Experience, Passion, and Integrity:
The La Paz Staff combines for over 100 years of experience at a school that is in its seventh year of operation. This depth of experience allows for superb curricular continuity along with a professional learning community highlighted by longstanding trusted professional and personal relationships.
Abel McClennen- School Director, IB Math and Theory of Knowledge
Mr. Abel, as he is known by La Paz students, returns for his 7th year at La Paz. An active member of the local community, he constantly strives for there to be open communication between community members, parents, teachers, faculty, and students in order to achieve thoughtful and sustainable growth in Guanacaste. A graduate of Bowdoin College in Maine where he majored in Physics and minored in Sociology, Abel’s teaching career began 12 years ago at Souhegan High School, a public high school in southern New Hampshire, where he earned his secondary physics certification. A certified AP and IB instructor, Abel’s innovative educational philosophy is driven by a strong desire to interact with students outside the classroom through coaching athletics, leading sail education programs, and facilitating experiential learning projects.
Sara McGowan – Grade 2, 3 English-Math-Science, Administrator
Sara brings her talent, passion, and enthusiasm to La Paz Community School for the seventh year in a row. Prior to receiving her Master of Arts in Teaching and ESOL Endorsement from Lewis & Clark College, Sara facilitated early childhood programs in Finland and Italy. After returning to her native town of Portland, Oregon as a 2nd grade teacher, Sara then decided to broaden perspectives and hone her teaching skills as an international educator in Guatemala and Costa Rica. Whether she is developing the school bilingual program designed to meet the specific learning needs of students or working with parents on the hot lunch committee, Sara’s adventurous spirit and energy are reflected in her professional practice and interaction with children.
Kerry McClennen – Secondary English Language Arts, IB Coordinator
Kerry returns to La Paz Community School for her seventh year following a chosen path in education from Chicago, to rural New Hampshire, Brazil, Guatemala, and now Costa Rica. Graduating from University of New Hampshire in 2001 with a Master of Arts in Teaching English and a minor in Dance, Kerry’s professional career continues to combine both her passions for teaching and the arts. Kerry’s classroom interweaves writing workshops, place-based educational ventures, interactive literature circles, and interpretive performances into the core curriculum. Kerry’s dance experiences are highlighted by her creation of the Souhegan High School New Hampshire Dance team, her samba dancing at Rio’s famous carnival, and her performance as a professional for three years in the Guatemala Dance Project. Wherever she travels, Kerry’s passion for dance and teaching has touched the hearts and minds of the students, teachers, parents, and communities that surround her.
Brian Crites – 5th Grade English-Math-Science, Administrator
A native Oregonian who is returning for his seventh year at La Paz, Brian Crites has woven his passion for the outdoors into the classroom environment. Soon after earning his Master of Arts in Teaching, Brian pursued international education in Guatemala and Costa Rica. Working with grades 3-6, he has integrated experiential projects into the core curriculum such as; the creation of the La Paz Pura Verde Project, native green space and vegetable gardens, and a school-wide recycling program. Students and colleagues alike admire his variety of interests, which include coaching basketball, surfing, biking, music, and hiking. These passions coupled with Brian’s natural gift for educating, inspire a learning environment where children develop confidence and competence as scholars, mentors, communicators, leaders, researchers, and role models of kindness.
Xinia Gómez Gutiérrez – Grade 2, 3 Spanish-Social Studies
With recommendations from the Mayor’s office and Ministry of Education in Santa Cruz, Xinia is a legend in the Costa Rican educational community. In her illustrious career, she has touched the lives of children from over 10 schools all over Costa Rica from Limón on the Carribean side, to Santa Rosa on the Pacific side. Her specialty is in primary education as her qualifications allow her to teach all core subjects grades k-6. She brings with her a tremendous amount of Guanacaste cultural heritage in areas such as cooking, dancing, and literature. La Paz is honored to have her as part of the team for the seventh year in a row.
Neida Escalera Galindo – Preschool
A native of Bolivia, Neida moved to Costa Rica over 10 years ago to settle in the local village of Villarreal. She has taught at many of the local language schools as well as Country Day School. However, her passion for working with younger students in a more drama and performance oriented classroom has led her to La Paz for her sixth year where she is working with the preschool classes. Miss Neida is an exceptionally dynamic teacher who always brings out the best in her students by establishing an enjoyable and active classroom environment.
David Dodge – Grade 4 English-Math-Science, Scholarship Director
A native of Oregon, David earned both his Degree in Education and Teacher Certification from Western Oregon State College in 1987. Upon graduation David spent his first 8 uninterrupted years teaching grades 3 through 5 with the Woodburn School District. In 1996, he along with his wife Kelly transitioned to Costa Rica and joined the teaching team at Escuela Tamarindo Elementary School which shut down in the early 2000′s. In similarity to La Paz, this small school’s strong concept of community education was born of local families in search of a viable educational cooperative to suit the specific educational needs of their children.
Kelly Campbell – Grade 2, 3 English-Math-Science
At the age of 9 when she taught her 5 year-old brother to read, Kelly discovered her passion and natural gift for education. Graduating with a Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education from Oregon State University, Kelly has spent her entire life fostering personal and academic growth in a positive learning environment. This will be Miss Kelly’s seventh year teaching at La Paz and fourth year teaching a blended grade 2-3 classroom. She loves incorporating songs, rhymes, movement, and repetition into her teaching strategies. She encourages children to explore their creativity through art and drama. Her favorite parts of the school day are reading to the children and being together with the whole school at our community meetings. Outside of school, she likes to walk, practice yoga, paint, and spend time with friends.
Daniela Aburto – Grade 6, 7 Spanish-Social Studies
Daniela is a certified primary teacher who joined La Paz after working as an Environmental Educator for CEPIA, Escuela Brasilito, and Reserva Conchal. She has worked extensively in the Brasilito, Matapalo, and Potrero public school systems to help initiate recycling and environmental awareness programs, and is a native of Brasilito. Her close ties with the community have helped La Paz become further involved as a leader in local initiatives. In her sixth year at La Paz, Daniela is excited to further develop her uniquely experiential classroom experience. She has an 8 year old son named Jagger, and she enjoys working as a team with both parents and students.
Leonie Jimenez – Preschool, Scholarship Director
Leonie is in her third year at La Paz after taking several years off of work to raise her children. Having graduated from the Universidad Latina with a degree in preschool bilingual education, Leonie is honored to be a part of the La Paz teaching team. She has a passion for the thoughtful development of education in Guanacaste and this was reflected through her extended stint as inaugural director of the Guanacaste Foundation. This foundation is devoted to the construction of public learning spaces in Guanacaste. Leonie’s classroom is full of youthful energy that reflects her passions of music, art, nature, and play.
Jennifer Cerdas – Operations Manager
Jennifer is an essential spoke in the wheel that moves La Paz. She came to La Paz in 2007 and was an integral part of the founding of the school. She lives in Huacas, Guanacaste and she has completed her Masters in Educational Administration at the Universidad Latina in Santa Cruz. Some of her hobbies are listening to music and reading while at the same time Jennifer is a nature loving life long learner. Excited to be a part of the La Paz team for her seventh year, Jennifer is grateful for the unique life experiences offered to her at the school.
Kenia Calderon – Grade 8-11 Spanish, IB Spanish Lang. and Lit. HL
Kenia is a Spanish educator in her sixth year at La Paz who simply loves to teach and to share her knowledge. Kenia graduated from one of the top schools in Costa Rica, Universidad Nacional de Costa Rica, where she received her teaching certificate. She arrived in Flamingo in 2007, and spent time working at Reserva Conchal and the Jungle Gym as she worked towards earning her diploma. She is a natural born teacher and her passion for the Spanish language and Costa Rican culture is contagious amongst the students in her class. At La Paz Community School she is empowered to explore her teaching philosophy based on the constructive method, where the student learns through self exploration and discovery.
Claudia Alfaro – Grade 4, 5 Spanish
Claudia comes to La Paz from Argentina and has resided in Costa Rica since 2002 while working at La Paz since 2010. Her elementary education studies were undertaken at the University of Mar de Plata in Buenos Aires. Her passion is to teach while always choosing unique manners by which to motivate her students. She is always involved in activities that involve children, including beach games and trips. Claudia is very active in the Tamarindo community as she works with a group of mothers to maintain the Oneida Park in Tamarindo that is dedicated to the children of the region.
Gabriela Power – Kindergarten, Grade 1 Spanish-Social Studies
Born in Caracas, Venezuela Gabriela developed an interest in the area of teaching at an early age. In 1993 she first taught as an English Teacher in elementary school in Caracas. She then transitioned to work at Roques Island National Park where she studied Marine Biology and worked as a guide and member of the “Fundación Científica Los Roques” that works to protect and sustain the turtles in Venezuela. Gabriela has lived in Costa Rica now since 2000 where she founded and directed a Kindergarten in Playa Negra as well as explored her life passions of Yoga, Capoeira, Art, English, French, and Nutrition. She is convinced that La Paz is the best environment for a child to be learning in and is honored to be a part of the teaching team for this her fourth year at the school.
Geneva Garcia-Ellen – Grade 2, 3 English-Math-Science
In her fourth year at La Paz, Geneva has had the great opportunity of teaching children from all over the world. She has primarily worked with emergent readers in Micronesia, Fiji, Galapagos, California and New Mexico. She now brings her experience and enthusiasm to La Paz. She received her BA from the University of New Mexico and completed her teacher’s licensure at California State Monterey Bay. She strongly believes in the enrichment of the whole child, including physical, social, emotional and intellectual development. She strives to create an orderly classroom environment in which children feel comfort from knowing what to expect and what the expectations are of them. She is a wife and mother of two young sons. Her interests include surfing, flamenco and writing.
Ximena Bepmale – Physical Education
Ximena is extremely happy to work with La Paz students as they move their skeletons from their feet to the head! She is a native of Argentina who has lived in Costa Rica since 2006 while enjoying its beautiful beaches and natural wonders. Having graduated with a degree in Physical Education and Early Childhood Stimulation from Buenos Aires, Ximena has had extensive experience in primary school PE and particularly in the area of swimming. Ximena has been a source of energy and enthusiasm for La Paz students for the past four years. Prior to working at La Paz, Ximena ran a local swimming program for infants and toddlers.
Deborah Ellis – Grade 1 English-Math-Science
Coming from her native state of California, Debbie is in her second year as part of the La Paz team. After spending 5 months in Costa Rica in 2005, Debbie and her husband are excited to return and become a part of the community in Guanacaste. After having taught in Washington DC and Los Angeles, Debbie has spent the last 5 years as an Assistant Principal and then Principal of an elementary school focused on integrating the arts and sciences and supporting language development for English Leaners in the Los Angeles area. During this time, Debbie completed her Doctorate in Education at the University of Southern California with a focus on k-12 Leadership. Debbie looks forward to learning from the La Paz community and bringing her learning and experience to collectively provide powerful educational experiences for the students.
Beverly Acosta – Kindergarten English-Math-Science
A native of Virginia, she began her teaching career in rural China, and then continued on to teach at the opposite end of the spectrum—urban New York City. After several years of teaching in New York, she moved from the bustling city to serene mountaintop town of Monteverde. After three years in the cloud forest, she relocated to Guanacaste where she is honored to be joining the La Paz community for her second year! Beverly earned her bachelor’s degree in education studies from Skidmore College and her master’s degree in curriculum and teaching from Teachers College, Columbia University. Her favorite part about teaching is the “aha!” moment a child has when making a profound connection, not to mention the joyful, spontaneous, and often hilarious instances that are a part of everyday classroom life.
Kellie Davis – Secondary Science, IB Biology SL
Kellie is joining the La Paz community for her second year from Chicago, Illinois, USA. As a graduate from the University of Iowa, she received bachelor’s degrees in both Science Education and Spanish. She later earned her Master of Arts in Teaching from National Louis University in Illinois. She is a certified bilingual teacher and has endorsements in biology, chemistry, general sciences and Spanish. Kellie favors enriching students learning experiences in the classroom through a hands-on style. Her enthusiasm for science is contagious to those around her. At her previous school she helped to organize an after-school homework club for students who were struggling. She hopes to provide that same level of one-to-one assistance at La Paz as well.
Jonathan Chapman – Secondary Math, IB Math SL
Mr. Jonathan joined La Paz in June 2012 as a mathematics teacher. Originally from New York, he earned his Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. His experience ranges from working in the automotive and aeronautics industries as an engineer at three Fortune 100 companies and a small, individually owned engineering contractor. He believes in Mastery-based educational practices and experiential learning and plans to make mathematics a challenging yet rewarding class at La Paz.
Adam Zarakov – Librarian & Grade 8, 9 English
Adam grew up near Los Angeles before moving to the San Francisco Bay Area, Philadelphia, Washington, D.C., and most recently Medellín, Colombia. He holds a B.A. in Peace and Conflict Studies from U.C. Berkeley and an M.A. in History from American University in Washington, D.C. He has worked as an independent researcher on various projects, as an executive assistant at a non-governmental organization, as a university teaching assistant, and in collections documentation with the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of American History. Outside of work he enjoys music, photography, movies, cooking, and basketball.
Jonathan Zúñiga Arrieta – Grade 8, 9, 10 Estudios Sociales & Grade 11 IB History HL
A native of the neighboring town of La Garita, Jonathan has earned a Master’s Degree in teaching Social Studies as well as an IB History certification. This is his second year at La Paz and previously he worked with the Ministry of Education as a social studies and civics teacher. He is an active member of his community who is passionate about the integral development of adolescents. In the classroom he acts as a mentor to his students as they move along their learning path, and outside of the classroom he helps to coordinate the local band and football team.
Raquel Sarai Mendoza – Art Instructor, IB Visual Arts SL Teacher
Raquel Sarai Mendoza is a sculptor, art instructor and quite the coffee drinker. Originally from California, she received her Bachelor’s of Art at San Diego State University and Master’s of Fine Arts at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Before making the jump internationally, Raquel worked as an Art & Design instructor at Westwood College and Woodshop Teacher Assistant at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Since arriving in Costa Rica in 2011, Raquel has taught Art, Graphic Design and English in local and private K-12th schools and has managed to sneak her artwork in a few exhibitions in San Jose. Raquel is excited to join La Paz team and combine her teaching and art experience to the school’s curriculum.
Colleen Boddy – Grade 6, 7 Teacher
With a B.A. in Arts and Education from Regis College and an M.S. in Education and Ecological Teaching and Learning from Lesley University, Colleen joins the La Paz community with a variety of experiences across different grade levels. She began her teaching career in Colorado and taught for 9 years in both private and public schools. She then served as an integral part in the creation of the Crest Academy, a project and place-based school located in Salida, Colorado. After doing some additional work in the New England area, she decided to combine her love for travel and passion for teaching to relocate to Flamingo. She looks forward to her future years at La Paz Community School.
Daphne Blanchard – Grade 6, 7 English, Language Arts
Prior to her move to Costa Rica this summer, Daphne taught English at the Professional and Collegiate English Academy in Utah. She earned her degree in Languages, English and Spanish, and is certified in TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages.) She has a love for languages, teaching them, and helping students reach their full potential. She began her career teaching English to international students in a small town on Southern Utah University’s campus and then taught all age groups in the bustling city of Seoul, Korea. She owned and taught a Spanish immersion preschool which used a thematic approach and was centered on experiential learning. In her classroom, Daphne strives to create an atmosphere in which students feel comfortable to experiment with new concepts; and she is always looking for unique ways to motivate and engage her students. She hopes to instill a lifelong love of reading, writing and overall learning in her students. She is so excited and honored to be a part of the La Paz community.
Lynsey Newman – College/Career Counselor
Lynsey moved from Orcas Island, Washington excited to share in the unique multicultural La Paz community. Lynsey’s four children inspire her daily in her commitment to creating a better tomorrow for all children. She began her journey in promoting education when she founded a parent cooperative public elementary school and a Waldorf school. She has worked as a teacher, coach, camp coordinator, primary intervention partner, college and career advisor. Her passion for humanitarian work has led her to serve as a board member on several non profits executive boards. A strong advocate for peace, Lynsey facilitated an initiative called “Stories from the Frontline”, a program that brought together High School students from Palestine, Yemen, Israel, China, Malaysia, Afghanistan, and Colombia to travel and share their stories of being a youth in a war torn country. Through her interactions with international students, schools and organizations, Lynsey has a great working knowledge of the different global opportunities for youth and is excited to explore the possibilities of higher education, gap year, summer internship and career opportunities with the impressive students of La Paz.
Amy Jacobs – Grade 10 and 11 IB Creativity Action Service (CAS) and Business
Miss Amy grew up in Western Nebraska and graduated from University of Colorado at Boulder with a degree in History in 1993. She worked in retail management for 19 years at The Disney Stores, Build-a-Bear Workshop, and Spyder Active Sports where she focused on management training and regional store openings.
Amy now teaches students the real life skills they need in the professional world in both the Creativity Action and Service class and Business class while integrating the love of the Costa Rican community and the experiential learning that La Paz is known for.