Faculty and Staff

 2016- 2017 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.

If you are interested in joining the Cloud Forest School team, please see Employment.

Screen Shot 2016-01-19 at 3.50.21 PMRachel 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!

IMG_9895Cassie 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 her M.A. in Early Childhood Education from Bank Street College. And and now here she is, teaching at the CEC!  Cassie has a passion for exploring nature, science and the arts with children, and feels very lucky to be in the perfect place to continue this work.

Milton Brenes MendezLand 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.
Cristina CastroReceptionist: 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!
Arlene Bio PicArleny 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.
Screen Shot 2015-03-25 at 1.56.11 PMElsa 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 Bio PicEva 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.
Pam Bio PicPamela 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.
DSCN0918Chelsea 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!
Mau Bio PicMauricio Ledezma VasquezMaintenance 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, building towers, trails, and zip lines. He is very happy to have the opportunity of working at CFS.
Esperanza Mora CespedesKinder 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.
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.
 Orlando PachecoHead of School System: After taking an early retirement in the U.S., Profe. Pacheco has returned to his home country, Costa Rica to continue working.  Orlando possesses vast experience in leading educational programs and working as an international consultant on education management and accreditation. He collaborated with the University of Pittsburgh, where he earned a Graduate Diploma in Latin American Studies and is currently pursing his Ph.D. on International & Comparative Policy Analysis in Education. His academic master degree in Political Sciences is from the University of Louisville. In the U.S., Orlando also worked at Troy and Clayton State University, and taught online at Drexel. Profe. Pacheco is fully bilingual and has lived and worked in over seven countries.
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 Bio PicHellen 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 privilege and pride of being apart of the Cloud Forest School family.
Dinia SuarezHigh 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.
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.

_DSC2685_1 Dan Eisler3rd/4th Grade Teacher: Dan comes to Monteverde from Ocean Springs Mississippi, where he grew up with his parents and one sister. Dan graduated from Swarthmore College with a bachelors in Educational and Environmental Studies. During his time at Swarthmore he studied abroad at the Cloud Forest School, and served as an intern in the high school working with the science classes. Following his study abroad experience, Dan took one year off from his studies to stay at the CEC serving as the music teacher. Following that year, Dan returned to finish his degree, and is now back to act as the 3rd and 4th grade Math and English teacher. Dan loves being outdoors, but not necessarily strenuous activity. Fishing, flying kites, picnics and other sedentary outdoor pastimes are some of his favorites. Dan is also a passionate musician, and can be seen playing at various local restaurants on the weekends.

_DSC2681_1Sophia Wiener-Light, Bilingual Counselor: Sophia was born and raised in the Bay Area of California with her parents and her younger brother. She graduated from UCLA with a degree in psychology, and then she spent two years living in Santiago, Chile, teaching English and evaluating the teaching methods of a social enterprise that aimed to democratize education. She has also worked as a camp counselor and the Camper Care Coordinator for a day camp in Berkeley, California. She is so excited to put her background of psychology and education into action, providing social support to the students and families involved in a school with such a great mission!

_DSC2689_1Toni Bushnell1st/2nd Grade Teacher:     Toni is from Pennsylvania. She has been a teacher for over 20 years. Toni taught in public school for 16 years.  She taught at a Friends school designed for children with learning differences for 11 years, where she also served as Director of Summer School and Lead Middle School Teacher.  She is trained in Orton-Gillingham, Take Flight, and the DuBard School Association Method reading programs. She owns a private tutoring business. She is a Quaker who is very excited and enthusiastic to have the opportunity to live in the community of Monteverde and to teach at the Creativa. Toni is the mother of 3 children, 29, 25, and 19, and is a new grandmother to 2 month old Henry. She is very happy to be in Costa Rica.

_DSC2699_1Frederick AndersonEnvironmental Education Coordinator: Frederick (Fred) is from the US. He has lived half his life in the western state of Oregon, and half in the central states of Minnesota and Wisconsin. In his adult life he has divided his career between teaching, and being an anthropologist in various capacities. He has advanced degrees (MA) in both teaching and anthropology. The second of these degrees was paired with the study of sediments, soil, land formation processes, and climate, along with archaeology and the study of cultures. Fred has had a life-long interest in other cultures and their history, the natural world, and exploring how they work. Over the last 15 years he has been an archaeologist, graduate student, geoarchaeologist, and anthropology instructor. He and his family are delighted to be joining the CEC staff and local communities.

_DSC2702_1Robi Jaffrey, External Relations Manager: Robi grew up in Jersey City, New Jersey where he has lived most of his life. He received a B.A. in Environmental Economics at Bates College. He brings experience working for non-profit organizations in both Ecuador and Guatemala where he was able to utilize and foster his Spanish language skills. More recently he spent time working for start-up companies in NYC where he was able to delve into the world of finance and marketing. He hopes to draw connections between these distinct experiences to help expand and create various programs within the External Relations Department. When he is not working Robi enjoys updating his photography website, cooking/trying new foods, biking, playing basketball and learning to play the guitar. He is also enamored by the landscape of Monteverde and wants to take advantage of all the amazing trails.

_DSC2693_1Aviva Theen, High School Science Teacher: Aviva has lived in the Chicagoland area for most of her life. She obtained her Bachelors of Science in Chemistry from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 2002. Immediately after finishing her degree, she spent a summer teaching an enrichment program for gifted middle school students. By the end of the first week of the program, she knew she needed to teach for the rest of her life. She returned to school and obtained a Masters of Education in Teaching Physical Science. For the last 12 years Aviva has been doing what she loves: teaching Biology and Chemistry in various high schools across Chicago. She has been trying to integrate environmental awareness into her classroom but has felt like she could be doing more.  Aviva is excited to be at the beautiful CFS so she can fully integrate her love of teaching with her love of nature. She is looking forward to being a part of supportive educational community, living amidst biodiversity, deepening her yoga practice, learning Spanish and being able to hike all year long.


Mónica Mata Suárez, Student and Support Staff: Mónica was born and raised in Monteverde. She is studying education at Universidad Hispanoamericana in order to teach English. She learned English at the Cloud Forest School when she was in primary school, so it is an honor for her to return here as support staff. Mónica feels that the school is her second home, and thinks this is an excellent opportunity to learn from the best teachers. She loves music, animals, nature and the children’s smiles.

Natalia Bair, Student and Support Staff: Natalia is originally from Tampa, FL where she received a B.S. in Biomedical Sciences from the University of South Florida. She has worked the last ten years teaching public health education as well as organic gardening to adults and children.   Natalia is looking forward to joining Monteverde’s community and fulfilling a lifelong dream of working in Costa Rica. She is excited about CEC’s mission and about giving students the extra support they need to succeed.  

María Fernanda, High School Castellano and Literature: Maria Fernanda graduated from the University of Costa Rica. She is originally from the area of Santos, a small town located in the southern-central part of Costa Rica. She has now relocated to Monteverde to form part of the team at the Cloud Forest School. She is a Spanish language and literature teacher at the high school level. The nature, the peace of the mountains and the incredible environment to develop a teaching-learning dynamic has allowed her to fall in love with the institution each day more.


Exploring the world, from the ground up | Explorando el mundo, hoja por hoja.

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