Elementary Education English Teacher
The English Education project in Costa Rica is a joint effort between the Peace Corps and the Ministry of Public Education (MEP). Volunteers work with elementary school students (grades 1-6) throughout the country collaborating with local teachers and supporting students in and out of the classroom. There are more than 4000 elementary schools across the country. Costa Rica has multiple modalities in terms of private and public schools. The English Education program works within the tuition-free public education sector classified as day schools or night schools, the latter of which are especially dedicated to the National Literacy Plan for adults. Other public elementary school modalities include Rural, One-Teacher, Bilingual, and Ecological schools around the country.
The Costa Rican educational system is divided into four levels: pre-school, primary/elementary, secondary, and higher. Basic General Education, which is the compulsory and free instructional cycle, is made up of 6 years of primary/elementary school and 5 or 6 years of secondary school.
Once pre-school is finished, children continue in elementary school for a period of six years. If they do not fail in any year, they leave school at an average age of 12 or 13 years. The first two years of primary/elementary school consist of teaching the child the basics of daily life, such as reading, writing, and counting. From the third grade of primary/elementary school, slightly more advanced teaching begins with more global topics such as national history and other more advanced aspects. Its core subjects are structured as follows:
- Spanish (includes grammar, literature, writing, and spelling)
- Natural Sciences (includes a part of psychology and notions of all the basic branches)
- Mathematics (includes basic notions, geometry, arithmetic, and basic calculation systems)
- Social Studies (includes history, geography, civics, and social studies)
- English (oral and written)
- Sexual and Affective Education (taught in science class and evaluated in the exam)
Complementary subjects may include Music, Computer Science, Physical Education, Plastic Arts, Daily Life Education (includes basic home economics), Religious Education (optional in some schools), and Counseling.
As an English Education Volunteer, you will support the project’s four objectives:
1) Increase the English proficiency of teachers.
2) Increase the capacity of teachers to use general or English teaching skills.
3) Increase students' achievement in English.
4) Increase community member participation in student learning.
English Education Volunteers' project is based on capacity building through a unique one-on-one relationship with local teachers in a variety of settings. Collaboration with counterpart teachers includes, but is not limited to, co-teaching, co-planning, material design and English language support. Volunteers also design and implement conversation clubs, exam prep courses, and other teaching workshops. Volunteers can expect to work full-time and develop a work plan with counterpart teachers and school leadership once in their community of service. Volunteers will also support the Ministry of Public Education by creating learning resources to be used for various curricular initiatives.
Additionally, Volunteers focus on supporting students' English competencies and confidence through a variety of engaging activities both inside and outside of 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 need to be flexible in designing and teaching online classes as well.
COVID-19 Volunteer Activities
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.
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
Competitive candidates may have the following:
• Bachelor of Arts/Bachelor of Science degree in Preschool, Early Childhood, Middle School, or Elementary Education.
• Bachelor of Arts/Bachelor of Science degree in any discipline with Elementary Education state certification.
• Bachelor of Arts/Bachelor of Science degree in any discipline with 1 or more school year classroom teaching experience at the Early Childhood, Middle School, or Elementary level. Full time Montessori teaching experience is also acceptable.
• 3 months, 10 hours/months, or 30 hours of English, foreign language, or literacy tutoring experience.
• Passion and motivation for teaching and for participating in teachers’ communities of practice.
• Experience conducting curricular and extracurricular activities with elementary school students aged 7-13 or adults.
• Basic computer skills.
• E-learning platform management experience.
• Demonstrated community organizing experience within the past four years.
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).
The Ministry of Public Education and counterpart teachers expect Volunteers to always speak English when in the classroom setting to support their language acquisition process. 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.
Peace Corps/Costa Rica encourages applicants to continue actively studying Spanish prior to departure to best prepare them for their service and for the intensive language training they will receive 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 to swear in as a Peace Corps Volunteer. Reaching this level can be difficult for Trainees with lower levels of Spanish. We strongly recommend candidates to engage in language learning/enhancement activities before coming to country.
All Volunteers are required to live with a host family for the first nine months in country (3 months during Pre-Service Training and 6 months in their community of service). Living with a local family has multiple benefits including better community integration, a sense of security, increased language skills, friendship, cultural exchange, and gaining a unique understanding of the Costa Rican cultures. It could also present certain challenges such as lack of privacy for both parties, limited control and choice over diet, and different family dynamics, rules, and expectations. Families expect Volunteers to integrate into and respect their existing family environments. It is important that applicants think carefully about the host family requirement and are willing to adapt and embrace its challenges to maximize the rewards.
After the initial six months in the Volunteer’s community of service, Volunteers are eligible to live independently if they can identify a living situation in the community that meets Peace Corps’ housing criteria and is approved by program staff. 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.
Community Location & Adaptability
English Education Volunteers will be working in rural, semi-urban and urban communities with local resources. Some communities can be physically challenging (e.g. mountainous terrain, rocky unpaved roads, and extensive mud in the rainy season) and some have high levels of heat/humidity. Most communities are accessible to the capital within two to eight hours by public transportation and Volunteers can expect to live within a 5 km (3 mile) radius of the school. This will most likely require either walking, biking or the use of public transportation.
Communications & Telephone
Trainees and Volunteers are required to have a local phone number and access to messaging applications. Peace Corps does not purchase cell phones for Volunteers and encourages them to bring one. 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 Volunteer service, except under extraordinary circumstances with the approval of the Program Team and Country Director. Furthermore, Volunteers may not receive international visitors during their first 90 days of service.
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 professionals require that Volunteers demonstrate professional attitudes, appearance, attire and image at all times. Volunteers are assigned to work in the public school system, and they must abide by the dress code and policies set by each institution. Volunteers should come prepared to use 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.
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.
Before you apply, please review Medical Information for Applicants to learn about the medical clearance process.
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