Elementary Education English Teacher

Project Description

The English and Culture for Opportunities project in Costa Rica is a joint effort between Costa Rica's Ministry of Public Education (MEP) and the Peace Corps. Throughout the country, Volunteers are invited to collaborate with local teachers and support primary school students (Grades 1-6) between the ages of four and 13 in and out of the classroom. Elementary schools in Costa Rica are committed to introducing students to the English language through a conversational and task-based approach to language learning. Elementary schools in Costa Rica offer Pre-K to Grade 6 content. By working alongside counterpart teachers, English Education Volunteers, work toward four primary objectives:

1) Increase the English proficiency of teachers;
2) Increase the capacity of teachers to use general or English teaching skills;
2) Increase students' achievement in English; and
3) Increase community member participation in student learning.

English Education Volunteers' primary project is based on capacity building through a unique one-on-one relationship with local teachers. Collaboration with counterpart teachers includes, but is not limited to, co-teaching, co-planning, material design, and English language support. Volunteers also work with school staff to design and implement conversation clubs and other teaching workshops.

Volunteers can expect to work full time and are required to develop a work plan with counterpart teachers and school leadership once in their community of service. Volunteers also support the Ministry of Public Education by creating learning resources that can be used for various curricular initiatives.

Additionally, Volunteers focus secondary projects around on supporting students' English competencies and confidence through a variety of engaging activities both inside and outside a formal classroom setting. Volunteers may have the opportunity to support students and community members in extracurricular activities by designing and implementing out-of-school activities, local and regional English festivals, English clubs, summer camps, and community classes.

The Ministry of Public Education is increasingly using virtual platforms to deliver distance learning sessions. Thus Volunteers may need to be flexible in designing and teaching online classes as well.

COVID-19 Volunteer Activities

In the past year, the world has been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. As a Volunteer, you will be trained in how to best protect yourself from COVID-19 exposure and understand the impact of and steps to reduce stigma related to COVID-19. You may also have the opportunity to engage with your community on implementing or enhancing COVID-19 mitigation activities, such as COVID-19 prevention and risk reduction strategies including social distancing, hand washing, mask wearing, addressing myths and misconceptions related to these practices, and vaccine hesitancy. Activities will be tailored to address the COVID-19 circumstances in the communities where you will serve.

Required Skills

Qualified candidates will have a Bachelor of Arts/Bachelor of Science degree in any discipline and a strong desire to teach English at the elementary level and 3 months, 10 hours/month, or 30 hours of English, foreign language, or literacy tutoring experience.

Desired Skills

Competitive candidates may have the following:
• Passion and motivation for teaching and for participating in teachers’ communities of practice.
• Basic computer skills.
• E-learning platform management experience.
• Demonstrated community organizing experience within the past four years.
• Experience conducting curricular and extracurricular activities with children aged 4-13 in Pre-K through 6th grade.
• Motivation to work with community members of all ages.

Required Language Skills

Candidates must meet one or more of the language requirements below in order to be considered for this position.
A. Completed 4 years of high school Spanish coursework within the past 8 years
B. Completed minimum 2 semesters of Spanish college‐level coursework within the past 6 years
C. Native/fluent speaker of Spanish

Candidates who do not meet the language proficiency levels above can take the language placement exams to demonstrate their level of proficiency. Competitive applicants typically attain a score of 50 on the Spanish College Level Examination Program CLEP exam or a score of Novice‐High on the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages (ACTFL OPI).

Peace Corps Costa Rica encourages invitees to actively study Spanish prior to their departure in order to best prepare for the intensive language training they will receive and for their service in Costa Rica. Trainees are expected to reach a level of Intermediate-Mid language proficiency by the end of the 12-week Pre-Service Training period in order to swear-in as Peace Corps Volunteers. Reaching this level can be difficult for Trainees with lower, initial levels of Spanish proficiency. Therefore, Peace Corps Costa Rica strongly recommends that candidates engage in language learning and proficiency enhancement activities before Pre-Service Training.

The Ministry of Public Education and counterpart teachers expect Volunteers to speak English at all times when in a classroom setting to support the language acquisition process of Costa Rican students. However, coordination and work with school administrators, community contacts, and Ministry officials (including writing letters to request support and authorization for activities) will most likely be done in Spanish.

Living Conditions


All Volunteers are required to live with a host family for the first nine months in country (three months during Pre-Service Training and six months during service in their community of service). Living with a local family offers benefits such as better community integration, a sense of security, increased language skills, friendship, cultural exchange, and a unique understanding of Costa Rican cultures. Living with host families can also present certain challenges such as lack of privacy; limited control and choice over diet; and different family dynamics, rules, and expectations. Costa Rican cultures are family-oriented and families often expect Volunteers to integrate into and respect their existing family environments. It is important that applicants carefully consider the host family living requirement and commit to doing the work and embracing this arrangement's challenges in order to maximize the rewards.

After the initial six months of Volunteers' service in the host community, Volunteers are eligible to live independently if they receive approval by Peace Corps Costa Rica Program Managers and can identify a living situation in the community that meets the Peace Corps’ housing criteria. Some communities do not have a live-alone option, and Volunteers must be open to the possibility of living with a host family during their entire service.

Professional Appearance

Most Costa Ricans take great pride in being neat, clean, and well-groomed even on informal occasions. Volunteers should follow the example of Costa Ricans at their worksites and in their communities of service (e.g., clean and ironed clothes, polished shoes, and groomed hair). Frequent coordination with government agencies, schools, and other professional organizations require that Volunteers demonstrate professional attitudes, appearance, attire, and image at all times. In addition, Volunteers are assigned to work in the public school system and have to abide by the dress code and policies set by this institution. Volunteers should come prepared to adhere to a business casual dress code while working and avoid wearing shorts, flip-flops, sleeveless shirts, tank tops, short skirts or dresses, spaghetti straps, or strapless dresses.

Community Location & Physical Adaptability

English Education Volunteers will be working in rural, semi-urban, and urban communities. Some communities can be physically challenging (e.g., mountainous terrain; rocky, unpaved roads; and muddy conditions in the rainy season) and some have high levels of heat/humidity. Most communities are located within two to eight hours of the capital by public transportation and Volunteers can expect to live within a five-kilometer radius of the school. This commute will most likely require a combination of walking and use of public transport.

Communications & Telephone

Trainees and Volunteers are required to have a local phone number and access to messaging applications. Peace Corps Costa Rica does not purchase cell phones for Volunteers. Instead, some Volunteers purchase a local number and use "unlocked" cell phones brought from the U.S., while others purchase cell phones in Costa Rica. Internet service is not always available, and cellular phone service may be limited.

Remaining in Community of Service During the First and Last 90 Days of Service

Because the first few months of service are crucial to community integration, annual leave (vacation time) may not be taken during the first or last 90 days of a Volunteer's service, except under extraordinary circumstances and with the approval of Peace Corps Costa Rica's Program Team and Country Director. Furthermore, Volunteers may not receive international visitors during their first 90 days of service.

Serving in Costa Rica

Learn more about the Volunteer experience in Costa Rica: Get detailed information on culture, communications, housing, and safety — including crime statistics [PDF] — in order to make a well-informed decision about serving.

Medical Considerations

Before you apply, please review Medical Information for Applicants to learn about the medical clearance process.

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