Volunteer Teaching Opportunities Research Paper Starter

Volunteer Teaching Opportunities

(Research Starters)

Volunteer teachers are individuals with or without formal training in teaching or pedagogy who serve broadly in the roles of "teachers" or instructional adjuncts to provide education inside and outside of conventional classroom settings. The history of volunteer teaching is the history of volunteer-teaching programs such as the Peace Corps, Teach for America and Head Start. Those serving in the roles of volunteer teachers include parents, community members and professional workers from business and industry. Capable volunteer teachers handle many duties and responsibilities-individualized instruction and one-on-one tutoring, small-group facilitation and enrichment-that relate directly to school learning. Volunteers maximize teachers' effectiveness by reinforcing their instruction. The use of volunteer teachers provides a means to involve the community in education and promote closer school-community relationships. A variety of pedagogical challenges must be overcome in the training of volunteer teachers so they can effectively and successfully operate within the constraints of volunteer-teaching delivery programs.

Keywords Clerical Duties; Docents; Enrichment; Extension Curriculum; Instructional Adjuncts; Practicum; Released Time; Service Learning; Teacher Corps; Volunteer Teaching; Volunteer Teaching Program; Volunteer Teachers; Volunteerism


Thousands of people without formal training in education or pedagogy serve as volunteer teachers in the U. S. It has been estimated that one in five Americans volunteer some of their time to help out in local schools. And yet, there is a need to explore ways of increasing volunteerism in the public schools by developing new volunteer programs in which community members can further contribute to education (Cetron & Gayle, 1991; Dean, 1987; Utah State Office of Education, 1988). Volunteer teachers, teaching assistants, and teacher aides assume different types of teaching duties and responsibilities both inside and outside of the conventional educational system. The utilization of volunteer teachers generally improves the educational opportunities of public school students by providing increased individualization.

The use of volunteer teachers is one successful way to stretch the supply of teachers. Much of the work of bringing American education and U. S. schools back to "excellence" will be due to hundreds of isolated local efforts involving thousands of part-time volunteers. Real and positive change in education will be brought about through local efforts, catalyzed by volunteers, giving of their time, knowledge and personal resources to support and sustain young people in securing the education they need to become responsible, well-rounded adults and succeed in today's high-tech, information-rich world (Cetron & Gayle, 1991; Wagener, 1996).


The history of volunteer teaching is very much the history of the programs which have relied heavily on their use. For example, in the U. S., volunteer teachers have been crucial in the area of adult and general literacy education. Heavy immigration during the turn of the 20th century from countries whose populations were not uniformly educated necessitated literacy programs. During World Wars I and II, it was learned that many adults had difficulty reading and writing and special attention began to be paid to adult literacy. As a result of increased federal legislation during the 1950s and 1960s, literacy-education programs were able to begin hiring and training professionals (Cook, 1979).

One of the first programs to use volunteers as teachers was the Peace Corps during the 1960s and 1970s. The Peace Corps' roots and mission can be traced to early 1960 when Senator John F. Kennedy challenged students at the University of Michigan to serve their country while working in developing countries. Later, as President, Kennedy sent thousands of Peace Corps volunteers into service overseas. Over 190,000 Peace Corps volunteers have worked in 139 host countries across the globe on issues ranging from environmental preservation to information technology, business development and AIDS education. Today's Peace Corps' volunteers are involved in teaching and addressing the educational needs of children worldwide. Volunteers have served as teachers of science, mathematics, computers, agriculture and many other subjects (Adhikary, 1972; Blatchford, 1970; Peace Corps, 2007).

Head Start is another government-sponsored program that has actively promoted using volunteers and community resources since its inception in 1965. Head Start programs promote school readiness by addressing the social- and cognitive-development needs of children and providing a variety of services-educational, health, nutritional-to enrolled children and families. Head Start parents are engaged as volunteers in their children's learning and in meeting their educational and literacy goals. Four out of five parents of children in Head Start programs volunteer to serve as teachers' aides or to provide other needed services (Cetron & Gayle, 1991; Head Start Bureau, 1989; Office of Head Start, 2007).

The past decade or two has seen the increased use of college graduate volunteer teachers with the growth of the Teach for America program. Teach for America's first year of operation was in 1990 when 500 men and women began teaching in six low-income communities across the U. S. Teach for America was founded by Wendy Kopp, a Princeton University college senior, who proposed the teacher corps in her undergraduate thesis. Teach for America has grown to become the nation's largest provider of teachers for low-income communities (Fenzel & Flippen, 2006; Teach for America, 2006).

Further Insights

Types of Volunteers

Volunteer teachers are members of the larger, local community. They are parents or other interested adults who offer themselves as volunteers to work in schools and serve as valuable instructional resources, part-time teachers, teaching aides, teaching assistants or special tutors and mentors. Many parents have the desire to help with their children's education and may initially become involved in their preschool programs. Other volunteers were actually teachers themselves before they started their own families. Parents and others who want to act as volunteer teachers can be recruited through the parent-teacher association or the school newspaper (Acquafredda, 1993; Cetron & Gayle, 1991; Lewis & Doorlag, 1987).

Corporate volunteerism is another avenue which can help to meet public educational needs. Major corporations are becoming involved and finding ways to revitalize local schools. Corporate philanthropists have even built and staffed schools in some instances. Volunteers from local businesses are eager to back up teachers, and industry workers can serve as a large supply of potential volunteers. Professionals in business and industry have knowledge of technical subjects and fields; more so than graduates of teachers' colleges. Corporate volunteer teachers can provide education and training in careers, vocational programs and cutting-edge disciplines like computer programming, biomedical technology and telecommunications (Cetron & Gayle, 1991).


In addition to the programs such as Head Start, Peace Corps and Teach for America, there are a variety of other programs that make use of volunteer teachers. Schools nationwide have created volunteer programs for civilians or local-community individuals who are eager to assist in education. The goal in many cases is the implementation of model programs. Exemplars include programs in which volunteers from local industries regularly replace teachers in the classroom to free up time for their professional development. Parent Academy is a parental school-involvement program which links schools, teachers and parent volunteers. In addition, there are exemplary programs in which college seniors serve as volunteer teachers in inner-city schools (Cetron & Gayle, 1991; Comeaux, 1971; Education Development Center Inc., 1994; Utah State Office of Education, 1988; World Future Society, 1994).

America Reads Challenge

Many parents serve as volunteer teachers, teacher aides and vital participants in reading programs in schools. The national America Reads Challenge initiative is a volunteer reading tutoring program. University undergraduate and graduate students also serve as volunteer teachers assisting elementary students to improve their reading. Literacy Education Action (LEA) is another program developed as an instructional model for teaching literacy to vocational students (Bond, 2002; Clymer, 1989; Heimberger, 1978; Siddall, 1999). Volunteer teachers are used in alternative urban middle schools for at-risk children from low-income homes. Another after-school enrichment and prevention activity program for middle-school students uses community volunteers to provide instruction and support. Teach Baltimore is a program using trained volunteer teachers to prevent summer learning loss in low-income, public elementary-school students (Borman, Rachuba, Hewes, Boulay, & Kaplan, 2001; Fenzel & Flippen, 2006; Greaser, 1995).


Volunteer teachers have been widely used in language-learning programs and courses such as TESOL-Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages-and ESL-English-as-a-Second Language. A Phoenix, Arizona program uses parent volunteers to teach Spanish to fifth and sixth graders. In another program, a cohort of working adults from a local area along the Arizona-Mexico border serve as volunteer teachers, teacher interns and teaching assistants to teach bilingual Spanish-English classes for elementary special-education students. Other related volunteer language-teaching efforts include tutoring refugees to read English, preparing young welfare mothers for their GED exams, and teaching illiterate and near-illiterate youthful offenders how to read (Acquafredda, 1993; Dean, 1990; Kutner, 1992;...

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