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You've spent a good chunk of your life sitting in a classroom, learning from a teacher. Volunteering as an educator is an opportunity to reverse those roles and share the knowledge you have.

As a volunteer educator, you could find yourself teaching children or adults. The subject, type of class and number of students would vary, depending on the organization you volunteer for.

For instance, if you volunteered at a museum, you could serve as a "docent" and guide tours of students through the museum explaining the different exhibits as you go. Or you could be stationed at an information desk and answer visitors' questions. Or you could lead a workshop for visitors to the museum.

Many public organizations, such as museums, art galleries and zoos, have a position for a volunteer educator. Whether the volunteer teaches history, arts and crafts or another subject depends on the needs of the organization. In some cases, volunteers help with classes on the Internet using message boards, e-mail and chat rooms.

As a volunteer educator, you can gain valuable teaching experience. At the same time, you're helping the organization by educating the public about the organization's cause.

Emily Beth volunteers with the YMCA. "As a volunteer, my duties are almost exactly the same as a staff person," she says. "Only I am not to be alone with the children. I volunteer for all the child-care ages... school age, preschool and infant-toddler."

Beth is a member of the teen leaders club with the YMCA. She spends a lot of time teaching younger children to read and count. "I want to pursue child care in my future as a career, so this is helping me with the skills. I learn from the errors I see and learn from the mistakes I make. It also helps me meet more people."

"Be prepared to get frustrated at times when you are not recognized for the time you spend there," she adds. "But don't give up -- keep going, it is a lot of fun!"

Susan M. Chyczewski is a Peace Corps volunteer. During her time with the Peace Corps, she has traveled to Togo, West Africa to help the Togolese teach agriculture. "We were trying to encourage the Togolese to use the school garden for education rather than punishment," she says.

Chyczewski says teaching in West Africa was an interesting experience. "While [the Peace Corps] does do some developmental work, the reality is that two years in a foreign country is barely enough time to figure out what's going on, let alone make any significant change. Peace Corps volunteers do much to help dispel myths about Americans [like we are not all rich]."

Chyczewski says volunteers should keep an open mind and try to understand the circumstances of the students. "Sometimes it's very hard to empathize with people whose backgrounds or cultures are very different," she says.

Volunteer educators don't have to go half way around the world to find teaching opportunities. By volunteering online, educators can assist others from the comforts of their own home.

Jack Herrmann is a volunteer website guide for Writers' Village University. He helps orient students to the online university.

"I welcome new students and do all I can to guide them around the [virtual] campus, advise on courses pertinent to their particular needs, help them become familiar with posting and all [Writers' Village University] index links," says Herrmann. "I watch over those who are tentative when entering their first course."

Herrmann finds volunteering very rewarding. "The future for a volunteer involves participation and support," he says. "That gives one a certain experience and a quiet satisfaction."

How to Get Involved

Requirements to become a volunteer educator depend on the organization. Volunteers come from all walks of life. Many don't have previous teaching experience. In some cases, students as young as 16 can volunteer to teach. In other cases, volunteers must have at least a bachelor's degree in the subject they're teaching.

To find out whether you are eligible to volunteer as an educator, contact your local museum, art gallery, zoo, YMCA or another organization. Ask about volunteer opportunities and requirements. Many organizations provide training classes or allow on-the-job training.

Typically, there are no costs associated with becoming a volunteer educator. In most cases, training and other materials are provided by the organization.


National Gallery of Art
Learn what volunteer educators ("docents" and art information volunteers) do at this art gallery in Washington, D.C.

World Volunteer Web
Read about international volunteer education programs
Find volunteer opportunities near you

Search for various volunteer opportunities in your area

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OCAP believes that financial literacy and understanding the financial aid process are critical aspects of college planning and student success. OCAP staff who work with students, parents, educators and community partners in the areas of personal finance education, state and federal financial aid, and student loan management do not provide financial, investment, legal, and/or tax advice. This website and all information provided is for general educational purposes only, and is not intended to be construed as financial, investment, legal, and/or tax advice.