Reflections on teaching English in Peru

Lavonne reflects on teaching English on SST

For the service part of my SST experience, I lived in a little town called Oxapampa in the mountains of Peru.  Our town was often referred to as the “gateway to the jungle,” so I got to experience a lot of jungle aspects of Peru—like banana trees and huge parrots—while not having to suffer through unbearably sweaty heat.

I worked at an after-school program that was funded by Compassion International. My official job there was helping in the kitchen. The first two days there consisted of me peeling carrots with dull knives, and pressing limes to make the lunchtime refresco. After I got sick from the food, I lost my kitchen privileges and decided I was going to teach English instead.

I had no idea what I was doing when I started teaching.  The first day, I just went in and winged it—not something my education professors ever suggested doing.  But, it turned out okay. We had number races—I’d write down a number on a blackboard, and the eager 8-year olds would scream the name in English as loud as they could.  Tally marks and affirmations were as much motivation as they needed.

I was blown away by how excited kids were about the chance to learn English.  Students in the US don’t get that excited about learning! Once the director at the proyecto decided that she wanted all of the students to have an opportunity to learn English, she made posters and put them up all over the church buildings where we met.

My 13- and 14-year old class was infinitely more difficult than my 8-year old class.  The boys only wanted to know what different English curse words meant.  The girls only wanted to laugh at the boys and how daring they were for saying such things to an adult. I caved and met them in the middle—no number races for my oldest kids.  More often than not, the kids wanted to sing “Baby” by Justin Bieber.  Our deal was that if they could sing English songs to me and pronounce most the words right, I’d translate the lyrics into Spanish.

I loved teaching English.  I loved making worksheets and coming up with lessons and figuring out new ways to get kids want to learn.  But more important than any of those, I loved seeing the joy on my kids’ faces when it was time for class, and I loved how many questions they had about everything.  Teaching in Peru showed me how much adrenaline and excitement pours into my body when I’m in front of a classroom.  I can’t imagine doing anything else with my life.


Lavonne Shetler is a fourth year English Education major with a writing minor.