 10 years with the Los Angeles Conservation Corps. She was the founding principal of EcoAcademy, a public charter high school for inner city youth who were not successful in the traditional school system. Laura earned her Masters of Science in Ecological Teaching and Learning from Lesley University and her Bachelor’s degree from Macalester College. She loves sharing Monteverde with her husband, Carlos, and daughter, Amalia.
Chelsea Henderson, External Relations Manager: Chelsea began working at the Cloud Forest School as the high school math teacher in 2010. Originally from Atlanta, GA, Chelsea has her Master of Arts in Teaching degree from the University of Georgia. Chelsea received her undergraduate degree in mathematics from Davidson College. In 2007, she studied abroad at the University of Georgia’s San Luis campus, fell in love with the area, and decided she wanted to come back to live in Monteverde. After three years teaching in the colegio, she has moved into an administrative role as the external relations manager this year. Chelsea is very excited for her new role at the school, but she will miss her students as well.
Lural Ramirez, Prepa (Kindergarten) Teacher: Lural has come to Monteverde from Oregon with her husband and three children, but she is originally from California. With a bachelor’s degree in Communications and Spanish and a Masters in Teaching, Lural has worked as a kindergarten, 1st grade, 2nd grade and ELL teacher for the last 10 years at a public school in Oregon. Lural’s previous school had a Spanish/English dual immersion program which she was fortunate to have worked to create and develop. Having also worked as a consultant on bilingual programs, Lural is looking forward to supporting the Cloud Forest School as its Prepa English teacher and to spending her free time exploring the forest with her family and enjoying long runs on the pristine trails in the area.
Pamela Holschuh, High School English and U.S. History Teacher: Pamela received her B.A. in Sociology and a Masters in Education from the University of Minnesota. In between her 2 degrees she obtained a Hatha Yoga Teaching Certificate from the Prana Yoga College in Vancouver, B.C. Pamela feels extremely fortunate to be apart of such an amazing school and community. She looks forward to spending time in the forests, learning Spanish, creating beautiful new relationships, learning about different organic farming practices and jumping on her newly acquired mini-trampoline.
Esperanza Mora Cespedes, Kinder Teacher and Art Teacher (Grades 1 – 4): Esperanza grew up in San Jerardo (part of the Arenal Conservation Area) where she learned to love the forest and where she and her family went on adventures together. She attended school in Santa Elena and afterward spent about three years in San Jose and also in Corcovado. She returned to Monteverde after her time away and dedicated herself to being a mother. In 1998, Esperanza began to work at the Cloud Forest School and she has continued to work at the school because she believes this to be the best place to work to help form global citizens. In Esperanza’s free time she enjoys spending time with her family, cooking, reading and walking or camping in the forest.
Kris MacDonald, Elementary School Academic Manager: A native Wisconsinite, Kris studied Psychology at the University of Wisconsin at Madison. After completing her studies, Kris joined Teach for America and taught 6th grade reading and language arts in East San Jose, California. She then joined the KIPP (Knowledge is Power Program) network, teaching 5th grade reading and serving as the Grade Level Chair at KIPP San Francisco Bay Academy for three years. She continued to work for the Teach for America Training Institute in Chicago as a School Director for the past three summers. Kris is delighted to return to the CEC and to support 10 wonderfully talented and driven teachers at CFS, help lead professional development, and ensure a student-centered approach to education.
Eric Bradfield, High School Math Teacher: Eric received his B.S. in Math from Cal State Long Beach in 2001 and began teaching at Downey High School. In 2006 he and his wife joined the Peace Corps to teach in Vanuatu–a country of islands in the South Pacific. After the Peace Corps, Eric returned to Downey High, but longed for another beautiful experience abroad. Now with two young children, Eric’s family came to Costa Rica to live and teach in the amazing environment here at Cloud Forest School and, hopefully, become fluent in Spanish as well.
Luis Roberto Mendez, Maintenance and Cleaning Staff: Luis Roberto attended Kindergarten at CFS and has wanted to return ever since. He was born and raised in the Monteverde zone and has worked as a cabinet-maker for the past eight years. He loves the school and its surroundings and is very happy to be back.
Eric Miles, High School & Middle School Academic Manager: Eric comes to CFS with more than 15 years of experience as a public high school art teacher and arts administrator in New York City at the Bronx High School for Visual Arts and the Urban Assembly School for Music and Arts. He has also taught environmental science in the wilds of West Virginia. He holds a Master’s of Fine Arts degree from Pratt Institute and first came to Costa Rica back in 1991 to study sustainable development and biodiversity. He is thrilled to be part of the CFS community, and is looking to throw down on the Frisbee field, bag a resplendent quetzal sighting, and learn some mountainside agriculture tips alongside his wife & two young sons.
Isaura Ortiz, Spanish and Social Studies Teacher (1st- 4th grades): Isaura was born and raised in Monteverde. This is her sixth year at the Cloud Forest School; previously, Isaura worked teaching Spanish as a second language. This experience inspired her to study primary education, as she discovered she loved teaching. Presently, Isaura teaches Spanish and Social Studies to the lower school. She feels very fortunate to work in the community of love that is the Cloud Forest school, surrounded by the forest, the songs of birds, and the laughter of children.
Sonia Ovares, Spanish Teacher (Prepa and 1st Grade): Sonia has lived in Monteverde her whole life. She works at the Cloud Forest School because it has a marvelous forest where the students can enjoy school activities and interact with the environment. It is here that the school’s mission and vision are achieved in a clear and dynamic way. Sonia has worked at the Cloud Forest School for 13 years. In her free time she loves to walk to enjoy the beautiful views Monteverde has to offer.
Sirleny Perez, Middle School Spanish & Social Studies Teacher: Sirleny has lived her whole life in the region of Monteverde. She was educated in Monteverde, and left the area for a brief time to attend university in Canas (Guanacaste province). Sirleny has worked at the Cloud Forest School / Centro Educacion Creativa since 2000 and is very content to continue working at the school, as it is the job of her dreams. Sirleny lives in nearby San Rafael with her three-year-old daughter who will surely become a Cloud Forest School student as soon as she is old enough to attend. She is excited to be taking on new responsibilities at the school next year as she will begin teaching civics to 7th grades.
Matthew Piscitelli, Middle School English Teacher: Matthew grew up in the beautiful city of Charlotte, North Carolina. He graduated from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte with a BA in Education. Afterwards, he traveled the world as a Peace Corps Volunteer, teaching English and spreading peace. He is a swim coach in the States and would love to pass on the safety and knowledge of swimming to the students at the CFS. He enjoys playing Frisbee and hiking new and beautiful trails. He feels that he will bring an extra splash of positivity and enthusiasm to the middle school students. He is confident that this year is going to be awesome.
Dunnia Sanchez Villalobos High School Spanish Instructor: Dunnia lives in the nearby town of Guacimal. She is married and has a 5 year old daughter who attends the Cloud Forest School / Centro de Educacion Creativa. Dunnia is a graduate of the University of Costa Rica and holds a degree in Spanish Education and Literature. She has 5 and a half years of professional experience teaching the Spanish language. Prior to joining the CFS, Dunnia worked at the language institute CPI in Monteverde. This is her first year at the CFS and she greatly enjoys the opportunity to be involved in the school community and teaching in the beautiful cloud forest setting.
Gloria Santamaria, High School Civics/Social Studies: Gloria is originally from southern Costa Rica. She attended Universidad Nacional and Instituto Loyola UACA where she studied Social Studies and Education. She began working in Costa Rican public high schools in 1994 and started working at the CFS in January of 2011. She now lives in Guacimal with her family and dedicates her spare time to her local evangelical church, playing sports, and the Monteverde Civics Committee. Working at the CFS is her first experience with private education and she loves the calm atmosphere, the harmony and integration of nature, and the dedication to high quality curriculum that students and personnel have at the CFS.
Dinia Suarez, High School Spanish Teacher Dinia has lived in Monteverde all her life. She is currently studying education to teach English at the Universidad Nacional Estatal a Distancia de Costa Rica. Before coming to teach at the Cloud Forest School she was a Spanish as a second language teacher at the Centro Panamericano de Idiomas. She is very passionate about education and teaching. In her free time Dinia enjoys drawing and painting as well as listening to music and taking walks in the forest. She is sure this year at the Cloud Forest School will be wonderful because the school is full of smiles and extraordinary people.
David Lakshmanan Ariasingam, High School Science Teacher: David is from Sri Lanka and USA. He was educated at Sewanee-The University of the South in Tennessee, University of Oxford in England, and Harvard University in Massachusetts. David will be teaching Physics for Grade 8, Chemistry for Grade 9, and Biology for Grade 10 and 11. David also hopes to coach Rugby and Cricket and offer some elective courses covering global issues and interests.
Melodie Taylor, Long-Term Local Volunteer: Melodie’s family came to the Cloud Forest School for one year so her daughters could learn Spanish. After returning to the United States they realized they preferred the life they had in Monteverde, and have returned as long-term residents of the area. Her daughters are nearly grown-up now, but her dedication and love for this unique school continues. Melodie is a certified English teacher, but spends most of her time at the Cloud Forest School volunteer teaching art, theater, and music classes to elementary and high school students. She is a volunteer with a full time commitment to our school and students.
Danielle Walters, 2nd Grade Teacher: Danielle Walters comes to Monteverde from Kingston, NY with her family. Her two sons attend the CFS, and love it, and her husband is a science teacher at The Monteverde Friends School. Over the past 13 years, Danielle has taught young children 3-7 years old, many of whom have Autism Spectrum Disorder, in a variety of types of classrooms. She received her Bachelor’s degree in Biology and French from Colorado College and her Master’s Degree in Early Childhood Special Education from the University of Washington. She holds teaching credentials from Birth-6th grade. She returns to Monteverde for a second year and plans to deepen her appreciation and knowledge from the astounding environment, and the amazing people of the Monteverde zone. She is thrilled to be working, playing, and creating meaningful life experiences with the second graders at the CFS.
Carla Willoughby, Art Teacher: Carla is happy to be returning as a teacher at the C.E.C. Carla was first drawn to the school in 1999 by its emphasis on environmental and multidisciplinary education. Carla has a B.A. in Cultural Anthropology from Duke University, and a M.A. in Education from George Mason University. Besides teaching grades 4-6 at the C.E.C. from 1999-2001, Carla’s professional background has included teaching Spanish, French, and environmental ed, as well as being an interpreter and social worker for Spanish-speaking patients in the U.S. Carla decided to return to Monteverde in 2011 with her family so that her son could be a part of this unique and wonderful school community. Art, especially painting, has always been a passion and a hobby for Carla. Now she is thrilled to have art as her teaching focus, and to integrate art with the bilingual, sustainable vision of the school.
Eva Hernández García, SSL teacher for Middle and High School: Eva grew up in Las Juntas de Abangares, she moved to Monteverde 16 years ago. She worked for seven years as a Spanish as a Second Language teacher and seven more years as the assistant to the academic coordinator en a local language school. Eva enjoys reading and spending time with her family, especially her daughter. She lives with her grandmother and her mother. She loves nature and the land. For Eva, it is very important that her students have fun while learning.
Hellen Soto Segura, Admissions and Financial Aid Coordinator: Hellen is native to Santa Elena de Monteverde, she has always lived in this beautiful place and piece of paradise. She attended elementary and high school in Santa Elena and she did not have the opportunity in those times to study in a private school and learn a second language. Now, she works at the CFS and she loves her job and all that she does as the financial aid coordinator. It is important to Hellen that as many children as possible attend CFS and that parents see the importance of studying. In her personal life, she comes from a family of five, she has two younger brothers and is the only girl. Hellen has been married for 8 years and she and her husband have a precious two year old daughter. She considers herself a calm, accessible person and she gives thanks to God for the privledge and pride of being apart of the Cloud Forest School family.
Mauricio Ledezma Vasquez, Maintenance and Cleaning Staff: Mauricio, know as Mau, is originally from Esparza and has been living in Monteverde for 18 years. He married a woman from the area and they have an 8 year old son. Mauricio worked at Sky Trek company for 16 years, ibuilding towers, trails, and thezip line. He is very happy to have the opportunity of working at CFS.
Arleny González, Special Education Teacher: Arleny was born and raised in Montverde. She is working as the special education teacher from first through eleventh grade. Her priority is to give equal opportunities in learning to students with special educational needs, so that the school can achieve a fair inclusion of all students within our educational system. Arleny feels fortunate to be part of the work team at the CFS.
Luis Antonio Suarez Porras, Maintenance and Cleaning Staff: Luis is from the Cañitas de Abangares neighborhood of Monteverde. He started at the CFS in February 2013 as an occasional employee in the maintenance area before becoming a permanent part of our maintenance team. Luis has experience working in a variety of local businesses. He says working at the school is a beautiful experience and he likes working with and meeting new people. Now he feels he is part of a large family of professionals that work each day to make a better future for our students. He has enjoyed working with our volunteer groups and seeing their smiling faces when they finish a project at the school. Luis hopes that his children can attend the school one day.
Luis Dario Villalobos, Music Teacher and CFS Graduate (Class of 2011): Dario is super happy to be teaching Music part time at the school. Dario is trained in piano/accompanist, theater, music theory, vocal performance and cello. He just finished Music Directing the pit orchestra and vocal parts for Far Corners Community Musical Theater’s summer production of the hit Broadway musical IN THE HEIGHTS. Dario also worked for a professional theater, “Teatro Jaco”, where he worked and performed alongside Broadway actors and directors. Has also performed and worked in many musical and performing arts productions such Little Shop of Horrors, Chicago, Once On This Island and the last revival of the internationally-renowned historic Monteverde Music Festival. Also a member of the International Thespian Society and in the board for the local Arts Support Organization, ARS Monteverde. He wishes to pursue his Musical Theater career soon outside of Costa Rica.
Alicia Rolf, School Counselor: Alicia was born and raised in Ohio on the west side of Cincinnati. She studied Adolescent to Young Adult Education (grades 7-12) at the University of Dayton (UD) located in Dayton, Ohio. Alicia continued her studies at the UD and received a Master’s in School Counseling in 2012. Alicia first came to the Cloud Forest School as an intern in the Spring of 2013 and is now back with us as a full time faculty member. She is very excited to continue her work with the students at the CEC. Alicia is a firm believer in admiring the little miracles in each day. She feels very fortunate to be back at the CEC witnessing miracles day after day in the great community of Monteverde.