Cloud Forest School - Centro de Educación Creativa


Located in the heart of the Monteverde Cloud Forest in beautiful Costa Rica, The Cloud Forest School serves more than 200 students from Pre-K through 11th grade. We take pride in the fact that 95% of our student population are local students and that we are able to provide financial aid to over 75% of our student population. Volunteers, interns, and international students help to make our school community even stronger, while allowing us to serve students from the local community. Through land stewardship and education for sustainability classes, the school is continually working to accomplish its mission to create environmentally conscious individuals.



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Yes, I recommend this program

Coming in with little experience, I gained thorough knowledge of the rhythms of the classroom, and the work that goes into it. I got to work a lot with students one and one, and get to know them as well. I also saw the lead teacher in action daily, and visited other classrooms.

The school environment is unique in that half of classes are in Spanish, half in English and half the staff is Costa Rican and half from the US. It is great if you are interested in ESL education. Everyone was welcoming. I'm very glad I went.

What would you improve about this program?
I had to decide what I wanted out of the experience, and then act to accomplish that. There is not a set structure for what interns do. It is flexible and requires initiative.
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Yes, I recommend this program

The Cloud Forest School is one of the best schools that I have ever had the opportunity to work with. They staff is unbelievably dedicated to the students and in turn, the interns. The bilingual challenge for me, as a native English speaker with limited Spanish, really pushed me out of my comfort zone and forced me to grow as an individual and a teacher. The students were great to work with and were very understanding of the fact that I was learning to become a teacher. They were always willing to help. I am missing it everyday.

What would you improve about this program?
I really have a hard time recommending anything for change. Although it is true that nothing is perfect, the CEC runs an incredible school and the powerful impact they have vastly covers any flaws.
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Yes, I recommend this program

I completed a three month counseling internship after completing my Master's in School Counseling. This experiences changed my future plan drastically. I fell in love with the Monteverde area and the Cloud Forest School. I was able to enjoy the beautiful cloud forest everyday as I walked around campus working with students and staff. The support and acceptance I experienced from the staff made my time away from home very enjoyable. In a very short time I was able to develop a home away from home. It took me a while to become accustom to finding scorpions and other insects in my living and working space, but all my experiences have left me with some great stories. I was participating in a yoga class one day when a scorpion fell off the ceiling right through my hair and onto my yoga mat! I was able to remain calm as the scorpion was tossed outside and we continued our yoga class without much interruption. That is something I have never experienced before! Through my work at the Cloud Forest School I was able to see a positive change in the lives of the students I worked with. This is the best results of any work with children in my opinion. I am so grateful that I took a leap of faith and came to Monteverde for this unique, empowering experience!

What would you improve about this program?
During my experience I was able to receive informal feedback from my supervisor every week. I would have liked to have a more formal process for feedback and guidance in order to get the most growth out of my experience. This feedback could have come from numerous people including administrators, teachers, and parents. I believe in the power and importance of constructive feedback.
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Yes, I recommend this program

I loved every minute I spent in Monteverde. Working at the school with the kids and interacting with all of the wonderful staff members will be something I cherish and remember for the rest of my life.

What would you improve about this program?
More responsibility for the interns!
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Yes, I recommend this program

I loved working in the first grade classroom at the school this past spring. I learned so much about environmental education, bilingualism, best practices for reading, writing, and math, and how to manage a classroom positively. The staff and faculty at the school are so welcoming. The other interns and I would often find ourselves hanging out with them on a Friday or Saturday night for fun. I really enjoyed living with my host family and they did a great job making me feel like just another sister/daughter in their family. Overall, I could not have had a better experience. I miss my students, the staff at the school, and my host family very, very much.

What would you improve about this program?
I agree with the other reviewers that at times in can be very, very lonely. I was lucky to have five other interns with me when I did the program and we hung out a lot together after school. We also tried to go to Quaker meeting as much as possible, which, for only a few hours of week, gave us a break from dealing with the language barrier of not knowing Spanish very well, and thus allowed us to know people better. However, other than Quaker meeting, the Catholic church, and a few other Evangelical churches, the town does have very few options for religious life. Someone who is actively religious, but not Christian or Quaker, might find the options limiting. Over all, it's good to know that you'll be in a small town on top of a mountain and that the life you will be leading is one that is very rural and not like that of a big city.


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Alumni Interviews

These are in-depth Q&A sessions with verified alumni.

Leigh Yakubowski

Leigh Yakubowski is a junior studying Sociology and Education at Vassar College in Poughkeepsie, NY. She loves macaroni and cheese, running around in the mud, and working with middle school students because they’re the most sassy and the most fun. Her dream career plans include teaching writing and reading, owning some goats, and helping to research ways to make the U.S. public education system work better for students, teachers, and communities.

Why did you decide to teach abroad with the Cloud Forest School in Costa Rica?

As a Sociology and Education student at Vassar, I’ve always been really interested and involved in hands-on opportunities to work with students and gain experience planning and teaching. It’s always been frustrating for me that, as a college student, it’s really hard to balance a schedule filled with challenging coursework AND put all of the energy you want to into working with students in your free time. These “extra” programs were always what really inspired me and grounded my coursework in what I loved to do. After a short internship over winter break, working in one classroom with a mentor teacher for 3 weeks, I realized how much that kind of “apprentice” position helped me to grow and push myself with constant support available – not to mention the satisfaction of being able to focus ALL of your energy into one group of students and school.

The Cloud Forest JYA program is very similar in setup – you work with one mentor teacher all day, every day, and really become part of the classroom family and the school community. My school also requires me to do a credit of independent study while away, which has allowed me to push myself further in my interest in sociological research while simultaneously helping the school with larger issues related to school growth and improvement. My decision to choose this program was largely based in that mentor teacher-intern relationship, which I’ve found is an awesome way to step into and get TONS of experience teaching, as well as the opportunity to spend an entire semester just focusing on field work and my independent study.

What made this teach abroad experience unique and special?

It was really awesome to work in a smaller, private bilingual school – while it wasn’t necessarily one of my main reasons for choosing this program, being able to teach in English, with a student population that speaks Spanish as a first language, has really been an interesting dynamic. Also, my own Spanish has improved in leaps and bounds. Second of all, you're in the middle of the rainforest! That means we get to use the outdoors in our teaching a lot - it's not uncommon on a nice day to see all of the classes outside, in the forest, really utilizing the outdoor resources. I would also say that for my semester, there were only 2 interns – usually there are more, but I get the sense that it’s typically a relatively small group of interns. This allows you to feel less like just a student in a JYA program, and more just an important part of the school community; you become really close to all of the teachers and staff, and it’s just a really awesome, relaxed and supportive community.

How has this experience impacted your future? (Personally, professionally, etc)

This experience has definitely given me a really strong head start in student teaching, and it’s also been incredibly humbling in terms of the amount of work and energy that goes into teaching. It’s one thing to know that teaching is a difficult job, but it’s another thing entirely to experience it first hand, working every single day of the week in a classroom. Being accountable for your work in a way that just doesn’t happen as a student in college – at Cloud Forest School, putting 100% effort into your work each week isn’t an option, it’s an absolute necessity. I’m so grateful to have had this kind of head start in hands-on experience with such a great mentor teacher. Although this experience made me more confident in the classroom and my own teaching ability, it’s also taught me how much further I need to go before being confident and on my own in a classroom. This program also just pushes you to be more independent and self-sufficient in achieving your goals – it’s much less guided than anything I was used to, and you really are pushed to be creative and make the experience what you want it to be.

What is one piece of advice you would offer to someone considering teaching abroad in Costa Rica?

I would simply say, get ready to work your butt off (in a way that you never have before). This is not an experience where the “academic” aspect comes second to the experience of being abroad and exploring a different country – this program requires complete commitment to being in the classroom and working. You will meet great people, live with a host family, and do amazing things – and of course, Monteverde is a gorgeous place to live for a semester! However, first and foremost, you are an integral piece of your classroom and the school, and the work aspect can definitely be a challenge. This program is for someone who is ready to work and gain teaching experience above all else. Once you begin the internship, it’s honestly hard to find the time and energy to relax and let loose, and there’s very little time for traveling. That said, it’s been one of the most formative experiences of my life, and I feel like I’ve grown exponentially, both in my ability to teach and as a person.

Staff Interviews

These are in-depth Q&A sessions with program leaders.

Chelsea Henderson

Chelsea is originally from Atlanta, GA. She has a bachelor's of science degree in Mathematics and a Master's degree in Mathematics Education. She originally visited Monteverde, Costa Rica in 2007 and fell in love with the area and the Costa Rican culture. She has lived in Monteverde and worked at the school since August 2010.

What position do you hold at Cloud Forest School? What has been your career path so far?

I am the External Relations Manager here at the Cloud Forest School. I manage all our international programs here at the school, including international admissions (families and high school students), interns, volunteers, and volunteer groups. This is my fourth year at the Cloud Forest School. I previously worked as the high school math teacher for three years here at the school.

What is your favorite story of a student's experience with Cloud Forest School in Costa Rica?

I remember being so impressed my first year with two international students from the US who were here on their own studying in the 11th grade. The fact that they were able to leave home and come experience a new culture at such a young age, while really making the most of the opportunity, was really inspiring to me.

What does the future hold for Cloud Forest School - any exciting new programs to share?

The Cloud Forest School is expanding its international programs across the board. One of our newest programs, which we hope to grow and encourage more international participation, is our Summer Program offered in June and July. These programs allow for international as well as local families to participate in fun activities on campus, while learning Spanish and about the Costa Rican culture. We also invite interested adults and college students to participate in the program by volunteering or serving as a summer intern.

What's one piece of advice you would offer someone considering a program abroad in Costa Rica?

Come prepared to experience a different culture; that means be open to not only a new language, but different daily customs, cuisine, style of homes, and values. With the Cloud Forest School, you will be placed in a vetted homestay family, who have children enrolled in the school. These are great experiences for our participants who are willing to embrace a life that may be different than what they are used to.