English Literacy Educator
The COVID-19 pandemic continues to impact Peace Corps domestically and internationally.
The information provided for each assignment is subject to change, including the tentative departure date.
The Samoan government is eager to boost English literacy teaching and learning capacity in primary schools. The Ministry of Education, Sports and Culture (MESC) has requested the assistance of the Peace Corps to help reach this goal. While results of the 2018 national assessments for English show a decrease in the number of students who are identified as at-risk of not achieving learning outcomes in years 4 and 6, there still remains a high number of students who continue to need special attention. Peace Corps Volunteers (PCV) work in Samoan primary schools to promote the capacity of students and teachers to become proficient English literacy learners and educators.
Samoan students transition to an English curriculum in year 4 (grade) which can be a challenging transition. Students who are behind in English face increasing difficulty catching up as time goes on. Ensuring students have adequate English skills in earlier levels sets them up for more success throughout their school years, and decreases dropout rates.
Samoan students must sit for entrance exams that determine the quality of high school they will be selected to attend. These exams, in all subject areas, are conducted solely in English. Students who have a stronger grasp of English do better on the exams and get accepted to higher-quality high schools. Their future is dependent on mastery of the English language.
Peace Corps Samoa is focused on the long term sustainability and impact of Volunteer projects and assignments. Samoa follows a six year project cycle in each school and community, starting with a 1st generation (gen) Volunteer and ending with a 3rd generation Volunteer. Individual tasks and assignments will depend on the generation and community of the Volunteer which are assigned at Pre-Service Training.
First-gen Volunteers set the ground work of the project for schools and communities, working with small pull-out groups in years 4, 5 & 6 their first year, and co-teaching in their 2nd year of service. The 1st gen Volunteer recommends teachers with whom the 2nd gen Volunteer can work.
Second-gen Volunteers will pick up where the previous Volunteer left off - working with years 4, 5 & 6, continuing already set up secondary projects, and working closely with school teachers to build capacity through co-teaching and professional development training.
Third-gen Volunteers will start co-teaching and community outreach programs at the beginning of service in addition to small pull-out groups. They are also tasked with closing out all Peace Corps driven projects in the community, and ensuring teachers and community members are identified and equipped to continue programs.
Volunteers also assist schools in developing libraries and library lending programs, create before and after school reading programs, and, in some cases, teach computer skills. Finally, Volunteers engage parents and other community members in English literacy through initiating family literacy activities and inviting parents to school-based events.
Volunteers will be serving in a Peace Corps country that is participating in initiatives promoting gender awareness, girls’ and boys' education, and leadership empowerment. Peace Corps Samoa is the first to have GLOW (Girls Leading Our World) clubs in schools that are co-run by Volunteers and local counterparts. In addition, GLOW clubs are managed by a board composed of PCVs and prominent Samoan women leaders. Prior to the global evacuation of Volunteers, we had more than 20 Primary Schools with active GLOW clubs and 5 primary schools with BUILD (Boys United In Leadership Development) clubs that met weekly. These clubs were supported by the local communities and schools, as well as, our main partner agency, MESC.
Volunteers receive in-depth training on incorporating methods of gender analysis into community assessment and development efforts. Volunteers are encouraged to find culturally appropriate ways to incorporate gender awareness into their work.
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.
Qualified candidates will have:
• Bachelor of Arts/Bachelor of Science degree in any discipline and a strong desire to teach English literacy at the primary school level, and a minimum of 3 months, 10 hours/month, or 30 hours of English or literacy tutoring experience with primary, middle, or high school students.
Competitive candidates will have one or more of the following criteria:
• Bachelor of Arts/Bachelors of Science degree in Pre-school, 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 one or more school year classroom teaching experience at the Early Childhood, Middle School, or Elementary level. Full time Montessori teaching experience is also acceptable
• Experience teaching literacy, especially at the primary school level
• Experience working with teachers and students and the ability to develop strong working relationships with teachers, students, parents and community members
• Experience and interest in developing extra-curricular activities to promote capacity and strengthen skill building for students and teachers
• Experience and interest in developing projects that promote gender equity
• Experience working with limited resources
Required Language Skills
There are no pre-requisite language requirements for this position.
Invitees will receive a brief introduction to the Samoan language in the pre-departure course and, during Pre-Service Training, trainees will receive an in depth language training. While Volunteers will be teaching in English, speaking Samoan is an important means of integrating into the community. Most schools use Samoan in staff meetings. Volunteers will need an understanding of Samoan to follow staff meetings and discussions. Even if principals and teachers speak English, most of them prefer to use Samoan in meetings. Many villagers do not speak English fluently. In addition, language is a key to culture. Learning to speak Samoan is essential in order to integrate successfully. Showing that you are making an effort to learn the language both shows respect and goes a long way towards earning respect in your community.
Samoa is an island nation of about 200,000 people. Reefs fringe the shores and there are mountains in the center of the two main islands. Most Volunteers do not live on the ocean, but it is never far away. Samoa is hot and humid with two main seasons – rainy and dry.
Most Volunteers live near other Volunteers, resorts, and/or the capital, Apia. There are pluses and minuses to this reality. The temptation to spend time outside of the community can be strong. For some, frequent absences have proven detrimental to building credibility and strong relationships. This can diminish Volunteer satisfaction with service and effectiveness in their work. The country’s small size also means Volunteers’ travel and activities are scrutinized and frequently the subject of gossip. Living in a “fishbowl” environment can be challenging for PCVs. Building meaningful relationships in your community will be key to having a successful service.
Personal appearance is important to Samoans. During Pre-Service Training (PST), the dress code is business casual. Women are expected to wear a wrap around lavalava or an ankle length skirt and top with sleeves, or an ankle length dress. Men can wear a wrap around lavalava and shirt with sleeves.
Dressing appropriately after PST will help you gain respect in your community, facilitate integration, and increase your credibility and effectiveness.
Volunteers live with host families during both the 10 weeks of PST and the two years of service. Volunteers live in a room in a family’s house, or in rare cases, in a separate house on a family compound. Transportation to and from the villages is usually by bus. Within the village, Volunteers walk.
The diet in Samoa consists primarily of taro, breadfruit, yams, potatoes, rice, canned corned beef, fish, chicken soup, taro leaves, some fresh vegetables, fresh fruit and limited fresh meat. Vegetarians can fare well in Samoa with patience and creativity. For strict vegans, it’s harder, but doable.
While internet is becoming more widely available throughout the country, access is still expensive and may be limited by location and cost. Peace Corps Samoa does not provide Volunteers with a cell phone or data. Volunteers may bring an unlocked phone from the US or buy one in country. Most Volunteers also bring a computer to use in Samoa. It is the Volunteer’s responsibility to maintain and insure electronics that they bring.
Samoa is culturally Polynesian and the majority of Samoans are Christian. Religion plays a strong role in village and community life. Most Volunteers attend church at least once a week, regardless of their own beliefs, as a way of integrating into the community and participating in village life.
Through inclusive recruitment and retention of staff and Volunteers, the Peace Corps seeks to reflect the rich diversity of the United States and bring diverse perspectives and solutions to development issues. Ensuring diversity among staff and Volunteers enriches interpersonal relations and communications for the staff work environment, the Volunteer experience, and the communities in which Volunteers serve. Our definition of diversity includes, but is not limited to, race, ethnicity, gender identity, sexual orientation, age, religion, education, ability, and more.
Volunteers who are of an American racial, ethnic, or national minority or whose religious or spiritual beliefs differ from the majority of their country of service may experience a high degree of curiosity or unwanted attention. Please be aware that US concepts of politeness and appropriate behavior are not universal. Ethnically, nationally, or racially diverse Americans may be asked where they are “actually from” or if they are “really” American. Many PCVs have been able to turn these encounters into learning experiences, sharing American values and deepening local community members’ understanding of Americans.
Serving in Samoa
Learn more about the Volunteer experience in Samoa: 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.
Before you apply, please review Medical Information for Applicants to learn about the medical clearance process.
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