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Description of Service
Description of Peace Corps Volunteer Service
Sean David White
Country of Service: Ukraine
Dates of Service: (December 2005 – December 2007)
After a competitive application process emphasizing professional skills, cultural sensitivity, adaptability and medical fitness, Sean David White was invited into Peace Corps service as a Teacher of English as a Foreign Language (TEFL).
On October 3rd, 2005, Mr. White joined the twenty-ninth group of Peace Corps Volunteers to serve in Ukraine. He entered an intensive 12-week Peace Corps Ukraine community-based training program. The training program included 150 hours of technical instruction in TEFL methodologies and teaching practice, 200 hours of Ukrainian language training, 100 hours of cross-cultural studies (history, economy, cultural norms). To reinforce language and cross-cultural learning, Mr. White lived with a Ukrainian family in the town of Cherniahiv, Zhytomyr Region throughout training.
In preparation for his Peace Corps service, Mr. White, while a trainee, taught at Cherniahiv Gymnasium. While at Cherniahiv Gymnasium, Mr. White taught Conversational English and Country Studies.
U.S. Ambassador John Herbst swore in Mr. White as a Peace Corps Volunteer on December 22nd, 2005 in Kyiv, Ukraine.
Mr. White was assigned to Shumsk , a town of five thousand Ukrainian and Russian speakers in western Ukraine. He worked as a full-time teacher at Secondary School #2, which has a student body of 400 students in grades 1-11. He was one of five English teachers and reported directly to the school’s principal Oleksander Mykolayovych Dobrovolskiy, while working closely with his counterpart Stefania Mykhailivna Shymkyv, the Head of the English Department.
Mr. White also developed and taught two after school English language clubs involving a mix of methodologies including the Communicative Approach and Total Physical Response and close attention to activities designed for multiple intelligences. His lessons focused on developing students’ speaking and comprehension skills through a multiplicity of activities for all levels of students. The first of the two clubs was regularly attended by 12 to 15 students from the 6th to the 8th form. The second was attended by 8 to 10 students from the 9th to the 11th form.
Mr. White was responsible for teaching the following courses:
Date and # of School Days Hrs. per Week
Subject Grade # of Students
3 hrs/wk EFL 11 12
2 hrs/wk EFL 10b 18
2 hrs/wk EFL 9b 19
2 hrs/wk EFL 8b 21
2 hrs/wk EFL 7a 20
2 hrs/wk EFL 7b 22
EFL 6a 24
EFL 6b 23
1 hr/wk (class rotates wk to wk) EFL 5a/5b 22/23
1 hr/wk (rotating – each week visited a different class, from 2a/b through 10a) EFL 2 – 10 8 - 25
Note: Shumsk Secondary School #2 organizes its English classes in a slightly unorthodox manner. The ‘A’ classes have two to three English lessons per week, while the ‘B’ classes have four to five lessons per week. Therefore, the ‘B’ classes are the more advanced students and this is why Mr. White’s classes were most often with these groups.
In addition to his primary responsibilities, Mr. White demonstrated his versatility and high level of motivation in increasing the interest in English through school participation and extra-curricular activities. He assisted in the organization of ‘English Week’ each semester and occasional holiday celebrations encouraging students to help in the planning and execution of these events. For two quarters a year, he worked an extra two to three hours per week tutoring the school’s English Olympiad students for the city and regional competition and planned and judged the school’s 9th and 11th grade Olympiads. He tutored the nine students who passed through to the third round of FLEX testing and the three students who were chosen as FLEX participants.
Mr. White also encouraged participation in the annual GAD essay contest organized by Peace Corps and two students were chosen as finalists for the 2006 round of the contest.
Working together with his counterpart, the school administration and Peace Corps, Mr. White applied for and was awarded one Small Project Assistance Grant for a total amount of $2043. This grant helped fund the Shumsk District English Language Resource Center. The resource center, located at School #2, has been outfitted with ESL materials in various formats and media for the use of all district teachers and is also the site of monthly training seminars led by Mr. White and his counterpart.
Mr. White also successfully worked as part of a team of PCVs and Ukrainian university students in applying for an Embassy grant which was awarded for a total amount of $4300. The funds from this grant were used to offset materials and transportation costs for the IOC 2007 summer camp (International Outreach Coalition) which was attended by 100 Ukrainian and international students ages 14 to 22, including 12 students from Shumsk.
Throughout the course of his service, Mr. White actively participated in teacher training by conducting methodological seminars and workshops monthly at his school, within his district and in the city of Ternopil on interactive teaching styles and various subjects with a primary focus on various activities to get both teachers and students speaking with more confidence. Mr.
In establishing School #2’s first English language resource center, Mr. White secured donations of dozens of American books, magazines, films, cassettes and games from his hometown community and different book donor organizations such as Darien Book Aid and Books for Peace. His work and activities have helped to improve the level of English teaching and learning throughout the Ternopil region and Ukraine.
During the summers, Mr. White continued his work in increasing student interest in English and American culture. In 2006, with another PCV, he led and organized a week-long summer, day camp for children in the 5th to 7th forms at the Kremenets Gymnasium. Later that same summer, with two other PCVs, Mr. White planned, organized and taught a week-long Spanish summer camp in the city of Melitopol for 20 university students. Shortly thereafter, Mr. White returned to the city of Ternopil where he participated with 14 other PCVs and 12 Ukrainian councilors, in the International Outreach Camp (IOC) during which he led team activities and taught classes in Critical Thinking, Debate and Spanish language. The camp was attended by 100 Ukrainian students from the Ternopil oblast ranging in age from 12 to 21 as well as 14 international students from several countries.
Throughout the following school year, Mr. White aided in the planning of IOC 2007, writing curricula and gathering materials for three classes (Country Studies, Issues and Debate, and Spanish) and reviewing curricula for five other classes. His work also focused on funding this camp which was accomplished through the successful application for the US Embassy grant previously mentioned.
In 2007, with two other PCVs, Mr. White planned, organized and taught a continuation of the Melitopol Spanish camp this time attended by 22 university students, many returning from the previous year. Later that summer, Mr. White participated in the month-long IOC 2007 summer camp held in Borshchiv, Ternopil oblast and later in Nykolayev. This was effectively one camp separated into two sections with two distinct sets of curricula for two groups of students, consisting of 100 Ukrainian and international students, but taught by the same group of PCVs and Ukrainian counselors. Mr. White is currently assisting in the planning of curricula and team activities for IOC 2008.
Besides his work with host country nationals, Mr. White was an active Volunteer in different Peace Corps projects. He eagerly adopted a training cluster from group 31 in the town of Mryn, Chernigiv oblast, helping to answer their questions about living and working in Ukraine and preparing them for the next two years of their service. He has also taken an active role in continuing a process begun by his Regional Manager, that of building a network of volunteer support within the Ternopil oblast by encouraging and participating in regular meetings of PCVs within the oblast. Not only has this informal network enabled PCVs to support one another emotionally, but it has also allowed for collaboration and assistance which might otherwise be much more difficult.
Throughout the twenty-seven months that he spent in Ukraine, Mr. White continued to learn the Ukrainian language and began to learn conversational Russian. At the end of his service, Mr. White received a score of Advanced Mid on the Language Proficiency Inventory in Ukrainian.
Following 750 years as a colony of other Eastern and Central European states, Ukraine decided in 1990 by plebiscite to be an independent country oriented towards Western Europe. Ukraine welcomes change and encourages its people to open their minds to new concepts. Mr. White’s work as a teacher of English language, as well as his role as a transmitter of western culture and its approaches to problem solving, were part of a nation-wide effort in Ukraine to reorient itself towards the West.
Additionally, Mr. White fulfilled the goals of Peace Corps service by giving of himself, both professionally and personally, to his site and the local community. His contribution, whether to the students of his site, to the pupils of the local schools or to the members of the local community, provided opportunities for Ukrainians and Americans to create common bonds and to gain understanding and appreciation for one another.