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2 years, 3 months
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Up to 12 months
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3-6 months
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Carol H.

“I have gained respect for the diverse culture and history of others in my host community, helping me be a more compassionate and empathetic human.”

Carol H headshot

1. What got you interested in the Peace Corps, specifically the Response program? 

After 30 years of rewarding but intense teaching and leadership roles in primary schools in America and England, I yearned for a change. I wanted a challenging new adventure where I could work with fellow teachers in a different country who share my passion for teaching children to read.

2. What projects are you working on with your community?

I’m part of a community-based literacy project where I coach, train, and mentor teachers in Belizean primary schools to help them build skills to teach children to read confidently and efficiently.

Initially I served as a teacher, supporting educators and principals in four primary schools in the capital. In 2023-24 I returned to Belize to support primary school teachers in southern Belize.

The main aim of the project is: (1) to develop and deliver professional training workshops for teachers and principals using evidence-based methods (aligned with the Science of Reading) to improve children’s reading skills and raise their reading proficiency levels, (2) to work in a hands-on manner alongside primary teachers to support their development as reading teachers, and (3) to improve teachers’ skills so that they can continue to practice as reflective, skilled and confident teaching professionals.

Carol H with a colleague
Carol and her collaborator, David, review literacy trends for a school in Belize.

3. How have you leveraged your previous professional experience and skills in your service?  

My professional experience in various school roles as a teacher, a vice-principal, a school governor, and as the school representative on a parent-teacher association has helped me successfully navigate the demands of my Volunteer role. My background has enabled me to confidently collaborate with school principals and groups of teachers; provide professional coaching and individual mentoring to teachers; and liaise with other education professionals, including Ministry of Education officers in my district.

I use my experience as a reading specialist along with my assessment and data analysis skills to teach principals and teachers how to conduct various types of student assessments in reading. This has allowed school staff to assess student reading skills, analyze the data and use it to group students appropriately for instruction, plan lessons to best meet learning needs, and provide teachers with the evidence needed to reliably track and monitor student progress.

I successfully apply my previous experience planning differentiated literacy lessons for students of different skills and abilities in my Belize schools. I teach principals and teachers how to plan literacy lessons for individuals or groups of learners to address the gaps in their learning and how to use ongoing informal assessment methods to ensure each child makes progress and is appropriately challenged.

4. What is a highlight of your time in service so far?

Interacting with the diverse people of Belize, of all ages and ethnic and religious groups. Learning about the culture, such as music, food, art.

5. What strategies have you used to meet the challenges of being a Peace Corps Response Volunteer? 

  • I use Zoom and WhatsApp Life to communicate with close family members who are not physically near.
  • I ask for advice from locals and experiment to learn how to cook new foods. I shop at and eat local foods from the market.
  • In the heat and rain, I wear protective clothing, stay hydrated, use a hat and sunscreen, and carry an umbrella, bottle of water, and insect spray.
  • For walking or riding a bike, I wear appropriate shoes and always wear a helmet (to bike). I have learned the bus schedule and have contact information for local, trustworthy taxi drivers.
  • For exploring local landmarks and historical sites I use an experienced guide and go with a group.
  • To improve my language skills I hire a language coach and/or get support from local friends.
Carol dines with her host "mother," Elma.
Carol dines with her host "mother," Elma in Belize.

6. What skills are you developing, and how do you think those skills will help you in the future?

I have learned to remain open-minded, to be non-judgmental, and to smile and be friendly as I walk around and catch the eye of people I come across; most people respond positively with a ‘Hello!’ and a smile. I try to meet new people, even if they may be a bit shy to start a conversation. There are so many rich experiences to be gained by talking to locals; you learn about them and their family, and they are curious about your own cultural norms and values. I have gained respect for the diverse culture and history of others in my host community, helping me be a more compassionate and empathetic human. I have developed my confidence and ability to motivate, coach, train, and support educational professionals to improve their teaching skills. When I return to work I will use my improved teaching skills to engage more effectively and confidently with colleagues and other educational stakeholders.