2014- 2015 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.
Eduardo Alfaro, 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: 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.
Sarah Burbank, Development Coordinator: Sarah Burbank grew up in Mercersburg, PA at the boarding school there where her Father taught. She got her undergraduate degree in Sociology and Spanish at Trinity College of Hartford, CT, and is currently pursuing her Masters of Arts in Teaching from the Univeristy of St. Mary´s, KS. She arrived to Monteverde as a Teacher Intern at the CFS for six months, over fourteen years ago. Since then, she has worked in the CFS´s Administration, as well as in environmental education, study abroad, and community outreach programs with other local NGO´s. Besides being with her family, she is passionate about the outdoors, Latin dancing, singing, sports, and volunteering when able. The CFS helped her find a home and community she now proudly shares with her three young children and Costa Rican husband. She is very happy to be part of the CFS´s staff.
Renee Burgos, 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 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.
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!
Brenda Covarrubias, 1st/2nd grade teacher. Brenda is originally from Mexico and she grew up in San Francisco, California. She began her career as a bilingual educator with Teach for America as a kindergarten teacher in New York City. She enjoyed teaching so much that she returned to California to get her Bilingual Teaching Credential and her Master’s Degree in Teaching from New College of California. She worked as a first grade teacher in her childhood neighborhood in San Francisco for five wonderful years. Wanting to teach abroad, Brenda had the opportunity of working in Costa Rica’s central valley and later in northern Chile. Now she is happily back in Costa Rica with us at the Cloud Forest School along with her dog Negrito.
Lindsey Dodd, High School Math Teacher: Lindsey earned her bachelor’s degree in International Business and Spanish with a minor in Latin American Studies in 2011. After some additional soul-searching, she obtained a teaching certificate and began teaching high school math in the Dallas, Texas suburb of Irving. During their honeymoon in June 2014, Lindsey and her husband Edward decided to visit Monteverde. They immediately fell in love with the town and The Cloud Forest School, which happened to be in need of a high school math teacher.
Dan Eisler, Music Teacher: Dan Eisler is a candidate for a bachelor’s degree in education and environmental studies from Swarthmore College, and came originally to the CEC as an intern with the Environmental Education Coordinator. In addition to a pursuing a career in education, Dan is a passionate musician. He has been involved in several projects as well as performing as a singer songwriter. Dan had an amazing experience as an intern during which time he had the opportunity to organize two student concerts. He is very much looking forward to devoting all of his energies in the school to making music happen in the classroom and community. Beyond the classroom, Dan also enjoys fishing, scary movies, and properly spicy food.
Molly Egger, Middle School & High School Academic Manager: Molly first came to the Cloud Forest School in 2005 as a volunteer and fell in love with the school and community. After teaching in China for three years, she returned to work at the CFS in 2012 as the high school English teacher. The following year, Molly taught middle school math and science. Currently, Molly is thrilled to be the academic manager for middle and high school. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in Education form Middle Tennessee State University. In her free time, Molly enjoys reading, sports, playing cards and board games, and cooking. She is thrilled about the staff, students, and community that she will be working with here at the CFS!
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.
Laura Grenholm, Director: Laura is celebrating her fifth 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Danielle Walters, Kinder 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.
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.