Name: JoAnne Shaw
U-M Affiliation: Alumni

Where do you work?

Retired middle school teacher

When did you serve in the Peace Corps?


Where did you serve (which country/countries)?


What were your main responsibilities as a volunteer?

To introduce new methods, materials, and ideas into a pre- school program. Since my school was already set up, I also taught English as a second language at night school.

Is there a specific person (or persons) who made a strong impression on you during that time?

The two Tunisian pre-school teachers. One, who was from the village and more traditional (married in her teens, pregnant at 19, no training) was a natural with children. The other, was from the city, trained as a teacher, 25 and not married because she liked her independence and knew this would change drastically if she married.

What was one of the most memorable moments you had as a volunteer?

Every teacher's dream! Having the biggest behavior problem become an outstanding student. Once he had interesting activities and materials to play with, he amazed the teachers with his creativity, and loved to come to school. Previously, he would run away from the school, and would be dragged back kicking and screaming.

In what ways did your Peace Corps experience affect your life and/or career decisions?

I got two different jobs teaching Social Studies, and got the second one because I could also speak French, which I'd learned while I was in Tunisia.

In what ways did your U-M education, both inside and outside the classroom, prepare you for your Peace Corps experience?

Since I was trained as a teacher, with one year's experience upon entering the Peace Corps, this helped me out of a difficult situation, since I was able to talk about different methods for different situations and people.

What advice would you give to others who are contemplating going into the Peace Corps?

They never said it would be easy... As difficult as it can be to learn a language that is taught phonetically and that you can't read or look up words in a dictionary, as difficult as it might be to adjust to another (male-dominated) culture and way of doing things, it might be more difficult to readjust to the U.S. after returning. We have so much.

What is the value gained from the Peace Corps experience?

You learn things about people by living and working in another culture that you can't learn any other way.

What lessons did you learn in the Peace Corps that you carry with you today?

That the Arabs are wonderful people, not the stereotypes we often see portrayed in the media. We need to try to understand and internalize the reasons for others' world view.

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