Staff Spotlight: Flynn Doran

Flynn Doran was a Spanish and History major at Carthage College where she graduated in May 2009. Traveling has always been a strong force in Flynn’s life and she spent a year abroad in Cadiz, Spain while in college. After college, it was inevitable that she would go abroad again and therefore became a WorldTeach Costa Rica volunteer in 2010. She moved to Chicago after leaving Costa Rica and began a Master’s program in Cultural and Educational Policies Studies at Loyola University Chicago and in the final stages of its completion. She began working as the WorldTeach Costa Rica Field Director in August 2012 and is enjoying La Pura Vida more than ever.

Teach English in Costa Rica with WorldTeach

What makes teaching in Costa Rica with WorldTeach so special and unique?

Flynn: Teaching in Costa Rica is special in many ways. One thing that is special is our type of placements. Volunteers are placed in rural communities and rural Costa Rica is like no other place in the world. There is a strong culture of farming, family, drinking coffee, and spending time with other community members. This makes the teaching experience fun and always interesting. Another way that teaching with the WorldTeach program is unique is the curriculum that volunteers use in the classroom. The Ministry of Public Education has an English Curriculum, which our volunteers follow. However, there is a certain level of autonomy in terms of the classrooms and teaching methodology. This provides teachers a good structure but also allows them freedom to explore different topics and techniques in the classroom. What also makes teaching in Costa Rica special are the students. They are so eager to learn and are very loving. This is not to say that there aren’t behavioral problems, however, the students genuinely appreciate English class and their teachers.

Did you teach abroad? If so, where and what inspired you to go?

Flynn: I volunteered with the WorldTeach Costa Rica program before coming back on as the Field Director. I was inspired to go teach abroad first and foremost to provide English education in an unreached area. The notion of being able to provide an entire community with exposure to English was very exciting. Besides being able to provide this knowledge to my students and community, I was also inspired to go for the experience. I did not have a background in education, but had always been interested in education and wanted to give teaching a try. A third inspiration was the cultural exchange. Since it is an abroad experience, that aspect of cultural exchange was exhilarating for me.

What should teachers know about the classroom and workplace culture in Costa Rica?

Flynn: The workplace culture in rural Costa Rica is very relaxed. The school staff is generally very close and views each other as friends. Depending on the school size and amount of staff, there are a lot of staff interactions. There is a lot of joking and chitchatting that goes on, which keeps the environment fun and light-hearted.

The classroom culture is taken seriously but relaxed. Students are expected to behave in class. However, rules are not always well laid out and followed through so students can, at times, get pretty rowdy. But, in the end, the students are sweet, welcoming, and excited to have someone from a different culture come and teach them so they are very receptive. The classes given by WorldTeach volunteers are generally more interactive than other classes so students often times prefer English class.

What can you tell us about the current state of education in Costa Rica? How do you see this changing in the next 10 years?

Flynn: Education has always played a huge role in Costa Rica. The first president of Costa Rica was an educator and felt that a solid, compulsory public education was key to democracy. The government has always made education a priority, however, as with any education system, there are still areas for improvement. In Costa Rica, the focus has been on improving retention rates, decreasing dropout rates, and increasing attendance levels.

Another focus for the Costa Rican education system is English education. English has been a core class in elementary classrooms since 1997 and English language instruction in schools is helping the Costa Rican government achieve its goal of having a bilingual populace by 2017. Also, since tourism is the biggest industry in Costa Rica the knowledge of English is necessary for employment and well-being. WorldTeach volunteers help immensely in obtaining this goal since we teach under-served students in schools where there are no local English teachers and thus exposure to English would not occur without our presence.

What is one piece of advice you would offer someone considering teaching abroad in Costa Rica?

Flynn: Be open, patient, reflective, and understanding. With these qualities and a good sense of humor, you can handle anything that comes your way while living “la pura vida”.