Our Las Terrenas Team
Campus Coordinator - Las Terrenas
Ecology & Environmental Management, la Pontificia Universidad Catholics made y Maestra, Dominican Republic
I began working with children in June 2012, when I had just turned 15. I worked as a teacher assistant in a summer camp in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. I remember feeling very nervous and scared, as it was my first formal job ever. After the first day, those feelings of nervousness started transforming into feelings of passion and curiosity for what I was doing. I remember at the end of that first experience, being awarded outstanding employee of the summer camp, and that’s when I started believing in what I was doing and seeking to learn more from it.
After that first experience, I worked for different summer camps around the country, in Jarabacoa, San Cristobal and Santo Domingo. In Jarabacoa, I worked in a four-week long summer camp called Baiguate, in 2014 and 2015. In this particular work experience, we had to stay for a month in Jarabacoa, being 24/7 with our group of kids and mentoring them every single day. Living for a month with these children was yet another experience that touched my heart and motivated me to keep working in the presence of children. Baiguate’s motto is “Quiero, puedo y soy capaz” , which translates into “ I want, I can, and I am capable of doing so”. This motto forever inspires me, and reminds me that everyone, including children, can pursue their dreams.
As I graduated from highschool, I had no clue what I wanted to study. Therefore, I decided to go for a cultural exchange program, in which I went to live abroad for a year in Belgium with a host family. During that year, I became fluent in French and worked as an assistant in a center for mentally handicapped adults , which works towards providing a space where they can perform activities such as cooking, art, music and other fun things. I also lived in a permaculture based community during this time, which led me to decide where I was going regarding my university studies.
I came back to Santo Domingo in 2016 and decided to pursue a career in Ecology and Environmental Management in la Pontificia Universidad Catolica Madre y Maestra of Santo Domingo. I got a full scholarship for my four years of studies, and concluded my studies in November 2020. During my college career, I interned at the Botanical Garden of Santo Domingo, volunteered for an organization called Ser Eco, created my own jewelry business called Memoria del Agua , worked for Genius Academy summer camp as an environmental science teacher, created my own gardening workshops at home and pursued my Permaculture Design Certification.
I started as a volunteer in the ISLA family, providing a gardening workshop for the elementary class and a presentation on my bachelor thesis and ecology to the highschool students. In January 2021, I officially became part of the ISLA family , working with the Casita (Pre-k) group in Cabarete. I joined ISLA Las Terrenas team in February 2021, as an elementary teacher for Kinder-2nd grade. I am happy to be part of this family, and would like to keep integrating ecology with education, teaching kids to be guardians of the Earth and enjoy the process of learning.
Sofia Dal Canton
My name is Sofia and I am Italian by birth. I have arrived in this beautiful country in 2015. Since then I have been in charge of the weekly organization of the workers of the real estate office where I have worked and that is how I have continued in the property manager world to this day. I have developed my skills directly in this territory / area so I know the providers and their best services well. I offer my strength to the administration of Isla Academy with great enthusiasm.
Ana Raquel Tavarez
Licenciatura en psicologia clinica. Universidad Nacional Pedro Henríquez Ureña (UNPHU).
Hi! I’m Ana Raquel, a proud Dominican who grew up in "la capital". Since my childhood, I've always enjoyed being around children. From being an "assistant" in a daycare at the age of 10 to finally becoming a Kindergarten teacher, my connection with the early years of childhood has been constant. My passion for this stage led me to study Clinical Psychology with the goal of specializing in Early Childhood Intervention, seeking to combine this with my love for the arts through Art Therapy.
My professional career began in a school that follows the Reggio Emilia methodology. It was there that I found a space where children and their ideas are valued, where individual differences are celebrated and an encouraging environment for their creativity and curiosity is created. In addition, I discovered the positive influence of nature in the formation of empathetic, sensitive and committed citizens of the world.
My desire to continue to challenge conventional boundaries and to integrate nature and the arts into my teaching led me to ISLA Academy. I am truly excited to join this amazing team and contribute to this educational community.
Hi, I'm Lola!
I was born in France but, like most of the students I work with, grew up here in Las Terrenas where I have been living with my family since 2005.
I am passionate about discovering and learning new things and I think that working with children is amazing because they have a natural curiosity that can be contagious.
In my last job doing horseback riding lessons and excursions, I was mostly working with children and really enjoyed it so I am grateful to ISLA for letting me be part of this family.
BA in Early Childhood Education
Greetings! I am Mariliis Pehlak, and I'm all about helping kids learn while enjoying the great outdoors. I grew up in a cozy village in Estonia, surrounded by forests, lakes, and rivers – which made me fall in love with nature.
Forever, I've dreamed of being a teacher. In 2009, I earned my Bachelor's degree in Early Years Education, and not long after, I embarked on a transformative experience in a European Union Teaching Practice Programme, shaping my teaching skills in a vibrant Spanish public school setting in Madrid. I stayed in Madrid for more than ten years, having a blast teaching children aged 3 to 6, embracing Early Years Education as my true passion.
Throughout my time in Madrid, I continued to learn about various alternative teaching methodologies. delved into emotional education practices, and embraced hands-on, child-centered learning approaches. In 2020, I proudly obtained the title of an official Forest School Teacher, solidifying my commitment to innovative and holistic educational practices.
In 2015, I decided to go on a big adventure and traveled the world for two years. My encounters with 8 to 15-year-olds as a volunteer teacher in destinations like Australia, Indonesia, Malaysia, and Laos provided invaluable insights and deepened my appreciation for working with diverse age groups.
Come September 2021, an exciting opportunity presented itself. The role of an Elementary Teacher at ISLA Academy beckoned, and my excitement knew no bounds. ISLA is all about respecting each other, having the freedom to learn, and exploring the world around us – which is precisely how I think learning should be. I'm super proud to be part of the ISLA Las Terrenas team.
Marisol Alvarez born in USA. I have been living in Dominican Republic for 10 years now lived inthe U.S. for 25 years where I married with 1 child. As a young person I traveled with my parents and 2 brothers to India and South America.
BSc (Hons) Tourism Development Studies 2:1
TESOL: Language Teaching Methodology
John McNamara thinks that writing a personal bio is a very important matter. To undertake this very serious process he decided to travel through the rivers and mountains of Tibet until he was able to find the temple of the Dalai Lama, once there he sat in uninterrupted silence for many hours of meditation and contemplation and entered the deepest, darkest recesses of his mind – unfortunately the only things that he managed to find there were some
Justin Bieber lyrics, a memory of falling off his bicycle when he was 4 years old, and a vision of what he would like for breakfast tomorrow (poached eggs with smoked
kippers). Upon returning home, he asked his family what he should write, his wife suggested that he write about his fancy education and experience and why he loves to teach; well,
I’ll tell you what he likes about kids; they are fun and inquisitive, they ask lots of questions, and are often covered in mud and snot. I’ll also tell you what he doesn’t like about kids;
They are fun and inquisitive, they ask lots of questions and are often covered in mud and snot.
His own children recommended that he write about his history; John McNamara was born in Britain in 1978, until then it was simply called Britain, but after he came along it was renamed Great Britain in his honor (this may or may not be true). He grew up in a city called Liverpool, it’s famous as that’s also where ‘The Beatles’ are from. John knows all the words to ‘Hey Jude’ & ‘Let It Be’ but has a terrible singing voice (your ears will fall off if you ever listen to him do Karaoke). He grew up in a small family (they weren’t dwarves, that just means he didn’t have any brothers or sisters) and he always had big ambitions to become a Viking or a Pirate.
He went to a very boring school with very boring teachers (nothing like ISLA at all) but he liked to study, and he loved to read. As he got older, he was persuaded that maybe a life of adventure on the ocean waves wasn’t for him, so instead he decided to become a teacher.
This was a great decision as it led him to South Korea. There he taught at an Elementary school, met his wife, started a family, and eventually opened their own academy. It was a big success! But something was missing; ADVENTURE! It was time to leave and find an exciting new quest elsewhere, but where?! Open a map, close your eyes, press down your finger and there you go - the Dominican Republic!
He arrived in January 2022 and was blown away with how beautiful it was and how friendly the people were, plus – it’s an island of rum and shipwrecks, maybe he could become a pirate after all! Unfortunately, his wife didn’t allow him to become a pirate as she wanted to start her own Korean food business and needed him to be the delivery boy. He was happy zooming around Las Terrenas delivering delicious food, he would even deliver to ISLA, that’s why
all the students there call him ‘Sushi Guy’. Then one day he heard that ISLA was looking for a new Phase 3 teacher and he thought, ‘hmmm maybe I could do that, maybe that could be fun’.
And so here we are, about to start a wonderful new adventure…by writing a very important and serious personal bio.
Psicología Pedagógica Universidad Pedro Henríquez Ureña UNPHU
I was born in the beautiful city of Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic, on the 4th of October
1984. My cultural heritage is as diverse as the island itself, as my mother hails from Britain and
my father is a proud Dominican. This unique blend of backgrounds made me bilingual right
from the start, and I cherished the richness it brought to my life.
My early years were quite unconventional due to my father's role as the manager of El Portillo,
a prominent hotel in the region. As a result, I was homeschooled until I reached the 8th grade.
It was during these formative years that I began to discover my passion for teaching.
I took my first steps into the world of education as an assistant to a 3rd-grade teacher in a fully
English-speaking school in Puerto Plata. Surprisingly, the teacher had a limited grasp of English, so while she meticulously planned and evaluated the lessons, I found myself taking the lead in the classroom. It was a challenging yet incredibly rewarding experience, and it was during this time that I fell head over heels in love with the art of teaching.
As I continued my educational journey, I decided to move to Santo Domingo to pursue a
degree in Psicología Pedagógica at the Universidad Nacional Pedro Henríquez Ureña (UNPHU).
Throughout my studies, I remained actively engaged in teaching, gaining valuable experience
in various schools across the Dominican Republic. These included institutions such as Mundo
Matria Monterssoy, Dominico Americano, and the International School of Sosua.
Each of these experiences shaped me as an educator and allowed me to make a meaningful
impact on the lives of countless students. Teaching became not just a profession but a calling,
and I was grateful for the opportunities to nurture young minds and help them grow.
My journey as an educator continued to evolve, but one thing remained constant: my
an unwavering passion for teaching and my commitment to providing quality education to those I had the privilege to teach.
Born in Haiti, Sephora traced her educational journey to the Dominican Republic, where she completed her academic training. From an early stage, she immersed herself in pedagogy, leaving a lasting imprint on the institution that witnessed her growth. Her relentless quest for knowledge led her to explore the study of the English language at the prestigious APEC, simultaneously sharing this skill with others, discovering her vocation for the comprehensive formation of individuals, balancing academic knowledge with human values.
Sephora's tireless dedication drove her to elevate professional standards by implementing innovative teaching methods at the Washington Center, significantly contributing to the planning and updating of methods . Her social commitment led her to be a pioneer in the "good treatment" movement, led by Rosa Ariza, aimed at eradicating bullying from its roots and promoting a safe educational environment.
Her expertise extends beyond the traditional educational realm, as Sephora has cultivated technical skills in administration, marketing, and accounting, excelling in renowned educational centers such as Ascua de Luz and Sigo XXI.
In 2014, Sephora achieved a significant milestone by marrying an exceptional partner, marking a new chapter in Las Terrenas. There, she continued her work as an educator in various centers in the municipality, enriching the lives of those who had the privilege of being her students.
Throughout her career, Sephora took a brief hiatus from the classroom to excel in customer service and property management showcasing her versatility and exceptional skills in different fields.She was welcomed back into the field of education when the owners of Forever Wild reached out to her asking for her to join their team. Adding to her already extensive repertoire of skills in the classroom setting, Sephora gained knowledge in the learning standards used in the United States curriculum paired with a forest school type environment. Focused on differentiating the learning of each of her students and and becoming an integral member of the team, Sephora began using her skills in cooking, languages, and natural remedies to teach lessons lasting far beyond the classroom. Her love and passion for teaching not only curriculum, but also the whole child was able to shine bright as she ran camps and various activities beyond the school day. Her time at Forever Wild surely grew her extensive background to now include teaching in nature and team building. As the school built community and bonds throughout their time here, Sephora held an important role in the Forever Wild family to carry out that mission. As Forever Wild has moved their program to other countries, Sephora found that her skills
Were easily transferable to other nature school programs.But She continues to be a valued member of the Forever Wild community today, carrying out the mission of language development , cultural immersion and experiences and more.
Today, Sephora is an integral part of the ISLA family, persisting in her mission to teach with love, patience, and integrity to the exceptional children who have the privilege of being her disciples. Her life is an eloquent testimony of dedication to education and service, leaving an enduring mark in every facet of her illustrious trajectory.
Adriana Gonzales Vera
Bachelor of Arts in International Relations Concentration in Sociology
Hi! My name is Adriana.
Like many of our students, I experienced a childhood of movement and adaptation. Born in Peru and schooled across Colombia, Mexico, and the United States - I am intimately familiar with the challenges and opportunities that come with an international upbringing. I lived in the United States through my adult life until November 2021, when my family and I moved to Las Terrenas.
I had the honor of joining ISLA as a teacher's assistant in Phase 5 last year. This experience granted me valuable insights into the unique community and an understanding of the values this school works to instill in our kids’ young minds. With that said, I’d like to share that my journey in education has been both diverse and dynamic.
With a degree in International Relations and Sociology from Canisius College, my academic background provides me with a comprehensive understanding of global dynamics and social structures. Although I'm new to the formal teaching realm, I've had the privilege of guiding young minds as a Spanish and English (ESL) tutor for students aged 9 through high school in the United States. These experiences instilled in me the importance of personalized learning approaches that cater to individual needs and learning styles.
I have also worked as a job readiness program instructor (and co-wrote the curriculum for this program) for a group aged 14 through 21, I facilitated their transition into the professional world by imparting essential life skills and fostering a strong sense of self-confidence. This experience underscores my belief in education as a vehicle for empowering students to excel both academically and in their personal development.
Additionally, being a mother of two young girls further fuels my passion for education. It is with this maternal perspective that I approach my role as a teacher, understanding the importance of fostering a safe, nurturing, and stimulating environment for young minds to flourish.
What truly excites me about ISLA Academy is its commitment to preparing students for the real world. I am committed to creating a classroom where curiosity thrives, diversity is celebrated, and critical thinking takes center stage while fostering a deep understanding of global interconnectedness and societal dynamics.
Diploma, Social Service Worker - Seneca College.
Bachelor’s of Arts, Sociology - University of Western Ontario, Canada
Master’s of Science, International Education - Buffalo State University of New York, USA
Certificate, English as Second Language: TESL Qualified - Fanshawe College, Canada
Greetings everyone, my name is Matt Bell and my family and I are from Canada. My wife is a psychotherapist and my children are in phase 1 and 3. We are very excited to be in Las Terrenas and a part of the ISLA community. I have taught internationally for 15 years and will continue here in Las Terrenas.
I have been working on the island for 1 year and I am excited to extend this experience at ISLA Academy. I have taught people from all over the world for the past 15 years in 4 different countries, the Dominican Republic is my 5th. My experience has given me a thorough and in depth knowledge of all ages and different types of learning styles. I have worked in private schools and colleges. My goal as a teacher is to cultivate and foster a learning environment that allows students to take ownership and motivation in their learning. In my years of experience, attention leads to motivation and motivation leads to action, and that is where learning begins, in action.
My teaching experience ranges from After school programs, core subject teacher in primary, high school subject specific teacher, an English for Academic Purposes college professor, as well as instructing sports such as Muay Thai and Soccer. I have taught all ages, 4 - 65+ and it seems that each person no matter their age comes with experiences that will guide, hinder, or boost their ability to experiment, take chances, and learn. My directive at ISLA is to guide learners on their own path and soak up knowledge that they need, use, and create
Bachelor’s degree in Education
Hey there! My name is Jean Reyes. I was born and raised in Santo Domingo, and just recently decided to move away and find a new adventure in Las Terrenas.
I started working as a teacher in late 2017, and I instantly fell in love with it. At the time, I was collaborating with a friend as her substitute teacher, but by January 2018 I was a lead teacher for the English Immersion Program, an intensive, scholarship-based project available to undergraduates in Santo Domingo.
My first year as a full-time teacher cemented my pursuing a bachelor’s degree in Education, so in 2019 I enrolled in APEC University in order to fulfill that goal. Four years later, in early 2023, I graduated and received my degree. In 2022, I went to work for Instituto Superior de Formación Docente Salomé Ureña, commonly known as ISFODOSU. There I worked teaching English to undergraduates.
Leaving the city, my intention is to find alternative ways of teaching that align better with the needs of our physical bodies, our emotions, and our planet. I’m excited to be collaborating with ISLA on this new journey.
Bachelor’s degree in Education and TESOL certification
My name is Lisa and I am thrilled to begin my second year as part of the ISLA community! The mission and values that are upheld at ISLA academy resonate with my core beliefs, not only as an educator, but as a parent. My family and I moved to Las Terrenas in June 2022 from the U.S. to pursue our dreams of living in the Caribbean. Every day, we wake up feeling blessed to live in this wonderful community within the Dominican Republic.
We are originally from the state of Idaho where I received my bachelors degree in Elementary Education and TESOL/ENL Education in 2018 at Boise State University. School was NOT a passion of mine when I was a child. I was an inquisitive child that was raised in a schooling system which did not encourage creativity and innovative thinking, which in turn, I chose to rebel. It wasn't until adulthood (and motherhood) that I discovered the true privilege, appreciation and power of education.
Over the past 6 years, I have had the opportunity to lead teach in the general education classroom with students ranging from 2nd through 5th grade. I have also had the pleasure of teaching Kindergarten through 6th grade English Language Learners who come from a variety of culturally rich backgrounds. Their diverse experiences has given me the gift to see the world through their eyes and has allowed me to become a more culturally responsive, empathetic, and open-minded human being.
My educational philosophy centralizes around culturally responsive teaching, which recognizes the importance of including students' cultural references in all aspects of learning. This inclusive type of environment allows for an enriching classroom experience which helps students set high expectations for themselves in order to promote individual authentic learning and success.
My goal as this year's lead high school educator is to spark curiosity in the minds of students, guide them as they approach their own understanding, and learn right alongside them. Over the course of the school year, I aim to excite students about the world around them and broaden his or her academic interests while simultaneously supporting them emotionally and socially.
I was born and raised in San Diego, California. I started classical piano at the age of 7, then got into jazz and blues piano when I was 12. In High School I joined the Jazz Band and began playing banjo and guitar. The summer before my junior year I learned trumpet in order to be the Student Band Leader in my junior and senior years of high school. We did a trip with the High School band to New Orleans my Senior year, and I fell in love with the city. So when I turned 18 I bought a one way train ticket to New Orleans and played music there professionally for many years, touring the USA, Canada and Europe as well as playing many of the top Jazz festivals. I have taught at various schools here in the Dominican Republic; Las Terrenas International School (which closed down with the pandemic), Baby’s Planet and Lycée Français International de Las Terrenas. I am happy to have taught the last couple years here at ISLA and am looking forward to the future!
Math and Technology Teacher
Mathematics & Natural Sciences
Instituto Superior de Docente Salome Urena
What's up? My name is Ogrys Gilbert. I grew up in the Dominican Republic moving back and forth between Santiago and Las Terrenas, Samaná. I showed interest in arts, music, and technology since the early stages of my life.
I entered Instituto Superior de Formación Docente Salomé Ureña on scholarship and began my studies in Mathematics and Natual Sciences education for middle school. At the same time, I was working as a music producer and was the guitarist for a local band. During my time at ISFODOSU, I had the opportunity to learn from Japanese educators that teaching/learning maths can be a challenging, fun, and fascinating experience. Right now, I'm building a music curriculum that mixes musical theory with math concepts.
In my free time, I work as a music producer and artist. I do enjoy surfing, skateboarding, motorsports, listening to music being rock, jazz, and hip-hop my favorite genres, I also volunteer on teenage groups and summer camps.
I'm very interested in apologetics and theology, I frequently have debates with my father who's a pastor about these topics.
One of my challenges is to learn as many languages as possible.
Art Director & Teacher
I am Dio Tavarez, with over two decades as a Cinematographic Art Director and proudly the Creative Director and Art Teacher at Isla Academy. During five inspiring years as a teacher, I have shared memorable moments with my students, guiding them on a journey towards authenticity and self-confidence.
At Isla Academy, we believe in inspiring children to embrace their uniqueness and pursue their dreams with passion. My commitment is to guide them in the world of art, showing them that perfection is not the goal, but the genuine expression of their being.
Each brushstroke and shared word are testimonials to the power of art to transform lives and build confidence. My greatest satisfaction is witnessing children elevate their self-esteem and grasp that being different is a gift, and that each one has the ability to leave a unique mark on the canvas of life.
With gratitude for this enriching journey, I look forward to continuing to nurture self-love and artistic passion in every child. Together, we create a space where love and confidence can lead our youth towards the realization of their dreams.
Etienne Jean Hilaire
Hello everyone! My name is Etienne Jean Hilaire, and I am excited to share with you my exciting journey at Isla Academy, from when I joined in 2020 until this glorious year 2023. My story is a testimony of how dedication and passion can open doors and allow for significant personal and professional growth.
Since my childhood in Haiti, I have always been a creative soul. From building metal cars and houses to creating clever works of art out of plastic bottles for my friends, creativity has always been an integral part of my life. In 2020, I began my journey at Isla Academy as a member of the gardening team. My love for nature and desire to care for it led me to this area, but my thirst for learning and passion for art drove me to explore even further. I was always offering to help with artistic projects, and my dedication did not go unnoticed. Over time, I was recognized for my commitment and talent, and the Creative Director extended me an invitation that changed my life: to join her team.
Now, this year 2023, I celebrate more than a year working as an assistant to the Creative Director at Isla Academy. Every day is a new opportunity to grow and learn. I am incredibly grateful for the opportunity to develop in an area that has always been close to my heart. But what really brings me joy is being able to share my knowledge and passion with our students, and see them flourish in the world of art and creativity. This journey has been an exciting climb, and I am proud of how I have grown and evolved alongside Isla Academy. I am committed to continuing to learn and scale new heights in the world of art and education.
Alexia Gonzalez Gato
Formacion en Educadora Medioambiental. Belgium.
Mi nombre es Alexia y soy española. Llevo trabajando con niños desde 2015, en cuanto empecé a ser niñera. Mas adelante en mi carrera, me especialicé en educación medioambiental, y he tenido la oportunidad, estos últimos 3 años, de poder trabajar de mi pasión, que es enseñando.
Estuve viviendo en Bélgica durante cuatro años, donde pude enseñar de manera particular, y en la universidad, mi lengua materna, el español. Esto me ha permitido hoy en día tener más conocimiento de cómo impartir las clases de idiomas, y como hacer que el alumno consiga
aprender de la manera mas divertida y mas apta para cada uno de ellos.
Isla Academy y los niños me han acogido con los brazos bien abiertos, y les
agradezco de corazón esto. Mi objetivo es que aprendan español de una manera
divertida y coherente con su edad y intereses.
Physical Education Teacher
Mi nombre es Mario Vera. Nací en Chile. Mis estudios primarios y secundarios los realicé
en Viña del Mar. Luego estudié Agronomía con especialidad en Suelos en la Universidad
Austral de Chile, en Valdivia. Comencé a trabajar en Producción de flores, luego tomando
Muestras de Suelo y en Producción de Leche, carne y ovinos con alimentación en base a
praderas. También en el diseño y ordenamiento territorial de predios lecheros y
ganaderos. Hice cursos de Agricultura Orgánica basado en la Permacultura, en una Ecovilla
(GAIA) en Argentina. He realizado emprendimientos de empresas y proyectos personales.
Trabajé como rescatista de montaña con cursos de primeros auxilios y rescate en
condiciones extemas, como miembro de Patrullas de Ski de Chile.
En mi experiencia formativa puedo mencionar haber realizados cursos como monitor de
niños y adultos en natación, ski, movimiento y nutrición saludable y fútbol.
Llegué junto a mi familia a República Dominicana y a ISLA Academy como apoderado, hace
5 meses y felizmente me invitaron a hacer la clase de Physical Education y formar parte de
este gran equipo. Esto me tiene muy entusiasmado y agradezco la oportunidad trabajar
con niños de todos los grados y compartir con esta diversa comunidad.