Local teacher is taking his skills to the Peace Corps — Caleb Williams (Cambodia)

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Caleb Williams

Caleb Williams has spent the last two years teaching ninth graders in Richardson (Texas) Independent School District. But this August, he will be traveling to Cambodia to teach English as part of The Peace Corps.

Williams is originally from Oklahoma but said he was drawn to Texas schools by better pay and more diverse schools. In his time at Richardson ISD, he’s taught students from all over the world, including Nigeria, Iraq and Burma. He’s also had experience teaching across different achievement levels, having taught on-level, special education inclusion and AP English classes.

“It has been great getting to teach the full range of freshman students,” Williams said. “Different kinds of students use different parts of your energy, so it doesn’t feel like doing the same thing over and over again each period.”

Of course, finishing out this past school year was bittersweet for Williams after committing to the Peace Corps.

“I’ve had mixed feelings about leaving,” he explained. “I’m really excited about this next adventure, but I’m going to miss this school.” After two years on the job in Richardson ISD, Williams felt much more comfortable in his role as a teacher and had fallen into the routine of the school. Many of his former students came to say goodbye after he announced his departure. “Some days you don’t feel like you had an impact, and then a student you haven’t seen comes back and tells you how much you’ve inspired them,” Williams said.

His work with the Peace Corps begins with group training in the U.S., and then he’s on to Cambodia. After the training period, he’ll go to live with his host family in his assigned location. Williams is especially excited for the cultural exchange that will come from his time in a new country. There’s the possibility that he’ll be the only native English speaker in the area, and no matter what, he’ll need to pick up on the local language.

“The idea is for the volunteers to really integrate into the local communities and make connections,” Williams said.

Peace Corps volunteers are assigned a local teacher counterpart when they arrive — someone they can both help and learn from. After getting settled and integrating into the school, Williams will begin implementing a project chosen by the local community. This takes the experience outside of the classroom to create something that will last after the volunteer finishes their time with the Peace Corps.

This isn’t Williams’ first time traveling overseas. He previously taught at a summer camp in China, and he studied abroad for a semester in France. These experiences were the first time he thought about teaching English abroad.

“Being in a place where you don’t know the language, it reminded me of feeling like a child again,” Williams remembered. “It was such a fulfilling experience, soaking in as much as possible, and I feel those experiences did prepare me for the Peace Corps.”

Even in a different cultural context, Williams believes secondary students are all dealing with similar issues. “While I’m going to teach English, a huge part is also teaching emotional skills and responsibility,” Williams said. Even though the curriculum will be different, students will still need emotional support and guidance.

The Peace Corps is very conscious of its volunteers’ safety. For LGBTQ applicants, the organization has a list of more accepting locations and where same-sex relations aren’t criminalized. Cambodia is one such country; however, Williams has been advised to get to know the community before coming out.

Still, he is excited to connect with the LGBTQ community in Cambodia and plans to travel to different parts of the country when not working. But most of all, Caleb Williams is looking forward to getting to know his host community and learning from them.


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