Bringing their spirit home

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“She’s pretty good. I like her,” a young man said of Ms. Schwalm at the end of class.

She finds the high school teaching staff supportive and calls the teaching fellow experience “a good transition.” After her return from Jamaica, she spent six months looking for a job in international development and nearly got a job as an aquarium education program director before signing on to become a fellow.

“Science teachers are always in demand,” she says. “If I got the itch to move around, I could just pick up and go.”

Three other Peace Corps fellows are teaching fellows at Kennedy this year, among them Jacqueline Waite, 28, a corps volunteer in Mauritania, who has only ESOL classes and is committed to a career in teaching. Andrew Wilson, 29, is an ESOL teacher who spent time in Niger as an agricultural worker.

“What the Peace Corps gives you is basically understanding that other people don’t interpret social skills the same way you do,” Mr. Wilson says. The second thing a volunteer learns, he says, is patience — waiting for transportation that may or may not come along and waiting for a child to develop in his or her own way.

Tim Chaney, 29, who was a public-health volunteer in Kenya, is another fellow at Kennedy, where he teaches five regular science classes — chemistry, physics and a course called nutrition science. Before joining the Peace Corps, he worked three years in a hospital laboratory and would probably have gone back to that job without being exposed to teaching, almost by accident, while in Africa.

Back home, he tries to enliven students by telling stories about his experiences there. In nutrition science, he describes the steps in how he made a chicken dinner in Kenya: “First you have to find a healthy chicken,” he says. “Then you have to kill it.”

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