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 two young daughters 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 & UPPEER SCHOOL PHYSICAL EDUCATION & HEALTH
Shayna Teutsch is one of two lead teachers for Los Ositos, our preschool group of children ages 2-4. A native of New Mexico, Shayna 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!
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 demeanour 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
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
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 LOS RAYOS: 2nd and 3rd Grade
TEACHING ASSISTANTS: 2nd & 3rd Grade
Alexander Mercado (Alex) also known as the Human Calculator (lovingly named by our students) is the Teaching Assistant with Los Rayos (2nd and 3rd grade). He is an Industrial Engineer, having graduated from the University UCA (Universidad Centroamericana). Prior to joining San Juan Day School, Alex worked as a teaching assistant in English throughout Managua, leading group classes in the healthcare and tourism industries. He is originally from Managua, Nicaragua and he relocated to San Juan del Sur last year. Alex’s passion is to serve others thru education. In addition to teaching, he loves to lead enrichment hour activities, inspiring children, through fun and games, to continue to develop the skills that they acquire during the academic day.
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.
LEAD TEACHER FOR LOS ELEFANTES: 6th-7th Grade
Sarah Denner is constantly inspired by the world in which she lives and looks to find a balance between the mind, body, and spirit. She is a traveler, artist, and nature lover. She grew up playing in the woods of New Hampshire, building forts, swimming, and hiking. At the University of New Hampshire she received her degree in Pre-Veterinary Medicine. After this, adventure called to her, so she moved to Montana and has called it home for the last 10 years. This is where her passion for education and the natural world combined, and after some years of living the “ski bum” lifestyle, she went back to school and received a Master’s degree in Education.
As an educator, Sarah regards herself as more than a mere purveyor of knowledge. She believes spending time in the outdoors with our next generation, as well as inspiring them to become well rounded, engaged citizens of the community and stewards to their environment, are the greatest gifts that she can pass on. She has fostered these ideals through work with the Audubon Society, Montana Outdoor Science School, and as a high school teacher in biology and environmental science. Nicaragua has truly captured Sarah’s heart and intensified her investment in the people, community, and natural resources that make this area unique. She is so happy to be living in San Juan del Sur and to be part of an amazing group of students and teachers at San Juan del Sur Day School!
LEAD TEACHER FOR : 8th-10th Grade
Laurel Douglas is originally from the state of Idaho, in the States, and has been living in San Juan with her dog Finn since January, 2020. She has eleven years of teaching experience in English, Spanish, Social Studies and English as a Second Language. She spent five years growing up in Honduras, and has spent her adult life in Montana and Wyoming. Laurel has Master’s Degrees in Political Science (M.A.), and English Teaching (M.Ed.) from the University of Montana. Laurel loves running, surfing, and yoga. Her educational philosophy centers around the idea that students don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care. She is currently the Lead Teacher for Humanities in the Upper School, as well as the Curriculum Coordinator for the Upper School.
ONLINE TEACHING TEAM
Mateo Borror, Online Learning Coordinator
Matt (Mateo) Borror brings over 10 years of international teaching experience to San Juan Day School. A native English speaker, Matt is also an advanced Spanish-speaker. Originally from Ohio, he has lived all over Asia, as well as 5 years previously in Nicaragua where he met his wife and started a family. Matt has a Bachelor of Science Degree from the University of Illinois, as well as a Master’s Degree from the University of Pittsburgh School of Education. This is his second year with San Juan del Sur Day School.
Sara Wright hails from North Carolina, where she attended the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She is passionate about culture, adventure, and community — creating connections and being conscious global citizens. She is happy to have called Nicaragua her home since 2013. The majority of Sara’s stay in this beautiful country was spent on Ometepe Island, where she devoted her time to organizing a wide range of community outreach projects and educational events, including seed exchanges, small business initiatives, solar power access, tutoring, volunteer coordinating, and participating in local women’s empowerment efforts. Sara will assist grades 6-10 as they transition between online and on campus learning. This will be Sara’s third year at the San Juan del Sur Day School, and she is very excited to be here!
Gema Ramírez Ríos was born and raised in Managua, Nicaragua and is a teacher by vocation. She has taught Hispanic Language and Literature for 17 years in several colleges and universities in the capital, including Loyola Institute, the Central American College, the Nicaraguan German College and the Central American University (UCA). She is passionate about languages, art and knowledge and her desire to learn has led her on a path to pursue specialized studies in philology, philosophy, theology, music, English, French and astronomy.
Gema says, “I am living a beautiful experience of learning and growth at San Juan del Sur Day School. I am very grateful for the opportunity. I am delighted to be able to collaborate with such a wonderful project. It makes me wake up every morning wanting to give my best to the children and the community. I am very happy.”
AFTERNOON ENRICHMENT COORDINATOR & CULTURAL and COMMUNITY COORDINATOR
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