English Teacher and Teacher Trainer

Before You Apply

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Project Description

Peace Corps Timor-Leste re-opened in 2015. We are actively building the programs here and you will be part of that dynamic process. You will be a member of the first group of English Education Volunteers and will play a critical role in modeling Peace Corps approach to development with school administrators, teachers, parents, and other community leaders.

Volunteers will teach English at the middle and high school levels and/or in vocational schools in small towns and villages in Timor-Leste. Volunteers will partner with local English language teachers in a co-teaching environment and focus on the capacity building of co-teachers in the areas of English language proficiency, teaching student-centered methodologies, lesson planning, classroom management and assessment.

Volunteers may also be expected to conduct teacher training activities for local teachers, develop youth development activities like clubs and camps, and respond to community interest in formal and non-formal English lessons to community members. While Volunteers should anticipate working full time in a school setting, their involvement in a wide range of community-led activities is also likely.

Timor-Leste is a young and vibrant democracy. You will have a rare opportunity to be working among the nation’s heroes and freedom fighters that are still active in leading the nation. Most communities have experience with development projects sponsored by large international donor organizations, yet they are seeking a different kind of assistance by partnering with Peace Corps. Community members expect you, as a Peace Corps Volunteer, to speak the local language, respect and value the Timorese culture, and find ways to transfer your skills. They appreciate when Volunteers work to create change through education, role modeling, demonstration, inspiration and motivation.

The school will operate under distinctly different cultural norms than those with which you are accustomed. Cultural differences include power distance (degree to which a culture accepts unequal distribution of power), direct and indirect communication style, and pace of events (work-related events appear to lack urgency, and abseentism may be common). These cultural differences as well as others will require that you learn to predict the behavior of host country nationals at work and change your behavior to conform.

Volunteers will be co-teaching at the middle or high school levels and / or in vocational schools. There has been a steady investment in the reconstruction of school facilities since independence and a new English language curricula has been rolled out. English is a required subject in schools, beginning in the 7th grade. Student access, attendance, teacher training, and materials availability are common problems leading to poor outcomes. In addition, teachers’ English language proficiency is a challenge as many have not had the opportunities to use English or have had very little training to teach English. Volunteers will be expected to model quality classroom teaching and establish strong relationships with local colleagues in order to help schools address these challenges. The language of instruction in Timor-Leste schools is Portuguese, yet students and teachers are likely more comfortable communicating in Tetun and local languages.

Required Skills

Qualified candidates will have one or more of the following criteria:
• Bachelor of Arts/Bachelor of Science degree in any discipline and a strong desire to teach English
• Experience teaching English, TEFL or ESL (with strong preference given to those who have taught for a minimum of one to two years)

In addition, qualified candidates will also exhibit the following:
• Strong desire to English as demonstrated by past teaching or tutoring experience, and / or working with youth and adult learners
• Flexibility and tolerance of ambiguity as the Peace Corps Timor-Leste English Education program is established.
• Ability to work in a potentially unstructured environment with limited resources;
• Cross-cultural awareness and sensitivity to characteristics of post-conflict populations;
• Ability to adapt to a culture with unequal distribution of power and indirect communication;
• Patience for working in an environment with a different sense of urgency than you are accustomed; and
• Commitment to serving a community at their pace, level and according to the community’s priorities

Desired Skills

Competitive candidates will have one or more of the following criteria:
• Bachelor of Arts/Bachelor of Science degree in Primary/Middle or Secondary Education, or in English, TEFL, Linguistics or a foreign language
• Bachelor of Arts/Bachelor of Science degree in any study with a TEFL, TESOL, ESL or TESL certification
• Demonstrated experience and motivation in planning and organizing activities for youth.

Required Language Skills

There are no pre-requisite language requirements for this position.

You will learn the country’s official language, Tetun, during Pre-Service Training and you must demonstrate intermediate proficiency after 9 weeks of training. Many Volunteers will also learn a local language spoken in their district during their service.

Since Portuguese is the National language and many words have been incorporated into Tetun, Portuguese and Spanish speakers will find that helpful in Timor-Leste.

Living Conditions

- Underdeveloped Infrastructure: Roads are in poor condition and may be washed out and impassable during the rainy season. You may have to walk or cycle as much as one hour over rugged terrain to the main road to catch public transportation (small truck or mini-bus) to a larger city.

- Utilities/telecommunications: Amenities such as electricity, running water, and cell phone reception will vary from site to site. There may be periods of time without electricity. Cell phone coverage is improving but there are still some “dead” zones. Internet connectivity is slow and expensive, although most Volunteers can access internet at least once a week.

- Housing: You will be required to live with host families during Pre-Service Training as well as at your permanent site during your service. In many sites independent housing options are not available.

- Unwanted attention: Volunteers report frequent episodes of unwanted attention on public transportation and in the capital city of Dili. This can be uncomfortable and stressful.

Learn more about the Volunteer experience in Timor-Leste: 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

Couples are married in Timor-Leste by the church or simply by parents mutually agreeing that their adult children are married. Couples are likely to be asked about how many kids they have. A couple may experience pressure to have children if they do not have any.

Married couples serving in Timor-Leste get pressure to adhere to stereotypical gender roles. However, in general, couples have done well and are happy serving as a couple in Timor-Leste.

Medical Considerations in Timor-Leste

  • Timor-Leste may not be able to support Volunteers with the following medical conditions: asthma, including mild or childhood; dermatology; insulin-dependent diabetes; gastroenterology; mammography; requiring a psychiatrist for psychotropic medications support; ongoing counseling.
  • The following medication(s) are not permitted for legal or cultural reasons: Adderall, Ritalin and Vyvanse.
  • Volunteers who should avoid the following food(s) may not be able to serve: gluten.
  • After arrival in Timor-Leste, Peace Corps provides and applicants are required to have an annual flu shot, to take daily or weekly medication to prevent malaria, and to receive mandatory immunizations.

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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