FOUNDER AND DIRECTOR
Julie Speier is the founder and director of San Juan del Sur Day School. Before moving to San Juan del Sur, she was the program coordinator of the toddler program at Cincinnati Country Day School where she worked closely with parents and oversaw 3 head teachers, 3 assistant teachers and 36 students. She also taught Pre-K, Kindergarten and first grade while there. During her time at CCDS she was mentored in and used the Constructivist approach to education. She also worked with colleagues to develop and implement a curriculum that is still in use there today.
While at CCDS, Julie also coached the middle school Cross Country and Swim teams. She served on numerous committees including SEED (Seeking Equality through Educational Diversity), Search for the New Head of School, ISACS (Independent Schools Association of the Central States) and Growth and Development. She worked closely with the Head of School and the Lower School principals allowing her the opportunity to observe and learn from these gifted leaders.
Prior to her work with CCDS, she lived in Hawaii where she taught second grade ESL at Kalihi Kai Elementary School and developed a love and passion for the ocean and surfing. At Boston University she earned her degree in Early Childhood Education as the recipient of a full swimming scholarship. In addition to her passion for teaching, and love of surfing, Julie is also a certified yoga teacher. Julie has three children with her partner John Crilly.
ASSISTANT DIRECTOR & SCHOOL COUNSELOR
Sarah Fahey joined the San Juan del Sur Day School as Director of Development in 2012, assisting Director Julie Speier with social media, enrollment, and administrative duties. She later added Counseling Services to her responsibilities and in 2019 was named Assistant Director. Prior to moving abroad, Sarah earned her bachelor’s degree in English with a minor in early childhood development from Skidmore College. She worked for 6 years in public television helping to produce such children’s shows as Arthur, Time Warp Trio, and Curious George. She then went on to obtain her master’s degree in school counseling from Boston University and worked as a school counselor for two years at the Fay School and also as a case manager in a homeless shelter for pregnant and parenting teens. She has two children who both attend San Juan del Sur Day School.
LEAD TEACHER FOR LOS OSITOS: Preschool
Melba de Soccorro Almador is our teaching assistant with our youngest group, Los Ositos. Melba is originally from Northern Nicaragua where she grew up with a large family on a farm in the mountains. She has a naturally sweet, kind and patient demeanor with the children. She is a natural teacher, while playing with the infants and toddlers, she teaches them shapes, colors and numbers while putting away toys. She assists the youngest students and is an expert at distracting or comforting a child who may be crying or upset with having to say good bye to parents in the morning. She has a great smile and uses age appropriate tone and facial expressions when interacting with our youngest students. She is a hardworking, reliable and pleasant presence to have at the school.
LEAD TEACHER FOR LOS TIGRES: Pre-Kindergarten & 1st Grade Spanish Teacher
Onelia Avendaño Obregon brings over 6 years of classroom teaching experience at the Early Childhood Level. A native of Managua, Onelia (Oné) has worked in prestigious international schools throughout the capitol including American Nicaraguan School, Marie Curie, and Lincoln International Academy. Onelia holds a Bachelor of Science from Universidad Centroamericana UCA and has pursued additional masters level training from Framingham State University School of Education. Completely bilingual, Oné has also studied advanced reading, writing and interpretation skills in English at the Centro Cultural Nicaraguense Norteamericano. Onelia’s knowledge of early childhood development, her enthusiasm for teaching, and compassion for children is a wonderful addition to the San Juan del Sur Day School team!
TEACHING ASSISTANT: Los Tigres
Teresa de Jesús Flores Rivera (best known as Teacher Tere) was born and lives in San Juan del Sur. She has 2 children, one of whom attends the Day School. She loves working with children, providing them a safe space to play, explore and laugh. She strives to always be responsible, honest, and charismatic. She loves being part of this friendly and understanding community. In addition to being the teaching assistant to Los Tigres, she also assists in the kitchen when needed and rides the bus with the students to monitor for safety. In her free time she enjoys reading, walking on the beach, and listening to music.
ASSISTANT HEAD OF EARLY CHILDHOOD, LEARNING DIFFERENCE SPECIALIST &
LEAD TEACHER FOR LOS LEONES: Kindergarten
Gina DiPiero joins us from Brooklyn, New York, where she has lived for the past decade. She received a Master’s Degree and dual New York State certification in Early Childhood Special and General Education from Hunter College in New York. Gina brings nine years of experience teaching young children. Her personal teaching philosophy is founded on a firm belief in inquiry-based learning tied to direct sensory experiences. She embraces an emergent, project-based curriculum model, using the children’s own questions and interests to plan meaningful learning experiences while embedding developmentally-appropriate literacy, math, and science activities into curriculum explorations. Above all, Gina maintains a classroom environment where children’s competence is recognized and their thoughts and ideas are respected.
LEAD TEACHER FOR LOS MONOS: 1st Grade: Adriana Escandon Heredia joins the Day School and the San Juan del Sur community this year from Colombia. Adriana has been teaching since 2002; she has worked with students ranging from Pre-K to 6th grade and students with special needs. She discovered her love for teaching while living in Canada and realizing she had a gift and experienced joy while being around students. Adriana studied Early Childhood Education at Sabana University, she also holds a Human Resources Manager Specialization and an Inclusive Education training by the University of Kentucky. She completed her Master’s in Neuropsychology and Education at the International University of la Rioja. Adriana is passionate about reaching students’ goals. by making the environment for the community of learners fun, creative, artistic, playful, and in a constant inquisitive mode. She is excited to be part of this year ahead of Day School, with all the hope, gratitude, and grit to overcome these unique times.
TEACHING ASSISTANT: 1st Grade (Los Monos): Yolanda Rodriguez is our Teaching Assistant to Los Monos (first grade). Yolanda has been with the school since its inception in early 2009. She began working in the kitchen, preparing healthy snacks and meals for the students, but it quickly became evident that she had the perfect demeanor to work with children. As a result, she began taking English and computer classes in nearby Rivas and is working towards obtaining her teaching certificate in early childhood education. She is also attending training workshops in the Montessori approach to education. On any given day, Yolanda can be found reading books with the Monos, teaching a Spanish lesson to the Tigres, singing songs at circle time, and more! Yolanda has a wonderfully playful hands-on approach to education and our students adore her!
LEAD TEACHER FOR 2nd Grade: Isabelle Lariviere joins us from Quebec City, Canada. An avid traveler, having spent time in Mexico and Europe, Isa will be enjoying her Nica experience with her husband and 3 boys who will also be attending SJDS Day School. With over seventeen years of experience as a Teacher and Special Education Teacher (grade K-12), Isabelle has worked in a variety of schools in several locations across Canada. Having graduated from University of Ottawa with a degree in Education and a degree in Second Language teaching (French and Spanish) she also has a major in psychology from the University of Montreal. Isabelle has a caring and nurturing approach that fosters constructive learning environments and promotes autonomy and confidence in her students.
TEACHING ASSISTANT PRIMARY SCHOOL: Alexander Mercado (Alex) is the Teaching Assistant for 2nd and 4rd grade. He is an Industrial Engineer, having graduated from the University UCA (Universidad Centroamericana UCA). He is currently working on earning his Masters in Education. Prior to joining San Juan Day School, Alex worked as a teaching assistant in English in Managua, leading group classes. He is originally from Managua, Nicaragua and he relocated to San Juan del Sur on 2018. Alex’s passion is to serve others thru education. In addition to teaching, he loves to inspire children, through fun and games and to continue to develop the skills that they acquire during the academic day.
3rd GRADE LEAD TEACHER: Dominique Tessier has been a primary school classroom teacher in Canada for over 10 years, having worked with students from kindergarten through grade 6. Originally from Quebec, Dominique is fluent in English and French. Dominique relocated to San Juan del Sur Sur in August of 2021, but has been visiting Nicaragua for many years. Teaching is a passion that she enjoys sharing with her students. Dominique’s professionalism, enthusiastic personality and joy of teaching is a fantastic addition to our primary school team! In addition to her love of teaching, Dominique is also an experienced naturopath and encourages health, movement and plenty of physical activity!
4th GRADE LEAD TEACHER: Mary Gamache joins the Day School and the San Juan del Sur community this year. Mary, her husband Matt and their two kids have lived and taught in the United Arab Emirates and the Dominican Republic for the past 14 years. Mary has a Bachelor’s Degree in Science from Colorado State University and a Masters in Education from the College of New Jersey. She has taught grade 4, 5, and middle school science. Before teaching, Mary worked in health and wellness at Western Washington University, as a course leader for Outward Bound Outdoor Leadership School, and as a whitewater rafting guide in Colorado. Mary believes in engaging kids in authentic learning experiences that foster global citizenship.
PRIMARY SCHOOL SPANISH TEACHER
William Garcia, better known as Willo, joined San Juan Del Sur School Day in August, 2021. He is a happy person full of energy to share with anyone who needs it. He loves teaching and helping people to discover their potential and their creativity. He believes teaching is a wonderful opportunity to show people that education is the key to break many different barriers we may face in our learning and daily life. He is proudly happy to join the school. William is originally from Masaya, Nicaragua, a wonderful town in the heart of the country. William is highly talented in creating comprehensive training programs, and leading instruction in the classroom and virtual settings. He studied SIT-TESOL Centro Espiral Maná, Costa Rica. He also studied TEFL at Universidad Centroamericana UCA, William worked for Centro Cultural Nicaragüense Norteamericano – CCNN – Managua, MN ESL Instructor. English Language Teacher, Access Program, Sponsored by the American Embassy in Nicaragua and worked as a Tour Guide, Masaya Volcano.
UPPER SCHOOL (Grades 6-10)
LEAD TEACHER FOR GRADE 6
Álvaro Varga Vázquez is originally from Madrid, Spain, where he grew up and studied Primary Education Teaching at the Universidad Complutense de Madrid. His first teaching experience was as a basketball coach as a teenager. There he was able to develop two of his passions, sports and teaching, for seven years. For a year he was volunteering in El Salvador as a teacher and social educator with minors of all ages. Back in Spain, he worked as a primary school teacher for 5 years providing extracurricular support for students from low-income families. In early 2017, he traveled to Granada, Nicaragua, where he worked for two years as a sixth grade primary education teacher at Granada International School. During last year, he was leading a homeschooling program in Granada with six students of different ages and nationalities.
ENGLISH LANGUAGE ARTS & HUMANITIES
Sean Keogh has been working in education for over twenty years. He started his career teaching English as a Second Language in Oporto, Portugal in 2000. Upon returning to the states, Sean took a position teaching Middle School English in the New York City Public School system. He then chose to pursue a Masters in English Teaching at the University of Montana. There, he was able to teach sections of First Year Composition. For the last 12 years Sean has been working at a Middle/High School in Massachusetts – 9 years as a high school English teacher and the last three as principal. Sean is excited about bringing his passion for the written word to the San Juan Del Sur Day School!
Summer Shacklette is originally from Panama and Texas. She and her husband moved to
SJDS in August 2017 for a new chapter in their life’s adventure. This is Summer’s second year at San Juan del Sur Day School and her 6th year in education. She haa experience teaching a diverse population of students ranging from pre k to 8th grade and previously worked in culinary and wine fields as well. Summer graduated from Angelo State University, and attended graduate school at University of New Mexico. While there, she majored in Art History, Studio Art, and English Literature. It is Summer’s mission to create a safe and supportive community of learners who demonstrate mutual respect for one another. Her classroom environment encourages students to be creative, resilient, well-rounded, and responsible citizens ready to take on any challenge presented with enthusiasm and perseverance
MATH & SCIENCE
PHYSICAL EDUCATION & HEALTH
A native of New Mexico, Shayna Teutsch relocated to San Juan del Sur with her family in January 2019. Bringing over 7 years of teaching experience with children preschool age thru high school, Shayna contributes an upbeat, empowering and organized approach to teaching, inspiring children to move their bodies, embrace the outdoors and stay active! Shayna holds a Bachelor of Science in Education, Sports Management from the University of Tennessee and served as the Athletics Director, Physical Education and Health Teacher at schools in New York, Colorado, and the Dominican Republic.
In addition to her teaching experience, Shayna’s leadership skills and athleticism inspired her to coach girls volleyball and boys and girls soccer at previous schools and she is now sharing those skills with the Day School’s soccer teams!
A native of Illinois, Courtney Hamm graduated from Southern Illinois University – Carbondale with a B.S. in University Studies and a minor in Psychology. Courtney is an RPCV (Returned Peace Corps Volunteer) El Salvador who served two stints with the Peace Corps where she taught Environmental Education in El Salvador, served as a community organizer and a Youth Volunteerism Specialist working alongside the Ministry of Education to implement a department wide youth volunteer program. Upon returning to the U.S. she pursued a M.S. in Management with a focus in Non-profit, NGO and Social Business Management at SIT Graduate Institute in Brattleboro, Vermont. Courtney’s passion for volunteerism led her to Hands For Hunger, where she created then led volunteer and corporate partnership programs and increased awareness about food security in The Bahamas. Courtney has over 8 years of ESL teaching experience and is happy to be part of the community at San Juan del Sur Day School. Courtney moved to Nicaragua in 2017 and lives with her husband and two young children.
MINISTRY OF EDUCATION LIAISON: Anika Barillas
AFTERNOON ENRICHMENT COORDINATOR & CULTURAL and COMMUNITY COORDINATOR
Mara Jacobsohn came to San Juan in 2002 planning to spend 8 weeks in a Spanish immersion program before moving on to an TESOL position in Japan. She returned to teach as a volunteer the following summer. In 2004, she decided to return to San Juan, got her residency and began offering English for tourism classes, the perfect pairing of her MA in TESOL from Portland State University and her BA in English Lit. and Leisure Studies Recreation Administration from UNC-Chapel Hill. Over the last 17 years it’s been her pleasure to grow with San Juan. She had the privilege of participating in community development, co-creating cultural programs, and is thrilled to be at the Day School where she teaches service and coordinates Enrichment as well as community and cultural connections. She is passionate about coffee, dogs, and social entrepreneurship. She is also Director of San Juan del Sur Day Camps, our summer affiliate program.
Roxana Jimenez Jacamo is our experienced chef who joined the San Juan del Sur Day School team in 2016. Prior to working for the school, Roxana prepared delicious meals for Wrap ‘n Roll, a popular San Juan restaurant featuring healthy and fresh ingredients sourced from local farms. She brings her experience with her to San Juan del Sur Day School, preparing inspiring and creative meals and snacks for our students. She enjoys cooking Asian-inspired dishes and finding new and different ways to encourage kids to be healthy eaters.
HEAD OF MAINTENANCE & GROUNDS