English Education Teacher

Before You Apply

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Project Description

The English and Culture for Opportunities project in Costa Rica is a joint effort between Peace Corps and the Ministry of Public Education (MEP). Volunteers work with primary schools (grades 1-6) between the ages of 4 and 13 throughout the country collaborating with local teachers and supporting students 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 6th grade content. As an English Volunteer, you will help the project meet its three primary objectives:
1) Improve teachers' English competencies and teaching methodologies,
2) Increase students' achievement in English, and
3) Increase community member participation in student learning.

English Volunteers' primary project is based on capacity building through a unique one-on-one relationship with local teachers in a variety of classroom settings. Collaboration with counterpart teachers includes, but is not limited to: co-planning, co-teaching, material design and English language support. Volunteers also design and implement conversation clubs, and other teaching workshops. Volunteers can expect to work full time and develop a work plan with counterpart teachers and school leadership once in community. Volunteers will also support the MEP by creating learning resources to be used for various curricular initiatives.

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

Volunteers will be asked to support additional school, regional and national level activities such as English Festival preparation, lesson planning and resource creation workshops, and the possibility of direct teaching at schools with no officially designated English teacher via a blended learning approach (remote English classes using basic technology).

Required Skills

Qualified candidates will have the following:

• Bachelor of Arts/Bachelor of Science degree in any discipline and a strong desire to teach English and work with children.

Desired Skills

Competitive candidates will have the following:

• Experience conducting activities with elementary/middle school students
• Experience teaching or tutoring English
• Expressed commitment and interest in being flexible and adapting to local conditions and needs.
• Basic computer skills (internet explorer, email, online platforms)
• Experience with and interest in working with children aged 4-13 in Pre-K through 6th grade

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 applicants to continue actively studying Spanish in order 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-High language proficiency by the end of the 12-week pre-service training period in order to swear in as a Peace Corps Volunteer. Reaching this level can be difficult for trainees with lower levels of Spanish. We strongly recommend interested candidates who are not native or advanced Spanish speakers to engage in language learning activities before coming to country. These language learning activities can range from taking a formal Spanish class to watching television shows, movies, reading books and listening to podcasts in Spanish.

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. MEP and counterpart teachers expect Volunteers to speak English at all times when in the classroom setting to support with their language acquisition process.

Living Conditions

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 assignment). Although living with a family can have certain challenges (lack of privacy, limited control and choice over diet, noise, etc.), it also has multiple rewards including better community integration, a sense of security, increased language skills, friendship, cultural exchange, and gaining a unique understanding of Costa Rican culture.

It is important that applicants think carefully about the commitment to live with a Costa Rican host family in humble/basic, and sometimes cramped, living conditions with limited privacy.
Costa Rican culture is strongly family-oriented and families often expect Volunteers to integrate into and respect their existing family environments.

After the initial six months in the Volunteer’s community of assignment, Volunteers are eligible to live independently if they receive approval by Peace Corps staff and can identify a living situation in the community that meets 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. Peace Corps staff arrange housing with respected host families in the communities where Volunteers live. Homes are thoroughly inspected prior to approval. Most host family homes have indoor bathrooms and showers, but do not have hot water.

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 (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. Given the fact that Volunteers are assigned to work in the public school system they have to abide by the dress code and policies set by each institution, which tend to be conservative. Volunteers should come prepared to use a business casual dress code while working.

Community Location & Physical Hardship
English Teaching Volunteers will be working in rural, semi-urban and urban communities with limited resources, and local populations may have limited formal education. Some communities can be physically challenging, i.e., mountainous terrain, rocky unpaved roads, extensive mud in the rainy season and some communities have high levels of heat/humidity. Most Volunteer communities are accessible to the capital within two to ten hours by public transportation. Most communities are also within 1-3 hours of a large city. Volunteers can be expected to live within a 5km radius of the school. This will most likely require a combination of walking or biking and use of public transport.

All regions of Costa Rica experience a heavy rainy season and most have hot weather. As such, Volunteers should be prepared for tropical living and coexistence with tropical insects/animals, including: mosquitos, cockroaches, spiders, ants, rodents (mice and rats), arthropods, snakes, bats, and many kinds of other insects they have not seen before.

Communications & Telephone
Land line phone services cover the majority of the country and most Volunteers have access to a phone in their community or host family home. However, internet service is not available in all communities, and cellular phone service may be limited. Volunteers are required to have a local phone number. 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 some Volunteers chose to purchase cell phones 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 clearance process and other health conditions that are difficult to accommodate in Peace Corps service.


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