Peace out America: Teachers find themselves at core of spreading global awareness

Trevor Crowell, Sports Editor

From saving a pig trapped in the bars of its pen only to kill it for its meat later on, to throwing a party that drew hundreds of locals or asking students to bring their machetes to class to work in the garden, the years spent in the Peace Corps for David Weyant, Lisa Gleaton and Joshua Yezerski proved to be a time of endless surprises and unique, unorthodox situations.

“When I graduated from college I knew I didn’t want to work in an office,” said Yezerski, who spent three years teaching math and HIV/AIDS awareness in Guinea, West Africa before coming to Sequoia. “I wanted some sort of unique and cross-cultural experience.”

The Peace Corps was founded in 1961 to promote public service, provide aid and work towards substantial change in the world. Since then, the Peace Corps has employed hundreds of thousands of Americans who commit to 27 months of tackling current issues and helping development in over 130 countries.
This organization appealed to several Sequoia teachers.

“Every day here can be mundane because we are so used to everything happening,” said Weyant, who teaches Psychology and BUILD and spent two years teaching English in Hungary. “There, every day you woke up and never knew where the adventure was going to take you.”

A Peace Corps volunteer must undergo a process of applications, health history forms, basic personal skills questionnaires, interviews, recommendations, medical clearance and finally initial training in the United States. Although this system may seem cumbersome, volunteers found the application process well worth it.

“When I left I was so stressed out about missing two years of life in America,” Weyant said. “But what I gained in two years of life abroad was so many new perspectives, just by travelling through central Europe.”

The skills acquired while abroad have shaped participants’ lives and had a positive impact on the native people.

“When you’re spoiled, you freak out about every tiny thing, and you can get so bummed out really quickly,” said Gleaton, who teaches English and Theory of Knowledge and spent a year teaching agriculture in Togo, West Africa. “And here are these people who have absolutely nothing compared to us, but they get so happy and [do] not have any sense of worry at all.”
Volunteers have fond, long- lasting memories.

“What you notice when you go to Africa is that the people are so poor, but are also so generous,” Yezerski said. “They take you in, they feed you, they give you whatever you need. The culture is vibrant and the whole experience just opens your eyes to how much we have in this country.”

Times of service in the Peace Corps could also be full of hardships and surprises.

“Being away from home was the hardest thing. All of a sudden you have to become an adult in a completely different, alien country,” Gleaton said. “It’s hard enough to become an adult, but in a place where the language is different, the culture is different and you have no money—that really makes you learn a lot about yourself.”

For those who now teach at Sequoia, Peace Corps service was not only a time that encouraged individual growth, but also paved the way to a future career in teaching.

“One of the periods of my life that was the most impactful in terms of personal and emotional growth was my two years in the Peace Corps,” Weyant said. “[It]pointed me in the direction of teaching and it gave me a better level of understanding of who I am and what I can do.”

From becoming global citizens to taking part in a wide variety of developmental projects around the world, the skills obtained and the memories made working in the Peace Corps have made it the experience of a lifetime for all who have taken part.

“While working for the Peace Corps in third world countries, you realize that nothing is that important,” Gleaton said. “I miss being in a place where you have no idea what is going on in the rest of the world and it doesn’t matter.”