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Teach English in Latin America: Costa Rica, Guatemala, Peru, and Ecuador

Victoria Brown for Volunteer Forever
By Victoria Brown
Guest Writer
VolunteerForever

Three-quarters of the 20 million Latin American and Caribbean expats living abroad live in the United States. With so many Latin Americans coming to the States and so many more working and interacting with English speakers, having a good handle on English is a skill in high demand.

Latin America spans 7.4 million square miles and features verdant rainforests, breathtaking mountain peaks, and sunny coastlines. From Cusco, the ancient seat of the Quechuans’ (Incas’) power and home of Machu Picchu (where selfie sticks are banned!) to the Galapagos where ancient tortoises and Darwin’s birds still roam, Latin America holds endless treasures.

Teaching abroad is a perfect blend of experience, volunteerism, and adventure. Through teaching, you can forge valuable relationships, help local communities, improve your own language skills, and more.

Finding the right teaching experience for you can be difficult, so we’ve put together a list of some of our favorite teaching programs for you to explore. Happy traveling!

Maximo Nivel

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Since 2003 Maximo Nivel has strived to offer the best Spanish language immersion programs in all of Latin America. With over 4,000 travelers each year, Maximo Nivel is a Global Associate of NAFSA and, for Germans, is approved by use for Bildungsurlaub, which allows German travelers to participate in educational training paid for by their employers. Maximo Nivel is also accredited by the Ministries of Education in Guatemala and Peru. Volunteering with Maximo Nivel is very affordable, with trips starting at $625 per week. Included in your program fee is airport pick-up, housing, breakfast and dinner each day, field support, event programming, and much more.

Teaching English in Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica

With more than 250 students enrolled in classes each month, Maximo Nivel’s Costa Rica program is a lively and exciting experience. You will teach at underprivileged schools near Manuel Antonio, a National Park.

Your duties can include:

  1. Creating lesson plans
  2. Teaching classes
  3. Giving one-on-one tutoring
  4. Organizing educational games and activities
  5. Cleaning and fixing up classroom areas
  6. Collection donations of books and other educational materials

Volunteers work 2-3 hours in the morning and 2-3 hours in the evening, leaving plenty of free time for exploring Manuel Antonio National Park, visiting friends, and relaxing in one of the many common spaces.

You can choose to stay with a host family who can help you improve and practice your Spanish, teach you about life in Costa Rica, and become lifelong friends. Other living options include hostels, hotels, and a residence home with 10-15 other Maximo Nivel volunteers.

On evenings and weekends you can explore the area, meet with friends and participate in some of the many free classes and events Maximo Nivel staff arrange each month including salsa lessons, cooking classes, social events, and more.

Volunteering begins on Mondays year-round. Volunteers must be 16 years or older to participate and are encouraged to buy health insurance before leaving. Trips start at $695 for one week.

Teaching English in Antigua, Guatemala

Guatemala is the largest economy in Central America. However, more than fifty percent of Guatemala’s citizens live in poverty. Working in government-run schools and at a local fire station, you’ll help Guatemalans to access some of the incredible economic growth of Guatemala’s economy and improve their lives by learning English.

Spend time living and volunteering in a UNESCO World Heritage Site: in 1979 the entire city of Antigua was declared a World Heritage Site to preserve the many archaeological ruins and colonial buildings.

Your duties as a volunteer can include:

  1. Creating lesson plans
  2. Teaching classes
  3. Giving one-on-one tutoring
  4. Organizing educational games and activities
  5. Cleaning and fixing up classroom areas
  6. Collection donations of books and other educational materials

After receiving a ‘crash course’ in teaching English as a second language, you’ll work about 2-3 hours in the morning and about 2-3 hours in the evening. During your free time and on weekends you can explore some of the country’s 30 volcanoes, visit friends, and attend Maximo Nivel programmed events such as salsa lessons, cooking classes, and more. Living options include homestays, hostels, hotels, and residence home with 10-15 other Maximo Nivel volunteers.

Volunteering begins on Mondays year-round. Volunteers must be 16 years or older to participate and are encouraged to buy health insurance before leaving. Trips start at $635 for one week.

Teaching English in Cusco, Peru

Once the seat of the Quechuan (Incan) Empire in South America, Cusco is now a tourist destination for hundreds of thousands of tourists annually. For many Cusco natives, learning English remains an essential skill for entrance into the tourism business.

Your duties on this program can include:

  1. Creating lesson plans
  2. Teaching classes
  3. Giving one-on-one tutoring
  4. Organizing educational games and activities
  5. Cleaning and fixing up classroom areas
  6. Collection donations of books and other educational materials

When you first arrive, you’ll receive a ‘crash course’ in teaching English as a second language and then begin working 2-3 hours in the morning and 2-3 hours in the evening, leaving plenty of time to explore the amazing city of Cusco and its surroundings, visit friends, and taste some of Peru’s most exciting dishes like cuy (pronounced coo-e): roasted guinea pig.

On evenings and weekends you can explore the area, meet with friends and participate in some of the many free classes and events Maximo Nivel staff arrange each month including salsa lessons, cooking classes, social events, and more.

Volunteering begins on Mondays year-round. Volunteers must be 16 years or older to participate and are encouraged to buy health insurance before leaving. Trips start at $625 for one week.

For all three of the Maximo Nivel programs listed above, find more information here.

International Volunteer HQ (IVHQ)

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Since 2007 IVHQ has offered affordable volunteer and educational trips to travelers with a focus on global and cultural awareness. With volunteers from over 100 nations traveling to more than 35 countries, IVHQ provides safe, accessible, and exciting travel opportunities for as low as $180 per week. They work in seven Latin American countries and many programs include homestays, which offer an even more immersive and experiential trip.

Teaching English in Cusco, Peru

As the tourist capital of South America, many local children can’t wait to become tour guides and interpreters when they grow up. In order to do so, they often need to learn English.

Some of the things you’ll be doing as a volunteer include:

  1. Tutoring local students
  2. Assisting local teachers
  3. Organizing educational games and activities
  4. Setting up small English workshops

When you first arrive in Cusco, transportation from the airport is included in your program fee. On Monday, you’ll meet other volunteers and learn everything you need to know to work and live in Cusco. It’s recommended that you get IVHQ’s TEFL online certification before going, but it is not mandatory. You’ll soon meet your host family and host siblings, with whom you’ll eat breakfast and dinner each day and whose experiences will inform and shape your own time in Cusco, and prepare to start your first days of work.

Each day you’ll have either a morning, afternoon, or evening shift at your placement site which will last between three and four hours. You can take optional Spanish language courses as well. During your free time, you can go sightseeing, visit friends, get to know your host family and much more. You can even take the optional Mini Cusco tour that lasts one week and takes you to all the major Cusco landmarks and sites including Machu Picchu and the Sacred Valley.

You need to be 18 years or older to go on this trip, unless you’re volunteering alongside a parent or guardian. You will need to undergo a background check and ensure that you have proper medical and travel insurance before leaving. Spanish language skills aren’t a must but having proficiency in Spanish will greatly increase the kinds of teaching and volunteer work you can do. Spanish classes are offered starting at $95 per week. Trips start at $295 for your first week abroad.

Teaching in Costa Rica

With 801 miles of coastline in Costa Rica, you’ll never be too far from a beach. Teaching in Costa Rica isn’t all about the beaches however, and IVHQ’s Costa Rica program will offer you a valuable and exciting teaching opportunity. As a volunteer, you’ll be working in a local school, orphanage, or community center. When the schools are closed, you might work in a precario (urban slum), community center, or church.

Your duties will include:

  1. Tutoring local students
  2. Assisting local teachers
  3. Organizing educational games and activities
  4. Setting up small English workshops

You’ll be provided with a TEFL “crash course” by the on-the-ground IVHQ team and given educational materials to help you get going.

Volunteers typically work a 2-4 hour shift each day, with weekends off. When you’re not working, you are free to explore the area, hang out on a local beach, or spend time with your homestay family. You’ll share breakfast and dinner with your homestay family each day. Homestays offer a valuable opportunity to practice your language skills, learn from locals, and forge lifelong friendships.

You need to be 18 years or older to go on this trip, unless you’re volunteering alongside a parent or guardian. You will need to undergo a background check and ensure that you have proper medical and travel insurance before leaving. Spanish language skills aren’t a must but having proficiency in Spanish will greatly increase the kinds of teaching and volunteer work you can do. Spanish classes are offered starting at $95 per week. Trips start at $345 for one week.

Teaching in Santa Elena, Ecuador

The coastal city of Santa Elena is nearby some of Ecuador’s best beaches and historical sites. English lessons are usually very expensive in Ecuador but IVHQ volunteers provide low-cost, affordable lessons for Ecuador’s poorer communities.

Your duties might include:

  1. Supervising recess
  2. Providing supplementary English tutoring
  3. Assisting a local teacher
  4. Leading a classroom
  5. Teaching adult learners

On your first day, you’ll receive orientation at IVHQ’s Santa Elena headquarters and learn all about Ecuadorian life, weekend travel opportunities, food culture and more.

Because school runs from Tuesday to Friday, you’ll get a long weekend every weekend. But expect to put in your all during the week, typically from 8am to between 2 and 5pm. If you take Spanish lessons, you’ll volunteer half days and take a Spanish class for 3-4 hours each day.

In the evening, after volunteering is over, you can join social clubs organized by the IVHQ Santa Elena staff and meet other volunteers in the area. These clubs can include Spanish conversation, salsa lessons, movie nights and so much more. Participating in these clubs costs between $7 and $10.

On the off hours, you’ll live comfortably in the volunteer house. Bedrooms have single and bunk beds and accommodate up to 5 other volunteers of the same sex. With western bathrooms, Wi-Fi, and a patio area decked out with hammocks, you’ll always have a comfortable place to relax when you’re not working or exploring.

You need to be 18 years or older to go on this trip, unless you’re volunteering alongside a parent or guardian. You will need to undergo a background check and ensure that you have proper medical and travel insurance before leaving. Volunteers should have intermediate Spanish ability and while it’s not required, it’s suggested that you take a TEFL certification before leaving. Trips start at $315 a week.

International TEFL Academy

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International TEFL Academy (ITA) seeks to educate, inspire, and guide the next generation of TEFL teachers. ITA believes that teaching language offers English speakers the chance to experience the opportunity of a lifetime and to make a difference in the world. Their courses provide international accreditation, meaning you can teach almost anywhere, small class sizes, and 6-20 hours of live teaching experience. They also offer lifetime job search assistance. International TEFL Academy certifies more than 3,500 students in over 80 countries each year. They offer 8 different Latin American TEFL courses.

Teaching English in Cuidad Guzman, Mexico

Experience Mexico and gain your TEFL certificate in Ciudad Guzman (or ‘Guzman’ for short). Named after the Mexican insurgent Gordiano de Guzman, Ciudad Guzman is a charming colonial-era town with colorful streets and subtropical climate. Spend four weeks here gaining valuable teaching experience.

Taught by university professors in classes no larger than 12 students, you can expect to spend the majority of your day, from 8:30am to 5:30pm, in class. Weekends are a great time to visit friends, explore the area, and travel, though you can expect to have some homework.

Classes usually fill up 3-6 months before the start date, so be sure to book your spot early. A $375 deposit reserves your spot while the remaining $1125 ($1500 total) is due thirty days before the start of the program. Housing is not included in your program fee.

Teaching English in Leon, Nicaragua

Take your TEFL course in one of the oldest cities in Central America: Leon, Nicaragua. Founded in 1524 by Spanish conquistador Francisco Hernandez de Cordoba, you can see layers of history in the murals and architecture of this picturesque city. Gain valuable teaching experience during your four weeks here.

University-level professors teach classes with fewer than 14 students. You can expect to spend the majority of your day in classes from 9:30am to 5:15pm. Weekends are a great time to visit friends, explore the area, and travel, though you can expect to have some homework.

Classes usually fill up 3-6 months before the start date, so be sure to book your spot early. A $600 deposit is required to reserve your spot and the $1199 balance is due 60 days before the program starts (a total of $1799 for the program). Housing is not included in the program fee.

Iko Poran

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Established in 2003 with the goal to make volunteer tourism affordable and accessible to more people, Iko Poran now oversees more than 300 volunteers each year. Based in Brazil and the only international volunteer company headquartered in a destination country, Iko Poran strives to fight against social exclusion, particularly exclusion caused by expensive volunteer abroad programs and wants to enable all those who seek to volunteer abroad to be able to do so.

Teaching English in Colombia

The only country in South America with a coast on both the Pacific and Atlantic shores, Colombia is a country full of a wide range of geographical areas and great natural beauty. Once a hotspot for crime and drug cartels, Colombia’s landscape is changing, tourism is growing and art and other cultural projects fill the streets. Tourists attractions like La Ciudad Perdida (meaning: The Lost City) and Amazonian jungle bring in crowds of tourists second only to Machu Picchu.

Come volunteer teaching English in the burgeoning cultural city of Imbague. The musical capital of Colombia, it is much smaller and safer than Bogota and Medellin and is close to a lot of wildlife and natural beauties.

In the classroom, you’ll teach English and lead conversational discussions for Colombians of all ages. You’ll spend 4 hours in the classroom each day, leaving plenty of time to go exploring, meet with friends, and relax. You’ll also receive free Spanish lessons and plenty of teaching support. On the weekends, you get free transportation to a variety of activities such as rock climbing, salsa classes, rappelling, horse riding and partying with locals.

Right now, Iko Poran is offering a free volunteer teaching program in Colombia. You only pay a small registration fee. For this fee, you receive airport pick-up in Ibague, in-country program orientation, accommodation (a teacher’s bedroom with its own bathroom and terrace), one meal per day Monday to Friday, free Spanish classes, local staff support and program supervision, in-country support and administration, and transport to and from weekend activities.

Volunteering starts the 1st and 3rd Monday of each month. You must be 18 years or older to go on this trip and must speak English fluently. You are expected to volunteer for at least one month (and up to 3 months) and must have appropriate health and travel insurance. The program fee is just $229 for a four-week stay.

Teaching English in Peru

Renown for the mighty Quechuan (Incan) ruins, Cusco, Peru holds a variety of natural and social beauties. Come volunteer in a rural kindergarten: part of a government-sponsored kindergarten initiative in poorer areas of Peru called PRONEI; local mothers receive training to teach a group of about 30 children aged 3 to 5. As a volunteer, you will be assisting these community mothers, called promotoras, in the classroom.

You can choose from one of three locations: Arequipa, a stunning white-stoned city at the base on the famous El Misti volcano, Cusco, the heart of the Quechuan empire and home to famous archaeological sites like Machu Picchu, and Iquitos, a city at the crossroads between our own lifestyles and Amazonian tribal life.

Your program fee will include airport pickup, orientation, accommodation, 3 meals per day Monday to Saturday, in-country support and administration costs, and donations to support the local project. Accommodation options include a homestay or volunteer residence. Volunteering begins on the 1st and 3rd Monday of each month. You must be at least 18 years old, or be traveling with a parents or guardian, and have adequate traveler’s insurance. The registration fee is $229 and program costs begin at $190 for one week.

A Broader View

Teen and high school volunteer abroad programs - under 18 mission trips - A Broader View

Founded with the belief that a single person can make a difference in the world, A Broader View has more than 20 years of travel and hospitality experience. They have donated over $3 million to their overseas partners and sent over 12,000 volunteers abroad since 2007. A Broader View offers 5 different teaching English in Latin America programs.

Teaching English in La Serena, Chile

The Chilean Ministry has stated that they would like Chile to become a fully bilingual country(in Spanish and English), and English is taught in schools from 1st to 12th grade. Volunteers will work closely alongside Chilean teachers in kindergarten, primary, and secondary schools in La Serena.

As a volunteer, you’ll work Monday to Friday from about 8am to 3pm, about 35-40 hours per week. You will work with a local teacher to create a syllabus with a focus on pronunciation and correct grammar and spelling.

Included in your program fee are breakfast, lunch and dinner on weekdays and breakfast and dinner on weekends. Accommodation in a homestay with a local family and pickup at the airport in La Serena are also included. A local director will be available 24/7 to help you with any problems that may arise.

On the weekends, you are a free to travel, spend time with your host family, and visit friends. Check out the beautiful coastal town of Valparaiso and ride the tram to the top of the hillside or experience some of Chile’s delicious foods like chicha (a purple potato drink) and pastel de choclo (Chilean corn pie).

To travel to Chile with A Broader View you must be proficient in Spanish with a least beginner or intermediate skills or receive Spanish lessons in-country and must undergo a police background check. You must have all your vaccines up-to-date and receive Hepatitis A and Typhoid vaccines as well. Trips last from 2 to 8 weeks and prices start at $1295 for two weeks.

Teaching English in the Galapagos, Ecuador

Come teach conversational English at a public school on Santa Cruz Island, the second-largest island in the Galapagos archipelago. Teach English to some of the 650 children from 4 to 14 attending the school. Or, teach at a multilingual school for children of migrants from indigenous communities for children aged 4 to 11.

Some of things you’ll do include:

  1. Assisting local teachers
  2. Organizing and leading English lessons
  3. Supervising free time
  4. Attending to the developmental needs of children

When you arrive in Quito airport in Ecuador, you’ll spend two nights in Quito receiving orientation and training. Once you arrive on Santa Cruz, you will work 8 hours per day Monday through Friday. Your weekends are free to go exploring on the islands, where beautiful hikes and incredible wildlife await. Go snorkeling near seals or watch the giant tortoises lumber about. Experience some of the Galapagos’ up-and-coming food scene that includes many tropical fruits like passion fruit.

To volunteer in Santa Cruz with A Broader View, you must be proficient Spanish with a least beginner or intermediate skills and must undergo a police background check. You must have all your vaccines up-to-date and receive Hepatitis A and Typhoid vaccines as well. Trips last from 2 to 4 weeks and prices start at $2135 for two weeks.

Teaching English in Quito North, Ecuador

At an altitude of 2,850 meters, Quito, the capital of Ecuador sits at the foot of the Andean mountains. Famous for its 16th and 17th century churches as well as its city center preserved from colonial times, Quito offers many architectural and cultural sites to explore.

Teach at the prestigious high school of the parish Zambiza, a school dedicated to producing leaders and innovators. Founded in 2003, the school now educates over 150 students per year.

In the classes, you’ll work alongside local teachers, providing assistance as needed. The students are quick to bond with their teachers and you have the opportunity to forge many long-lasting connections with Ecuador’s leaders of tomorrow. Each day you’ll work an average of 4 to 6 hours, leaving plenty of time and weekends to explore the city, spend time with your host family, and travel.

You’ll stay in a homestay family whose local knowledge and native Spanish will help improve and shape your own stay. All three meals are provided each day as well as laundry.

In order to work with A Broader View in Quito North, you need intermediate Spanish skills or must plan to take Spanish immersion classes while in Quito. You must be between 18 and 65 years old and be up to date on all your routine vaccines as well as Hepatitis-A and Typhoid. Projects last between 2 and 12 weeks and start at $1050 per week.

Projects Abroad

Teach English in Latin America with Projects Abroad

From a small start in the early 1990s when two university students wanted to take a gap year teaching others, Projects Abroad has grown into a large, multifaceted, and successful travel abroad program that has served over 100,000 travelers since its inception.

You don’t need previous experience or qualifications to join a teaching program with Projects Abroad. You’ll work with local colleagues to support their work, and be taught everything you need to know to be successful.

Travel to Latin America to Teach English in disadvantaged communities. Help children access the education they need and gain practical classroom experience to build your resume. Latin America is also a great option if you want to improve your own Spanish speaking skills. If you want to do something a bit more active, you can also volunteer as a sports coach in local schools.

Teach English in Peru

Peru has a thriving industry where speaking English is a huge benefit to local people. Choose to teach English as an assistant in an elementary or high school and you’ll work with a set national curriculum. No experience is needed since you’ll have help learning how to facilitate classroom lessons and activities to maximize the students’ learning. Based in the fascinating city of Cusco, you’ll have time outside of your work to explore ancient Inca attractions like Machu Picchu and other sites. Learn more here.

Teach English in Argentina

You can play a key role in building the confidence of younger students while getting valuable practical teaching experience as a volunteer in Argentina. As an English speaker, you’ll assist students with their pronunciation and conversational language. This is also a wonderful opportunity to immerse in Argentinian culture and enjoy local meals like asado. Read more here and apply today!