LAHS grad, Peace Corps volunteer, follows in mom’s footsteps

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Back in 1984, Catherine Torres Cournoyer, of White Rock, worked at village called Primero de Mayo, Peru, a poor suburb of Chimbote, Peru. As a Catholic volunteer, Cournoyer, a licensed Practical Nurse, spent two years treating many children for malnutrition, among other common diseases.

Now, 34 years later, her son, Nathan D. Cournoyer, a Los Alamos High School graduate of 2009, is following her example. Nathan Cournoyer joined the Peace Corps in July.

The Peace Corps is a volunteer program run by the United States government. The stated mission of the Peace Corps includes helping people outside the United States to understand American culture, and helping Americans to understand the cultures of other countries. Each program participant, a Peace Corps volunteer, is an American citizen, typically with a college degree, who works abroad for a period of two years after three months of training.

Nathan Cournoyer completed his three months of training on Sept. 22, and now is a Peace Corps volunteer working abroad in Tanzania, Africa for a period of two years. He is teaching Biology at a Catholic Mission in Karibu, Tanzania.

Tanzania is located in East Africa in a tropical region. Tanzania is mountainous and densely forested in the northeast, where Mount Kilimanjaro is located. Over 100 different languages are spoken in Tanzania, making it the most linguistically diverse country in East Africa.

The national language is Swahili. And yes, Tanzania is the birthplace of the late Freddy Mercury, the lead vocalist of the rock band Queen.

Karibu, Tanzania is one of Peace Corps’ oldest programs. Karibu’s school provides Cournoyer’s housing, which is a private room with a host family at the Catholic Mission. He uses public buses and a bicycle as his main mode of transportation. Personal appearance is of great importance to Tanzanians.

Cournoyer is expected wear slacks, collared shirts, and loafers or other closed-
toed shoes when presenting himself professionally.

Cournoyer, as Peace Corps Secondary Education Science Teacher, teach Biology to students aged 12-20. He prepares lesson plans using a variety of teaching methods and syllabus developed by the Ministry of Education. To connect
classroom concepts to real-world situations, Cournoyer also organize experiential learning activities like field trips and guest speakers.

As part of this work to build capacity, Cournoyer is developing professional relationships with Tanzanian teachers and organizing communities of practice, to share best teaching practices. In addition to teaching students and working with teachers, Cournoyer engages community members to increase their involvement in student learning. This is done by organizing events like science fairs.

Cournoyer has encountered large class sizes of 50 or more students and teaches on average of up to 16 hours each week.

The main teaching materials are a blackboard and chalk, though some schools may be better equipped. Most of the teaching resources are available locally. Peace Corps provides Cournoyer basic resources to use in their teaching.