We hope that you will find some of these frequently-asked questions and answers to be helpful. Most of the responses are written from the perspective of Liam Starkenburg, Director of NCA International.
What is the make-up of the student body at NCA International?
In November 2014, NCA International enrollment totaled about 325 students. 55% of our students are Nicaraguan, 30% are from North America, 8% are from South Korea, and the rest represent a total of 14 countries around the world. Approximately 29% are MKs (not all from the United States); we have had MKs from Canada, South Korea, Peru, Mexico, Costa Rica, Spain, Honduras, Cuba and Guatemala.
What is the school calendar like?
Classes usually begin in the second week of August. Semester break coincides with Christmas vacation, allowing for about 3 weeks vacation. The school year usually ends during the first week of June. Details of the coming school calendar are found on the resources section of our website.
What is a typical day like for the students at NCA International?
Our school day begins at 7:15 and ends at 12:15 p.m. in preschool and 2:15 p.m. at all other levels. The preschool schedule includes 30-minute blocks of time throughout the day, which includes circle time, Bible class, language arts, math concepts, recess, and special classes. Most elementary classes have the core subjects in the morning hours and special classes (Art, Music, Computers, Library and PE) in the afternoon, although this varies by grade. The elementary break is for 20 minutes and lunch is for 35-45 minutes. The day also includes one Spanish period (50 minutes) daily, taught by one of our Spanish teachers. Preschool and elementary students have chapel on Wednesday mornings in two separate groups (PK1-2nd grade, 3rd-6th grade). The school year includes field trips, special activities, and programs for Independence Day, Thanksgiving, Christmas and Mother's/Father's Day.
Secondary students start off the day with a 10-minute homeroom and devotional time in small groups. This time is followed by 7 class periods of 50 minutes in the school day, with a 15-minute break and a 30-minute lunch. Required corer classes include English, Math, Bible/PE, Spanish, Social Studies, and Science. Students also have an elective class each semester, which include Art Elements, Art Applications, Publications/Yearbook, Domestic Arts, Alternative Sports, Weight Lifting, Core Strength Physical Fitness, Choir, Guitar, Youth Group Worship Band, Personal Finance and Business Accounting, Intro to Business, Drama, Public Speaking, Computer Applications, Web Design, Video Production, Accelerated Reader, Career Planning, Psychology/Sociology, Strategy Games, Health and Study Skills, among others.
Our school environment is very positive and relational. Students and staff feel like they are part of a school family and most students look forward to being at school every day. It is awesome to be working in the task of training and forming future leaders of Nicaragua, with an intentional focus on how they should be servant leaders and helping them grow in their relationships with Jesus Christ!
What is the relationship like between teachers and the administration?
Our school believes firmly in the God-given authority of a teacher in the classroom. As such, the job of the administration is to support and make possible the teachers' work of leading and fostering learning with the students. We stand ready to back up the teacher in discipline issues and parent communication and help carry out some of the logistics of running the school and keeping the distractions out so that teachers can do their work. We rely on teachers to carry out most of the classroom discipline, but we are ready to step in when teachers need someone to "handle" a case for them. We also know that it is important for teachers to receive feedback on their work and ideas on how their performance can improve. The administration will be present as much as possible to help our school grow and continue to move in the right direction! And we are strongly committed to the success of our teachers (and in turn, our students).
What technology is available in the classroom?
All of our classrooms have a desktop computer available for the teacher, and most of our classrooms are equipped with interactive whiteboard technology (Mimio), ceiling-mount projectors, DVD players and sound systems. We have one document camera and plans for more. We also have a projector and laptop available for all teachers to sign out. Some of the classrooms also have an overhead projector, and there are a couple extras that can be borrowed. We have two technology staff that help support the technological needs of teachers.
Our school does not issue tablets or laptops to students, but teachers may permit students to use their own devices for class assignments when appropriate. Students and parents can access our online database for homework assignments, grades, and other relevant school information. We are also using Google Apps for Education and Google Classroom for all staff and all secondary students.
What level of support is provided for new teachers?
All of our first or second-year teachers are automatically enrolled in our New Teacher Crash Course, a 3-day overview of the most important aspects of teaching -- curriculum, planning, grading, classroom management, and how to plan for success beginning with the first day of school. All of our teachers that are new to NCA International participate in a week-long New Teacher Orientation, which covers expectations for our teachers, curriculum, cultural awareness, the use of our school database, certification, faculty handbook and policy, and includes plenty of time to work in the classrooms and work on lesson planning. The schedules for both of these weeks is on the Employment page of our website.
New teachers are assigned a faculty peer mentor who meets with them regularly before school begins and throughout the year, providing an additional person the new teacher can turn to for quick questions and advice. The mentor system is designed to help new teachers become acclimated to the school.
Finally, our principals have a commitment to meeting with all new teachers for 30-40 minutes on a weekly basis throughout their first year, with the purpose of discussing classroom planning, management, parent communication, and specific challenges that the teacher is facing. Our administration is strongly committed to providing each teacher with the support and guidance they need to achieve excellence in their classroom!
Do I need to know Spanish to teach at NCA International?
The school is an English-language school. About 30% of our students are children of missionaries; 55% are Nicaraguan, and the rest are international students. All of our students speak English fluently (except for the youngest levels of preschool). You do not need to know Spanish to live in Nicaragua or teach at NCA International, but knowing Spanish makes life in Nicaragua much easier. We offer free weekly Spanish classes to all of our teachers at several different levels, and there are many opportunities to practice your Spanish on a daily basis!
Is there a church that has services in English?
Yes, there is. International Christian Fellowship (ICF) is an interdenominational fellowship of Christian believers praying, praising and worshiping together. This church family is what makes it possible for many missionaries to have the support and network of friends that we need to keep doing God's work here in Nicaragua. Although it is not part of NCA International, it was founded by the same people who founded NCA (Jim and Viola Palmer) and meets on NCA International's campus. Its services are on Sunday Mornings at 8:30 a.m. (early enough so that people have the option to go to other Spanish churches after ICF). For more information, visit icfmanagua.org.
What are the living arrangements for teachers?
Our teachers live in a variety of different housing situations, and NCAI helps make arrangements based on the specific needs of teachers. Many new teachers live in the Condominios Allyson apartments, less than a kilometer down the road from the school. Each apartment has a kitchen, eating area, and living room, and they come with security / guard services and a swimming pool. Most of the teachers also pay a small amount for domestic help (cleaning and laundry), which supports the local economy and allows the teachers to focus on the main reasons for which they came to Nicaragua. Additional information on housing options is available in the NCAI Expat Staff Welcome Guide document at the bottom of this page.
What is the salary, and what is the cost of living?
NCA International is a "Missionary School" that depends on teachers raising some of their own support to help cover their own living expenses, travel, medical insurance and other expenses. A monthly living stipend of $550 is given to teachers to help cover their living expenses, and a housing stipend of $170 is given to cover a standard living arrangement in the apartments. It is our desire that the needs of all of our teachers are met and that God will continue to provide for our school and teachers abundantly!
The cost of living in Nicaragua is much lower than in the States. Many teachers find that they can cover their food and other in-country expenses for less than $550 per month. We encourage all of our teachers to connect with a sending mission organization or their home church. This allows them to raise additional support from church, friends and family to help cover expenses such as travel, medical insurance, and other financial obligations.
Where do teachers buy groceries?
There are a number of different options for buying groceries. Neighborhood stores ("ventas") offer convenience, carrying a limited selection of staples like bread, milk, eggs, rice, and toilet paper within walking distance of where you live. Markets have a wide selection of fruits and vegetables at low prices. Most of our teachers make weekly trips to La Union or La Colonia, which are both modern grocery stores with fairly wide selections of both national and import products. Other options exist for getting American products, and although the prices may be slightly higher than in the States, they are often comparable.
Do I really need to commit to three years?
The short answer is "yes"! I would consider this one of NCA International's greatest strengths, and something that makes us different from so many other international schools. Most overseas schools are plagued with very high teacher turnover rates; many teachers only stay for 1-2 years, resulting in a school losing half of its teachers every year. This produces overwhelming instability that inhibits students (and their parents) from ever developing relationships of trust and closeness with their teachers.
Before NCA made a commitment to teacher longevity, I remember a student asking me (as a new teacher) how long I was going to be at NCA even before asking my name. He wanted to know whether it was even worth investing into getting to know me, or whether I was just going to leave at the end of the year. I believe this exemplifies how important teacher stability is to students. And if you ask teachers at other international schools about their sense of community, you will likely hear many stories about how the highly transient environment undermines a real sense of belonging, which actually further propagates the problem by creating more unsettlement and teacher escape mentality.
In 2005, with some fear and trembling, NCA International made a bold move to become one of the very few schools that dares to ask for a three-year commitment. It has been one of the best decisions we have made. Our average teacher tenure (1.9 years in 2000) has risen to 4.6 years, and our school community has been transformed. No longer are we a school where teachers are constantly coming and going; rather, we have become a place where a real community of stability and genuine relationships is being fostered. Students have begun to trust their teachers and seek them out as mentors. Parents enjoy having more than one of their children have the same teacher. And the school program grows much stronger without having to start over every few years.
This also means we are attracting a different kind of teacher. Rather than hiring teachers that are mainly seeking a personal international experience to boost their resume, we now have teachers that are primarily at our school because they desire to make a difference for the students. I always encourage applicants to remember that the teaching profession is not about the teacher; it is all about the students. If God brings you into our school, you will be joining into a real and genuine community of caring, committed and excellent teachers. I believe you will find this community to be radically different than what you would find at a school that has a much higher teacher turnover.
What is the application process? How long will it take?
Our primary teacher recruiting contact is Dan Van Zoest (firstname.lastname@example.org).
The application process is composed of three phases.
First, we need to receive your application, testimony and autobiography, college transcript, two professional references, one pastoral reference, and a 10-minute video that shows you teaching or in a similar context. Once we have all of these materials, we move to phase two.
Second, we will begin a question and answer session over e-mail. We will send you about three rounds of questions, awaiting your response after each round. This depends on the amount of time that you take to respond... typically our candidates take about a week to complete the 3 rounds of questions.
Third, you will participate in a video interview with two or three members of our administration and faculty to discuss any remaining points.
Following these three steps, our school leadership team will review your candidacy and make a decision, often within one week of the interview.
Is it safe to live in Nicaragua?
Over the past two decades, Nicaragua has been considered one of the safest countries in Latin America. According to 2016 data in The World Bank and a report from the United Nations in 2019, Nicaragua has the lowest homicide rate in all of Central America. The crime that does exist is rarely violent. According to a United Nations/Interpol study, Nicaragua has a lower reported crime rate than France, Germany and the United States.
Pickpocketing and minor theft occurs in Nicaragua, but this can usually be avoided by taking extra precautions when traveling through crowded areas and by not leaving valuables unattended. It is also unwise to walk alone through certain parts of town during the night. These are the same types of precautions one would use in any major U.S. city.
We also are blessed to be working in a country where there is strong support for the missionary work we are doing. We have not seen any hostility from the government or the people toward Nicaragua Christian Academy or toward the North American (or other) teachers that are a part of this school. To the contrary, teachers of our school are usually warmly received both in and out of our school community. Since 1990, Nicaragua has enjoyed a generally stable and peaceful social/political environment. While there have been some moments of tension or unrest, the days of Nicaragua’s civil war are long past.
I would consider Nicaragua (and especially the community where we live) a very safe place to live. Nicaraguans are very warm and receptive to North Americans. They are quick to reach out to foreigners and welcome them. At NCA International, we enjoy a strong bond of friendship between our Nicaraguan staff and our North American staff. It is awesome to celebrate our unity in Christ!
What aspects of daily life will I find different than in the United States?
Well, here I could probably go on and on (and on)... Life in Nicaragua is truly an adventure. Every day seems to bring its twists and turns. Some of the things that we get used to and find rather routine here are power outages, water outages, bus and transportation strikes, large and small and strange insects (although I will say that there are less "bugs" and mosquitoes in the air here than in my homeland in western New York), tarantulas, scorpions (okay, that´s not very routine, but from time to time it causes some excitement), buying food in neighborhood stores that you walk to, rainy season and dry season, volcanoes and earthquakes, pot holes, overcrowded buses, Spanish, and loud neighborhood parties on the weekends, to name a few. We sometimes have extended power outages and water outages of up to five hours at a time. Then there are the things that really surprise us! But I wouldn´t want to spoil the surprise.
Are there certain vaccinations or health measures I should take?
There are no immunizations that are required by the World Health Organization for travelers to Nicaragua. We recommend that teachers are up to date on their routine vaccines (such as tetanus, diphtheria, measles, mumps, rubella, and polio). In addition, the Hepatitis A and typhoid fever vaccines are recommended for all travelers. Malaria and Dengue Fever occur in Nicaragua and are transmitted through mosquitoes. There is a higher risk in rural areas, but they can also occur in the city. Taking malaria pills (chloroquine) is not recommended due to the low risk and potential side effects for long periods of use. The best prevention is the liberal use of insect repellant with at least 30% deet. Mosquitoes are most active during the morning and evening hours. Consult the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) website at wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/destinations/nicaragua for up-to-date information.
It is common for people traveling from a developed country to a developing country to experience Traveler’s Diarrhea, due to the adjustment in climate and contaminated food and water. Although Nicaragua’s municipal water is well treated and probably safe, there is risk of undergoing loose stools during a 2-3 day period as your body adjusts to the food and water here. If you do get sick, it is best to let it pass naturally if possible. Diarrhea is your body’s way of flushing out the bad stuff, so constipating medicines like Imodium-AD are not recommended unless you will not have close access to a bathroom. And be sure to drink lots of water.
Isn't NCA International a school for rich kids? Is this even a valid ministry?
It is not uncommon for people to look at our tuition rates and wonder whether this school is a valid ministry. Many of our students come from the emerging middle class and a few come from the lower-upper class Nicaraguan society. In too many people's minds, MINISTRY = SERVICE TO THE POOR. Certainly as Christians, we are called to meet the immediate needs of the poor. However, for long-term growth of God's Kingdom, it can't always be missionaries helping the poor of the world... it MUST be Nicaraguan leaders making a difference in their own country! "If you give a man a fish, he will eat for a day. If you teach a man to fish, he will eat for a lifetime." -- Chinese parable. It is our goal to train up tomorrow's leaders so that they will be able to lead the country with a commitment to social justice and a love for God and His people!
Still have questions?
Please feel free to contact Dan Van Zoest, NCA International Teacher Recruiting, at email@example.com, with any questions that you may have.