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This Guanacaste educational center’s mission is for students to enjoy learning

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This year, as in previous years, the IREN Renaissance Institute, a center that provides educational support options to students and their families in Tamarindo, in Santa Cruz, outlined a clear mission: for more children and youth who have different educational needs and expectations to love learning.

IREN is a non-profit association created to provide solutions in formal and technical education, including traditional and non-traditional subjects, and to promote science, technology and culture.

Shelley Huff, a resident of Playa Grande, began looking for a change for her 7-year-old son, Marley, after bullying at a private school in the area made him “hate” the experience of going to school. IREN changed that perspective.

He was withdrawn, he didn’t interact with other kids and he fell behind academically. COVID-19 and online education were the catalyst to look for an alternative. We found IREN and jumped on board,” Huff recounted.

Since then, Marley has received support that goes beyond academic performance. “My son has excelled. He is a happy and self-confident child, and he has a lot of friends. IREN made a big difference. He loves going to school!” added Huff, who says she is grateful to the institution’s team.

IREN classrooms are divided by age group, from kindergarten to 16-18 year olds, but educational levels are also taken into account. The team of tutors tailors the curriculum specifically to address the needs of each student.

In classes, the team of tutors evaluates the academic readiness of each student and also pays special attention to socio-emotional well-being, since the motivation to learn is greater when each student feels safe, protected and accepted.

IREN assesses social-emotional intelligence with the same importance as academic intelligence. When a child arrives at IREN, they stabilize emotionally. Only after achieving that balance do we focus on the academic part,” explains IREN’s director and founder, Sylvia Barreto Benites, an education professional with 30 years of experience.

A bilingual team of professionals teaches the language and techniques for self-regulation, self-motivation, and self-control. “Students are taught to express their frustrations and find solutions. They are taught to be proactive in stressful situations and to be kind to their classmates who may be in conflict,” IREN’s teaching program specifies.

Thanks to this focus, the tutoring provides each student with “the scaffolding to build their best version of themselves,” affirms Barreto.

An Extraordinary Teaching

The classrooms at IREN Renaissance Institute are full of visual, auditory and tactile stimuli for teaching math, science and languages. The educators pay attention to each student’s strengths and weaknesses in those subjects.

As a matter of fact, the teaching center has had to identify and fill the gaps that children and youth have in their formal education due to the interruptions that the COVID-19 pandemic imposed on elementary and high schools.

“There are students who were left behind because they lost reading or math instruction. We stop and address those gaps, no matter what age they are. That’s why IREN is a place where we study each person and offer them an individualized education,” affirms Barreto.

Classes don’t stay in the classroom at IREN: There are also sports such as archery and horseback riding. Photos: courtesy of IREN

Since it was founded in 2019, IREN has taken a different path than the traditional grading system. This tutoring center develops a system of points that each student receives for starting or completing tasks, for their effort and for good habits. They also receive points for correct answers, but that’s not the only priority, indicates Sylvia Barreto.

The student body enjoys two special classes a day, one focused on creativity, which can be theater, painting, music, dance and a reading club; and another on sports, such as swimming and archery. The learning center also offers horseback riding every week.

In addition, children and youth form part of four teams – called houses, like in the story of Harry Potter – to compete in educational and physical challenges.

IREN Is Committed to Empowering More Students

Three years ago, IREN cared for 20 students in two classrooms. Now, many more students attend this center, enjoying six classrooms and a teen campus, located in the 33-acre tropical forest eco-park at Black Stallion Hacienda.

Most of IREN’s student body is multicultural and they live in coastal towns such as Tamarindo, Playa Grande and Playa Potrero. During these three years, the center has also welcomed students from Russia, Japan, Belgium, Peru and other places. “We are proudly a multicultural community,” says Barreto, who reflects that diversity, being of Paraguayan descent, born in New York and a naturalized Costa Rican citizen.

Each student receives tailored attention in small groups of five to 10 people, whether it’s for academic classes or creative courses. Photos: courtesy of IRENPhoto: IREN

The institute offers different modalities: programs for students and families in transit, programs for those who choose an international educational option and primary and secondary programs.

IREN provides tutoring and educational reinforcement for children and youth who are simultaneously enrolled in formal educational programs, either in Open Education or Distance Education through the Ministry of Public Education (MEP).

They even offer accreditation and certification through West River Academy (WRA), a U.S.-based network of private schools that enrolls students all over the world. In addition, high school students can also select the U.S. General Education Diploma (GED), an international diploma that is accepted in Costa Rica for university admission.

Would you like to know more about IREN’s teaching methods and enrollment options? You can review more information on their website, send them an inquiry via WhatsApp 8729-4857 or email them at [email protected].