English at PEPY Empowering Youth

Thursday, March 2016
by Megan Skinner

In the PEPY Empowering Youth Learning Center, the Scholarship students participate in regular English lessons. These lessons take place both externally at ACE school and internally within our Learning Center. For the most part, the internal lessons are taught by long-term English speaking volunteers with professional teaching experience. We’d like to introduce you to two of our volunteers, who are fully qualified teachers themselves, Maddie and Nicky!

maddie issr

  1. First things first Maddie, could you tell us a bit about yourself? Where you’re from, what you do, how long you have been in Cambodia…

I’m Primary School Teacher from Melbourne, Australia and I’ve been living in Siem Reap since August 2015. I love all things food, from the weird to the wonderful. I was brought up traditionally eating fruit for sweets but since my move to Cambodia, I’ve been enjoying fruits dipped in chili. I’m also mad for craft and you can usually find me cutting up a lovely book to make an average collage for no good reason.

  1. Why did you decide to move to Cambodia? Had you been here before?

I visited Siem Reap in early January 2015 and fell in love. As soon as I moved home I was on the job hunt so I could come back as soon as possible. I luckily found a position at ISSR and that’s where I met Colm (who has been involved with PEPY for a number of years).

  1. How and why did you come to be involved with PEPY Empowering Youth?

I met Colm at ISSR and was interested in his work at PEPY straight away. A few weeks later he developed a program so Nicky (another teacher from ISSR) and I could teach with him during the week.

  1. What sort of topics do you cover with the Scholarship students in your lessons?

We’ve been playing all sorts of team building games but since January we have been working solely on resumés and cover letters. Later in the term we will be covering interview questions and listening activities.

  1. Tell us about your favorite moment in PEPY?

I think my first week at PEPY is a real standout moment. Meeting all the students and hearing their stories was really exciting and interesting. But all my time at PEPY is inspiring, both for my career and life in general.

  1. Have you seen the students progress during your time volunteering with PEPY and if so in what ways?

The students have progressed in all sorts of ways. Not only are they comfortable when they are communicating with me but they answer academic questions with complete confidence and quite often (embarrassingly) correct my spelling.

  1. What are the challenges of teaching in Cambodia

I think the main and obvious challenge is that I do not speak Khmer and sometimes communicating and articulating definitions can be quite difficult. But other than that, THE HEAT.

  1. How does teaching at PEPY, and in Cambodia in general, differ to your experience at home?

Teaching at PEPY differs considerably to teaching at home. As I am a trained Primary School Teacher, I only teach students up to the age of twelve. Teaching the 20-something scholarship students is quite different, especially as I’m of a similar age and those lines between being a peer and being a teacher can be confusing for me.

  1. What are your plans for the future?

No plans for the future… Anybody have any ideas?

 

nicky issr

  1. First things first Nicky, could you tell us a bit about yourself? Where you’re from, what you do, how long you have been in Cambodia…

I’m a teacher from a village in The Midlands, England. In August 2015 I came out to Cambodia to teach primary school children in a school in Siem Reap, and so have now been here for seven months.

  1. Why did you decide to move to Cambodia? Had you been here before?

I had never visited Cambodia or any other Asian countries before moving here which made the move more exciting. I wanted to go somewhere that I could use my skills as a teacher to try and make a small difference. Cambodia was my first choice, of course, as it has a very different culture to my own, great people, sunshine and good food.

  1. How and why did you come to be involved with PEPY Empowering Youth?

Luckily, I found myself teaching in the same school as Colm (who has been connected with PEPY for several years) and he explained what PEPY Empowering Youth was about and their mission, and I knew straight away that it was something I wanted to be a part of. The next thing I know, I am getting to know the fabulous year 1 and 2 students.

  1. What sort of topics do you cover with the Scholarship students in your lessons?

At the beginning we mainly focused on oral language; their speaking and listening skills. We have covered conversational skills so they are able to speak confidently about themselves and ask questions to others. We then introduced reading and writing skills to the sessions. For example, reading and following a recipe or writing down answers to questions.

  1. Tell us about your favorite moment in PEPY?

A few months ago my mum came to visit me and she wanted to meet the students from PEPY so she joined me for a session. The students were so welcoming and truly interested in finding out about her, as she was about them. It was a fantastic opportunity for the students to practice their oral language by asking and answering questions.

  1. Have you seen the students progress during your time volunteering with PEPY and if so in what ways?

Absolutely, they have grown so much in confidence as well as developing their English language. The activities and sessions put on by PEPY, such as the bike rides, have had an obvious positive impact on them by building friendships within the group.

  1. What are the challenges of teaching in Cambodia?

I’m sure the heat is an obvious challenge, but nothing that a lot of nice cold water can’t solve. Other than that and the occasional power cut, I wouldn’t say there are many challenges at all. The students are truly wonderful, so eager to learn, happy and grateful for the opportunities they are given and this makes teaching easy. Every week I come away from our sessions with a huge smile because of their positive attitudes.

  1. How does teaching at PEPY, and in Cambodia in general, differ to your experience at home?

The students in Cambodia, on the whole, have such a good attitude towards their learning. It seems they are very appreciative of having the opportunity to go to school and learn English amongst lots of things. Whereas in England, education is free and compulsory to all children so the students may not always realise how lucky they are.

  1. What are your plans for the future?

I will return to England in June and continue to teach Primary school children. But I will now definitely look into supporting fantastic organisations like PEPY and encourage others to do so as well.

Thanks to Nicky and Maddie for taking the time to give us their insights, and of course for all the hard work they do at PEPY Empowering Youth!