English Education Volunteer

Project Description

Imagine hearing the voices of your students’ greet you while inquiring about your next English lesson? Could you see yourself co-leading a conversation club for community members who are eager to improve their English skills? Can you envision co-facilitating youth development programs with local teens that emphasize self-esteem building, communication, or goal-setting? If the answer is yes, Peace Corps wants you to share your passion, creativity, flexibility, and resiliency to strengthen its English Education program in Colombia.

The goal of the Peace Corps Colombia Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL) program is to support teachers and students in Colombian public schools and community members to develop the English communication skills necessary to access academic, professional and/or personal development opportunities.

Colombia TEFL Volunteers collaborate on locally prioritized projects to increase:
- Local teachers’ English teaching skills and English language proficiency, and promote gender equity in the classroom.
- Local students’ achievement in English.

Volunteer activities include the following:

• Co-facilitate teacher communities of practice to share strategies and tips for effective teaching.
• Co-plan and co-teach high school English classes with Colombian teachers.
• Co-facilitate workshops on strategies for English teaching and technology use for teachers at their school and neighboring schools.
• Work with teachers to promote gender equity in the classroom.
• Conduct English conversation sessions with teachers.
• Co-organize and facilitate extracurricular English clubs, tutoring groups or other activities for students.
• Teach community English classes.

TEFL Volunteers work with two national counterparts: the Colombian Ministry of Education (MEN) and SENA, Servicio Nacional de Aprendizaje. SENA is a public institution that offers social and technical training to increase employment opportunities.

In public schools, Volunteers collaborate with Colombian teachers to apply and adapt the national English language curriculum and/or textbooks in secondary classrooms (6th-11th grades.)

While Colombian secondary school teachers have at minimum a Bachelor of Arts degree in Secondary Education and the language requirement for teachers is an intermediate level of English, many teachers are requesting support in enhancing their English speaking skills.

Volunteers do not teach classes independently, rather they connect with counterparts to co-plan and co-teach. Volunteers are trained on different methods and strategies for working alongside Colombian teachers. Volunteers’ greatest impact is often increasing students’ motivation to learn English and participate in class.

Volunteers also work on Information and Communication Technologies for Development (ICT4D) and Gender Equity initiatives. For example, many schools have technology such as interactive TVs, tablets, and computer equipment. Volunteers can support youth and teachers in learning how to use this equipment in a way to make English learning more dynamic.

The communities where our partner schools are located have diverse needs, which gives Volunteers the opportunity to draw upon personal knowledge, skills and interests to serve the needs of the community. Teaching English can be incorporated into many activities, such as:
• Promoting and participating in sports or arts activities such as theater, drama and summer camps
• Facilitating health or environmental education projects such as nutrition education, HIV/AIDS prevention, and water system initiatives
• Training community members or working with NGOs on computer and science classes or service learning projects.

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 strong desire to teach English, and the following criteria:

BA/BS in any discipline with at least 3 months or 30 hours of teaching or tutoring experience, preferably TESOL/TEFL, with primary, middle or high school students or adults.

Desired Skills

Competitive candidates will have one or more of the following qualifications:

• Master of Arts in Teaching (MAT) in English, Teaching English as a foreign language (TEFL), Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL), English as a Second Language (ESL), Teaching English as a Second Language (TESL), foreign language, or Applied Linguistics
• Master of Education (M.Ed.) with graduate or undergraduate concentration in English, TEFL, TESOL, ESL, TESL, or foreign language
• Bachelor of Arts/Bachelor of Science degree in Secondary Education with concentration in English, TEFL, TESOL, ESL, TESL, or foreign language.
• Bachelor of Arts/Bachelor of Science degree in any discipline with secondary education state certification in English, TEFL, TESOL, ESL, TESL, or foreign language
• Bachelor of Arts/Bachelor of Science degree in English, TEFL, TESOL, ESL and TESL, or foreign language with 6 months classroom teaching experience at the secondary level in English, TEFL, TESOL, ESL, TESL, or foreign language
• Bachelor of Arts/Bachelor of Science degree in any discipline with 1 academic year classroom teaching experience at the secondary level in English, TEFL, TESOL, ESL and TESL, or foreign language
• Experience in public speaking and presentation
• Experience co-planning and co-teaching
• Experience training trainers or experience teaching or training adults

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).

TEFL Volunteers in Colombia use English in the classroom and with their co-teachers. However, Spanish is necessary to interact with parents, school officials, and other teachers and for other day-to-day activities in the community. To successfully swear-in as a Volunteer, Trainees must demonstrate an intermediate level of oral proficiency in Spanish at the end of the 11-week Pre-Service Training. Peace Corps Trainees receive a significant amount of training and support in the acquisition of Spanish. Trainees who arrive in country with low levels of Spanish find it more challenging to reach intermediate oral proficiency. All applicants are highly encouraged to begin working on their Spanish as early as possible prior to departing the U.S. for Colombia.

Volunteers are strongly encouraged to speak English with their students and co-teachers so as to maximize English language learning.

Living Conditions

All work sites are in small- and medium-sized communities that are typically no more than six hours from a major city in the Caribbean or Andean regions. In the Caribbean region, all work sites are hot and humid throughout the year. Seasons are divided into dry months with limited rainfall and rainy months with high humidity. Electricity outages and water shortages can be frequent.
In the Andean region, the climate is cooler, especially at night. There is more consistent rainfall throughout the year and the temperature fluctuates depending upon the time of year and varied weather conditions. Andean region work sites are at higher altitudes.

Volunteers who commute further than walking distance take public transportation to get around and to attend trainings or work activities. Some Volunteers use bicycles.

Volunteers live in homestays for all 27 months of service in order to promote community integration and maximize Volunteer security. Living with a homestay family can be one of the more rewarding components of Peace Corps service and an important resource for cultural understanding. As such, Volunteers should be flexible and committed to building strong relationships with the family to which they are assigned. As a commitment to community integration, Volunteers are expected to spend the majority of their time in the communities where they live and work, especially while school is in session.

Volunteers may be challenged to understand, adapt to, and respect gender norms whereby women perform the majority of the domestic labor (cooking, cleaning, and childcare) and have fewer economic opportunities. Male privilege is often predominant in Colombian culture, especially in rural areas. Female Volunteers may receive overt expressions of unwanted attention including catcalling and sexist remarks or behaviors. Peace Corps will provide various strategies and training on how to manage these situations.

The Colombian diet primarily consists of rice, corn, potatoes, yucca and other carbohydrates in addition to meat. There is a wide variety of fruits and vegetables available. It is not very common to find vegetarians or vegans in rural communities. You will need to be flexible and explain to your host family any dietary restrictions or preferences.

In the Caribbean region, loud music and celebrations are common aspects of the culture. In contrast, the Andean region values big celebrations but tends to be more quiet and tranquil. Engaging a flexible and resilient approach is key to adapting to your new environment.

Volunteers in the TEFL program have found that, when possible, bringing a laptop or a tablet is extremely useful during service. Internet access continues to expand in Colombia, and a personal device makes it easier for Volunteers to access and share technical resources in support of their service and to complete training assignments and other programmatic tasks. There are Volunteer work stations with computers available at the two Peace Corps Colombia offices (Barranquilla and Tunja), but they may not be convenient for regular access.

SPECIAL NOTICE ABOUT CITIZENSHIP: Candidates who are either dual citizens of Colombia and the U.S. or who were born in Colombia and became U.S. citizens after July 4, 1991 are not eligible to serve in Peace Corps Colombia. Under Colombian law, anyone born in Colombia who became a U.S. citizen after 1991 or anyone holding dual U.S. and Colombia citizenship is considered a citizen of Colombia, and not of the United States. If such an individual faced a legal, safety or other emergency situation in Colombia, the Peace Corps' ability to intervene would be limited. If you fit either of these categories, we encourage you to look at other assignments.

Serving in Colombia

Learn more about the Volunteer experience in Colombia: Get detailed information on culture, communications, housing, health, and safety -- including health and crime statistics -- in order to make a well-informed decision about serving.

Couples Information

Peace Corps Colombia encourages couples to apply. They will be assigned to the same community but have distinct work plans.

Couples will have to live separately with host families during the 11 week Pre-Service Training. As a Volunteer, couples live in apartments independently and are not required to live with a host family.

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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