The Program

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Peace Corps Fellows Program

The Program

The Peace Corps Fellows Program is a teacher certification program that supports Returned Peace Corps Volunteers (RPCVs) as they become outstanding New York City public school teachers in high need schools while earning a master’s degree from Teachers College, Columbia University.

We are proud to be the first Peace Corps Coverdell Fellows program in the nation. Teachers College has a long history of working with governments and educational institutions around the world, including  launching a teacher training program in East Africa that was the precursor to the Peace Corps. In the 1960’s many Peace Corps Volunteers trained at Teachers College before being sent abroad.  

Since 1985, we have been providing generous scholarships and support to over 850 public school teachers and educational leaders who have graduated from the program. For the past three decades, Peace Corps Fellows alumni have supported incoming Fellows by hosting them in their classrooms, providing advice and leading workshops.

The Elliot and Roslyn Jaffe Peace Corps Fellows participate in a rigorous and rewarding program that provides opportunities to both teach and learn with a cohort of RPCVs. Before becoming a teacher of record, Fellows complete fieldwork observations and actively participate in the Instensive Summer Institute (ISI). Over the course of two to three years, Fellows complete an academic program leading to a master’s degree as they teach full-time in salaried positions for the New York City Department of Education.

Peace Corps Fellows Program staff, mentors, alumni and RPCV classmates provide guidance as Fellows navigate the challenges of full-time teaching and graduate school classes.  During the first two years of teaching, Fellows are supported by mentors and professional development seminars. In this strong and supportive environment, Fellows gain insight and skills.

Fellows commit to teach in a high need NYC public school for a minimum of three years. The combination of the Peace Corps Fellows’ resourceful determination coupled with a Teachers College education creates educators that are viewed favorably by school administrators who actively seek our talented graduates.  Many Fellows spend long and fruitful careers as teachers and administrators a in NYC. Thousands of students have benefitted from the Fellows’ global experience and Teachers College expertise.

We recruit candidates in the following areas:

Bilingual/Bicultural Education (Spanish/English or Mandarin/ English, Grades 1-6, 6-9 extension optional)

Teaching of English (Grades 7-12)

Teaching of Social Studies (7-12)

Mathematics Education (Grades 7-12)

Science Education (Biology, Chemistry, Earth Science or Physics, Grades 7-12)

Intellectual Disability/Autism (Grades 1-6)

To provide qualified, dedicated and innovative teachers of subject-shortage areas for high need public schools in New York City.

To recruit vibrant and diverse cohorts of Returned Peace Corps Volunteers with unique international education and service experience to teach NYC students.

To support a community of reflective, RPCV urban educators who are addressing educational equity and social justice through their long-term commitments to urban schools, urban communities and urban youth.

The Peace Corps Fellows are a group of Returned Peace Corps Volunteers who have made a powerful impact on public school students in New York City, mainly in Harlem, Washington Heights, Brooklyn and the Bronx. These dedicated individuals teach full time in high need New York City schools, while working to complete all requirements for master's degrees at Teachers College. They also complete all requirements for teaching certification in critical subject areas of Science Education, Mathematics Education, Teaching of English, Bilingual/Bicultural Education, Teaching of Social Studies and Intellectual Disabilities/Autism. Currently, nearly 30 first and second year Fellows are teaching full-time in New York City elementary, middle and high schools, as well as in alternative and specialized school settings.

The Peace Corps Fellows is a highly selective program composed of dedicated individuals who have demonstrated their commitment, resilience and resourcefulness through the competitive application process to become a Peace Corps Volunteer, and through their two years of Peace Corps service. As Fellows, they commit to teaching in their schools for three years, and they are strongly encouraged to stay in their schools at least two more years. The program has a 98% retention rate during the two years in which Fellows are attending graduate school.

The Peace Corps Fellows Program offers Elliot and Roslyn Jaffe Scholarships ranging from $15,000 to $32,000. As full-time teachers of record, Fellows receive a starting teacher's salary of approximately $51,650, depending on experience and prior academic credits, (starting salary for teachers who already have a master's degree is approximately $58,062) full health coverage under Teachers' Union contract, professional teaching credentials (after three years, with fulfillment of state requirements), as well as loan forgiveness opportunities after teaching begins. New York State certification currently has reciprocity in 43 states.

There are also a number of professional benefits Fellows receive because of their enrollment in the program: a rigorous introductory preparation to the profession, continued professional development with partner organizations and TC, a Teachers College faculty advisor, one-on-one mentorship and support for two years, monthly seminars for current cohorts, and an alumni network of hundreds of Fellows that continue to work in New York City schools.

Our program is designed to meet the challenges that first year teachers face. Our Fellows, both in their first and second year, are mentored and have access to experienced practitioners in the field. Our mentors are committed educators who help Fellows to navigate the two worlds they will simultaneously inhabit, at Teachers College, Columbia University as a graduate student and within the New York City Department of Education as an untenured teacher.

Our mentors are selected based on their demonstrated success as classroom teachers with a minimum of five years teaching experience in their content area. Mentors are recommended to and hired by the Peace Corps Fellows Program.

Through the mentoring relationship, Fellows are offered individualized support and provided help with establishing instructional priorities, implementing curriculum mandates, setting clear and realistic expectations for themselves and the students they serve, and for managing their time effectively between their work and scholarship. Primarily, our mentors provide invaluable feedback about the Fellows' current practices in the classroom as they help our Fellows become reflective practitioners with a professional vision.

Program Overview

Our program is designed for Returned Peace Corps Volunteers (RPCVs) who have demonstrated their commitment to service during their two or more years in the Peace Corps. Fellows have at least two years of experience in teaching, youth outreach, or community development from their service as Peace Corps Volunteers. All Peace Corps Fellows lived as local community members in developing countries. The Fellows who were teachers during their Peace Corps service worked full-time in local schools and completed community service projects as part of their volunteer efforts. These projects included opening libraries, establishing resource centers, creating student clubs, organizing local improvement efforts, and many other projects. Nearly all Fellows speak at least one language other than English. Their experience of living in a different culture has broadened their worldview.

Fellows participate in the Intensive Summer Institute (ISI) orienting them to urban education, in both theory and practice, through many dynamic and experiential activities. While city schools are still in session, Fellows reflectively observe, reflect and participate in New York City classrooms while beginning their Teachers College coursework. Fellows conduct fieldwork observations in high need public schools for a minimum of fifty hours. Most fieldwork observation sites are schools that employ current Fellows or alumni. Often, Fellows have the opportunity to participate in teaching students while they are conducting fieldwork observations in classrooms.

Before full-time teaching begins, Fellows participate in the ISI, a course for enrolled Peace Corps Fellows that runs from mid-May to mid-August. This dynamic and experiential course includes opportunities for Fellows to learn about:


  • Culturally relevant pedagogy

  • Urban education

  • Student engagement and building a classroom community

  • Teaching students with different learning styles and abilities

  • Working with English language learners

  • Lesson planning and assessment


    The fieldwork and ISI are designed to fulfill NYSED requirements to certify Fellows to teach in September as Transitional B Certification teachers. While many Fellows complete their coursework in two years, Fellows must complete all coursework requirements and pass all required tests within a three year time frame to meet eligibility requirements for New York State certification.


The course is led by Teachers College faculty, instructors, and other guest speakers.

The summer courses provide the time for Fellows to reflect on their own identities as well as explore what kind of educator they aspire to become.

Over the summer, Fellows establish relationships with teachers and administrators who may assist them in their job search process. The Peace Corps Fellows Staff provides assistance and support in the job search through our network of alumni and relationships with schools as well as through the TC Career Services office. Each Fellow has the responsibility of securing a full-time teaching position by September.

Fellows strive to have a significant and positive impact in high need schools. Fellows often choose to teach in schools that value their international experience and commitment to service, as well as their language and cross-cultural skills.



After Fellows successfully complete SIT, they begin teaching full-time while taking courses in the evenings. Unlike traditional teacher education programs, our Peace Corps Fellows do not partake in student teaching. Instead, Fellows work as full-time teachers in September and are mentored and supported throughout their first two years.

During the first two years of teaching, Fellows meet monthly to extend their learning, share ideas, and visit different New York City educational and cultural institutions.

Rigorous, exhilarating, and no doubt exhausting, our Peace Corps Fellows' experience is successful because of three factors:

  • Our RPCV Community: Fellows quickly become part of a close-knit community of program alumni who are experienced in the challenges of adjusting to teaching and urban living. This sense of connection with other RPCVs who have successfully made this transition is a key factor in supporting Fellows in their teaching positions.
  • Teachers College Mentors: Each Fellow is paired with a mentor who observes their teaching and meets with them at least ten times over the course of their first year in order to provide constructive feedback and professional support. In their second year of teaching, Fellows have at least eight visits during the school year from their mentors.
  • The Reflective Practitioner: Throughout SIT and during  their two to three years at Teachers College, Fellows reflect on and extend their practice. Fellows create and revise their own teaching philosophy statements, discuss ideas and issues with other Fellows during monthly seminars, delve into their TC coursework, and collaborate with mentors. These experiences foster critical teaching skills, encourage progress, and build strong pedagogical foundations.