School Faculty and Staff

The majority of our teachers are long-time residents of the community, both Costa Rican and North American. Other teachers come to us from the United States or Canada.  We highly value and respect our team members and work hard to create a positive working environment, resulting in a high rate of long-term teacher retention and a stable learning environment in the school.  We also have a strong volunteer program, and we generally post any job openings in January-April.

Aaron Katz

Aaron Katz– High School Math, 11/12 Homeroom

Aaron Katz most recently worked as a professor of mechanical engineering at Utah State University, where he has taught engineering courses and performed research. Prior to Utah State, Aaron worked for NASA, focusing on aerodynamics of helicopters and other aircraft. Aaron received his graduate degrees in Aeronautics and Astronautics from Stanford University in California and his Bachelors from Utah State University. Besides the rocket science, Aaron enjoys a number of other interests including outdoor activities, running, ultimate frisbee, baking bread, and hanging out with his wife and three kids.

Carlos Acuna

Carlos Acuña – Spanish and Costa Rican Social Studies

Carlos has been with us for longer than some of the buildings on campus, and is a beloved teacher, poet, cyclist, social activist and friend.


Erika Graczyk – Social Studies, Grades 7/8 Homeroom

We are thrilled to have Erika return to join us this year. Last year she served the school as in the lower grade classrooms while completing a degree from the University of Peace, and showed herself to be a warm, intelligent and very capable educator.

Evan Cantu-Hertzler

Evan Cantu-Hertzler – Science

Evan Cantu-Hertzler grew up in Philadelphia where he graduated from Germantown Friends School in 2006. He then earned his Bachelor of Arts degree from Oberlin College in 2010 with a major in Biology and a minor in visual art. Following graduation Evan functioned as a substitute teacher and athletic coach for soccer and track at GFS. He then worked at Greene Street Friends School as a teaching assistant in the 6th grade in 2012-2013, and was their teaching assistant in the 7th grade, and part-time Physical Education teacher in 2014-2015. Evan went back to school and earned his Master’s in the Art of Teaching from the University of Pittsburgh in 2014, where he completed a student teaching internship in science at Brashear High School in Pittsburgh. Evan has extensive experience as a youth and varsity soccer coach, in addition to cross-country and track.

Sue Gabrielson

Sue Gabrielson– High School English, 9/10 Homeroom

Sue has served as pastor of a Unitarian Universalist church in Maine for the past 15 years. She has also organized political campaigns, taught classes at the local university and served on many community boards. She has two master’s degrees and is in the process of writing her doctoral thesis. Sue has worked in higher education and has sailed three times in the six-month International Semester at Sea Program. Her daughters Grace and Ellie are now a 12th and 8th grade students at our school. She loves reading, walking, biking and other outdoor activities.

Amy Cherwin

Amy Cherwin– Grades 5/6

Amy has been drawn to teaching ever since the days of “playing school” in the garage with her neighborhood friends. A graduate of the education program at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Amy feels passionate about helping each student find success. She moved to Monteverde after volunteering here for just two weeks. Seventeen years later, she enjoys life alongside her husband and son (who attends MFS) and feels daily gratitude to be a part of this unique community.

Bethany Elmore

Bethany Elmore – Grades 3/4 Assistant

Bethany has been living in the Monteverde area since 2006. Originally from Georgia, she graduated with a B.S. from Valdosta State University. After graduation she came to the University of Georgia San Luis campus to work as a resident naturalist. She has also been in informal education for many years; leading the Adopt a Stream Program and working as a group coordinator for the Monteverde Institute. She also helps with reforestation activities and educational talks for the Bellbird Biological Corridor. Bethany has been helping at the Friends School since 2012 with English as a Second Language and is very excited to be working as the 3/4 teacher assistant this year. She lives with her husband Adan, and two fantastic boys who both attend the Friends School. They love hiking, bird watching, and dancing together.


Ellen Prefontaine

Ellen – Grades 3-4

Ellen is an American from a small town in Wisconsin. However, she has spent the last 8 years teaching internationally. Most recently she lived in Bucharest, Romania where she taught grade 5 for three years and in her 4th year and final year restructured the American International School of Bucharest’s gifted and talented program. Prior to that, she taught grade 4 in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam for two years at The American School. Before starting to teach internationally, she also taught grade 4 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA. She received her Bachelor’s of Science degree from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in Elementary Education.

Beyond primary education, she also teaches and practices yoga, loves the outdoors, hiking, rock climbing, snowboarding, and biking. And most of all she loves having time to read, write, cook, and spend time with her French Canadian husband Luc.

Joni Katz

Joni Katz – ESL (English as Second Language)

Joni is very excited to be teaching ESL at Monteverde Friends School!  She is a Registered Nurse and has a background in teaching fitness and dance classes for children.  Joni loves to be actively engaged in the outdoors, and trail-running is at the top of her list.  She has run several ultra-marathons, one of which being the Volcan Arenal 51K in Costa Rica!  She enjoys photography, dancing, singing, spending time with her family, and learning new things.  Joni looks forward to being a part of the MFS community where she hopes to help many children perfect their skills in English!


Marisela Lopez

Marisela López– Spanish and Costa Rican Social Studies

A daughter of two teachers, Marisella naturally loves teaching at MFS, as well bringing her own 3 children to study here. Marisella also studied dance at the National University of Arts and Sciences (“CUNA”), and lists dance, cooking and teaching as her passions.

Rise Hunter

Rise Hunter– Grades 3/4 (on leave)

Rise Hunter– Grades 3/4 English, Social Studies, and Math.   Risë Hunter has lived in Monteverde for many years and is delighted to be able to raise her family here and work at school grounded in Quaker Education.  She is a certified teacher who graduated from Guilford College in Elementary Education and Sociology/Anthropology.  She also has her Masters in Educational Leadership from Framingham State University.  Risë is a Quaker from the Baltimore, Maryland area and attended and worked at Catoctin Quaker Camp throughout her childhood and young adulthood. Risë taught elementary school in public and Quaker schools in the East Coast of the United States and taught in Costa Rica before working at Monteverde Friends School.  Risë was the Assistant Director (subdirectora) at MFS since 2008 and is excited to be working with children in the classroom as the third and fourth grade homeroom teacher.  She lives with her husband, Dario, and their two sons, Liam, who has just begun Pre-school at MFS and Joshua, a lively 1.5 year old.  Risë loves to spend time outside everyday.  She also enjoys baking, experimenting with new recipes, finding new adventures with her boys, watching the rain and sunsets and reading a good book with a warm cup of tea or coffee.

Zaida Villalobos

Zaida Villalobos– Grades 1/2 Assistant

Zaida is the daughter of one of the first Tico families who arrived to settle this area (before the arrival of the Quakers). She graduated from the public school in Santa Elena with a degree in Family and Social Education, then studied tourism and administration. She has worked in tourism and education. Zaida is the proud parent of two children studying at MFS, and loves children.

Adriana Cuevas

Adriana Cuevas Acosta– Pre-K, Kindergarten, Preparatoria

Adriana has degrees in Psychology from the Catholic University of Colombia and the University of Costa Rica. She has worked in the clinic psychological care area with children, youth and adults, as well as the organizational, administrative and personnel selection processes. She has lived for six years in Costa Rica. Adriana likes to do design, working with children, music and meditation.

Luz Marina Brenez

Luz Marina Brenes Pojas– Pre-K, Kindergarten, Preparatoria

A Monteverde native and graduate of the technical college in Santa Elena, Luz took various courses to get her diploma in preschool education. She has 16 years experience as teacher’s assistant in preschool, including an work exchange in Philadephia. This is Luz’s 6th year with MFS. She enjoys art, music, and walking together with her son and two grandchildren.

Melody Guindon

Melody Guindon– Pre-K, Kindergarten, Preparatoria

A daughter of two of the original Quaker settlers, Melody grew up in Monteverde and graduated from MFS. She began teaching kindergarten and preschool at the school in 1996, but has taught these ages in Monteverde for 25 years. Since earning her Montessori Teaching certification in 2001, she has been heavily influenced by the Montessori philosophy in designing and developing her classroom. Melody and her husband, Rodrigo, have two daughters, both of whom graduated from MFS and live in Costa Rica. Outside of school she enjoys hiking, bird-watching, and spending time in the forest.

Edgar Arce

Edgar Arce– Physical Education Pre-K – 12

Edgar Arce Lagos is professional Coach Educator (License C), with specializations in women’s football and male children and adolescents. He has been dedicated to training soccer teams of all ages for over four years in the district of Monteverde. In addition to teaching the sport, he has taught art for all ages. His bi-cultural family includes his son Jonah 10, and his wife Carla. Edgar likes football and cycling, enjoys music with his family, and spends as much time as possible outdoors.

Hugh Gray

Hugh Gray – Music

Hugh (Hugo) Gray Hyman was born in Puerto Limon, Costa Rica. He has spent over 35 years as an educator, specializing in music education. Hugh began his studies in music at Cuttington College, Liberia, West Africa, earning a Bachelors Degree in Education and later another Bachelors and Masters in Music Education from the U.S. colleges Lawrence University in Wisconsin and Northwestern University in Illinois. Although Hugh did a year of studies toward a doctorate, he decided the degree was unnecessary for his trade.

Hugh has performed as vocal and instrumental soloist and directed countless musical theater productions for school and community. Hugh and his wife, Phoebe, live in Santa Elena.

Melanie Martin

Melanie Martin – Special Education

Melanie received a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Minnesota where she studied Spanish, English, and Theater. After serving in AmeriCorps and working as a teaching assistant for ELL students, she attended Bethel University and received her Master of Arts in Teaching while receiving certification in
Spanish and English/Communication Arts. She has taught for eight years in International Baccalaureate schools at both middleand high school levels. Outside of teaching, she enjoys singing, salsa dancing, and
adores spending time with her two wonderful daughters who currently attend college. She has enjoyed traveling to Central and South America for volunteer service and is absolutely thrilled and blessed to be
returning to Costa Rica to join the MFS team!

Laura Gonzalez

Laura Gonzalez – SSL (Spanish as Second Language)

When Laura was well into her studies of Economics and Business Administration at the University of Costa Rica, she took a job that helped her discover her real vocation and joy of teaching. For five years she worked for the Regional English Language Officer at the US Embassy in San José, learning a lot about second language teaching and about the amazing job done by ESL teachers all over Latin America. Following this new career path led to a teaching position at the Centro Cultural Costarricense-Norteamericano for eight years, at bilingual schools in San José, at the Montgomery Public School System in Maryland, USA, and currently 2 years at the Monteverde Friends School. Laura has studied Second Language Teaching here in Costa Rica and also at the University in Cambridge, Massachusetts, where she took several courses on linguistics, English language history and literature, and second language teaching methodologies.

PiLi Castro

PiLi Castro– Art, SSL (Spanish Second Language)

I was born in San José in 1993. My mother language is Spanish and my second language is French. But how come French? At the age of four, I started studying at Lycée Franco Costarricien – the only French school in Costa Rica. I went for three weeks for a school exchange to France and then traveled to Switzerland, where I felt in love with nature. At 17, after discovering new landscapes and creatures, I wanted to be a biologist.

Thanks to my family’s artistic lineage, I ended up exploiting my artistic side. I developed not only visual art skills but others such as playing piano, guitar and drumming. I also consider dancing and movement as an important activity for my daily routine.

I am currently a freelance multi-disciplinary graphic designer whose delivered creative and engaging solutions across brand identity, illustration and photography. When I finished studying my bachelor’s degree in Arts and Visual Communication, I realized that I wanted to go beyond than just being a designer and working for other people. My experience and abilities to interact with children made me decide to begin a new career in art teaching. Now I see myself much more than a graphic designer or an artist: I’m a change agent who has the opportunity to open humans heart and eyes though my knowledge and art.

Rita Vargas Leitón

Rita Vargas Leitón –  SSL (Spanish as a Second Language)

Rita has worked at MFS since 2009. She studied basic general education at the university level, and also received several trainings for the teaching of Spanish as a Second Language. Rita speaks Italian, having taken courses in philosophy and spirituality at the International School Mistici Corporis the Focolare Movement, Italy. Rita’s two teenage children study at MFS, a school that she values and treasures. She likes working in the garden, making guava jam, and taking time to share with friends.

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Rick Juliusson

Rick Juliusson – Co-Head – Outreach and Development.

Rick brings 25 years experience in non-profit management and co-operative development, fundraising, and international development. Rick served as Executive Director of a Canadian NGO operating 10 primary schools and supporting over 100 post-secondary scholars in Kenya, co-ordinated community development projects in Africa for 7 years with Habitat for Humanity, managed an orphanage in Guatemala, and developed co-operatives in Sri Lanka and Myanmar, and . He is a member of the Cowichan Valley Monthly Meeting on Vancouver Island, and happy to be here with his wife (who created this amazing website) and two boys – both enrolled in the school.

Loren Thomas

Dr. Loren Thomas – Co-Head – Academics

A former Head of School at MFS, Loren retired after 30 years in public education where he served as teacher, principal, and superintendent, and for the past three years he was the Director of Teacher Preparation and Dean of Prescott College. Loren will complete this school year and help us prepare for a transition to a new functional structure for next school year.


Carol Evans– Business Manager

Carol discovered Quakerism in Tucson Arizona in 1977 where she earned her Master’s degree in Atmospheric Science. She has been living with her husband in the San Luis Valley near Monteverde since 1988. They have 2 daughters who attended Monteverde Friends School, and are happy now that their grand-daughter can benefit from the education at MFS. Carol is a member of the Monteverde Monthly Meeting, where she has served in various capacities – currently as Clerk.

Eugenio Vargas

Eugenio Vargas – Office Assistant

Eugenio Vargas grew up in San Luis de Monteverde. In the 70s he was a student at MFS, and three of his five children also attended this school. For over 20 years he has worked in administration of educational organizations including the Monteverde Institute, UGA Costa Rica, and now in MFS. His experience and bilingual skills, combined with the knowledge of local history, have allowed him to play a bridging role between different actors and organizations local and international. In 2014 he joined the team of translators of the book “Monteverde: Ecology and Conservation of a Tropical Cloud Forest “. Eugenio enjoys walks in the forest, a good book, and flowers. He has two granddaughters in Montana, a son at the University of Costa Rica, a daughter at Lewis & Clark, and a son who graduated from Earlham College.

Martha Navarro

Martha Navarro– Janitoress

Marta has been serving the school for many years, and is also the proud mother of a student who is graduating this year.

Yuri Suarez

Yuri Suárez– Administrative Assistant and Health Coordinator

Yuri is the glue that holds our school together – if it’s important and being done well at the school, she is somehow making it happen. Yuri is also the proud parent of several current or graduated MFS students.

Faculty and staff of Monteverde Friends School 2016-2017, Costa Rica