Dr. Gabriel Maldonado-Rivera / (Head of School)
Gabriel has been a professor of biology and education, school founder and leader, head of an environmental education NGO, and educational consultant for 32 years. Having worked in Puerto Rico, New York, Dominican Republic, Mexico, Morocco and Tanzania, he is excited to be in Costa Rica, and in such a wonderful boutique school nestled between the sea and the jungle, such as Del Mar Academy. Originally a marine ecologist and evolutionary biologist, he has done research coral reef fish ecology, on learning in science, on teaching in science, and on outdoor nature education. Having founded 4 schools in 4 countries, gives him a perspective and experience that he hopes to put to good use in Del Mar, as it moves to its next stage in its development. The father of three kids ages 14, 10 and 6 (the youngest of which is with him in Del Mar Academy) and joined by his wife Monica Marin, also an experienced school leader and teacher, he is excited to be part of the Nosara community and Del Mar Academy. In his free time he enjoys reading war history, political biographies, and natural history books, riding horses, or hiking and exploring the local forests and beaches. He hopes to pick up surfing (a passions he dropped 40 years ago) and again live by the sea his first love.
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VERENA CASTRO / (Associate Head of School)
Verena Castro has been in the education field for over 20 years. She started her career working at public and private schools in Costa Rica, giving her the opportunity to get acquainted with both systems; her responsibilities included the creation of school curriculums at the elementary levels. In addition, she founded Pedagogical Consultant Services, a consultant company providing support to teachers, parents, and school administrators on effective educational methods and school culture improvement. On 2002 as part of a new learning challenge she moved for two years to Boston, Massachusetts; but ended staying 10 years. In Massachusetts, she established and taught the Spanish Language Arts program for bilingual students, and the Spanish as a Second Language program for new students on the middle school level. Later she was promoted as Foreign Language Coordinator, designing the Spanish and French programs for all levels of Middle School. She soon was promoted to another leadership role, as a Dean of Students, emphasizing in the school's culture by creating a learning environment with clear and safe expectations for students and teachers. Upon her return to Costa Rica, in 2013, she joined Del Mar Academy community; first as a Learning Specialist and later as Dean of Students. Ms. Verena received an undergraduate degree in Elementary Education and a bachelor degree in Special Education from the National University in Costa Rica. Her master’s degree is in Educational Psychology from the University of La Salle. Now, she is finishing her next degree in Educational Administration. She has given seminars in Costa Rica and the USA about many topics, including "Teenagers in Social Risks", “Bullying”, "Differentiation in the Classroom", “Students as Leaders”, and "The Importance of the Game in Special Education”. She believes that all students can learn and achieve their goals through hard work and a motivational and supportive environment.
JUAN DIEGO ROJAS / (Business Manager)
Juan Diego Rojas was born and raised in San José Costa Rica. He earned a bachelor's degree in Business from Universidad Nacional, and studied Philosophy at the Universidad de Costa Rica. Juan Diego is an accomplished guitarist and trained for six years at Academia de Música Moderna in San José. He served as president of the Student Association while attending Universidad Nacional and worked in the credit department in Banco Popular de Costa Rica. Most recently, he represented World Vision International as a deal maker for social investment projects in Costa Rica. Mr. Rojas has written economy-related articles for the business magazine ´Centro de Desarrollo Gerencial´, and has led conferences about investment models and social economics for the Business School of the Universidad Nacional. In his free time he loves to surf, bike and play musical instruments.
LAIRD MACDONALD / (IB Coordinator / Environmental Systems and Societies)
Laird MacDonald grew up in Lompoc, California, surrounded by an extended family of teachers. At the University of California Santa Barbara, he earned a B.S. in Aquatic Biology. Upon graduation he worked for the UCSB Marine Science Institute for four years on research projects that included diving in Antarctica to study krill, and diving around offshore oil platforms to study fish. After hanging up the wetsuit, Laird earned a Master of Education in Curriculum and Administration from Deakin University. For the last 17 years Laird has worked at top International Baccalaureate (IB) schools around world. The countries he has taught in include the United States, Philippines, China, Venezuela and now Costa Rica. He has worked as an teacher, IB program coordinator, principal and school director. His passion for teaching comes from seeing students excited about learning something new.
ANGELA GHESQUIERE / (Administrative Assistant)
Angela is from Santa Cruz, Costa Rica. She holds a Bachelor Degree in Business Administration from Universidad Latina de Costa Rica. Angela worked approximately 7 years as cost controller for several luxury resorts destinations in the Guanacaste area. In 2015 she moved to Nosara and started a family. Angela is very excited to work at Del Mar and live in Nosara. Her interests include art, traveling, cooking, reading and going to the beach.
MARIA CHACÓN / (Data Secretary)
María, a San José native, came to Nosara over three years ago looking to leave the stress of the city behind, and found Del Mar Academy. She graduated from the University of Costa Rica in English Language Education and has taught English and Spanish for 25 years to different age groups. Before returning to Costa Rica from Canada, María was training public service Interpreters. She also enjoyed receiving training in Theater and Creative Arts. She is pleased to be working in a natural bilingual setting and to be contributing to a bilingual education project. She plans to pursue a Masters in School Administration from the UNED. She has also volunteered for 30 years in the areas of compassionate work, and creative arts, mainly educating low income children and single mothers. María loves the Nosara quiet mornings, the ocean, and classic literature.
JESSICA SHEFFIELD / (Sustainability Director)
Jessica was born and raised in Heredia, Costa Rica. She is a Fulbright scholar with a master’s degree in Environmental Resource Management. With her leadership DMA achieved the national Blue Ecological Flag award with 5 stars, the highest level of distinction. Jessica continues working closely with the local public schools and the community of Nosara helping them obtain and maintain their Blue Flags. Seeing an opportunity for the good of the country, she proposed ´Sustainables Homes´ in an entrepreneurial competition and her idea was adopted by the Blue Flag commision nationwide. Ms. Sheffield is the Vice President of the Nosara Recycling Association, a blogger for the Voice of Guanacaste and is currently writing environmental children's books. She aspires to lead Del Mar Academy towards being a world renowned institution by adopting processes and implementing curriculum with the circular economy model in mind, while empowering students to become conscientious future leaders who inspire change in the world.
ELENA GONZALEZ / (Business Administrator)
Ms. Gonzalez has a MBA degree from the Universidad Internacional de Las Americas in San José, Costa Rica. She worked for 12 years in different Costa Rican companies. After 12 years of experience, she started her own small business. She now coaches medium and small companies in strategic planning, budget and analyzing small commercial investment options and marketing. She has found her new business venture very fulfilling for it enables her to work at a different pace allowing her to share more time with her family. She loves the dynamic at Del Mar Academy and hopes that each constituent’s goals are met –students, parents, teachers and the community.
ALEJANDRO SAUTER / (Educational Technology /STEAM/ Music Teacher)
Apart from being a musician and our own music teacher, Alejandro has many different hobbies like surfing, music, electronics, basketball and more. He puts all these passions into the After School Program to make it very exciting and diverse. At the same time he likes the internet, social platforms and digital arts, so he is a great fit to manage the Del Mar web presence Technology Coordinator and STEAM teacher.