Your Costa Rica Resource

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Friday, January 26, 2007

The silence is broken

At long list I find the time, the energy and the wish to write something here. For those who don't know or can't remember, I'm a Norwegian doing the TEFL course in Quepos/Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica (I will use Quepos since that's where I actually live, though the course is technically in M.A.).

So, where do I start. I arrived in Costa Rica a few weeks back and spent a few uneventful days in San Jose (a city which is eerily remniscent of Cape Town in many ways). From there, I went to Quepos where I am currently staying (till approx the 10th of Feb). I started the course three days after my arrival in Costa Rica and so far it's been a good experience. The course itself isn't too challenging, really, but gives a lot of good ideas and build confidence for the actual step into real classrooms. Thursday - yesterday - was the end of classes and we're starting teaching practice next week, which will occupy us until its conclusion on Thursday the 8th of Feb.

The crowd here is mainly American, a large British minority and two foreigners, yours truly and an Austrian chick. In total we're around 35 people and the school is too small to efficiently handle the number, to be honest, but they have done their best and a good job nonetheless.

But as I already told you, the course isn't too challenging if you have an inch of backbone and some activity in your top floor. Which means ... spare time. Which means ... social activity. And boy there's been a lot of that. I'm a rather solitary creature so to handle a mass of strangers in the daytime and usually a bunch of strangers in the nighttime has been quite the challenge, but one that I've mastered. Even if barely. I've spent more time at the beach these days than I ever have before (that is, several hours), and there's lots and lots and lots of alchohol involved (and other substances) in the extracurricular activities. The TEFL class is very diverse and quite pleasant to spend time with, so I don't really mind much. I spent my first week in a backpackers here in Quepos, then moved into a homestay which is very, very good - cheap and excellent service. And Spanish "classes". So if you're going to Quepos to stay for a while, doing whatever, mail me and convince me that you're a nice guy or guyette and I might help you out.

Teaching practice next week, as said, and I gotta start looking for a job. A Norwegian teaching English in Costa Rica. Hopefully, over the next years, I hope to go to even more obscure locations. But for now, it looks like I'm staying in CR for the next half-year or so.

So that's pretty much it from me. If you have any questions regarding Costa Rica, in particular Manuel Antonio/Quepos, the TEFL course etc etc feel free to mail me, though I'm not the encyclopedia-ish fount of information Bruce & better half is.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Email Q&A: Certified Teacher Pay Rates at Private Elementary Schools

Hi Bruce,
I am currently in the US and am going to start in a middle school teacher certification program. It seems like I've seen ads from schools that seek Americans and require certification, and that kind of school might work out for me.

The thing is my adventuring days are behind me, and I'm pretty sure the salary would be a few hundred dollars a month. I get this from the Country Day School website, "Country Day School salaries are low compared to the U.S. and the cost of most imported items is high due to taxes." The thing I want to know is: How low is low? Are we talking $28,000 a year low, or $800 / month low?

I realize you may not know the answer to this question, but am hoping that you may know somebody who does. I guess when the time comes I can ask the schools point blank or post the question to blogs or posting forums, but right now I"m just trying to get the lay of the land.

Thanks for your interesting blog. I'm not an ESL person but I do enjoy your CR teaching life vicariously.

Asi que, adelante...

My Response:
Thanks a lot for the email - it's nice to hear that what I've been writing/doing is at least in some way helping others either make the transition or make the decision to do so. As for the salary question, in my experience, working for private language schools (such as the one I, and most people who are down here to work temporarily work for) will generally allow you to bring in 450-600/mo working a relatively full schedule (maybe 25 hours/wk). This kind of thing is fine for me, and others like me, because we are here on a temporary basis, and not having to worry about saving for retirement (yet), and having a bit of savings, makes living, and enjoying myself (travelling a good bit, going out, etc.) possible. That said, if you want to move to CR and live like an American and try to save money, it would be difficult on a teacher's salary. Again though, these are the private language institutes - I really cannot speak for other types of schools, but keep in mind that $5-600 per month is very good for tico standards (it just requires that you live more like a tico, and it's not easy to change one's lifestyle - it's been difficult for me). All that said, I don't want to dissuade you based just on my anecdotal information. If you are willing to devote multiple years to this, it may be possible to find work with larger more established schools that perhaps pay better. My advice is to keep doing what you're doing - research. Ask around, get various ideas as to what to expect, and base your decision on that in relation to your personal situation.

Hope this helps,

Finally, the reader asked the following:
Thanks for your reply. Please do post my question. Maybe someone who knows about the salaries offered at the Marian Baker School, Country Day School, International Christian School, or one of the other high end private schools will give us a reply.

Obviously, if anyone has any information regarding salaries and such at different schools, it would be helpful, if you choose, to post it on the blog as a comment. This is, after all, a collaborative effort.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Photos: Caribbean Trip - Puerto Viejo & Cahuita

Just added photos from Lisa and my trip to the Costa Rican caribe - 2 nights in Puerto Viejo and one night in Cahuita.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Additions to the List

John Hall emailed me last week making a pretty good point: although the list of schools appears exhaustive, the school he works at isn't on the list. Then I realized, neither is mine. So, to amend the list of schools, I'd like to add relevant information about the school John works at, ULACIT, as well as my school, Butler Academy.

As quoted from John's email to me, here is information on ULACIT:

ULACIT is usually considered to be the second best private university in Costa Rica. New positions open at the beginning of semesters, in January, May, and September. Only serious teachers need apply. I have never heard of this university hiring anybody illegally. Many of the teachers in the English Department are good teachers from Costa Rica; however, they have added a few teachers from foreign countries recently (like me!) and will probably add more in the future.

The current Director of the English Department is Mr. Jimmy Hernandez ( Due to their incredible workload, most Directors don't last that long; there may be a different one by the time you try to contact the present one.

Other nice things about ULACIT are: small but very attractive campus near El Caribe bus stop in Barrio Tournon, San Jose; benefits include the "thirteenth-month salary" paid out before Christmas, and social security; and finally, the fact that this is a university that really strives for excellence in teaching English. Some of the detractions are: the salary is just okay, not the best; intensive English courses can be pretty intense for teachers; expect up to twenty-five students in a class; and this is not a job which will allow you much time to see the sights around Costa Rica.

Okay, and now the school that Lisa and I work at:

Butler Academy, a relatively new school, has worked hard to find it's niche. It is not like most schools in the area in that we do not teach beginner courses. More specifically, Butler Academy trains/prepares Costa Ricans for the highly lucrative bilingual jobs at Call Centers (including Sykes, IBM, HP, etc.). What makes Butler unique is that it combines intensive English training with job preparation. All of the classes are conversationally based, and the more advanced classes concentrate on highly advanced topics such as accent reduction. Also, we do job interview activities as well as role playing activities that help give the students practice in "Call Center situations."

What I like about the school, besides that it pays comparably very well, is that 1) teachers aren't asked to travel around to business sites (all classes are taught at the Heredia location), 2) because of the advanced level of students, teachers can do more fun conversational activities rather than textbook teaching, 3) the students are, for the most part, highly motivated (they all have hopes of emerging from the programs with well paying jobs), and 4) teachers are encouraged to bring a good deal of creativity to the classroom.

Again, as far as I know, Butler Academy is unique in its focus, but it creates a fun, interesting environment. The school is always looking for new teachers as it is not on the semester program, but rather opens new classes as they are filled by students.

Contact: to apply, send resume and cover letter to Bruce Thomson -

Monday, January 15, 2007

Language Schools in Costa Rica

Below is an email written and a list compiled by a new contributor to the blog who has spent a number of years in Costa Rica teaching. This list has not been updated in a little while, but remains a fantastic resource for anyone moving here to look for a job. As you may have already read, it is very difficult to secure a job here without actually being in Costa Rica, so really the best you can do is research as much as possible. This list should give you a great jumping off point - places to email/contact, places to drop off your resume, etc. Keep in mind though, that while this list is long, it is by no means complete, so keep your eyes open for schools all over the San Jose area, look in the Tico Times for classifieds, check out Craig's List Costa Rica, and so on.
Also, I will be putting this list in a Word doc and place it as a link under "resources" so that it is easily accessed or you can download it by clicking HERE.

Finally, if you know of a school that you would like to add to this list, please just email me with as much info about the school as possible.


Over the last few years, I have received an enormous quantity of enquiries by email about teaching English in Costa Rica. It is now time for me to pass the torch on to others, to an extent. I just don't have quite so much free time any more to answer all of these emails personally.

I will still be maintaining my list though, and I have included the most recent version of it below. I am sure that some of the people who reply to you will be able to answer your more specific questions about teaching English in Costa Rica. Please mention my name as your source of contact information, if you decide to contact any of these companies. Also, please let me know if you find that any of this info has changed.

Don't be surprised if you do not get a lot of responses to your inquiries. Many schools are well aware of the fact that you may be considering jobs in Mexico, the Czech Republic, Korea, etc., as well. Generally speaking, you will be taken much more seriously once you are actually in Costa Rica.

Please note that there is only one telephone area code for all of Costa Rica, and it is 506.

Pura Vida,
John Hall"

Academia de Idiomas Escazu Escazu, a high-class suburb of San Jose -seems to focus mostly on Spanish classes(?) Tel.: 228-7736

Academia Europea Paseo Colon, San Jose -have branches in other Central American countries too. They teach English, Italian, French, Spanish, and German. They have quite a bit in common with Berlitz, their main rival, including low pay for their teachers. May be a good option for travellers without teaching experience, or those who want to teach and travel through Central America. Tels.: 248-2360, 248-2221, 248-1214.

Academia New Learning Guadelupe, a suburb of San Jose -Business & conversational English. They are a fairly new private language institute. Tel.: 283-385

Colegio Internacional SOS Santa Ana (east of Escazu) -teach special needs children. Sorry that I don't have any more info on them, but I have heard that they don't hire many foreigners.

Camlex Barrio Dent (between San Jose and San Pedro) -private language institute. Have hired some foreigners in the past. Pay is very low, but they have an interesting program for their students that involves classes as well as various social activities in English. Sorry, I don't have contact info on them at this moment.

Centro Cultural Costarricense Norteamericano Barrio Dent & La Sabana (eastern and western sides of San Jose) -reputable language institute that is part of a long-established and respected culture & art center. Kids & adults. Holds a national conference of English teachers once a year. Has good academic standards, but low salary. Provides work visa. Requires all teachers to go through its own training program first, which the teacher has to pay for. Tel.: 207-7500 Fax: 224-1480

Centro Linguistica Conversa Paseo Colon, on the western side of San Jose -language institute. Intensive and semi-intensive courses. Apparently good academic standards. Low pay. Tel.: 221-7649 Fax: 233-2418

English Academy of Costa Rica Paseo Colon, on the western side of San Jose -company classes. Competitive salary, but has low academic standards, and is poorly administered. Tel.: 256-7556

ESP, English for Special Purposes Rohrmoser (western San Jose) -Business English. For 18 years now, Heidi Smith and Bonnie Brown have been teaching English to professionals here in San Jose. Undoubtedly, they have the highest standards of professionalism of anybody in town. You usually need to have a Master's degree to work for them, and you must be legally eligible to work in Costa Rica. Sometimes hire teachers for special projects funded by the American Chamber of Commerce, U.S. Embassy, etc. Contact Heidi Smith

English Learning Centers, Universidad Interamericana Carretera a Heredia -mostly university classes, but also kids and company classes. Average 12 students per class. Full-time and part-time available. Only hire North Americans. Prefer experienced/qualified teachers. ELCs (there's one in Panama City as well) are private language institutes attached to this private university. Probably a good option for those wanting to live and work away from downtown San Jose. In 2003, the starting salary was 2555 colones per hour. I taught a few classes there in 2002 (before getting seriously ill and not being able to continue). The negative thing about working there was that management did not always have a teacher-friendly attitude. Good teachers and Academic Directors there in the past were fired for spurious reasons. In 2004, Sylvan Learning Systems took over the ELCs and it may be a very different situation there now. Tel.: 261-4242, ext. 261 (to speak to the present Academic Director) Fax: 261-3212

Escuela de Idiomas Berlitz San Pedro & Santa Ana (suburbs of San Jose) -local franchises of the international Berlitz chain. Adults, kids and company classes too. Low pay. You don't need training to work there, just good presentation. Tel.: San Pedro: 253-9191, Santa Ana: 204-7555 Fax: San Pedro: 253-1115, Santa Ana: 204-7444

Fundatech San Jose -very low pay, very large classes. Do you really want to know any more?

Idioma Internacional Now located near Hospital Mexico in La Uruca, San Jose. -company classes. Idioma Internacional is run by an energetic American, Brian Logan. To work for him, you must be qualified, experienced, pretty serious about teaching English, and willing to commit for a year. Training sessions twice a month. Starting salary was US$7.50 per hour (more than 2500 colones/hr.) in 2003, and was paid in U.S. dollars. I worked for Brian once and it was a good experience. He has sometimes had a short-term position available for a female teacher in a five-star Guanacaste beach hotel (room and board free, US$500 stipend per month)! Tel.: 290-1229, 290-1227 Fax: 290-1229 To find out if they have work available, contact Academic Coordinator Joy Blake at And check out their website

Ingles Empresarial Lomas de Ayarco, an eastern suburb of San Jose -company classes. Frequently looking for teachers. Often recruits through Dave's ESL Cafe. Staff do quite a bit to help you get settled in Costa Rica. Training provided. Has some classes outside of the Central Valley sometimes (e.g., Guapiles). Tel.: 283-0175, 272-2000 Fax: 272-4676

Ingles Individual Rohrmoser, a wealthy western suburb of San Jose -small language institute with classes of <6 students. Also does kids and Business English. Irregular hours for teachers. Easy teaching. US$4 - 4.50 per hour. Tel.: 231-7294

Ingles Sin Fronteras, S.A. San Pedro (eastern suburb of San Jose), Heredia -company classes. Damn difficult to get info on this low profile company! They used to go by the name "The New International Language Institute". Run by women only, they have classes in San Jose, Heredia, Alajuela, etc., and even some outside of the Central Valley at times. Salary is lower than at their major competitors. Tel.: 265-8084, 389-9157, 283-6137.

InLingua de Costa Rica San Pedro, eastern suburb of San Jose -language institute with <12 students per class, company classes. Tel.: 225-8758

Instituto Americano de Ingles and Spanish San Jose, San Carlos, & Siquirres -conversational English. Kids & adults. Company classes. For those of you looking for work outside of the Central Valley, you might want to phone their offices in San Carlos and Siquirres. Tel.: San Jose: 258-1482. San Carlos, C.Q.: 460-7570. Siquirres: 768-8284.

Instituto Britanico Los Yoses (eastern San Jose) -long-established language institute with good academic reputation. Does some company classes as well. Full & part-time available. Full-time is a one year contract with four weeks holiday. Split shifts. Semester system. Provides work visa. Pay is not that great, & if you work for them you cannot work for others. For those of you looking to get qualified, they do the CELTA (Certificate of English Language Training to Adults) course every January and July. Tel.: 225-0256 Fax: 253-1894 Send your CV ("resume", as we North Americans call it!) to the Recruitment Officer at

Instituto Cepia San Jose, near Plaza de la Cultura -same management as Instituto Shakespeare, so see that entry further down.

Instituto de Cultura y Lengua Costarricense Carrillos de Poas, Alajuela Tel.: 458-3157 Fax: 458-3214

Instituto de Idiomas GEOS Escazu -"flexible schedules, nice work environment, attractive compensation", they advertise. Escazu is a wealthy suburb of San Jose. Apparently they were set up by GEOS Canada, not GEOS Japan.

Instituto Shakespeare Central San Jose -teaches computers and English. Pay and academic standards are rock bottom. Tel.: 257-1415

Intensa, Instituto de Idiomas Barrio Escalante (suburb of San Jose) & Alajuela -this language institute is well-known for its 3-hour intensive English conversation evening classes. Good academic standards, but very low pay. Tel.: Escalante: 281-1818, Alajuela: 442-3842

InterCultura Heredia -private language institute. Good academic standards and resources. There are free dancing, cooking, and Spanish lessons. It has a "good atmosphere", one teacher told me. Pay, though, was lower (in 2002) than in San Jose: 1570 colones per hour for weekday classes, 1700 colones per hour for weekend classes. Must have degree and/or TEFL/CELTA. In U.S. and Canada, phone toll free for info: 1-800-205-0642 In Costa Rica, phone 260-8480 Fax: 260-9243 To find out about working there, contact

Natural Learning Corporation NLC Sabana Sur -the new age approach to learning English! Sleep learning, superlearning, etc. Teaches students, professionals, civil servants... well, anybody willing to buy into their unorthodox methodology! Tel.: 291-1123.

ProLanguage, Executive Language Training Zapote (eastern suburb of San Jose) -company classes. They hire almost all year round. Competitive salary. I have been working for ProLanguage (which is also known as Pro-English) for more than four years now, and have at times been regularly scheduled for over 30 hours per week. Phone or email Academic Director Damian Phillippe to arrange an interview or get further info. Tel./fax: 280-6053, ext. 11 (In Feb. 2005, this was still under construction.)

Sarapiqui Conservation Learning Center -volunteer position. Teach in the jungle! This one you do just for the experience of it. Sarapiqui is located in a heavily-forested area of northeastern Costa Rica. You will be teaching local kids in this remote small town. Lots of frog sounds at night! Regularly advertise on Dave's ESL Caf�.

Soluciones Idiomaticas Pavas, a western suburb of San Jose. -mostly company classes. Wilford Augustus hails from Belize and used to be a teacher himself. In 2004, he had about five teachers and was still expanding. Pay was good at 3000 colones per hour for company classes, 2500 colones per hour for classes in the office. I have worked for Wilford a few times and can say that he is a good person to work for. Tel.: 232-9710 This website has a job application form on it.

The English Institute Hatillo 6 (southern suburb of San Jose) -conversational English for individuals and companies. Tel.: 296-2613

Universal de Idiomas Avenida Segunda, San Jose -language institute. Does company classes too. Low pay & low academic standards. Tel.: 223-9662

Universidad de Costa Rica San Pedro I'm afraid that I don't have much info on UCR, but seeing as they are the best university in Costa Rica, they probably have the best English program of any university in the country. They may occasionally hire foreign professors of considerable merit. They also offer a Master's degree in Teaching English, which foreigners sometimes take.

Universidad Fidelitas Lourdes (near ULatina) A large private university. The only thing that I know is that they have an English program. They might be worth checking out. And if you find anything out about them, please let me know!

Universidad Latina San Pedro, Montes de Oca This is a well-known high-tuition private university located east of San Jose and not too far from UCR. Foreigners are more likely to be hired in the English Speaking Center than in the English Dept. The pay at this "private-language-institute-at-the-university" is very good for Costa Rica at 4000 colones per hour (in 2004). Inexperienced, unqualified teachers need not apply. Be forewarned though that students at ULatina get exactly what they want, and when I worked there, my students demanded my head and got it, apparently because I made them work too hard! However, the majority of teachers who have worked there have not had such a disastrous experience as mine. Most of them speak quite well of the program and its director, Cheryl House. Phone Academic Director Cheryl House at 207-6036, 207-6130, or 207-6037; contact her by email at

Universidad Libre de Costa Rica Barrio California (between San Jose and San Pedro) -small private university that started an English language program in 2002. At that time, they were doing some company classes as well. They were looking for native English speaking teachers, preferably experienced. Classes in San Jose and in Santa Cruz, Guanacaste! The latter is the cultural and transportation hub of Guanacaste, and is where many buses can be picked up to go to those beautiful Guanacaste beaches. The university was developing courses for the staff of the big hotels in Guanacaste. Most classes in San Jose, I imagine. Pay in 2002: 2500 colones per hour in San Jose, but classes in Guanacaste had transportation (and accomodations, if necessary) paid for as well. Speak to University President Carlos Paniagua Vargas, or Indra Calderon. Tel.: 233-8196

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Ole Larsen - Introductory Entry

Below is the first post from Ole Larsen, our newest contributor. As you will learn in his post, he is just about to start his TEFL training in Manuel Antonio:

It's nearly three thirty in the morning on the date of departure and I can't sleep. Not because I've the nerves, but because I've been going to bed at around four-five AM the last week or so. My flatmate just finished taking sexual advantage of her ex in the other room (they were less noisy than usual, thank God for small mercies). It's now approximately eight hours till I yet again leave Norway for a strange, far-away place.

I'm staring morosely at my latest enemy over the screen of my battered laptop. My suitcase. I'm almost there - 49 pounds when it needs to be 45-46ish. I don't know what more to leave behind, though. My giant teddy clown is going with me, come hell or high water. Even if I have to carry him. He was with me to South Africa, and just contemplating leaving him behind hurts a place deep in my soul. When all else fails, he is there, staring at me with those (literally) starry eyes and an eternal smile. As he sat smiling on the top of my book shelf in Cape Town, so will he sit somewhere in whatever lodging I end up with in Quepos. Or Manuel Antonio. I'm actually not sure where I'll be, because the TEFL information I have says Manuel Antonio, but the map they gave me shows Quepos and the building seemingly a short walk away from the village. Ah well, I'll find out soon enough, I guess.

There is little doubt that it takes a certain kind of courage for a young Norwegian fellow to start a career as an English teacher. The same kind of courage displayed by lemmings at the top of a long drop. To be honest, excepting the research I did on TEFL in general and TEFL International (the theoretical hosts of the Quepos/MA course), I did very little in the way of preparation. I chose a TEFL course provider and went to their web page. I saw Costa Rica and decided on it without further ado. I sent the application form and ordered the tickets soon after - three weeks before the start of the course. My clown sat smiling down at me as my fingers raced across the keyboard and the lemmings queued to be first off the cliff.