2015- 2016 Faculty and Staff
The Cloud Forest School currently employs 39 faculty and staff members. Of those 37 employees, 19 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.
2015-2016 New Staff:
If you are interested in joining the Cloud Forest School team, please see Employment.
Rachel Graber- Music Teacher Rachel was born into a music-loving family; her dad is a rock star turned sewer cleaner and her mom is a high school choir teacher in Saint Paul, Minnesota. She graduated from Lawrence University with majors in vocal performance and music education. Rachel taught choir, percussion, dance and yoga in Wisconsin for two years before taking a sabbatical to learn Spanish by working on farms in Central America. Her first stop was Monteverde, and after two weeks, she couldn’t leave. She left behind in the US a farmer boyfriend named Mike, two bands called Spinster and Holy Sheboygan, and a pit bull named Daisy. She is so excited to get to teach all age levels, and live/work/play in this beautiful ecosystem and community!
Alison Faulkner- High School Science Teacher Alison was born and raised along the banks of the Mississippi River in Vicksburg, Mississippi. She attended Hinds Community College, where she studied Biology and worked as a wetland research assistant and as a lab assistant for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. She later went on to Delta State University, where she received her first two undergraduate degrees in Environmental Science and Biology. During this time she also worked for the USDA-ARS in the entomology unit as a research assistant. She continued her education at the University of Mississippi and studied wetlands for two years, graduating in 2007 with an M.S. in Biology. She worked as a wetland ecologist with a linear transportation firm in Georgia before returning to school to complete a second M.S. in Education in 2012, and has been teaching in high school and middle school ever since. Her last teaching job was in Atlanta at a public charter school for autistic students and their neurotypical peers. She is very excited to be teaching science at the Cloud Forest School this year, and her son, Sam, is enjoying playing in the trees and learning with the Kinder class.
Cassie Alicea- English Kinder Teacher Cassie was born and raised in New York City, taking a break from her hometown to complete her undergraduate degree at Boston University. After receiving her B.A. in International Relations with a focus on Environmental Sustainability and Development in Latin America, she returned to New York to pursue a career in the field. But eleven years ago, her plan was thwarted when she walked into a daycare center to apply for a temporary chef position and walked out with a full time teaching job. Since then, she has worked with children ages 3 months to 8 years old, but the preschool classroom is where she fell in love and has spent the majority of her teaching career. She also went on to receive my M.A. in Early Childhood Education from Bank Street College. And and now here I am, teaching at the CEC! I have a passion for exploring nature, science and the arts with children, and I feel very lucky to be in the perfect place to continue this work.
Jennifer LeFebre- 1st/2nd Grade English Teacher Jen LeFebre grew up in West Michigan but has more recently called Vermont home. She loved learning Spanish in high school, which grew into a love of travel abroad and encounters with different cultures. She earned a BA in Anthropology and Sociology with a minor in Spanish in 2004. After her son was born, she decided to pursue a teaching degree and obtained a Graduate Teaching Certificate in 2011. She recently completed her Master’s Degree in Curriculum and Instruction in 2014. She worked for three years in Michigan with K-3 students and has been teaching 4th-8th grade Spanish in Vermont for four years. She had the opportunity to hike 300 kilometers of the Camino de Santiago in Spain in 2012 with a group of high school students from rural Vermont, staying in hostels along the way. Jen loves finding good vegetarian food and live music, as well as reading, hiking, and swimming with her son Ari, who’s 8. They are thrilled to be a part of the wonderful community at the Cloud Forest School!
Abigail (Abby) Penny Reynolds- Special Education Coordinator Abby is from a little town in the mountains of Colorado, near Boulder. She studied Spanish and natural sciences at Cornell University, and worked as a teacher and coordinator with children and adults for a few years in Nevada and one year in Korea. She obtained her Master’s degree in teaching English as Second Language (TESOL) from Northern Arizona University in May 2015. Abby believes in the idea that each student can learn and that it’s her responsibility to figure out how to turn on the light of learning and to give teachers strategies with which to help the children who receive Special Education services. Outside of school, Abby likes to read, go hiking or walking in nature, practice yoga, listen to music, and play board games. She’s excited to be here and learn about Monteverde.
Carol Yang, Education for Sustainability Coordinator: Carol first fell in love with Monteverde and heard about the Cloud Forest School when she came to study about Sustainability in 2011 with CIEE. After receiving her B.S. in Environmental Sciences from the University of Virginia, she decided to return to Monteverde and joined the CFS as an intern last fall. She began to work with the high school environmental education classes and was inspired by the school’s interdisciplinary approach to education for sustainability. Carol is excited to be able to work and learn with all of the wonderful students, teachers, and staff this year!
, Maintenance Staff :
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.
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.
Gabriel Barrantes, Operations Manager & Interim Director:
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 CFS to spread the school’s mission.
, Dual-Language Coordinator
: 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 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.
Liz Chase Vivas, Elementary School Academic Manager:
Liz grew up in Iowa and moved to Chicago to student teach in a bilingual setting in the Little Village neighborhood. She loved it and taught in the Chicago Public Schools for ten years. Since then, Liz has taught in a Spanish Immersion Program at Lincoln School in Oak Park, Illinois. She has worked with kindergarten through 5th grade, and loves the learning experience at all ages. Liz is excited to be living in Monteverde with her husband and children, and to work collaboratively with teachers to further the strong learning community at Cloud Forest School.
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!
Whitney Hall, External Relations Manager:
Before coming to Monteverde, Whitney worked as a Program Coordinator for Global Glimpse in Nicaragua, where she designed and led student trips that emphasized service education and global citizenship. She holds a B.A. in Anthropology from NYU and a Masters Degree in International Social Welfare and Program Development from Columbia University. She previously worked as a family social worker for HIV positive immigrants in Harlem from Africa, the Caribbean and Latin America, as well as at a teen center in the Bronx. Whitney has spent a significant amount of time leading youth programs in East Africa and Latin America, and has worked as a guide and interpreter for The Road Less Traveled. Originally from Ojai, California, she loves to hike and work on her photography blog: WildViewWest. She is excited to be part of the CEC/Cloud Forest School team!
Arleny González, 3rd/4th Grade Teacher:
Arleny was born and raised in Monteverde. 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.
Elsa Cristina Gonzalez Ramirez, Student Support Staff: Elsa
is originally from Santa Elena and is 1 of 8 siblings. She studied at the technical professional high school of Santa Elena, where she received a certificate in education and tourism. From there, Elsa
studied in Castro Carazo University, where she completed a Bachelor’s in Tourism Administration. Elsa
also holds a certification in occupational health from the National Institute of Learning. Previously, Elsa
taught at the technical professional high school of Santa Elena, teaching environmental education, tourism, accounting, and taught Spanish as a second language at CPI in Monteverde. She feels that working at the CEC has become similar to a second home, as we are a family that continually supports each other. Elsa
appreciates that she is always learning from the students, and always trying to improve in order to better serve their needs.
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.
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.
Chelsea Krema, Prepa Teacher:
Chelsea was born and raised in Boise, Idaho and attended Seattle University for her undergraduate degree in Public Administration. She has worked with non-profit organizations in Seattle that tutor students in low-income neighborhoods and provide therapeutic care for abused and neglected youth. Before joining the staff at CFS Chelsea spent three years in Northern Central Costa Rica as a Rural Economic Development volunteer with the Peace Corps. Chelsea loves the outdoors and is excited to get to know a new part of Costa Rica!
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.
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.
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.
Sara Nissley, Middle School English Teacher:
Sara Nissley comes to CFS from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania with her husband and three boys. She received her B.A. in Justice, Peace and Conflict Studies from Eastern Mennonite University, a graduate teaching certificate from the University of Pennsylvania, and an M.S. in Restorative Practices in Education. She is certified from K-6, and 6-9 Language Arts and has taught for 8 years in Philadelphia city schools. Before classroom teaching, she taught GED classes and worked for Philadelphia Outward Bound. She has lived in Africa and traveled and studied through various parts of Latin America and is thrilled to now live in Costa Rica. When not teaching, Sara loves to run, garden, play soccer, and is a part-time beekeeper. She shares the conservation focus of the school and is excited to explore the natural world of Monteverde.
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.
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.
Hellen Soto Segura, Admissions, Financial Aid & Finance 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.
, 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.
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.
, 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.
Gerardo Vivas, Middle school Math & Science Teacher:
Gerardo grew up in Chicago and is originally from Honduras. He went to Loyola University for his undergraduate work and Northeastern Illinois University for his Masters in Education. Gerardo has taught middle school in the Chicago Public Schools for 13 years and is very happy to be teaching in Monteverde. His wife will also be working at CFS and their three children will be attending Cloud Forest School as well. In his free time, he likes building projects at home with his children.