Volunteer Teaching in American Samoa with WorldTeach

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About

The Department of Education of American Samoa works with WorldTeach to send volunteer teachers to American Samoa to teach English, and sometimes Math and Science, in local elementary and high schools. In school, English is spoken but most students will speak to each other in the vernacular Samoan. WorldTeach volunteers in American Samoa are also encouraged to participate in extracurricular activities and community life with projects such as tutoring programs, started math and science clubs, and participated in student governments.

This program is funded by the American Samoa Department of Education.

With our year-long program, you can also become TEFL certified to earn credibility and give you an edge in the ESL teaching job market. While certification usually costs about $1,899, with WorldTeach you can become certified for only $350 while also gaining priceless in-country teaching experience.

Questions & Answers

Reviews

90%
based on 18 reviews
  • Benefits 9
  • Support 8.4
  • Fun 7.9
  • Facilities 8.6
  • Safety 8.6
  • Instruction 7.8
  • Support 8
  • Value 9.3
  • Difficulty 6
  • Job Assistance 4.5
Showing 1 - 15 of 18
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Christine
9/10

This AmSam Life

Overall, I had a good experience. In the beginning, the culture shock and the climate were challenging, and learning how to be a teacher took longer than I had expected, but once I became acclimated and invested myself in becoming the best teacher I could, things settled down into a manageable routine. I feel that in the end, I was a positive influence and made a difference in the lives of my students. I am still in touch with many of them today. The country director was excellent and I always felt she had my best interests in mind. The camaraderie of the volunteer cohort was good and even as a non-traditional participant, I felt welcome and involved in our group's extracurriculars.

Transportation on the island is available via busses but walking is always an option especially when the busses aren't running after 6 pm or on Sundays. Making friends on the island is essential. This is how we got the behind the scenes tours were able to catch a ride with someone when you want to go to the movie theater after 6.

As in most programs, you get out of it what you put in, so if you choose to volunteer abroad as a teacher for a year, give it your all, all the time. Don't complain about inconvenience or fairness or how unorganized things can be sometimes, simply go with the flow and keep trying to make a difference, for the children. They should be why you are there! They are what matters most!

How can this program be improved?
I think that one improvement that would be made, would be to have more instructional information available to volunteers before arrival. Webinars or video presentations online on how to be a teacher would be helpful while we still have access to high-quality internet. Perhaps even making curriculum ideas, worksheets, etc available for download to an external hard drive, which we could then take with us to our placement would be good. One hard part was not knowing what you were going to be teaching until a few days before. I could have brought much more tailored materials with me if I had known my grade level and subjects.
Yes, I recommend
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Sarah
10/10

A year in American Samoa

I taught 8th grade ELA for World teach for 10 months in beautiful American Samoa. I absolutely loved my year there and the opportunity I was given to travel and teach in the South Pacific. Being a teacher is hard anyways and I'm not gonna lie that it is hard to teach with little to no resources but I don't regret it because it was rewarding to watch my students learn. I would go home and mentally and physically exhausted but with a smile on my face. I would get to recharge on the weekends by lounging on untouched beaches and beautiful national park hikes. I also got to experience a completely different culture which was humbling to my first word problems in the states! We had a field director on island who helped us with literally anything we needed which was nice to have. If you are looking for a year abroad exploring the culture of the South Pacific and really making a difference with the education of the students on this island, I highly recommend using world teach!

How can this program be improved?
More resources provided to educators or more of an allowance to the volunteers to buy things for their classroom.
Yes, I recommend
Default avatar
Annika
9/10

The Good and The Bad

American Samoa is one of the most beautiful places I have ever had the pleasure of visiting. The empty beaches and uninhabited mountains created such a serene and peaceful experience, it felt like my own private island. The process of training on island before being assigned to our locations allowed me to create strong bonds with my fellow volunteers in a very short time. Between the people I was able to befriend through the program and the beauty of the island, I had one of the best years of my life there. The things that were a struggle there were partly the support from our program director and the cultural issues at work. The program director we had that year seemed to brush everyone's concerns under the table and was really hard to get in contact with. The location they placed me at to teach was over a mountain from where I lived where buses didn't go regularly so I would have to stand by the side of the road, sometimes up to an hour, trying to hitch hike over the mountain to get to work in the morning (which in the torrential rain really sucked). At work I was put in charge of 7th and 8th graders which posed a challenge. The students didn't treat me very well because the saw me as an outsider and would tell me they didn't care what I had to say because i was white and a woman. That was a constant battle the entire year. I also didn't live in the very remote village so I wasn't apart of their community so I never came in contact with their parents to be able to hold the kids accountable for their behavior. The main language spoken on the island is Samoan but school is taught in English so a lot of the conversations happening in class I couldn't understand which also posed challenges. There were a number of challenges that I faced on the island but it was still the best time of my life. If you are resilient and love to connect with other people who have a passion for adventure then it is a good program to choose. If you are looking to really make a difference with children's education then this might not be the best place to do it.

How can this program be improved?
Having a field director who followed through with the commitment to check in weekly to make sure things are going smoothly and who would take action to deal with issues.
Yes, I recommend
Caitlin
Caitlin
9/10

Mountain, Ocean, & Teaching

Teaching on the island or Tutuila, American Samoa was one of the most challenging experiences of my life, but what I learned through that year continues to shape me now, 8 years later. My backyard was a mountain, front yard the ocean. The breathtaking views were coupled with neverending heat, sunshine, and humidity. Still, people spent time together in the open spaces of the villages, at church buildings, and around tables both indoors and outdoors. Food, dancing, singing, outdoor play, and church life were components of daily life in Samoa. School was less of a priority, which created obstacles for me as a teacher. Although I still believe deeply in the significance and value of education, I now have a greater appreciation for the things of life they see as normal, which I tend to rush past or deem unnecessary. I now realize I should have taken it less personally when kids missed class for days or weeks at a time for church practice or mourning the loss of a loved one. Because it was common for meetings to start an hour or more late, I learned to take a book or work to do so that the time didn’t seem like a waste when the meeting never even happened. By the end of the year, just a month or so before we left, I had developed a better command of the language, which allowed me to integrate more fully into the community. For all the invitations we received, I wish we had taken the time to stop and eat with people and practice Samoan more and earlier in our stay. While it’s good and helpful to spend time with other Americans, the local experience is more rich when you take an interest in the local people, learning their customs and language.

How can this program be improved?
As much as possible, I recommend hiring a Field Director who has done that specific program in that specific place prior to becoming Field Director.
Yes, I recommend
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Maggie
10/10

Volunteer Teaching in American Samoa with WorldTeach

I would highly recommend volunteer teaching with WorldTeach in American Samoa. I taught English and Language Arts to 2nd graders. Check out my blog that I kept during my year on the island for a more detailed description of my experience. http://maggieamericansamoa.blogspot.com/

The island, the culture, the people, the views, my students.... words really can't do it justice. I made amazing memories and friends that I will have for the rest of my life. I joined a paddling team, hiked in the only US National Park south of the equator and swam in the South Pacific Ocean every week for a 11 months. You will face many challenges but will grow and learn SO much about yourself and the Polynesian culture.

How can this program be improved?
I'd say the only thing that would have been better was if we could become TEFL certified while teaching in AmSam. I do believe other WorldTeach programs allow you to become TEFL certified but in AmSam you do not.
Yes, I recommend
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Alexandra
10/10

Year in paradise

I volunteered with WorldTeach in American Samoa the year after graduating from college. I taught science to high school students at Manu’a High School on the island of Ta’u, which is one of the outer islands of AmSam. It was one of the best (and most challenging) experiences of my life, and I wouldn’t change it for the world. Living on an outer island with no restaurants, sporadic WiFi, and occasional boats from the outside was quite the adventure, especially when surrounded by ocean and jungle. The high school I taught at was incredibly supportive, and helped me through teaching when I did not have much experience. While some of WorldTeach’s requirements for “development” were silly and unhelpful (turning in reflections and lesson plans etc), it was very helpful to have WorldTeach at my back to deal with any issues and to be able to rely on. My advice: if you choose this program, go into it with an open mind and a lot of flexibility, and you’ll do great!

Yes, I recommend
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Eric
10/10

WT American Samoa Alum

The year I spent with WorldTeach American Samoa is one I will remember and cherish forever. It is very difficult work and patience is a must, so be sure you are ready to commit if you choose to go. I felt that the field support was adequate for my needs but I must stress that you must be flexible and patient as some issues are in the hands of the local administrators and not world teach. To get the most out of your experience you need to dedicate yourself to teaching your kids the best you can and also be sure to get yourself out into the community and participate in local happenings.

Yes, I recommend
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Bryan
10/10

Fantastic boss

Our program director was the best in the business. When you talk professionalism you must be using her as a prime example of everything that should be done. Groceries shipped 7 hours across the sea from a boat that departs at 2am, don't even worry, she will buy them, pack them and load them for you.

WorldTeach is an idealistic organization, sometimes to a fault, but with employees like our field director you can rest assured your disillusionment will not get the best of you.

How can this program be improved?
Tell vols about tax liability for working in US territory.
Yes, I recommend
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Colin
10/10

ISLAND IN THE SUN

My time in American Samoa was nothing short of breath-taking. The natural beauty of the island is the first thing you notice. My placement was on the island of Ta'u, one of the most remote locations that WorldTeach offers. My time was spent exploring the tropical jungle, snorkeling on pristine beaches, and teaching the most entertaining and creative kids on Earth! I recommend this program in American Samoa to anyone who is looking to truly escape and still have a great supportive staff to see them through the difficulties of any Teach Abroad program. WorldTeach truly is out to make a difference in the World, and there's nowhere on Earth like American Samoa!

How can this program be improved?
I would recommend that the supportive staff at WorldTeach be more understanding of the remoteness of the Manu'a island placement. Transportation is a huge issue to anyone interested in this placement and sometimes the boat and plane don't run for weeks on end.
Yes, I recommend
Matthew
10/10

Livin' the Dream: WorldTeach American Samoa Ofu Island

Waking up and walking to school may sound like a horrible way to start your day but it was one of the things I looked forward to when the island ran out of gas. When you watch movies of tropical islands and think "that's not real, it's too awesome", well, that was my life. For a year I lived on one of the most pristine beaches and reefs in the world. I was a volunteer teacher through WorldTeach at Olosega Elementary School. The walk each morning followed the coastline where I watched the tides roll over the tops of the reef and small white tip sharks swimming to catch their breakfast. The giant fruit bats eating from the papaya trees would all fly away from the road once they heard the group of local students and teachers walking, singing, and playing towards the school. There was such joy each day. Even in the rain there was something amazing to see. When the sea turtles would beach to lay their eggs, or the little turtles would breach the nest to scoot towards the water we always stopped to watch. Time was irrelevant, the experience was the key. I learned to enjoy the moment, to not have a plan, and to just flow like a river. When the whales would migrate through we would all stop to watch in amazement. The local community still looked at all of these things like it was their first time. They celebrated it and once I became part of the community, I was able to celebrate with them. The walks to school is where I became not just a palagi, but a part of the Ofu Village. I made friends and had experiences that would impact my life profoundly, just by being there. Once I'd get to school my work would start. No one says that teaching is easy, but no one ever told me it could be such a wonderful adventure. Just google Ofu Beach and look at the smiles on peoples faces, the joy that comes from living the dream. I carry these lessons with me today. On the subway or in traffic I think about the waves, the whales, and the crystal clear ocean.

How can this program be improved?
I wish I would have taken the language preparation more seriously because it would have made it easier to establish myself in the beginning. While most people do know English it helps to know a little Samoan to bridge the gap from just being another palagi to being a friend.
Yes, I recommend
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Jessica
9/10

The difference between an adventure and an ordeal is attitude!

Day to day my life in American Samoa was simple, breathtaking, dirty, loving, humid, bright, and happy. Teaching taught me a lot. It ended up being very rewarding. The people on the island are so generous! The laid-back island life comes with its ups and downs, but as with all things, it is what you make of it! I chose to make it an adventure. Go for it!

How can this program be improved?
I really wish the program would have covered utilities and picked better landlords. It was not clear in the pre-departure material that they wouldn't cover utilities, and the rules with it kept changing. The American Samoa DOE seems to have the money to pay WorldTeach a lot more. They aren't using the money appropriately. I wish WorldTeeach would have put more pressure on the DOE to cover more costs so that us volunteers weren't so stressed about finances and felt taken care of.
Yes, I recommend
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Jessica
9/10

Experience is what you make it

Sure a few bumps along the way, but I am so glad I took this opportunity when I did. I learned so much as well as my students, local community, and friends back home. If you are someone who wants to do some international service, are adventurous, and can roll with the punches, this may be a great opportunity for you. It can be hard work, but you have to enjoy yourself along the way.

How can this program be improved?
Having access to more teaching resources could be helpful.
Response from WorldTeach

Thank you Jessica for taking the time to write this review and address the important issue of teaching resources.

Our Department of Education creates a curriculum designed to work in accordance with the local standards of each country where we teach, and within each school setting and student age. These are reviewed during Orientation, and provided to each volunteer. Additionally, our Teacher Quality Program ensures that each volunteer is assigned to a Coordinator who is located in the US office. This Coordinator is a current student pursuing their Masters in Education, with prior international teaching experience. The Coordinator is responsible for communicating with the volunteer to review monthly lesson plans, answer questions, address classroom concerns, and provide additional resources for specific lesson plans or topics. The coordinator is also available for Skype sessions to speak with the volunteer.

Thank you again for your review.

Yes, I recommend
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Diana
9/10

For Independent Volunteers

WorldTeach has been a wonderful program for me, an elementary teacher by trade. Teaching lower elementary is challenging here in American Samoa. There is a cultural belief that real learning doesn't take place until students are teens. There is a language barrier and cultural classroom expectations are very different from the United States. However, the elementary schools are in dire need of native English speakers and conscientious teachers. Volunteers must be ready for serious challenges. Consequently, American Samoa is one place where volunteers really make a difference in the education of local children. I believe elementary placements are best for certified teachers, or for volunteers with classroom experience. Volunteers who have never worked with groups of young children do not tend to do well. It's a great fit for new graduates, fresh from student teaching. It's a great way to gain experience in your own classroom.

How can this program be improved?
WorldTeach expects volunteers to be fairly independent once placed. This program is a good fit for self-motivated individuals. WorldTeach is supportive, but they will not hold your hand through every difficulty. The local principals are difficult to work with, and WorldTeach expects you to deal with quite a lot on your own.
Yes, I recommend
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WorldTeach
7/10

Giving Your All

Volunteering in American Samoa leads to many challenging and rewarding experiences. The school environment is a difficult one, and the culture incredibly unique. Students tend to not be as engaged, as hard-working, nor as well-behaved as a teacher would expect from a typical class, but the amount of energy, encouragement, and dedication a teacher gives can lead to significant improvement and enjoyment of teaching here.

WorldTeach as an organization provided a positive experience. My field director went above and beyond to support and assist the volunteers. I felt well-informed of their expectations and guidelines, and comfortable asking questions and seeking help both in and outside the classroom. I would recommend this program to anyone who is interested in stepping outside their comfort zone and expanding their global perspective.

Yes, I recommend
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WorldTeach
2/10

Don't Trust WorldTeach

I had a great year as a classroom teacher in American Samoa. However, dealing with WorldTeach was expensive and exhausting.

Here is my experience with WorldTeach:

Housing: WorldTeach set-up unsafe and unsanitary housing. The landlord entered without permission, yelled at us for having friends over and exercising, and there was black mold. There was also only a mini-fridge and a hot plate for three adults. It was a 35-45 minute bus ride to school. I was relocated after six months, but only after extensive discussions with WorldTeach. This housing placement was previously used by WorldTeach.

Airfare: Round-trip airfare does not mean a fully paid ticket to and from America. I had to pay extra money to return to the departure city because there was a fare increase between when WorldTeach purchased the tickets and when my service with WorldTeach ended.

Teaching Placement: My school informed me they wanted to provide a co-teacher in my classroom. WorldTeach said I should welcome this and enjoy the cultural experience of having a local co-teacher.

Other Money Issues/ Invasion of Privacy: WorldTeach feels they have a right to know where you are at all times. If you miss school, they will use this to reduce your monthly living stipend and not return your deposit. Given this situation, most volunteers avoid contact with WorldTeach. WorldTeach also does some very interesting math on their monthly stipends, especially the last one. Watch-out and be prepared to fight for money they owe you.

I had a great experience in American Samoa, and I hope I don’t deter anyone from volunteering or coming to this exciting region. I recommend that If you are interested in coming to American Samoa contact the American Samoa Department of Education directly for a position. There is a teacher shortage and both private and public schools hire throughout the year.

Response from WorldTeach

Thank you for your open and direct feedback about your experience in American Samoa. We are glad to hear that you had a great year as a classroom teacher.

However, we sincerely regret that we failed in appropriately supporting you. After nearly 27 years of recruiting, placing, and supporting volunteers, we are acutely aware that volunteers are most successful when they receive open, attentive and caring support from our staff. We endeavor for that to be the experience of each volunteer so we welcome proactive suggestions from the field to continuously improve what we do.

In response to the feedback we've received, we have changed our pre-departure literature for every single one of our programs to more accurately outline the costs that volunteers should expect to incur as they prepare for their departure as well as while they are in-country. We have made the language about the flight terms clearer and we have booked one way tickets to American Samoa this year. This allows us to book and pay for one way return tickets so that volunteers don't have to bear the burden of paying for the difference in airfare from a round-trip ticket.

We take safety seriously which is why we expect to know the whereabouts of our volunteers so that we can get in contact with them in the case of an emergency. We also expect volunteers to treat their positions as they would any other job, and to approach it with the same degree of commitment and professionalism. Teacher absenteeism is a challenge in the American Samoan school system and we envision WorldTeach volunteers as part of a solution in that regard. We're sorry if our oversight came off as 'big brother-ish' - our intent was accountability, not draconian supervision.

After the issue with the last stipend was brought to our attention, we quickly rectified our mistake and issued a refund to every single volunteer.

As you mention, the region is most certainly an exciting one to volunteer and live in and its students are in need of dedicated teachers. Please feel free to reach out to us in the head office ([email protected]) to continue the dialogue about how we can better serve our volunteers and ensure positive experiences for future cohorts.

No, I don't recommend

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