JumpStart 2017 Empowers Teachers as Well as Students

By Colleen Hewitt
April 5, 2017

“One of the best ways to secure a child’s future is to help them to see and believe they have one!” – Colleen Hewitt, TEFL Volunteer, Costa Rica, 2015-17

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Colleen Hewitt taught English in the U.S. before coming to Costa Rica as a Volunteer.

My name is Colleen Hewitt and I’m currently serving as a TEFL volunteer in the Limón province of Costa Rica. In January 2017, I co-facilitated a three week JumpStart English camp. The purpose of the JumpStart camp was to provide students with an intensive beginner level English program that would help to improve their English language proficiency level, as well as prepare sixth graders for high school, and fourth and fifth graders for the next grade level. With the help of two other Peace Corps Volunteers (Jessica Bernacchi and Brett Helbling, Community Economic Development Volunteers) and a local university student studying to become an English teacher, we had a successful camp that was hands down, one of the most rewarding experiences of my entire service! 

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Colleen's participation in the camp was part of months of preparation as budgeting for the experience, travel, lodging, and, of course, lesson planning all had to be covered. Jessica and Brett made for a great team!

Our camp consisted of 14 students. The students learned about greetings and introductions, family members, occupations, body parts, how to describe themselves and others, and much more! What makes this type of camp special is the student-centered teaching approach that involves interactive and hands-on activities for each lesson.

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Small groups and lots of activities help the students progress quickly during the four week experience.

The students were organized into three teams for the duration of the camp. As an incentive, the teams had to earn tickets (i.e. through participation, good behavior, etc.) that added up to points for their group on a weekly basis. The team with the most tickets received prizes. This incentivized approach helped with classroom management, student participation, and team-building skills. Classroom rules were also created to establish a learning environment that allowed our students the freedom to make mistakes without judgment, and encourage the ideals of respect and support for fellow participants. 

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Each day brings new reasons to celebrate progress at a well-organized JumpStart camp.

The JumpStart camp was also a professional development opportunity for my co-teachers. For Karla Cruit, a future Costa Rican English teacher, she was exposed to new teaching techniques, strategies for classroom management, and lesson planning that provides space for more student participation in the classroom. 

Here is what two of the co-teachers had to say about their JumpStart experience:

“JumpStart was surprisingly one of my favorite projects during my Peace Corps service. It began as a summer camp I thought would be helpful to students during the long summer break. The camp ended up being a transformative experience. I was surprised at how much English the students learned in just three weeks. It was amazing to see the friendships built and how much each of them uniquely grew during that time. The impact was clear on graduation day and I know it will have ripple effects in their future.” – Jessica Bernacchi, CED Volunteer

“JumpStart provided me with many teaching strategies. I loved teaching the children and hearing them use English in the classroom made me feel empowered! – Karla Cruit, Universidad Nacional de Costa Rica

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JumpStart is a collaborative effort between Peace Corps, CRUSA, and local communities.
Colleen Hewitt headshot

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