fbpx

Who We Are

Na’atik is a social enterprise language school located in the Zona Maya of Mexico. We teach high-quality English to local students and immersive Spanish and Maya language to foreigners. Our name comes from the Maya expression “To’on Na’atik” meaning “we’re understanding each other.” We believe that cross-cultural exchange is the key to true understanding. It is only once we understand each other that we can see what is really possible.

Through our affordable, encouraging English language classes (Cursos de Inglés), we aim to teach students in the local Maya community the skills to visualize and achieve their dreams. Our English classes are helping students access well-paid jobs, study for careers like medicine, engineering, and education and to travel the world. Donations to Na’atik Projects, our U.S.501(c)(3) tax-exempt organization, help us keep English classes affordable and provide scholarships to bright, deserving students in our community.

Our Study Abroad Yucatan (SAY) program teaches Spanish and Maya language through homestay immersion and cross-cultural activities. We help students achieve their language goals and introduce them to the real Zona Maya (it’s not just ruins!). We reinvest 10 percent of the proceeds from our SAY program into the English program, enabling us to offer low-cost English education to the local Maya community.

 

Where we are

Felipe Carrillo Puerto—or “Carrillo” as it’s called locally—is a hidden gem rich in Maya history. Located in Quintana Roo, in the Yucatán Peninsula, we are just an hour south and inland from the stunning Caribbean beaches of Tulum.

Carrillo is a large town of 40,000, but has a small town feel. We are truly in the heart of the Zona Maya—where the fierce Maya held out the longest against Spanish conquest and eventual inclusion into Mexico.

The culture is alive and you will hear Maya spoken on the street and in the market, encounter women wearing the traditional huipiles (white cotton dresses with intricate embroidery) and see thatched-roof houses in which modern families live in much the same style as their ancestors.

Catherine Gray, Director, Naatik

Our history

Na’atik Language and Cultural Institute was founded by Catherine Gray (now dual citizen US/Mexico) and her Mexican-Maya husband Pedro Esquivel Puc in 2010.

After working in the non-profit sector in Seattle, Catherine traveled to Felipe Carrillo Puerto in 1996 to volunteer for a local charity. It was then that she fell in love with local-born Pedro and took her first step into teaching English at the town’s Casa de la Cultura. Catherine returned to Seattle to get TESL certified and then she and Pedro worked in South Korea and traveled around Asia before returning to Mexico. They got married on the beautiful beach of Tulum and today, Catherine, Pedro and their two amazing bilingual children, Piero and Madeline, are an active part of the community.

After almost 10 years of teaching at the local university, Catherine started teaching private English classes where she rented a house, held classes in the living room and sublet the bedroom to a friend. Demand was so great that she had to co-opt both the bedroom and the porch for class space. A decision was made: she would resign from the university and found Na’atik.

Na’atik was growing, but Catherine and Pedro quickly saw how many young people wanted to study—or continue their studies—but simply couldn’t afford it. English language skills are necessary for well-paying jobs and for getting into competitive universities. Not willing to turn students away, they founded the Maya Youth Project (MY Project) which subsidizes the English language program and provides scholarships for 30 local students in need.

Catherine and Pedro then decided that if they were going to bring English to Felipe Carrillo Puerto, they needed to be proactive about sharing the town’s rich culture with the rest of the world. And so the Study Abroad Yucatán (SAY) Program was born. Our SAY program provides international students with the opportunity to have a fully immersive experience learning Spanish and/or Yucatec Maya in the real Zona Maya.

The house where Na'atik started!

SAY offers small-group language classes, with local, native-speaking teachers, and pairs students with warm, welcoming homestay families. The SAY program both provides an opportunity for cultural exchange and subsidizes Na’atik’s local English program, ensuring that classes are kept affordable for students in our community.

In 2012, Catherine and Pedro purchased land and built a spacious, beautiful, ecological, fully-solar school building with gardens and all-modern facilities.

It is now a thriving language school with over 200 students of all ages and has welcomed study abroad (SAY) students from the U.S., Canada, England, New Zealand, South Africa and Australia.

More About Our SAY Program

Members of the Board

Nancy Greenleese

Nancy Greenleese is a translator and journalist based in Rome, Italy. Even though she lives an ocean away from the Zona Maya, she strives in her own work to embrace Na’atik’s mission – “We are understanding each other.” By translating Italian words into English, whether in texts or interviews, she hopes to help bridge the cultures and, in her own little way, enlighten others about Italy’s rich cultural heritage, from fresh pasta to fashion. Thus, it’s no surprise that multicultural Na’atik is near and dear to her own heart – and not only because she grew up in Alexandria, Virginia playing with Na’atik’s founder, Catherine Gray. Nancy has watched the school grow from a single room into a full-fledged institute, thanks to the tireless work of Na’atik’s staff and volunteers. As a board member, she provides advice and assistance, particularly with regard to public relations. She looks forward to helping Na’atik break down borders through language learning for years to come.

Hilary MacGregor

Hilary MacGregor is a writer, mother, and adventurer, living in Los Angeles. A Navy brat, Hilary moved constantly as a child, and she still can’t stop. She studied and worked in Japan for five years, and reported as a staff writer for the Los Angeles Times for twelve. She helped start a charter school in West Hollywood, then worked on educational reform at the Los Angeles Unified School District. Hilary’s stories have appeared in the Wall Street Journal, Zocalo Public Square, Self, and Los Angeles Magazine. She and her family attended Na’atik during a 10-week Latin American odyssey. Her book about that trip, “We’re Outta Here: On the Road with the Family in South America,” came out in 2016 and is available on Amazon. Hilary believes passionately in the mission of Na’atik, and that the study of language abroad can inspire people of any age to open their minds and change the world.

Nicole Gresham Perry

Nicole Gresham Perry is the CEO of Star Innovations, an international sports memorabilia company. She is also the Founder and Managing Partner of Carpere Group, a New York-based investment and advisory firm. Nicole currently devotes most of her philanthropic efforts toward Women’s World Banking and she has traveled extensively around the world in this role. She has also served on the Women’s Board of the Boy’s Club of New York and is a former Vice-Chairman of the Associates Committee of Lenox Hill Neighborhood House. A passionate and astute investor since a very young age, Nicole graduated with a dual B.A. in Business and French from Rice University in Houston, Texas and attended L’Institut D’Etudes Politiques in Paris, France.

April Scott

April brings more than 27 years’ experience to her current role of Managing Director, North America – Digital, Social & Analytics at Ketchum Communications Consultancy. She is well-versed in both traditional and digital strategies and extensive experience in global markets. Through her expertise in business and brand strategies, she has created persuasive initiatives and effective brand programs that resonate in today’s digitally-focused marketplace. Before joining Ketchum, April held the position of Executive Vice President, Managing Director at Ogilvy and served as the agency’s Digital and Innovation Domain Lead where she and her team served a diverse range of clients including British Airways, UPS, United Nations, SHOWTIME, IBM, Pfizer, and others. Prior to Ogilvy, April held the position of Directeur Conseil at DigitasLBi in Europe where she led the Nissan Motors business across EMEA.

Brooke Rosell

Brooke Rosell first came to Na’atik in the fall of 2015 where she studied Spanish and grew a special passion for the school and the community of Carrillo Puerto. While studying at Na’atik, Brooke lived with a wonderful host family, where she was welcomed into their home and fully embraced the unique small-town culture that reminded her so much of her own home. Brooke has since returned to Carrillo Puerto for the quinceañera of her host “sister”, and will be bringing a group of her own students to Na’atik in the Spring of 2019. She currently teaches Spanish at Cape Hatteras Secondary School in the Outer Banks of North Carolina, where she lives with her husband Jerry, and their beautiful cat, Skunk.

 Our Partners 

The Center for Responsible Travel (CREST)

Go Overseas

Go Abroad

Kind Traveler

Totonal

Visit.org

The Painted Fish

John Jay College in New York

Middleburg Middle School in New York

St. Catherine’s High School in Missouri

Balam Nah Centro Recreativo Ecoturistico

Na’atik Around the Web

Awards:

GoAbroad Foundation – 2018 GoAbroad Innovation Awards Finalist in the “Innovation in Philanthropy” category

Go Overseas Community Choice Award: Language Schools 2018

Videos:

Distrito Centro – Extranjeros en Felipe Carrillo Puerto

Radio and Podcasts:

Peter Greenberg Worldwide – Emmy Award winning travel journalist Peter Greenberg, interviews Catherine and others about Quintana Roo

Articles and Blogs:

Yucatan Living – “Learning English in the Yucatan”

Expats in Mexico – “Expat Entrepreneurs in Mexico: The Language School in Quintana Roo”

Yucatán Expat Life – “Na’atik Institute opens English library in Maya Zone”

Bacon is Magic – “Felipe Carrillo Puerto: Why you need to visit this Mayan City”

Travindy – “How to create a community language school and homestay network”

Suja Travel – “How a school grew out of a search for understanding!”

The Altruistic Traveler – “Learn Spanish and Support Education Projects in the Yucatán Peninsula, Mexico”

Go Abroad – “Best Intensive Spanish Immersion Programs for 2018-2019”

Trekking Twosome – “Why I Slept in a Hammock for a Week”

Yucatan Times – “Commentary: The privilege of being able to move to another country”

Omniglot – Yucatec Maya

Yucatan Times – “A labor of love: Building a business in Mexico”

We’re Outta Here!: On the Road with the Family in South America by Hilary McGregor

LA Magazine – “How Spanish Immersion School Made All the Difference for One Family”

Go Overseas – “The Best Spanish Immersion Programs Around the World”

Travindy Español “Turismo y Objetivos de Desarrollo Sostenible: Educación de Calidad”

Opportunities

Love to work hard? Explore new cultures off the beaten path? Then we’re seeking your energy and enthusiasm.  

TEACHER FOR YOUNG LEARNERS:

We are looking for an enthusiastic, English language educator to teach English to our youngest learners (ages 4-7) for the 2019-2020 school year. In addition to inspiring our young learners, this teacher will also teach primary school students and adolescents. 

Reporting to the Academic Director, this role works closely with our other English teachers (3 in total) and our librarian. This is a 10-month, full-time appointment with local salary and paid housing. Please see full details below. 

Our mission at Na’atik is to create a multicultural hub for both locals and international visitors that celebrates and inspires the teaching and learning of languages, specifically English through our English program for local children, and Spanish and Maya through our Study Abroad Yucatan program, all of which are delivered through authentic, cross-cultural experiences.

Through charitable donations and funding from our own study abroad program, Na’atik is able to provide affordable English classes to the local community. This education gives young people in Felipe Carrillo Puerto the opportunity to achieve a higher living wage, improved career prospects, and exposure to other cultures. 

Check out our Facebook page and website to learn more about Na’atik (naatikmexico.org). We also recommend looking at our blogs to learn more about life in our town.

Required Qualifications and Experience (please do not apply if you do not meet the required qualifications):

  1. Native English speaker or equivalent
  2. Under-graduate degree from an accredited university
  3. A TEFL/CELTA/TESOL teaching certification and 1 year of classroom teaching experience or a  degree in primary or secondary education
  4. Experience working with young children
  5. Willingness to help organize and participate in special events and field trips

Preferred Qualifications:

  1. Communicative Spanish 
  2. Experience working abroad
  3. Experience teaching early years, preschool or kindergarten 

Benefits:

  1. Local Salary
  2. Furnished housing
  3. Use of bike 
  4. 4 weeks of paid vacation
  5. 5 hours of free, group Spanish classes

Interested applicants should send resume and cover letter to Steven Norton, Academic Director, at english@naatikmexico.org. In your cover letter, please explain why you are interested in teaching at Na’atik, why you would like to live and work in the Yucatan peninsula, and include a summary of your expectations for life and work in a sleepy, off-the-beaten-path Mexican town. Shortlisted applicants will be contacted by email. Start date will be determined at the time of hire.

LANGUAGE SCHOOL LIBRARIAN:

We are looking for an enthusiastic, English language educator to run our school’s library which includes developing, promoting and providing free library programming for our local English language students. 

This role is fundamental to the growth and development of our English language program. Working directly with the students, the ideal candidate will be able to deliver a creative program of activities in the library as well as engage our international study abroad students through cross-cultural language exchanges. 

Reporting to the Academic Director, this role works closely with our three English teachers as well as the SAY Coordinator. This is a 10-month, full time appointment with local salary and paid housing. Please see full details below. 

Our mission at Na’atik is to create a multicultural hub for both locals and international visitors that celebrates and inspires the teaching and learning of languages, specifically English through our English program for local children, and Spanish and Maya through our Study Abroad Yucatan program, all of which are delivered through authentic, cross-cultural experiences.

Through charitable donations and funding from our own study abroad program, Na’atik is able to provide affordable English classes to the local community. This education gives young people in Felipe Carrillo Puerto the opportunity to achieve a higher living wage, improved career prospects, and exposure to other cultures. 

Check out our Facebook page and website to learn more about Na’atik (naatikmexico.org). We also recommend looking at our blogs to learn more about life in our town.

Duties Include:

  • Creating enjoyable activities in the library for English language students 
  • Welcoming and orienting students to the library, its programs, and its resources
  • Collaborating with English teachers to integrate the library into the English language program
  • Promoting library programs for students and parents
  • Managing volunteers from the local community and our study abroad program
  • Working with the English teachers and study abroad students to create intercultural activities amongst students
  • Maintaining the library catalogue and manage all aspects of circulation 
  • Assisting students with selecting and checking out books
  • Maintaining all library resources and materials
  • Working with our Communications and Fundraising Manager to acquire new materials and research library grant opportunities
  • Organizing and assisting with special events and field trips
  • Teaching substitute English classes, when necessary

Required experience:

  • Native English speaker or equivalent
  • Undergraduate degree from an accredited university
  • One year teaching experience 
  • Strong organizational and time management skills
  • Strong collaboration and social skills
  • Commitment to the institute’s mission of affordable education
  • Proactive and willing to learn 
  • Ability to work independently
  • Adventurous and independent spirit
  • Basic Spanish 

Desired experience:

  • Experience working with children
  • Experience working abroad
  • Experience creating and managing library programs

Benefits:

  • Local salary
  • Furnished housing provided with utilities
  • 4 weeks of paid vacation during 10-month contract
  • Five free hours of group Spanish or Maya classes with additional hours charged at cost
  • Use of a Na’atik bicycle 

Interested applicants should send resume and cover letter to Steven Norton, Academic Director, at english@naatikmexico.org. In your cover letter, please explain why you are interested in running the school’s library at Na’atik, why you would like to live and work in the Yucatan peninsula, and include a summary of your expectations for life and work in a sleepy, off-the-beaten-path Mexican town. Shortlisted applicants will be contacted by email. Start date will be determined at the time of hire.

Sign Up To Our Newsletter

Na'atik staff 2017

Contact Us

Please feel free to contact us with any questions using the below contact form. We’ll respond by email as quickly as possible. If you’d rather speak on the phone our number is +521-983-267-1410.

Your Name (required)

Your Email (required)

Subject: What is your inquiry about? (required)

Your message: Please include as much information as possible.

Prefer to email?

For questions about studying Spanish or Maya, you can email: say@naatikmexico.org

For all other inquiries please email: communications@naatikmexico.org