Our Team - Both Campuses
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.
Rebeccca Baker de Martinez
Director of Operations
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 and immerse myself in the local culture.
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 pre-school 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 Deputy Director. Of Operations. 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!
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.
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.
Arianny de la Cruz
Currently pursuing degree in Education, UNEV, Santiago
Hi! My name is Arianny de la Cruz. I am from Dominican Republic, born in Sosua.
I discovered my love for children and their learning at ISLA Academy when I got my first job as a preschool assistant in 2015. Since then I knew that was what I wanted for me. Currently i am a term student of Early Education degree, I have worked in several areas at the school, as a Spanish teacher, summer camp Director , nurse, librarian and after school program coordinator.
I like to work in our environment and to be able to help and collaborate in the education of all our children in some way or another.
Serenna Anan Francisco
Bachelor of Science in Anthropology, USA
Hey there! My name is Serenna Anan Francisco and I grew up in a small town in Northern New Hampshire. I have an amazing husband and a very funny puppy. I am passionate about my relationship with God and loving the people around me. I enjoy traveling and adventures, fitness, spending time with family and friends, hiking, music, tea, good (vegetarian) food, and life itself!
I have always had a love for people and culture, so studying Anthropology in college felt like the right fit! After graduation, I came to the Dominican Republic with a team from my church on a missions trip, where we worked with a school system here on the North Coast. I fell in love with the county and its people... And one person in particular, who later that year became my husband! We got married here in Sosua and that's when I moved from cold and snowy Littleton to this sunny paradise. Not too long after moving here, I got connected with an organization, Young Life, that works with middle and high schoolers. I started volunteering as a leader for Young Life North Coast and have had so much fun getting to know kids through hanging out, Bible Studies, and epic camps experiences!
So, while teaching was never something I pursued, it seems that I have crossed paths with it, in some form or another, for many years now. I have worked with kids since I was young and always enjoyed it. I have had many different opportunities over the years to work with kids that have equipped me well for teaching. I was a substitute teacher while in college, I've helped lead youth summer camps, I volunteered with my former High School's Drama department, I was a teacher at my church's kids' class, and I worked as a Personal Care Attendant for a young girl.
When I first heard about ISLA, I knew I wanted to be a part of their community! What started out as a volunteer position, turned into a teaching position-- and I couldn't be more honored and excited to be part of this amazing team! ISLA is truly special. And as an International School, it feels like a perfect fusion of my love for kids and my background in Cultural Anthropology! I am looking forward to an awesome school year of fun, exploration, and discovery!
Rachael Baker de Soler
Director of Primary
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 Baleric 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 six and is inquisitive, with such a desire to learn about the world around her. Our son is four years old, he is an active, kind, and enthusiastic boy who loves being outdoors. He is so excited about moving up to pre-k and loves learning new things every day. Our third child, Amelia, is calm and content. She is a very active and independent 2 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.
I am very much looking forward to this next academic year, my fifth year teaching at ISLA Academy.
Dr. Shala Lamothe, Ed.D.
Director of STEM
Doctorate of Education in Educational Leadership, Liberty University, USA
Education Specialist in Educational Leadership, Liberty University, USA
Master of Science in Education, Southern New Hampshire University, USA
Bachelor of Science in Accounting, Colorado Technical University (CTU), 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. Working with national science curriculum publishers in the United States, I have several project-based learning middle school science units published with many more scheduled for publication into 2021. My second textbook, Green Chemistry in the Middle School Classroom, is scheduled for publication in January of 2021.
My husband, David, teaches upholstery part-time and pastors a local English-speaking church. Our son, Johnnie, is a high school student at ISLA Academy.
Angel Vegoline Cuevas Ferreras
Masters in Supramolecular Chemistry, University of Salamanca - Spain
Bachelor of Applied Science High School Teacher, ISA University
Hello! My name is Ángel, a young teacher, born in Neiba, in the South of the Dominican Republic, and, in a few brief lines, I would like to tell a little bit about myself.
Since I was a little kid, I was curious to understand how the living world works. The equilibrium conditions that govern the universe; always called my attention and invited me to learn more about the issues inherent to it. Sharing this with others has been always my biggest satisfaction.
For that reason, in 2017 I graduated from ISA University as a high school teacher in applied science (biology, physics, and chemistry). In that same year, I joined the Liceo Científico Dr. Miguel Canela Lázaro as a biology teacher, a STEAM school located in Salcedo, Dominican Republic. There. I worked together with my students to take them to the next level, and today, they are known as one of the best biology classes at that educational institution.
In 2018 I received training in genetic variability and educational innovation in the Republic of Argentina, after having won the competition for innovative initiatives funded by the INICIA Foundation. At the end of that same year, I traveled to Costa Rica, where I worked as a chemistry and agroecology teacher at an IB school. Also, I coordinated the biology, chemistry, agroecology, Saturday science academy, and after school programs.
Finally, I decided to work on a master's degree in Supramolecular Chemistry at the University of Salamanca, Spain, which I completed in July 2020.
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!
Spanish, Phases 2-7
Educación Nivel Básico: Lengua Española y Ciencias Sociales, en el Instituto Superior de Formación Docente Salomé Ureña
Supe que la enseñanza es parte de mi, desde pequeña, ya que centraba mi atención en libros clásicos en mis tiempos libres, y luego contaba las experiencias que conocía a mis familiares, además impartía clases particulares a niños que desconocían el maravilloso mundo de la lectura. Estudié Educación Nivel Básico: Lengua Española y Ciencias Sociales, en el Instituto Superior de Formación Docente Salomé Ureña, ahí mejoré mis habilidades para transmitir conocimientos a otros mediante la capacitación continua; realicé talleres orientados a la educación española, la historia, y las artes, de esta manera las integro a mi clase.
Considero que el aprendizaje significativo se lleva a cabo de manera efectiva cuando se integran estrategias lúdicas a las clases, ya que estas dinamizan el proceso de enseñanza y crea afectividad entre el maestro y los estudiantes, ya que estos al mismo tiempo que aprenden hacen lo que más le gusta: Jugar.
Sanne van de Vliert
Currently pursuing a degree
Hello! My name is Sanne van de Vliert. I have been a student at ISLA academy for my two last years in highschool. The summer after I graduated I worked at the ISLA summer camp in Cabarete and afterwards started working at the Las Terrenas campus.
I am from the Netherlands and moved to the Dominican Republic in 2017. I had to choose a new school in a different country and was pretty nervous about that. However, when entering the ISLA campus I immediately felt comfortable there and also with the different type of learning than I was used to in the Netherlands.
Being a student at ISLA has been an amazing experience and I have learned a lot that I would not have learned at other schools back in the Netherlands. I also learned that I love to write & teach and got my TEFL certificate in my senior year.
I have taught private English classes and have been a tutor for almost three years now. I am happy to be part of the ISLA team, not only as a former student of ISLA Cabarete but also as the administrative assistant in Las Terrenas for the second year!
Julie Van Ackere
Bachelor of Arts, Primary Education, Ghent, Belgium
Hi! My name is Julie Van Ackere,
I was born and raised in the city of Ghent, Belgium.
That is where I got my Bachelor’s degree as a Primary Teacher.
After graduating I began as fourth grade teacher in a small rural school.
But after a year I started to miss the city life and I transferred back to a school in the city. There I was hired as a LAN teacher, which is the same as an ESOL teacher, but for Dutch.
After having my two children, I worked as a private tutor for several years.
In 2015 we moved to Florida, where we spend 5 beautiful years. Our children being in school in the great school in Sarasota, FL familiarized me with the US curriculum.
When our visa for the US expired, we decided we wanted to experience the real Caribbean life and settled on Las Terrenas, where a new school (Isla Academy Las Terrenas) just opened.
We have been here a year and are so happy with our choice to move to the Dominican Republic.
I am thrilled to join the Las Terrenas Isla Academy Team.
Bachelor of Science in Environmental Science, USA
Hello! My name is Jenny Christman and I’m very excited to be a part of ISLA Academy. I grew up in Maryland, USA but have been traveling ever since college when my first service-learning project took me to the Dominican Republic & Jamaica. Those experiences created a love of learning & adventure that opened my eyes to the amazing world of which we are all part. In college I studied Environmental Science but after graduation I worked in an elementary school through the AmeriCorps program and found my love for teaching!
I started my teaching career as a Kindergarten assistant and then taught Earth & Space science in middle school for 7 years. In my classroom I used the 5E Instructional Model, a student-led and inquiry-based method that promotes active learning. During that time I helped write curriculum, served as a mentor teacher and led professional development workshops. After taking a leave from teaching with the birth of my first child, I completed my Master’s in TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages). I returned to the classroom part-time as an ESOL Resource teacher, working with elementary & secondary students. I really enjoyed working with small groups & seeing the growth of each student as they simultaneously learned academic content & English while navigating a new culture. In this position I worked closely with my colleagues to make the content & curriculum accessible to all English language learners & also served as an advocate for each learner.
In 2006-2008 my husband and I served as Peace Corps Environmental volunteers in rural Madagascar. We lived with the local community, learned the Malagasy language and worked together to find solutions to their most pressing needs.
When our children reached school age, I realized that education is so much more than what happens inside four walls. I homeschooled them following a Montessori/Reggio Emilia approach and let the world be their classroom. Their natural curiosity and interests led to their own path of learning.
Over the past year our family has been on a worldschooling journey during which we taught English to students in rural Madagascar & volunteered at a children’s village in Guatemala.
I’m looking forward to working with the students at ISLA this year as they discover their strengths & interests and to inspire a love of learning!
Bachelor of Arts in Modern Languages and Secondary Education, Maryland - USA
Hello! My name is Aaron Christman, and I’m looking forward to my first year with ISLA in Las Terrenas teaching Humanities. I’m originally from Maryland, USA where I took my degrees in Modern Languages and Secondary Education, as well as state certifications in English Literature, Social Studies, and ESOL. I spent my childhood in the woods and farms around our house, and when I wasn’t out exploring and building forts, I could be found reading books on history, philosophy, religion, and asking lots of questions.
My real education began post-university as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Madagascar. I had the pleasure of serving two and a half years in the Environment sector with my wife Jenny, who will also be starting her first year at ISLA with the primary students. Living and working beside our Malagasy counterparts in rural Madagascar had a profound impact on my worldview. Whether working with local farmers to increase rice yield, with the community on reforestation projects, or with local school teachers to renovate a Youth-Cultural Center—every project required lessons in patience, leadership, and humility.
After returning from Madagascar, I spent the next nine years teaching languages and literature, from elementary to upper levels, public and private schools. During the summers, Jenny and I traveled as often as we could, this time including our children, ages 9 and 6, on our adventures. We spent significant time in France, Spain, Morocco, Martinique, Guadeloupe, and Costa Rica.
Last August, we decided that we wanted to take a year off and take our kids on a grand adventure around the world, worldschooling and volunteering as we went along. We spent several months working in the Loire Valley in France at a château, a colonie de vacances in Normandy, a school in rural Madagascar, and a children’s village in Guatemala. Like the rest of the world, our plans changed due to the pandemic, and we found ourselves looking for a permanent home. Fortunately we found ISLA, a school with which we share an educational philosophy of inquiry and exploration. I’m looking forward to an exciting year in Las Terrenas!