Meet The Staff

ITA Nicaragua Branch Staff


Everyone wants to know how we went from having a comfortable life in the Chicagoland suburbs, to living and working in Nicaragua.  Basically, like many of you, my wife Heather and I were both working professionals.  I in corporate America at an Audi dealership, and Heather as a public and charter school teacher.  I think there comes a point in many people’s lives when they ask “is this all there is to life?”  The daily grind, freezing grey winters, unappreciative administrators, 60 hour work weeks.  The list goes on.  The cliché, ‘living to work’ seemed like our reality. 

This all seemed to change in 2008 when we decided to take a trip to Costa Rica.  We brought a care package to one of Heather’s girlfriends from her parents.  One of the first questions I had for this woman was “What are you doing here?”  She answered “I just graduated from a TEFL school, and I am teaching English now.”  I, like many people, had no idea what TEFL was, and how valuable a professional TEFL/TESOL training can be! The next few days talking with Heather's friends would mold our future forever.  But we had no idea at that moment.

Over the course of the next 4 years, Heather and I planned to move to Costa Rica.  However, over the course of that time, I had a colleague from my old corporate life who I kept in contact with who coincidentally moved his family to Nicaragua.  He would tell me about what Nicaragua was like, how kind the people are, how safe it is (still the safest country in Central America.) how he started a business in Nicaragua, and obtained residency.  

This all sounded great to me and my family, as Heather and I would now be traveling with our 1.5 year old son, George in October of 2012 to destinations unknown in Nicaragua. 

Initially, we went on a scouting trip to check out Nicaragua, Costa Rica, and Ecuador.  However, after just a few months of traveling Nicaragua by chicken bus, and having intimate contact with the local Nicaraguan people, we quickly decided to scrap going to Costa Rica, and to just stay here in Nicaragua!  We loved it here that much! 

The rest is history, and in October 2013, we moved into the current location of ITA Nicaragua branch TEFL training center in Leon, and started our first class in March of 2014. 


Instructor at International TEFL Academy Nicaragua

Heather Smith

I am originally from Chicago, Illinois. I received my Masters Degree from The New School in New York City in TESOL, with a focus on curriculum design, and my Bachelors Degree (with Honors) from Northern Illinois University in Special Education.  I received my TEFL Certification from the International TEFL Academy-Chicago location. I first began working with students with special needs in the southwest suburbs of Chicago.  When I transitioned to working in the city of Chicago, I began to work with students with special needs who also needed support as  English language learners. During this time I began studying the science behind students needs when learning English as a second language, as well as language Acquisition. During my time working in Chicago, I taught mostly students of Latin descent. I was the head of a Special Education department as well as the coordinator for an English reading and writing program. During my time developing the reading program, I spent time interviewing families and students who had struggled learning English as a second language, and based much of my  research on that information.

Currently I am a EFL/ESL teacher trainer, branch co-owner, and director at the Leon campus of the International TEFL Academy Nicaragua. I actively participate in professional development seminars provided by the UNAN - Leon, Centro de Idiomas, Oxford University Press, and the United States Embassy. I will also be one of your instructors at the International TEFL Academy Nicaragua here in León. My family and I have lived and worked here in Nicaragua since 2012, and I look forward to helping make this the experience of a lifetime for you!

Anna CollettiHi, my name is Anna. I will be your morning instructor. I am originally from the suburbs of Chicago, but I have lived in León for over a year now. I received my Bachelor’s degree in Urban Education from the University of Illinois in Chicago with specializations in English as a Second Language (ESL) and Bilingual Education. During my time at UIC, I worked in a variety of classrooms all over the city of Chicago, however I focused primarily on working with students who’s native language is Spanish. Within my work in Chicago Public Schools, I had experiences in K-4 classrooms both monolingual and bilingual, and conducted research on transfers in reading and writing comprehension from students’ first language (L1) to their second language (L2). 

I moved to León, Nicaragua after being a translator on seven different humanitarian trips within the urban and rural areas of León. Shortly after moving to León, I received my TEFL Certification after taking the course at the León campus. Since receiving my certificate, I have taught English to adults at a private language academy and taught English to 2nd and 3rd graders at a private elementary school. I have worked at the TEFL Academy since September 2015 and have both observed teachers in training and have taught the morning part of the TEFL course. I really enjoy teaching and working with English teachers, especially in terms of presenting grammar and creating student centered classrooms. I look forward to meeting you all!

Hi, my name is Allie and I am the Academic Advisor at International TEFL Academy Nicaragua. I grew up in a suburb just south of Denver, Colorado. I graduated with a BA in Vocal Performance with a concentration in Jazz from Columbia College Chicago in 2015. During the fall semester of my junior year I was fortunate enough to study abroad in Bath, UK, which is where my love for international travel all began. After that, I went on to work as a student advisor for my school’s Study Abroad Department. I love talking with people about travel, international studies, and immersing oneself in a new culture - not only because it’s something that changed my life but also because I believe it is a crucial piece in making a well-rounded individual.

I wanted to continue traveling and learning about new cultures and when I was doing my research I found out about TEFL, which led me to ITAN. I took the 4 week TEFL Certification Course in February 2017 and stayed in León after that to volunteer with children in an orphanage. After my time spent there I came back to the States and now live and work in Chicago. I look forward to hearing from you all and hopefully helping you reach your dreams and goals of living abroad!


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