Fellows in the Community
Kalimah Fergus Ayele
Teachers College–Columbia University, 2003
I served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Tanzania from 1997 to 2001. During my service, I taught chemistry at an all-girls' school at the foot of the Uluguru Mountains. I loved my experience. Perhaps that's why I stayed as long as I could: The sounds, the smells, the way people interacted with one another. It was such a blessing to have had my earliest teaching experience at a school in East Africa. In Tanzania, the teacher was revered as a positive role model in the community. When you walked through the small town or village you could hear children yelling "teacher, teacher" in Swahili.
When it was time for my service to end, I knew my goal was to return to Africa. I also knew that my career would continue to be in education. I returned home to New York City to continue teaching but also to continue my own growth as an educator. The Peace Corps Fellows/USA program at Teachers College, Columbia University allowed me the opportunity to do both. I was able to serve as a full-time teacher in a New York City public school so I could fulfill my contribution to the Department of Education. At the same time, I was able to reflect on what was happening in the classroom during my courses at Teachers College. It was an intense experience, but well worth it. Having the perspective of teaching in such vastly different environments—Tanzania and New York City—only helped to strengthen my confidence in the classroom.
After finishing my master's degree in 2003, I was honored to be the student speaker at the Teachers College graduation ceremony. The following year, I continued to study school leadership and administration, but I then decided to remain in the classroom. I truly feel that classroom teaching has always been my strength and the best use of my talents.
I have never forgotten my Peace Corps experience and how much it cemented for me my life's passion and purpose. Although I know that the memories and the life I had then are behind me, my husband and I decided to move to Africa with our two young children. We are both currently teaching at the American International School of Johannesburg, South Africa. It's been a wonderful experience for us so far. Hopefully we can instill in our children and students the values that I learned in Peace Corps and Fellows/USA—that there is so much each of us can contribute to make our world a better place.
Last updated Jan 30 2014
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