Expat baby boom helps day school grow in San Juan del Sur

SAN JUAN DEL SUR—The cat is out of the bag. Nicaragua is no longer the hidden gem of travel, but a hot spot for tourism.

This positive exposure brings not only transient backpackers, but also those looking to relocate and embrace a lifestyle change. In addition to retirees and surfers, expats moving to Nicaragua now include families with young children. San Juan del Sur, in particular, has seen an expat baby boom in the past five years.

Julie Speier is one of those expats. At the conclusion of their road trip from Cincinnati to Nicaragua, Julie, her fiancé John, and their young daughter settled in San Juan del Sur. Recognizing the need for a quality English-language school, Julie, a teacher and education administrator, opened the doors to the San Juan del Sur Day School (previously Adventures in Learning) in February, 2009. What started as a half-day preschool with six students and two employees has since grown into a full-service bilingual primary school educating a diverse Nicaraguan and expat student body of children, ranging in age from 18 months to eight years.

The school’s primary mission is to develop inquisitive, knowledgeable and compassionate young people who help to create a better and more peaceful world through understanding and respect. SJdS Day School encourages students to become caring and lifelong learners through a curriculum designed for critical thinking, open-mindedness, cultural understanding and sustainability.

Following a curriculum of sustainability as designed by the International School Association and the Multilevel Curriculum Guide from the Nicaraguan Ministry of Education, a typical day for students includes exploratory play, group time, teacher-led work time, nutritious snacks, group games, and other age-appropriate activities in the areas of art, science, baking, math and dramatic play. Dismissal for the toddler program is at noon. The older group continues on with a healthy lunch, followed by recess, student-guided reading time, reading circles, formal second-language instruction, recess, work time, art, math instruction and more.

San Juan del Sur Day School has also had the good fortune to partner with many local businesses and organizations, offering field trips for students and parents. Comunidad Connect, a local NGO, recently arranged field trips to nearby Astillero for an intercultural exchange and environmental activity, as well as to the Carizal to learn how to make and jar jam with the women’s cooperative there.

Students have learned to make nutritious breads and pizzas at the artisan bakery Pan de Vida, which also provides some of the healthy food on the school’s menu. Family camping trips to the local beaches and trips to the National Zoo have also been great experiences for the students. The students visit the local library every month to check out new books and learn how a library works. In addition to classroom work and play, the school offers a myriad of enrichment activities, including swim lessons (with an American Red Cross certified water safety instructor), yoga, folkloric dance, sand art at the beach, and more.

The school continues to expand. Julie and her team aspire to grow with their students and plan to offer grades three through five in the near future, in hopes of eventually evolving into a full pre-k through 12th grade school. The school is also in the process of seeking both non-profit, 501c3 status, as well as accreditation in both the United States and Nicaragua. Julie also hopes to expand the school’s scholarship program to provide high quality English education to students who may otherwise be unable to attend.

To learn more about the school, get involved, offer your support, inquire about enrolling your children, or to explore job and volunteer opportunities, please visit http://www.sanjuandelsurdayschool.com/ or the school’s facebook page.

The school is currently seeking a highly trained, experienced primary school teacher to work part time in a multi-age English immersion class of 18 students ranging in age from 4-8 years old. Fluency or familiarity with the Spanish language is desirable, though not required. A minimum of a one-year commitment is expected. In addition to teaching, candidate will have the opportunity to study/improve Spanish, practice yoga, and surf.

The school is also seeking a full time Nicaraguan certified teacher to teach Spanish and Nicaraguan history and social studies. Applicants should submit a resume, cover letter, and two letters of reference to the school’s director Julie Speier at julieaspeier@hotmail.com.



  • Erik Jota
  • Rico Suave

    Great school for the wealthy foreigners, cant afford to send my kid there.

    • SJdS Padre/Dad

      I’m not wealthy and my kid goes there. But I am a foreigner so I guess you got me there. Some of the kids go to local schools then supplement with bilingual activities at the Day School. Student population is made of up Nicas, Americans, Canadians, and Euros. Staff is American/Nica/Euro. Some kids are on scholarship or get tuition breaks, you should inquire with Julie if you would actually like to send your kid there. Otherwise just STFU and stop hating on a project that is good for all children, not just expats. I mean come on, its not a casino or a luxury hotel.

      • Rico Suave

        Not hating on anything and yes I would like to send my kid there. Just pointing out the fact that 95% of us Nicas can’t afford your school, even with the tuition breaks. So its not a project that’s good for all children, just you expats. STFU to you too.