Between August 2015 and June 2016, I was a volunteer teacher with WorldTeach in American Samoa. In my post-retirement, 5-year plan, I wanted to spend a year teaching English in another culture. After getting a TEFL certification in Thailand, I searched for interesting position. WorldTeach is a volunteer organization and American Samoa was a subsidized assignment. Aside from a good faith deposit, my costs were basically covered by the AMSAM Department of Education.
A year on a Pacific island! Who wouldn’t want to do this. It was terrific.
I taught at Coleman Elementary in Pago Pago and my students ranged from Level 5 to Level 8. Most of the year, I was teaching technology to four grades. Over 320 students in a week meant that my impact was brief. For one quarter, I filled in for a missing Level 6 English teacher and that gave me more time with individual students.
I shared a house with three other WorldTeach volunteers, Annika, Katelyn and Sneha, with other World Teach volunteers dropping in during weekends and holidays. The other teachers at Coleman provided a nice welcoming social and professional network. The kids though, were the highlight of my year. They were so much fun to work with, even as I struggled to keep them under control and working on learning.
The island has some limitations in terms of grocery selection, internet access and transportation options. It has in abundance beautiful sites, warm friendly people and interesting activities. I loved learning about the culture, music and dance. I had a ball with all the local fabrics and the fun of getting clothes made up to my design and style…with a local spin. I think I overdid the fabric buying and I brought home a full suitcase of just fabric. Exactly what I will make with all that, I have yet to decide.
American Samoa is a great option for a year abroad. Most people speak English, the currency is the US dollar and the US Post Office delivers the flat rate boxes for the same price as the mainland. For me the combination of familiarity and foreignness was both comforting and adventurous.
WorldTeach is a great organization and the support we received from our local field director and the main office was terrific. My field director, Liora, provided training, insights, tips and weekly mail deliveries. She organized our housing and teaching assignments and was there if there was a problem and left us alone to do our thing.
The volunteers bonded during training and we became a family during the year. Lifelong friendships were made. Look out for future blog posts on specific areas of American Samoa.