Our AdministrativeTeam

 
Sean Bennett
Director, Co-founder
Bachelor of Education, University of Georgia, USA

I began mentoring the youth in my hometown of Brunswick, Georgia when I was just 16 years old.  Teaching and guidance were a part of me before I ever knew what I "wanted to be when I grew up".  I worked at after-school and summer camps, led youth group activities, and umpired local youth baseball games until I entered the University of Georgia on scholarship.

Once there, I began my studies in Early Childhood Education.  My courses focused on educational psychology, special education, multiculturalism, and mathematics.  During my time as an undergraduate, I began working for a state-funded mental health organization providing group activity therapy to children with emotional behavior disorders.  This experience eventually led me to begin offering counseling in the homes and schools of these young people.  I worked closely with licensed counselors to develop behavioral goals.  I then assisted the children in achieving those goals in their homes and communities.

One year before graduating, I began offering counseling to foster children and their estranged parents with the goal of family reunification.  I assisted parents with their court-mandated case plans and provided parenting classes to improve success rates after reunification.  I also worked with the foster children to help re-build relationships with their birth parents while also maintaining a positive experience at their foster placement.  On weekends, I ran "The Granny House", a small home placement for foster children that had no other place to go.  While the youth were there, I served as their parent, mentor, teacher, and counselor until we could find a relative or foster home for them.

 

Seeing a need in our community to provide alternatives to incarceration for our teenagers, I started Impact Counseling and Consulting.  Shortly after the project began, I graduated Summa Cum Laude from the University of Georgia and then began studying Law at Georgia State University.  Within 18 months, Impact Counseling was the largest provider of counseling to juvenile offenders in northeast Georgia.  We were able to keep 183 of our first 200 clients out of juvenile detention centers.  To do this, I led group counseling sessions on issues ranging from anger management to substance abuse. I also provided college and career counseling, GED training, and job placement assistance.

In 2008, I moved to South Korea to teach at English Zone Academy. While there, I developed the curriculum and initiated adult English classes for local chemical engineers.  I also provided one-on-one counseling and English lessons to Korean students seeking to study in the United States.

In 2010, I began teaching IELTS training classes in Vietnam to students intending to study internationally.  In addition, I served as the English language professor at Infoworld University.  When possible, I also taught both elementary and high school classes at the American International School in Ho Chi Minh City.

After leaving Vietnam, I was chosen to be a principal for the brand-new satellite Primary School campus of an international school in Tanzania.  While there, I developed the administrative and physical structures of the school.  I improved upon existing policies from the school's main campus and helped to push advancements in the areas of parent involvement, cross-curricular learning, health and hygiene, and green practices.  I assisted in the design of after-school programs, a winter camp, a school playground, and football fields.  During my tenure, our school was the fastest-growing international Lower Primary school in Tanzania with consistent growth rates of 15% over the first three years.

I spent 2014 and 2015 as the Head of the English Department for the Liceo Cientifico in Salcedo, Dominican Republic.  The Liceo Cientifico is the Dominican Republic’s first STEM magnet school in the country.  There, I developed the most rigorous English curriculum in the country, using proven methods of assessment.  I designed entrance exams, led workshops in teacher training, and, most significantly, prepared my students to complete the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL), the prerequisite for entering any international university. 

I now seek to share with other educators my experiences in developing schools and counseling programs in the US, Asia, the Dominican Republic, and Africa.  I have two beautiful children and an unquenchable desire to provide a world-class education to them and our community.  I believe in setting high expectations for all learners and emphasize teaching students to be stewards of the earth. My experiences serving students from a variety of abilities, cultures, and socio-economic backgrounds has led me to be a staunch advocate for teaching to an array of learning styles.

 
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Rebeccca Baker de Martinez
Director of Operations
Teacher - Phase 2 (Grades 1 & 2)
Bachelor of Arts, Primary Education, Birmingham City University, England
 

Hey, My name is Rebecca Baker de Martinez, and whilst I am originally from a small town in the center of England, I have lived and taught here on the North Coast, with my identical twin sister, since 2011.  

 

During my time here I married my wonderful husband and have become a mother to three beautiful children! I founded ‘Cabarete Playgroup’ years ago to allow parents and their little ones to meet, chat and play on the beach. I threw myself into Dominican life right from the beginning, by residing in a local ‘barrio’. This is where I was able to learn Spanish, immerse myself in the local culture and build my family home. 

 

Since graduating with a BA (HONS) in Primary Education back in 2009, I have been lucky enough to have had the opportunity to teach in a range of age phases, from three-year-old preschool students to Seventh Graders. I have taught at International Schools here on the North Coast since I arrived all those years ago and have felt privileged to meet so many inquiring young minds and their supportive families. I am so excited about the existence of ISLA Academy and am thrilled to be part of an excellent team of educators filling an educational gap that had been felt within the community for quite some time. When I am not in the classroom, you can find me in the office, where I act as Assistant Director. Please do come by and say hello! 

 

In my spare time, I like to get creative, drawing, painting and making party decorations are some of my favorite things to do. I am very much looking forward to this jam-packed academic year and all of the fun that we will have along the way!

Franco Rodriguez
Curriculum Coordinator
Master of Education, University of Northern Colorado, USA
Bachelor of Science, Colorado State University, USA;

Hola!  My name is Franco Rodriguez and I am very excited to work with ISLA Academy.  I am from Colorado in the United States, but most recently, I worked in Shanghai, China, where I taught in IB-PYP international schools for five years.  Prior to China, I lived in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam for two years where I taught in an IB-PYP candidate international school, and in Seoul, South Korea teaching at an English language school for one year.

 

My IB-PYP experience has been extensive and rewarding.  I really believe in the IB-PYP curriculum as it promotes the development of each student’s intellectual, emotional, social, and physical self.  Students will inevitably become caring, active, life-long global learners.  IB-PYP uses an inquiry-based approach to teaching and learning that encourages students to think about their prior knowledge, ask questions, find out new information, sort that information, decide how they can further their knowledge or skill acquisition, reflect on what they have learned, and take action with local or global issues.  

 

My experience with the IB-PYP curriculum includes planning and collaboration with teachers and administrators both in the school and at various regional conferences and professional development opportunities.  I have attended IB-PYP sanctioned conferences on Concept-Based Learning, Language in the Classroom, the beginner course called Making the PYP Happen, Assessment, Transdisciplinary Learning, and other non-PYP sanctioned conferences such as Differentiation in the Classroom.  At each of these, I was able to meet other PYP teachers in China and across Asia, discuss how they interpret the PYP teaching and learning, and gain resources and ideas of how to implement PYP in the classroom.

 

In addition to my experience inside of schools, I have tried to use my free time in creative and helpful ways in my community.  I volunteered at orphanages in South Korea and Vietnam teaching students about music and reading to them.  In Shanghai, I helped form a folk band, wrote many songs in five years, and played for many audiences surrounding Shanghai and Beijing.  With that band, we toured Mongolia and stopped in at orphanages and shared our musical experiences with them as well. 

 

Nykia Blue
Director of Finance
Bachelor of Science in Accounting, Dillard University

 

 

Hello! My name is Nykia Blue. I was born and raised in New Orleans, LA, where I studied at Dillard University, earning a bachelor of science in accounting. I have been married to my wonderful husband for 20 years and our daughter is thriving at ISLA Academy. I enjoy spending time with family and friends, relaxing on the beach, and cooking Cajun/creole cuisine, inspired by my lovely hometown.

 

I am a successful accounting and finance professional with 15+ years of experience, more than 10 of those years in the education industry. I have been effectively involved in the start-up of a charter school in New Orleans, LA that grew to four schools during my time there, where I was the Director of Finance. I then moved to Atlanta, GA as the Controller for a cluster of nine KIPP Metro Atlanta Charter Schools, where I ran the finance and accounting department. After 4 years in Atlanta, my husband and I decided to move our family to the north coast of Dominican Republic for a change of life, culture, and experiences, especially for our daughter. During our research and visits, we fell in love with ISLA Academy and decided to make this our home.

 

Although I work behind the scenes, and not directly with the students, I always have the student’s best interest at the top of every financial decision that needs to be made. I believe in ISLA, its mission and vision, and our students and families. I look forward to seeing and working with all of you.

 
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Rachael Baker de Soler
Director of Primary
Teacher - Phase 3 (Grades 3rd and 4th)
Bachelor of Arts, Primary Education, Birmingham City University, England

Hello. My name is Rachael Baker de Soler. I am originally from England. I knew from an

early age that I wanted to be a teacher, so after college I went on to attend university. I went on to gain a BA (Honors) degree in Primary Education specializing in Early Years in 2009. I taught in a range of schools, and have experience teaching children from 2– 11 years old. For our family holidays, we usually stayed close to home and visited Spain, Portugal, or one of the Balearic or Canary islands. This was until one day my mum saw an offer in the

travel agent’s window that she couldn’t pass up. Our first vacation to Dominican

Republic was back in 2006. There was a special charm about this small Caribbean

island that inspired me to return, which I did for many years until together with my identical twin I took the plunge and moved to Cabarete at the end of 2011.

 

With only what we could fit into a suitcase we flew 9 hours, over 4,300 miles from home to see where Caribbean life would take us. After only a month I began working at an international school here on the North Coast. I was a third-grade homeroom teacher for four and a half years. During that time I got married and my husband

and I welcomed our three beautiful children who are a true blessing. Our eldest daughter is seven and is inquisitive, with such a desire to learn about the world around her. Our son is five years old, he is an active, kind, and enthusiastic boy who loves being outdoors. He is so excited about learning new things every day. Our third child, Amelia, is calm and content. She is a very active and independent three year old. She does not let the others leave her behind and is always right up front to be a part of the fun. We live in Cabarete and have four dogs.

 

I am so thrilled that they have the opportunity to have such a hands-on, child-

centered education, such as is offered here at ISLA. I am a firm believer that children learn by ‘doing’ therefore I believe that using inquiry to allow children to ask and answer questions about the world around them is a fantastic way to engage children and help them to learn2love2learn.

 

 Last year saw many changes to education across the world and I can proudly say that we, at ISLA Academy, led the way for other facilitators, in developing our model to continue to offer high quality education to our students. I am very much looking forward to this next academic year, my sixth year teaching at ISLA Academy.

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Dr. Shala Lamothe, Ed.D.
Director of STEM
Technology Coordinator
Doctorate of Education in Education Leadership & STEM, Liberty University, USA
Master of Science in Education, Southern New Hampshire University, USA
Bachelor of Science in Accounting, Colorado Technical University, USA

Growing up with a teacher parent, I learned the value of education at an early age. I also learned the difference a passionate teacher can make in the lives of their students. I began my career as a Pre-K teacher and had the privilege of moving up with my class from Pre-K to Kindergarten to 1st grade. I stayed in the first grade for a couple of years before moving onto a 2-4th grade combined classroom. After an unexpected life change, I took a job as an accounting manager for the US Air Force. Soon after earning my Bachelor of Science in Accounting, though, the base shut down, and the private school my children attended offered me a job teaching middle school (6th -8th grades) mathematics and science. My passion for teaching was re-ignited and I have not left the classroom since.

 

After 4 years there, I was asked to follow my principal to help develop a school

specifically designed for the special academic needs of foster and group home

teenagers. For three years, I taught middle school mathematics and science. After earning my Master of Education (M.Ed.), I was moved to the high school where I taught mathematics, science, and American Sign Language. As the school grew, more teachers were added, and I was able to focus on developing and teaching only the high school sciences (physical science, environmental science, biology, and chemistry).

 

After earning my Doctorate of Education in Leadership (Ed.D.), I was given administrative responsibilities, such as testing coordinator, teacher evaluations, curriculum development and professional development. For 10 years, I also taught American Sign Language to adults at a community college. 

 

I joined the ISLA family in Fall of 2018 and absolutely love everything about it.  I am a strong advocate of hands-on, inquiry-based learning and love to involve my students in a variety of community service, problem-solving, and technology-infused activities that provide them opportunities to use their skills to help others and our planet. By building positive relationships in a safe learning environment I strive to help students reach their full potential and challenge them to always work towards higher goals.

My first science textbook, Green Chemistry Lab Manual, was published in August of 2019 with the middle school equivalent published early summer of 2021.  Working with national science curriculum publishers in the United States, I have several project-based learning elementary, middle & high school science units published with many more scheduled for publication into 2021 & 2022. 

 

My husband, David, teaches upholstery part-time and pastors a local English-speaking church. Our son, Johnnie, is a graduate of ISLA Academy and pursuing a career in scuba diving.

 
Jonathan Vick
Director of Humanities
Master of Teaching Social Studies, Fordham University, USA
Bachelor of Arts in Journalism and Bachelor of Arts in History, Fordham University, USA
 

Hello! I was born and raised in Salem, Oregon but soon left the Northwest to live in New York City and study at Fordham University, earning a BA in Journalism and a BA in History. The next, and probably most profound, phase of my life came from serving in the Jesuit Volunteer Corps in Baton Rouge, Louisiana assisting homeless families and people recently released from prison.  After Louisiana, my next stop was Central America, specifically El Salvador and Nicaragua, to study economics, social movements, theology, and Spanish while building houses for Habitat for Humanity. Upon returning to New York City I spent the next year working as a counselor in an orphanage then earned my Master in Education from Fordham University. For the few years I lived in the "Little Santo Domingo" section of Manhattan while teaching at a predominately Dominican school in the South Bronx. All this paved the way for my move to the DR In 2007 to teach at the Carol Morgan School and Pontificia Universidad Católica Madre y Maestra.  After seven years in DR I moved around a bit more, teaching at the Columbus School in Medellin, Colombia and the American School of Asunción, Paraguay, before returning to the DR to teach at ISLA. Since being at ISLA I have had the fortunate opportunity of working with a highly talented group of educators dedicated to making the school the most challenging and progressive school on the island!

 

Laura Bencosme
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.