La Paz Welcomes five new educators and a college/career counselor to the teaching team!
Adrienne Van den Beemt – Grade 6, 7 Math-Science
Adrienne comes to the La Paz community this year from the Monteverde Cloud Forest in Costa Rica. A native of Maryland, she designed her own major in Environmental Education at the University of Michigan. She has great love for hands-on exploration of the world; she has been an environmental educator on land and water, a planetarium operator, an animal control technician, a ropes course instructor, a teacher for a nature guide training program in the Yucatán, a hiking guide in Mexico’s Copper Canyon, and then seven years as a middle school math and science teacher. Most recently, Adrienne has been deeply involved in the Monteverde Friends School community as a teacher, parent volunteer, math curriculum coordinator, and Quaker education facilitator. She enjoys spending as much time outside as possible with her husband, John Blount, and her two daughters. She very much looks forward to getting to know the people, places, plants and animals of Guanacaste.
Deborah Ellis – Grade 1 English-Math-Science
Coming from her native state of California, Debbie is excited to join 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 Rawson – 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 join the La Paz community! 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
Kellie is joining the La Paz community this 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 has been certified as bilingual 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. Kellie is eager to begin working with her new students and looks forward to incorporating the diverse plants, animals and ecosystems of Costa Rica into her classes.
Jonathan Chapman – Secondary Math
Mr. Jonathan joined La Paz in June 2012 from Country Day School – Guanacaste as a mathematics teacher. Originally from New York, he has a background in engineering and 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 comes to La Paz very excited to join the La Paz Community School as the school graduates its first senior class. He believes in Mastery-based educational practices and experiential learning and plans to make mathematics a challenging yet rewarding class at La Paz.
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 Columbia 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.
Abel McClennen- School Director
Mr. Abel, as he is known by La Paz students, returns for his 6th 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. 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 sixth 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 sixth 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 sixth 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 fifth 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 5th 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.
In his 6th year at La Paz, his experiences over a wide range of grades, schools, and communities have complimented David’s unique concern, style, and personality as an effective elementary school educator. As the school’s garden and 4th grade teacher this year he is extremely enthusiastic to guide La Paz students in their learning quest.
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 sixth year teaching at La Paz and third 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 joins 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 4th year at La Paz, Daniela is excited to further develop her uniquely experiential classroom experience. She has a 6 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 first 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 which 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 at present she is in her fourth year of studies to become an english teacher 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, Jennifer is grateful for the unique life experiences offered to her at the school.
Kenia Calderon – Grade 8, 11 Spanish
Kenia is a Spanish educator in her fifth 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 six and a half years ago where she 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 for 11 years. Her primary education studies were realized 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.
Kate Wand – Secondary English
Kate brings over ten years of teaching experience in a spectrum of venues from preschool to prison. In her second year at La Paz, her passion lies in the intersections between art, education, and social justice. Inspired by the philosophies of bell hooks and Paolo Freire, Kate firmly believes education is a source of empowerment for the individual and greater community. Prior to La Paz, Kate taught high school theatre in the East New York neighborhood of Brooklyn (New York) and sexual health at Planned Parenthood (Pennsylvania). She is a graduate of George School and holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Social Change Education from Hampshire College (Amherst, MA, USA) and a Masters of Arts degree in Theatre Education from Emerson College (Boston, MA, USA). Kate possesses a strong personal connection to the Zulu people of South Africa and is a proud honorary member of the Wentworth Organization of Women (Durban, KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa)
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.
Geneva Garcia-Ellen – Grade 2, 3 English-Math-Science
In her 3rd 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 for seven years 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 three years. Prior to working at La Paz Ximena ran a local swimming program for infants and toddlers.
Arans Guevara Juarez – Secondary Social Studies-History
Mr. Arans was referred to La Paz by several of his students who now work at the school. He was recommended as being simply the most inspiring teacher they ever had. With a masters in teaching social studies and civics from the Universidad Latina in Santa Cruz, along with 15 years of experience at both public and private schools and universities in the area, Mr. Arans brings his veteran wisdom and leadership to the La Paz high school teaching team. His classes are always inquiry based, provoking endless forms of intellectual dialogue that stimulate teenagers to acquire higher order thinking skills. As a native of Santa Cruz, he is a professional at “Guanacastequifying” his curriculum.
Jon Hanson – Physical Education
Jon is returning for his fourth year at La Paz. He is an extremely positive example for the students with his calm demeanor and ability to run a gym class with no more than a whisper. With high expectations and knowledge of physical education and health science, Jon is an essential member of the La Paz staff. He graduated from Oregon State with a bachelors in health science and he has competed in several Iron Man events as well as been the coach of several college basketball teams. Jon doesn’t like photos…