Faculty and Staff
The Cloud Forest School currently employs 38 faculty and staff members. Of those 38 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.
Nikki Artavia, Third Grade Teacher: Nikki Artavia was born in Hawaii, and then raised in Pasadena, Texas. She graduated from the University of Houston in Clear Lake with her bachelor’s degree in Interdisciplinary Studies. Before moving her life to Monteverde, she was an inclusion teacher in Cedar Park, Texas at Leander ISD for four years and lived in Austin. She loved being an inclusion teacher in Texas, but desired a dramatic international change that would help her to grow both personally and professionally. Nikki enjoys the peace, tranquility, and unique natural beauty that Monteverde and the Cloud Forest School have to offer.
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, 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 3 and 5. Renée feels excited to teach 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, 2 are current students at CFS, the third graduated from CFS in 2007..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, especially horses and loves to ride them!
Talia Cossin, 4th Grade Teacher: Talia is originally from the Western part of Massachusetts. She fell in love with Costa Rica after coming to this country for the first time as a volunteer in 2005. Since then, she has lived and taught English as a second language in various parts of the country over the course of several years. She has recently completed her Masters of Education degree in Elementary Education and is incredibly excited to be living and working in Monteverde as a fourth grade teacher. When she is not working in her classroom, you can find her baking in her kitchen, snuggled up with a good book, or hiking the local mountain trails.
Molly Egger, High School English 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 previously worked as a Manager in the Office of New Schools of Chicago Public Schools. In this capacity, she worked to recruit, develop, and support new and innovative charter schools that provide high quality educational options for Chicago’s youth. Prior to CPS, Laura served 10 years with the Los Angeles Conservation Corps (LACC). She was instrumental in opening one of LACC’s public charter high schools, EcoAcademy, for inner city youth who were not successful in the traditional school system. Under her principalship, EcoAcademy doubled in size and boasted test scores superior to those of neighboring schools. Laura earned her Masters of Science in Ecological Teaching and Learning from Lesley University and her Bachelor’s degree from Macalester College.
Chelsea Henderson, High School Math Teacher: Chelsea began working at the Cloud Forest School in 2010 and comes to us from Atlanta, GA. Chelsea has her Master of Arts in Teaching degree from the University of Georgia and attended Davidson College, where she received her undergraduate degree in mathematics. 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. While her professional goal is to continue to better her teaching, Chelsea’s personal goal this year is to learn how to cook using all the fresh foods Monteverde has to offer. Chelsea is excited to return to her students this year!
Theresa Jarvis, Prepa (Kindergarten) Teacher: Before coming to Monteverde, Theresa taught sixth grade and Kindergarten in her home town of Chilliwack, British Columbia, Canada. She has also taught English as a Second Language to both adults and children. She holds a BA in Geography, a Teaching Certificate and a Certificate in ESL from Simon Fraser University. She is very excited to facilitate discovery learning and environmental education at CFS. In her spare time she likes to hike, read and be in nature. Theresa has come to Monteverde with her husband and two children. She knows this will be a very positive experience for the students, her family and herself.
Krista Kovatch, 6th Grade Teacher: Krista moved to Monteverde from Austin, TX. Before her move she taught 4th, 6th, 7th, and 8th grade math in Leander ISD. She moved here with her family, which includes her two children, Malachai and Madison, whom will be attending the Cloud Forest School. This is the first time her family will live abroad and she is excited that they will all gain a wonderful experience together. The entire family is enjoying their stay in Monteverde; they cannot wait to see all that Costa Rica has to offer and what they can give back in return!
Esperanza Mora Cespedes,Lead Kinder Assistant & Theme Specialist 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. 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 two summers. Kris is delighted to support 10 wonderfully talented and driven teachers at CFS, lead professional development, support and develop our literacy program, and explore the rainforest!
Betsy MacLean, External Relations Manager: Betsy has spent the past 14 years building affordable housing and community facilities (schools, urban agriculture projects – even a chicken coop! In Brooklyn!) and facilitating participatory community development in New York and Cuba. She holds Master’s degrees in urban planning and international development from Columbia University. Betsy was taken with CFS’s commitment to economic, social and environmental justice and is excited to learn from and contribute to this vibrant community. She has come to Monteverde with her whole family – all of whom are either working at or attending CFS – and is looking forward to taking advantage of the dramatic change of scenery from their home in New York City.
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 as a Second Language Teacher Isaura was born and raised in Monteverde. She has four years experience working at the Cloud Forest School and teaches international students from both the escuela and colegio Spanish as a second language. Isaura feels very fortunate because each day she is able to share her culture with students from different parts of the world all while butterflies accompany them on their walks in the forest. She is able to gaze at the Golf of Nicoya to the rhythm of the smiles of children and the songs of birds. Isaura loves the CFS’s reason for being and feels her work helps to achieve the school’s mission.
Sonia Ovares, Spanish Teacher (Grades 1-4) 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, Spanish & Social Studies Teacher (4th, 5th and 6th Grades): 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.
Philip Tapley, High School Science Teacher: Philip comes to us from Athens, GA, where he studied Secondary Science Education at the University of Georgia. He is currently putting the finishing touches on a Masters of Arts in Teaching through independent study courses with UGA. Philip became familiar with the CFS after discovering the website while researching private schools in Costa Rica. The description of the principles and mission of the school immediately interested him, and he quickly applied. After a visit to the CFS campus and an interview in March, Philip was the new science teacher and found himself happily feeling that his move to Monteverde was meant to be. Philip enjoys exploring the outdoors and sports and physical activity in general, reading, and just talking about life. He is very excited to take full advantage of the holistic mission of the CFS to educate the whole student.
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 comes to Monteverde with aspirations of appreciating and learning 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.