Today's teachers abroad series post is one near and dear to me. Lural is not only a fellow teacher, or should I say director, at the school where I taught for over a year. But she has become a close friend of mine too. I get so many questions about how I managed to find a teaching job in Costa Rica as they are scarce, especially one where you aren't in a city and get to be close to the beautiful seaside! Future Verde is what some might call a tropical jungle paradise that offers sustainable, holistic, international standard education. Its definitely top notch. Read on to find out if teaching in Costa Rica, and possibly even Futuro Verde, is something you're up for:
KD: Tell us about yourself - who you are, where you are currently teaching and living, and more about your teaching experience.
LR: Hello! My name is Lural Ramirez and I am from the west coast of the United States- specifically the states of California and Oregon. I am married and have three amazing children. Currently, I live and teach on the pacific coast of Costa Rica in a beautiful, jungle school near the beach side town of Montezuma. I have been teaching for 15 years now. I worked for 10 years in the state of Oregon, in the United States. While working there I was fortunate to play a primary role in the re-imagining of a high-poverty, Spanish/English dual immersion school. I worked as the program co-founder and coordinator as well as a classroom and specialist teacher working with kindergarten, 1st and 2nd grade, all grade levels as an ELL specialist and I also worked as a Spanish professor at the local community college. Since moving to Costa Rica, I have taught kindergarten and been an assistant director, I am now the school director at Centro Educativo Futuro Verde, where I have worked for the past 5 years- a tenure that has taught me so much!
KD: What made you decide to teach abroad?
LR: My husband Alejandro and I planned our departure from the US for 10 years before we actually moved. We owned a beautiful historic home with a picket fence, owned 2 cars and were living the stereotypical "American Dream". But, I had this consistent feeling that I wasn't sure what "the dream" was but we weren't living it in the US and I wanted a change. No Child Left Behind (NCLB) was an education law passed while we taught in the US and as it stripped down the curriculum, pulling away all subjects except math and literacy, it was also making kids sit through endless tests. We felt guilty participating in such harmful policy as teachers and we felt very frustrated as parents. There had to be a different and better way and we were willing to go out in the world and find it! I was also getting very tired of the gray and gloomy weather and my only requirement was sunshine- we had to find a place in the sun!
KD: What’s it like living in your current country?
LR: Life in Costa Rica is pretty amazing! It is just such a beautiful country and I never get tired of the amazing nature that surrounds us. At home and at school you are constantly engaged with the natural world with howler monkeys, hummingbirds, blue morpho butterflies, iguanas and so many beautiful flowers and plants right outside your step. The school and our house is also really close to fun outdoor adventures. We love to surf, hike, swim, snorkel, visit the waterfalls and just lounge at the beach enjoying the sunny days we have nearly every day of the year. Quality of life here is really high, allowing you to have a nice balance between work and play! Costa Rica's economy runs on tourism, so people are tolerant of foreigners and the country is relatively easy to navigate.
KD: What do you love most about teaching where you are?
LR: Our school is just the best school in the world and the dream we all had of education when we first began in the profession! You are given creativity and freedom as a teacher, children are given a holistic learning environment and our staff is just the kindest and best group of people! Our school calendar is also really nice. It gives you time each day for afternoon personal activities and our holidays are divided up nicely throughout the year, so it gives you travel breaks at all different times. We also have a generous allotment of professional development days each year. So, you don't fall behind on current trends and professional growth even though you are in the middle of nowhere!
KD: What’s the most challenging aspect of teaching in this country?
LR: We are in the middle of the jungle and that close proximity to wildlife can take some getting used to. You might find yourself closer to a scorpion, tarantula or snake than you ever wanted to be! Thankfully you get used to the "neighbors", and even start to appreciate them, with time!
KD: What advice do you have for others wanting to teach and travel abroad?
LR: If you want to teach and travel abroad you need to throw your fears aside and just do it! However, some careful planning will make your experience more pleasurable. Specifically, I would highly recommend paying off debt from your home country before you leave. Having outstanding financial pressures will cause you stress. Also, there are so many different kinds of schools to work at and you need to make sure you match your preferences with the school that hires you. Your happiness will be based on how closely your expectations match your reality, so set yourself up for success and choose your country and school well!
KD: How can I teach where you are?
LR: Futuro Verde is a fully accredited, IB World School and we only hire teachers with professional teacher certification; TEFL and CELTA are not accepted in lieu of a degree in education or teaching. But, if you are a certified teacher with a kind demeanor and a sense of adventure, Futuro Verde could be an excellent match for you! Our school provides educational opportunities from preschool through 12th grade and we offer a holisitic curriculum, seeking specialists in the arts, environmental sciences, physical education and languages. You can find out more by visiting our social media or our website: www.futuro-verde.org, where you can apply online at any time.