This Week in Costa Rica

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This Week in Costa Rica is a weekly, online radio program and podcast by US expat, Dan Stevens

Filtering by Tag: english teachers in costa rica

Where do English Teachers Live in Costa Rica?


Costa Rica English Teaching News  - One of the most common queries about teaching English in Costa Rica is the question of where a teacher will be living. It’s clear why this ranks high on the list. Among other things, when someone is thinking about a life abroad, they like to imagine what their apartment will look like and where it will be situated. While dreams of living on a Costa Rican beach and watching the sun set over the ocean every night might be realistic for some, it is not a realistic expectation for an aspiring ESL teacher. 

Ninety-five percent of ESL jobs in Costa Rica are found in the Central Valley. The few jobs that do exist outside of the valley are with very small institutes and teachers earn a very minimal wage or are actually volunteers. This is especially true in tourist rich areas like beaches, where schools do not have to entice teachers to come, and can simply take the ones who are willing to offer their services for little to no pay.

With this said, if money is less of a factor than comfort and surroundings, the available positions outside of the valley will suit you just fine. In addition to this there are more lucrative private school options, such as the Falcon International School just outside of Jacó Beach. These schools generally have great benefits and competitive salaries to institutes in San José, but are extremely competitive and available positions are far and few between.

For the other ninety-five percent that will be working in the valley, the options are plentiful.

San José represents almost all of the capital’s metropolitan area. However, once more acquainted with the area, you quickly realize that there are actually many different regions, towns and neighborhoods that have their own uniqueness – and Ticos will be quick to correct you for incorrectly calling an area San José that is not.
Case in point can be found with the airport. Any local will interrupt you before you even finish saying that the airport is in San José – it`s actually in Alajuela. So while living in or around the capital will be your most likely destination, in all likelihood you won’t be living right in San José.

With Cartago, San Pedro and Los Yoses in the east, Heredia to the north, and La Sabana, Escazú, Santa Ana and Lindora to the west, there are many great options for living. Where you end up should mostly, but not entirely, depend on where you find work.

In the ideal scenario you would be able to stay in a low-risk environment, financially speaking, such as a hostel while you carried out your search for employment. This way, you would be able to apartment hunt with a general understanding of where your school is located. While certainly not an end of the world scenario, the constant high volume of traffic and precipitation during the rainy season make commuting longer than necessary distances an annoyance worth averting if possible.

If the hostel option is not viable, most language schools are located in Escazú, Heredia or San Pedro so apartment hunting right off the bat in these areas would be safe bets.

In terms of cost, as a general rule the further west you go the more expensive rentals become. Santa Ana and Escazú, while beautiful and more ‘Americanized’ – especially in the case of Escazú – are expensive. The same goes for La Sabana, which is also extremely beautiful, centrally located and home to La Sabana Park, one of the city’s biggest attractions.

San Pedro is a college area with lots of Universities and bars. Rent is quite affordable and many younger teachers prefer to reside here. Heredia, located just north of San José, is the most economical option. Rent on two bedroom apartments can be had for little, but the downside for some is it is not as lively as other places and lacks things to do in the evening. Though, for some, this is a positive.

The San José area is where most English teachers in Costa Rica settle. Where they actually live, though, is usually not right in San José. The options are plentiful and diverse. A little research and exploration when you’re on the ground will serve you well.

If you want more information about teaching English in Costa Rica or getting your TEFL or TESOL certificate in Costa Rica feel free to contact Andrew at the Global TESOL College or email

Originally from Toronto, Canada, Woodbury is the academic director of Global TESOL College Costa Rica , a contributor to radio program This Week in Costa Rica (, and an independent writer based in Costa Rica.


CR ESL Teaching; Fake It ‘Till You Make ItFake It ‘Till You Make It


Costa Rica Teaching News - It was my first day of training for my first ever ESL teaching position. I was listening to the academic manager describe the school’s methodology, the student demographic and why the materials they used were the best in town. After concluding the generic pitch to sell the seven of us on why we should want to work for this school, the instructor said something – when describing what we needed to do in the classroom – that I will never forget: fake it ‘till you make it.

As is the theme when discussing teaching English in Costa Rica, the teachers subject to the majority of the focus are teachers new to the ESL world. The focus of my last column ( was on just this. The reason the Costa Rican ESL market is saturated with either inexperienced teachers or older teachers simply looking to enjoy life abroad – and using teaching as a means to pay the rent – is because the job prospects are not enticing for those with superior qualifications.

As a result, academic managers and TEFL and TESOL trainers accentuate the most basic of teaching skills in their trainings in order to best prepare their pupils before entrusting them with a live classroom.

Fake it ‘till you make it.

I thought he was joking when he said it; he was not.

While the words used in the message seem strange to new employees wanting desperately to make a great first impression in a hypercompetitive market, the idea is dead on.

Image prevails in Latin America. What occurs behind the curtain of a language school is best left as a secret. If an academic manager tells you “you don’t want to know” – believe him. Even the best teacher can be spit out and requested to not be assigned to a particular group again based on wardrobe alone.

Often times the best advice for any teacher in Latin America is to talk the talk – even if you can’t walk the walk.

In many cases looking and acting the part is as important – sometimes more so – as one’s skill as an educator. There is a certain appearance associated with an ESL teacher in Costa Rica and students can be quite fickle if you don’t appear to fit that preconceived image. Numerous teachers I used to work with – who were excellent, fully capable and qualified – did not find the kind of success teaching here as you would have expected.

It may be cliché, but the one chance you get at a first impression is even more prevalent in Latin America.

With this notion we find the inherent irony that is entrenched in the ESL teaching market in Costa Rica. In order to make it in this market you need to look, act and conduct professional classes as if you were a teacher stout on experience. This would be the expectation from the same language school that is paying you an hourly rate that would, under normal circumstances, not represent that type of return.

‘Making it’ in the Costa Rican teaching market means gaining student acceptance. Language institutes are client based and if a group or a client is keen on a certain teacher, you will be married to that group. Similarly if the opposite proves to be true, there will be no hesitation in reassigning you elsewhere.

If you are an inexperienced ESL teacher in Costa Rica, the best advice is: don’t let anyone find out.

If you want more information about teaching English in Costa Rica or getting your TEFL or TESOL certificate in Costa Rica feel free to contact Andrew at the Global TESOL College or email

Originally from Toronto, Canada, Woodbury is the academic director of Global TESOL College Costa Rica , a contributor to radio program This Week in Costa Rica (, and an independent writer based in Costa Rica.


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