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
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
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 ASSISTANT PRIMARY SCHOOL
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 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
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!
MINISTRY OF EDUCATION LIAISON: Anika Barillas
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