Alumni Newsletter Nº 4 – Summer 2020

Welcome to the fourth edition of this newsletter, which hopefully finds you safe and well and starting to get back to some kind of normality. Our teaching and learning here at the college has carried on during the lockdown and all of us are learning new skills and connecting with each other in different ways.  Three former Aloha College Marbella pupils bring their stories to us of their journey since leaving the college and have been extremely successful in their chosen paths, inspiring us to better ourselves and to always to follow our dreams.

Bernardo Espinosa Zúñiga (Y12 in 2006)

Bernardo currently plays for La Liga team R. C. D. Espanyol and has also played in the English Premier League with Middlesborough, as well as making the pre-selection squad for the Columbian national team before the 2018 World Cup.

“I remember as if it was yesterday, that day I had to make the biggest decision in my life: go fetch my dreams outside Aloha College. And this was not because my school couldn’t offer this opportunity, not at all. It was because I had to hop on a train that would only stop by my side once in a lifetime. I chose football, a risky beauty, the dream I guess most of us once have during our childhood, such a hampered pathway to personal realization, so much competition, so much effort and sacrifices required… I feel honoured, looking back 13 years ago when my professional career kicked off, there is no other grateful thought that crosses my mind, than knowing and thanking all of those values of perseverance, humility, aiming only for excellence, ambition, resilience and most importantly teamwork, that Aloha College’s environment inculcated in me. I was only a young man, when at 17 I left, with just one year ahead to finish my IB, to move to Sevilla FC as a semi professional football player, and now, 13 years after, I can say I have enjoyed every little piece of this journey that has allowed me to represent a number of historical teams, and to step on most of the main international Stadiums of the world and face the best of the best: La Liga, The Premier League, Europa League, wear the shirt of my National team… what more could I have ever dreamed of.

Wow it’s been a magnificent trip, but in football like in life, passion, consistency and full dedication for what we love and do is what allows us to shine. I started playing on Aloha College’s bottom pitch before we had that wonderful astro turf; big after school games against teachers. They were the ones responsible for developing and structuring our futures, but not only they succeeded in this, but ended up being special friends that have been attentive and involved in our progress afterwards. From the bottom pitch to making my debut in the Premier League at Old Trafford, sounds unimaginable still, but hey, dreams come true, and the best of all is feeling proud and never forgetting where everything started: Sr. Lopez, Don Fernando Cerezo or Mr. Wade are not that different from Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo or Ibrahimovic, are they not?

To all the present students, enjoy every step of the journey at Aloha, you will not only miss your friends, who will be your true best friends for the rest of your life, but also an honest community that will make you feel gratified and proud for having been part of it. “

David Peacock (graduated 1997)

David is now a pilot for EasyJet airlines and currently waiting to get airborne again!

“Upon graduating from Aloha College, my first stop, after a little R&R, was Sussex University, reading for a degree in Computer Science and AI. After 4 months, of what was to be a 4-year course, I realized that I had chosen the easy way out and was not following my dream, that of becoming an airline pilot.

I enrolled into flight school in South Carolina, where I spent 2 years training, and teaching students on light aircraft. However, during these two years, Europe created a Joint European Aviation administration that no longer accepted American pilot licences, forcing me to completely retrain in Europe. Now licenced to fly pretty much anywhere in the world, the search for a job was on.

My first job as a commercial pilot was flying a Cessna 404, a 10 seater twin propeller Airplane out of the British Virgin Islands. I spent 3 years flying passengers throughout the Caribbean. What an experience. But I had to start looking to the future, and become career minded, so I managed to get a job for a low-cost airline that had just started up in Hungary. I got trained on the Airbus A320 series, and went off to Warsaw as a co-pilot for Wizz Air. After 2 years, I got the break I was after, and got recruited by EasyJet as a Senior First Officer based in Milan. Four years later I was promoted to Captain, and in those 6 years as Captain I have had the chance to be based in London, Paris and now Nice, where we have chosen to settle.

Yes, there is a lot of moving around, and this career does require some flexibility in where you can or want to live, especially in regards to family, however the process reaching the final goal is very rewarding, and the thought of flying an airplane still thrills me today. My office window has the best view in the world.”

Fran Gómez Espigares (graduated 2001)

Fran is a successful businessman based here in Marbella, who graduated from Year 13 nineteen years ago.

“It seems like yesterday when I walked out of the main building, saying bye to Miss Susan across the reception desk after my IB exams. But this was 19 years ago already. Since then many things have happened. I studied Law and Business double degree in Madrid & Canada (6 years). Once finished, I came back to Marbella (2007), as its one of the best places to live in the world.  Started working in private banking as I believed it was my dream, but soon realised it wasn’t my cup of tea, so in 2009 I decided to start my first company, i-Answer – Audience response systems. I went to China to develop an electronic voting system for Schools and Universities (this system worked via Powerpoint and an individual remote control with 6 buttons A to F for multiple choice answers). Came back to Spain with an innovative product and a lot of energy, but zero experience and no help. Little by little I started introducing these systems into schools & Universities across Spain (Including Aloha College), until one day McDonalds rang my door and asked to rent this system for their AGM in Spain, as this system would collect all the votes of their audience in real time. Thanks to this, I got to know the live events industry.

In 2011, I met my actual business partner, a half Scottish half Spanish man who was also starting his own company, Visionarea 361º productions, a full service provider for corporate live events (Lighting, sound systems, staging, LED Screens, scenics etc.) At the time, Visionarea had 4 employees & delivered its services only in Madrid. Since then we started working together delivering top end corporate live  events worldwide for clients such as Coca Cola, Google, Mini, Audi, KPMG, EY, Novartis, Pfizer, Oracle, Cisco & many many more. Today, Visionarea has over 40 employees, 3 warehouses (over 5000m2), Madrid – Barcelona – Marbella, produces over 250 events per year & is recognised as one of the best events companies in Spain. 2019 was our best year ever. Hard times are around today due to Covid-19, but also new opportunities flourish. None of us could expect this, and certainly no one was prepared. Now it’s the time to work hard, be creative and keep fighting.  Keep strong!!”

Former pupils continue to visit us back at the college and it has been great to get them involved again in helping our current pupils. Thanks to Maxime Evers (2015) and Dimitrije Bogdanov (2018) who came back in the autumn term to talk to the MFL classes about the importance of languages in their careers and studies. We also had Alina Solotarov (2002) giving an online webinar to our Oxbridge applicants, in which a huge amount of advice was imparted about the application process to these top universities.  The Year 13 attendees were very impressed with Alina’s knowledge and experience. Little did we know then that online learning would become the norm for all our current pupils and those still in further and higher education.

We are always looking at ways to engage our alumni in the work of the college and wherever your journey has taken you since leaving us, get in touch on the alumni@aloha-college.com email. We would really like to hear from you.

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Darren Roth
Headteacher Secondary

Earned his BA(Hons) in English Literature from Cardiff University before completing his teaching qualification as a secondary English teacher at Swansea University. Over 17 years in South Wales, he held roles including Head of English, Head of Sixth Form, and senior management before joining Aloha College Marbella in 2012. A passionate educator, Darren finds immense satisfaction in students’ success.

His diverse interests extend beyond the classroom. Darren obtained his pilot’s licence at 17 through a Royal Air Force scholarship and continued training for years. He volunteered in the Camp America scheme, played water polo for Wales Under 18s, and taught children to swim.
Outside of his professional and athletic pursuits, Darren enjoys reading, cycling, and walking his rescue Yorkshire Terrier, Charley. A paddleboarding enthusiast, he finds joy in outdoor activities. Darren also has a flair for cooking and delights in preparing meals for friends. He holds a special affection for the Andalusian sunshine and seizes every opportunity to explore Spain and beyond.

Earned his BA(Hons) in English Literature from Cardiff University before completing his teaching qualification as a secondary English teacher at Swansea University. Over 17 years in South Wales, he held roles including Head of English, Head of Sixth Form, and senior management before joining Aloha College Marbella in 2012. A passionate educator, Darren finds immense satisfaction in students’ success.

His diverse interests extend beyond the classroom. Darren obtained his pilot’s licence at 17 through a Royal Air Force scholarship and continued training for years. He volunteered in the Camp America scheme, played water polo for Wales Under 18s, and taught children to swim.

Outside of his professional and athletic pursuits, Darren enjoys reading, cycling, and walking his rescue Yorkshire Terrier, Charley. A paddleboarding enthusiast, he finds joy in outdoor activities. Darren also has a flair for cooking and delights in preparing meals for friends. He holds a special affection for the Andalusian sunshine and seizes every opportunity to explore Spain and beyond.

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Louise Verinder
Designated Safeguarding Lead & Pastoral Care

Louise earned her BA Hons degree from Edge Hill University and went on to complete her PGCE. With a lifelong passion for sports, she always knew she wanted to become a PE teacher. She excelled, particularly in sports acrobatics, earning the honor of representing Great Britain. For fourteen years, she served as head of PE in Chorley, in the north-west of England, before embarking on what was supposed to be a year’s sabbatical in Spain.

Louise joined Aloha College in 2014 as a part-time teacher of PE. A couple of years later, she transitioned into the role of pastoral care, a role that she absolutely loves. Tasked with leading the secondary school’s PSHEE program and serving as the Designated Safeguarding Lead, she finds great pleasure in developing positive working relationships with teenagers, supporting their mental health and wellbeing, helping develop their self-esteem and confidence, as well as helping them navigate the challenges of life!
Louise is passionate about learning and developing her skillset. She is an accredited life coach with the ICF, specializing in working with teenagers. She has studied for a Diploma in NLP and has recently been awarded a Level 5 Diploma in Trauma and Mental Health-Informed Schools and Communities. 
Outside of teaching, Louise loves the simple things in life. Spending time with her family and friends, travelling, and spending time outside hiking, skiing and paddleboarding. She loves good food and she feels truly blessed to live in such a beautiful part of the world.
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Sara Dickie
Head of Key Stage 2

Graduated from the University of Plymouth with a BEd (hons) specialising in English Literature and teaching children in the primary age range.  For the next 17 years, Sara worked in large, central and outer London schools.  As a senior leader in the UK, Sara raised attainment and supported curriculum development across groups of schools in the local area and worked with the local education authority to provide training across boroughs. She ensured the success of school improvement in roles such as leader of English, Maths and SEND provision over the years.  Sara moved to Spain in 2017 and is currently our Head of Key Stage 2.  

Sara has travelled to many fascinating destinations across the globe and still counts travel as one of her interests.  However, she now spends more time at her rural finca in the Andalucian mountains than ever before due to the increasing number of rescue animals she supports.  Outside of education, Sara loves to spend time in the countryside with her horses, dogs and many other animals under her care. 
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Liz Keys
Teaching & Learning

Liz gained a BA.Hons degree in Scandinavian Studies from the University of Hull.  After her PGCE  she began her teaching career at a state Primary School in Barnsley, South Yorkshire. Her passion for teaching and her love of travel soon prompted her to take up her next role as a Reception class teacher at Bangkok Patana School in Thailand where she gained invaluable experience of working in an international environment. 

A desire to move closer to the UK prompted Liz to join Aloha College Marbella in 1997 where she has been a Key Stage leader in both KS1 & KS2. She is passionate about providing children with a Creative Curriculum which  provides exciting stimuli and first-hand learning experiences. Her interests are reading, travel and sampling different cuisines.
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Anna Sweeting
Head of Key Stage 3 and Enrichment

Completed her degree in Business, Accounting and Finance, then later a Certificate in Mathematics. Having worked in banking, accounting and education finance she started teaching by founding a tuition company in 2006 and lecturing part-time in a further education college. These both grew, and a decision was made to sell the business and lecture full time, while also leading GCSE Maths. Anna made the move to secondary education in 2015, then joined Aloha College in 2016.

Anna loves inspiring students to try new things and to grasp opportunities, you never know where they will lead! She enjoys performing in theatre shows and singing, but the most drama in her life comes from being an avid follower of Blackpool FC, a curse that she has passed on to her two sons.
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Jacqueline Brice
Head of Key Stage 4

Achieved a first class Honours degree in Mathematics and Physics from Kings College London before pursuing a career in broadcasting. She indulged her curiosity in the latest scientific and technological advances as a producer of scientific documentaries for BBC Radio and Television and then moved into fly-on-the-wall documentary making for Channel 4 with the police and the Royal Navy. Her broadcasting career has taken her flying through thunderstorms with lightning chasers in North Dakota, to crime scenes with the Metropolitan Police murder squad and from the aircraft carrier HMS Illustrious to Gibraltar by Sea King helicopter. 

As her young family took priority in her life, she turned her degree into a Post Graduate Certificate of Education and brought her family to Spain, where she has continued to share her love of mathematics, science and life-long learning with the students of Aloha College for almost two decades. Over the years, she has thoroughly enjoyed leading the Mathematics Department and Key Stage 3 and now she is working as the Head of Key Stage 4, hoping to instill a love for learning and international travel in our young adults and to encourage them to value a broad range of creative, analytical and communication skills.
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Ellen Richards
Head of EYFS

Studied at the University of Chester where she completed her BEd (Hons) in  Primary education, specialising in the Early Years. She believes there is no age range more exciting and inspiring with which to work, and feels fortunate to have truly found her vocation. 

Ellen has taught at international schools in Guangzhou, China, Bangkok, Thailand and London, UK, before joining the Aloha College Marbella team in 2018 where she is currently Head of Foundation Stage. Having attended international schools herself in Maseru, Lesotho, Yokohama, Japan and South Wales in the UK, Ellen feels a strong sense of belonging within our multicultural community.
Outside of work, Ellen is most content exploring all and any creative pursuits, be it in a rather haphazard way! What she lacks in finesse she makes up for in enthusiasm, and will happily while away the weekend with her sewing machine. 
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Elaine McGirl
Head of Key Stage 5

An experienced educator with over two decades of expertise in the field of science and education. Originally from Ireland, Elaine graduated with Master’s degree in Educational Psychology from the University of Limerick after earning a Bachelor of Science in Education majoring in Biology and Chemistry. 

Driven by a passion for understanding how students learn best, Elaine has held diverse roles in education, including lecturing and tutoring in educational psychology to undergraduate students. She has extensive experience teaching various curricula, including the International Baccalaureate, A Levels and the Irish Leaving certificate, providing her with a comprehensive understanding of various educational systems. 
In 2007, Elaine joined Aloha College Marbella, where she has served as an IB and A-Level Biology teacher, General Science teacher, and Head of the Science Department. Currently, she holds the position of Head of Sixth Form and IB Diploma Programme Coordinator, demonstrating her leadership and commitment to guiding students towards academic excellence and personal growth.
Outside of teaching, Elaine enjoys Irish dancing, Flamenco, and salsa. She can play several instruments from her days in a youth marching band. Elaine loves traveling, trying new foods, and spending time with animals.
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Anne Ross
Head of Key Stage 1

Began her teaching career with a Foundation Degree in Early Years from the University of the Highlands and Islands in Scotland. She managed and developed a Nursery School in the Highlands for several years and was very involved in raising the awareness and the importance of Early Years education throughout many schools in the Highlands and North of Scotland. Anne then furthered her studies, experience and expertise by gaining a PGCE at the University of Buckingham to further her career in Primary education.

At Aloha Anne has always been passionate about extending her knowledge and learning, she is currently studying to become a certified Well-Being coach. She is a strong advocate of student wellbeing, emotional intelligence and social development, these important life skills ensure our students emerge more resilient and ready to face future adversities. 
Even though Anne has lived in Spain for over 20 years, she loves to explore Spain’s rich culture and many hidden treasures. She is an enthusiastic traveller with a love for diverse destinations and learning from different cultures. Anne has always been passionate about sports and keeping fit and in her spare time she loves Crossfit classes, family time and reading.
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Emma Saunders
Primary Designated Safeguarding Lead & Pastoral Car

Emma has dedicated her entire teaching and professional career to ACM. A Saint Mary’s University London honour’s graduate, holding a Masters Degree in International Education from Oxford Brookes, Emma has shaped her career into a student-centric narrative. Her experience and research into “Third Culture Kids’, which recognises our students unique educational, international and Spanish experience, was used in crafting and developing the Primary PSHEE programme, facilitating essential skills appropriate to academic, psychological and emotional well-being.

Emma’s professionalism at Charity, is helping change lives for the vulnerable, in Málaga and Africa where ACM has initiated educational programmes in Kampala. Her work as a rapporteur for the COBIS ConnectED sessions is established and recognised. As a qualified Catechist, Emma’s Pastoral Care role is busy and engaging. As a safeguarding expert and officer, fluent in Spanish, Emma analyses the latest programmes, developments and policies, at national and International level.
As a former ballerina, Emma trained young dancers for school shows and Marbella events in modern/Irish dance, and regularly performed in her native West End. Emma also enjoys entertaining family and friends, however Tara the Afghan Hound as the newest member of the Saunders family, is the one who now steals the show!
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Kate Edwards
Headteacher Primary

Kate graduated from the University of Central England with a BEd (Hons) in Primary Education, specialising in the Early Years. As an experienced leader in both UK and international educational settings, Kate is committed to providing students with a learning environment that celebrates effort and achievement in both academic and personal endeavors. In July 2019, Kate, completed the Cobis Program for Aspiring Heads, before taking on her first headship with us in 2023. 

In her spare time, Kate loves spending time with her husband and three children. They often enjoy trips to the park, constructing Lego masterpieces, strolls along the beach and splashing about in the pool. When time allows, Kate also loves to bake.  At home you’ll often find her whipping up a storm in the kitchen. Rumour has it, she dreams of donning the iconic apron on the Great British Bake Off one day! 
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Víctor Ranea
Head of Administration

Víctor Ranea se unió al colegio como Business Manager en 2003. Lideró el proceso de transición entre la antigua compañía y la fundación actual. Como responsable del área de Administración, ha participado en varios Planes Estratégicos. Además de las finanzas y los Presupuestos Generales, ha dirigido los proyectos constructivos del colegio y contribuido en los planes de marketing así como en la implementación de nuevos sistemas informáticos del área de finanzas.

Licenciado en Ciencias Economicas y Empresariales por la Universidad de Málaga, Víctor Ranea es un apasionado del deporte, con experiencia en competiciones regionales, habiendo contribuido a la creación de los clubs deportivos del colegio. Un amante de los viajes y la gastronomía, así como de la música, el teatro y el cine.