Elementary Education English Teacher

Project Description

Overview of The English Education Project:

Launched in 2010, The English Education project in Costa Rica is a collaborative initiative between the Peace Corps and the Ministry of Public Education (MEP). Volunteers play a crucial role in working with elementary school students (grades 1-6) nationwide, collaborating with local teachers, and offering support inside and outside the classroom.

Project Focus and Approach:

The English Education project centers on capacity-building through one-on-one relationships with schoolteachers in various settings. Effective communication and collaboration with English teachers, school staff, and community members are vital for impactful co-teaching and co-planning regular English classes and extracurricular activities.

Volunteer Activities:

Volunteers focus on supporting students' English language competencies and confidence through engaging activities. Additionally, they assist in designing and implementing informal English classes, participating in local and regional English festivals, coordinating English clubs, organizing summer camps, and facilitating community classes. Volunteers also play a role in supporting the use of virtual platforms for distance learning sessions.

Project Objectives:

The project aims to achieve five key objectives:

• Increase teachers’ general and English teaching skills.
• Enhance teachers’ equitable and inclusive practices in the classroom.
• Improve the English proficiency of English teachers.
• Boost students' achievement in English.
• Strengthen the ability of community members to support students' access to learning.

Expectations for Volunteers:

To achieve these objectives, Volunteers are expected to:

• Work full-time under a structured schedule with elementary students and teachers within a school population of 100 to 800 students.
• Assist school counterparts in organizing teaching schedules for co-planning and co-teaching English lessons.
• Overcome challenges, including geographic, climatic, cultural, and socio-economic factors, to integrate fully into rural, under-resourced communities.
• Adapt to Peace Corps and counterparts’ norms and procedures during training, meetings, recreational activities, and teaching in formal and informal classroom settings.

Costa Rican Elementary School Diversity:

Costa Rica boasts over 4,000 elementary schools, offering diverse private and public sector modalities. The English Education project primarily collaborates with tuition-free public schools, categorized as day or night schools. The public education sector includes Rural, Technical, Academic, Scientific, and Bilingual schools.

Private School Landscape:

While some communities feature tuition-based private schools, it's worth noting that Peace Corps Costa Rica doesn't operate within these institutions.

Educational Levels:

The Costa Rican education system has four levels: preschool, primary/elementary, secondary, and higher. Basic General Education, compulsory and free, spans six years of primary/elementary school and five or six years of secondary school. Students leave elementary school at an average age of 12 or 13.

Focus of English Education:

As students' progress beyond the initial years, typically from the third grade onward, the curriculum expands to cover more advanced topics. Core subjects include Spanish, natural sciences, mathematics, social studies, English, sexuality, as well as complimentary subjects that may include the arts, physical education, life skills, and religious education. Volunteers will provide tailored support for English proficiency designed to align with the specific requirements of each subject, ensuring a holistic and enriching educational experience.

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.

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.

Desired Skills

Competitive candidates will have one or more of the following:

• Experience teaching or tutoring English, a foreign language, or literacy.
• Experience conducting curricular or extracurricular activities with youths or adults.
• Experience with current fundamental computer skills.
• Experience with e-learning platform management.
• Experience with community organizing.
• Experience with academic instruction.
• Experience with creative arts (visual, drama, music)
• Experience with life skills development (sports, study skills, conflict resolution)
• Experience with social development (public speaking, diversity and inclusion)
• Experience with environmental education (recycling, conservation, resilience)

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).

Language Expectations:

Volunteers are expected to communicate exclusively in English within the classroom setting, supporting the language acquisition process of their students. However, tasks involving coordination and collaboration with school administrators, community contacts, and ministry officials, such as participating in meetings, writing letters to request support, and constructive conversations, will all be conducted in Spanish.

Language Preparation:

Peace Corps/Costa Rica encourages applicants to actively study Spanish before departure, preparing them for both their service and the intensive language training in Costa Rica. Trainees are expected to attain at least Intermediate-Mid language proficiency by the end of the 12-week Pre-Service Training period to qualify as Peace Corps Volunteers. Achieving this proficiency level may be challenging for Trainees with lower levels of Spanish, making pre-arrival language learning and enhancement activities highly recommended.

Living Conditions

Housing Requirements:

During the first nine months (three months of Pre-Service Training followed by six months in the community of service), all Volunteers must reside with a host family. Living with a local family offers benefits such as community integration, security, language skill improvement, friendship, and cultural exchange. However, it may pose challenges such as limited privacy, dietary restrictions, and different family dynamics. Applicants should carefully consider and be willing to adapt to maximize the rewards.

Living Independence:

After the initial six months, Volunteers can live independently if they find a suitable living situation meeting Peace Corps criteria and approved by program staff. Some communities may not offer a live-alone option, requiring certain Volunteers to live with a host family throughout their service.

Community Location & Challenges:

English Education Volunteers work in diverse communities, including rural, semi-urban, and urban areas with limited resources. Some communities may present physical challenges, such as mountainous terrain, unpaved roads, and mud during the rainy season. Most communities are accessible within two to eight hours of the capital by public transportation. Volunteers typically reside within a 5 km radius of the school, necessitating walking, biking, or public transportation.

Communications & Telephone Access:

Trainees and Volunteers receive a local phone number and access to messaging applications. Peace Corps does not provide cell phones, encouraging Volunteers to bring their own. Volunteers can expect limitations with Internet and cellular phone service.

Annual Leave Policy:

Volunteers accrue two days of annual leave (vacation) per month. However, during the first and last 90 days of service, taking leave is not permitted, except under extraordinary circumstances with Program Team and Country Director approval. International visitors are not permitted during the first 90 days of service.

Professional Standards:

Costa Ricans value neatness and professionalism. Volunteers should mirror this in their appearance, following a business casual dress code while working in the public school system. Professional attitudes, appearance, and adherence to institutional dress codes are crucial during coordination with government agencies, schools, and other professionals. Outside of work, Volunteers should avoid certain casual clothing items, including flip-flops, shorts, tank tops, strapless or spaghetti strap dresses, sweatpants, yoga pants, or similar athleisure wear.

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.

Couples Information

Costa Rica is happy to receive couples and will identify sufficient work opportunities within the same community for both Volunteers. This cohort will include two programs: Elementary English education and Secondary English education. We offer couples the choice of working in the same program or one in each program. Each applicant must apply separately and qualify for their respective program.

Couples can expect similar living conditions for them as for single Volunteers. They will live with the same host family during the three months of Pre-Serving Training; however, they may have Spanish classes in different groups depending on language levels. They will then live with the same family for the first six months in their assigned community. If suitable housing is available later, they may request independent living. Many communities don’t offer independent living, so Volunteers, including couples, should prepare themselves to live with a host family throughout their service.

Please note: While couples will be working in the same community, they may be assigned to work at different institutions.

The Peace Corps works to foster safe and productive assignments for same-sex couples, and same-sex couples are not placed in countries where homosexual acts are criminalized. Because of this, same-sex couple placements are more limited than heterosexual couple placements. During the application process Recruiters and Placement Officers work closely with same-sex couple applicants to understand current placement opportunities. For more information please visit: https://www.peacecorps.gov/faqs/lgbtq/.

Medical Considerations

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


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