Special Needs Educator

Project Description

Peace Corps has a long and rich history in North Macedonia. Peace Corps Volunteers (PCVs) have played a pivotal role in the country's growth by offering their skills and talents for over 25 years with 845 Peace Corps Volunteers having successfully served in the country. Since Peace Corps North Macedonia’s inception, Volunteers have inspired their students, created sustainable projects and programs, and formed lasting person-to-person connections; leaving an enduring legacy in their host communities.

The Inclusive Education Project is critical to the mission of building a more inclusive and accessible society for all individuals in North Macedonia. Specifically, Special Needs Educator Volunteers are needed to improve the quality of teaching and inclusive education in primary schools for students.

Currently, there is lack of teacher training to support students with special needs in classrooms. Educational and social care systems are currently engaged in reforms on the national and local level which promote inclusive education. Schools working with individuals with special needs in North Macedonia are currently facing many challenges including a lack of resources and trained teachers to work in an inclusive classroom, in addition to disruptions from the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Project has expanded due to the demonstrated and expressed interest from local partners and governments who have seen the value of PCVs in supporting the national government’s efforts for increasing inclusive education and developing teacher competencies. Volunteers continue to support the growth of schools by helping to design an inclusive approach for all students.

Volunteers may work with beneficiaries of different age groups, from children to adults, in multiple contexts: schools, non-governmental organizations, and government daily centers for education and care of persons with special needs. Schools operate with limited resources for teaching and many schools lack designated spaces for students with special needs. Volunteers are also expected to work with limited resources focusing on teacher and staff training. They will serve as coaches and help develop teacher and staff competencies for successful lesson planning and teaching in an inclusive classroom.

Volunteers participate in a range of activities that include, but are not limited, to the following:

• Assisting special education teachers and public school teachers improve the school’s approach to inclusion
• Training school staff teaching in inclusive classrooms on data collection tools, lesson planning, differentiated teaching, classroom and behavior management, classroom modification and resource development
• Coaching school staff to work with parents and include them in the education process and/or school activities; potentially doing so virtually if necessary
• Working with parents on empowerment activities and the development of support groups
• Helping with resource development and lesson planning
• Supporting the process of inclusion of beneficiaries in communities where there may be a high level of stigma and exclusion toward people with special needs
• Supporting government daily centers to promote social inclusion and development of life skills for people with special needs

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

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

• Bachelor of Arts/Bachelor of Science degree in Special Education (general or with emphasis in working with people with visual or hearing disabilities).
• Bachelor of Arts/Bachelor of Science degree in any discipline with state certification in special education (general or with emphasis in working with people with visual or hearing disabilities).
• Bachelor of Arts/Bachelor of Science degree in Education with experience working with people with disabilities, including physical, cognitive, emotional, and psychological disabilities.
• Bachelor of Arts/Bachelor of Science degree in any discipline with 1 year full-time experience working in classrooms or residential homes with people with disabilities, including physical, cognitive, emotional, and psychological disabilities.

Desired Skills

• Master of Arts in Special Education.
• Experience working with parents of children with special needs, organizing special needs support groups, and trainings focused on children with special needs.
• Experience co-teaching in an inclusive classroom.
• Certification (or working knowledge) in special education methods such as ABA, PECS, Sensory Integration, Brain Gym or any other method that helps children with special needs.
• Experience working with children on the special needs spectrum, including children who are autistic or have Down syndrome, and students with learning disabilities.

Required Language Skills

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

Thanks to the diverse population in North Macedonia, multiple languages are spoken throughout the country. During Pre-Service Training, staff trains Volunteers primarily in Macedonian. Some Volunteers are trained in both Macedonian and/or Albanian as Albanian is the second most spoken language and because Peace Corps North Macedonia places Volunteers in towns/cities where Albanian is the primary language spoken.

Peace Corps staff will be looking for Volunteers interested in learning multiple languages as some placements in communities where more than one language is spoken. Other languages Volunteers may find in their communities include, but are not limited to: Roma, Turkish, Bosnian, and Serbian. Peace Corps Volunteers who need support to learn an additional language are able to work with Peace Corps staff on a learning plan.

Living Conditions

• Living Conditions: All Trainees will be placed with host families during Pre-Service training (the first three months in country). After training, Volunteers will move to their permanent communities, where they will live with another host family for at least the first six months. In many rural communities, the host family arrangement may be the only housing option. Typical host family accommodation provides a room with basic furniture and shared bathroom and shared kitchen facilities. Volunteers should come prepared to live as their hosts do, frugal in their use of utilities because of the high cost for electricity. The housing will be modest, yet functional, healthy, and safe.

• Social and Cultural Norms: Volunteers should expect to have much less alone time than they may be used to. North Macedonia is a collectivist society and Volunteers who spend ample time with their host families, neighbors and colleagues will enjoy a higher level of integration. Volunteers should always practice COVID mitigation measures, which will be covered both pre-departure and in country. Volunteers should be aware that it is common to smoke both indoors and outdoors and it may be hard to avoid during service.

• Diet: North Macedonia has a delicious cuisine, thanks to its hyper-local production of fruits and vegetables. Fresh seasonal fruits and vegetables are readily available year-round at local markets. Typical meals consist of chicken, pork (among the Macedonian population), rice, beans, pasta, and fresh salads. While difficult at times due to the meat-heavy diet, vegetarians have successfully served in North Macedonia.

• Weather: North Macedonia has four distinct seasons. Winter lasts from November to March with some snowfall and cold temperatures, similar to the Mid-Atlantic region of the U.S. Many public buildings are not heated or poorly heated. Homes will also likely be colder during the winter than in the U.S. because most homes lack central heating so Volunteers rely on wood-burning stoves and space heaters. Volunteers should come prepared with very warm winter clothes and clothes that can be layered. Summer lasts from June to September and can be hot and dry and air conditioning is not available everywhere. Fall is rainy and foggy and spring is pleasant with some rainfall.

• Dress Code: Personal appearance is important to people in North Macedonia and you are expected to dress professionally at your workplace. You will have regular occasions to dress up, so we recommend you bring more formal attire as well as professional clothes appropriate for everyday wear in the office. Men usually wear slacks and shirts (sometimes a tie), and a sweater or jacket in cooler weather. Women wear dresses, skirts (knee-length or longer) or slacks or pantsuits.

• Diversity and Inclusion: Volunteers of an American racial, ethnic, or national minority or whose religious or spiritual beliefs differ from the population in North Macedonia may experience a high degree of curiosity or unwanted attention. This can be uncomfortable, but Volunteers are encouraged to use these moments as opportunities to deepen local community members’ understanding of U.S. diversity by sharing their values and experiences. Peace Corps North Macedonia is committed to creating a supportive and inclusive environment for Volunteers of all backgrounds. Peace Corps Staff will address these topics during Pre-Service Training and identify support mechanisms for incoming trainees.

Serving in North Macedonia

Learn more about the Volunteer experience in North Macedonia: 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 North Macedonia welcomes couples. Your partner must apply and qualify for one of the following positions:

• Community Development Associate
• English Language Co-Teacher

Couples may be placed in separate training communities during Pre-Service Training (11 weeks); but will serve in the same community during their service.

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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