Guatemala is a poor country that has only enjoyed political stability for less than two decades, which began after a never ending internal conflict which started with a coup in the 1950s. The nation has spent the better part of its finances, energy, and several generations of young men on these conflicts, leaving them with a range of social issues. While you will not earn the type of wages you would find in Asia or the Middle East, teaching English in Guatemala is an experience that is worth the adventure and most definitely in high need in Guatemala.
Guatemala City is the nation’s large and busy capital, complete with many of the urban ills of other larger Latin American cities, including crime and poverty. The city does not exemplify the beauty of the country but it does illustrate the need for international English teachers in Guatemala. Most private schools and international schools, including the Christian American School of Guatemala, are located in Guatemala City. It is also the best place to find commercial private language school jobs and private tutoring opportunities in Guatemala.
Antigua is a UNESCO World Heritage site and a must see city. It is rich with Spanish colonial ruins, as well as some of the oldest universities and churches in the region. Antigua also happens to be home to over 30 Spanish language schools. The town is surrounded by amazing volcanoes, and sits in the shadow of the dormant and majestic Volcan Agua. The local indigenous market is grand and chaotically beautiful as well.
The Western Highlands is the region to the west of the capital, which includes Lake Panajachel, Chichicastenango, Chimaltenango, Antigua, Quetzaltenango (Xela), and other “-ango” towns. These small towns have become seats of fourth world centers, non-profits, agricultural co-ops, coffee production centers, hippy art stalls, and general backpackers escaping on La Ruta Maya.
Teaching in Guatemala
There are many opportunities to teach in Guatemala, which range in prerequisite skills, age group of students, and structure of classes. Though hiring times are typically in February and July for teaching abroad in Guatemala.
Teaching in Guatemala at an international school is possible, but more competitive for international teachers because wages are highest at international schools in Guatemala. A bachelors degree is required to teach abroad in Guatemala for the most part, and typically individuals with education degrees are preferred. Students at international schools in Guatemala are usually middle and upper class local students along with the children of expats and other foreigners living in Guatemala, so classes are often bilingual.
International English teachers can also teach in Guatemala at language schools. Many of the Spanish language schools in Guatemala also offer English language lessons to local tourism or hospitality workers and to local teachers. Wages are lower and hours can be inconsistent, but the setting can be inspiring as most of these schools are out of the capital, in Antigua and other western highlands villages. Private English language schools do exist in Guatemala City, however, because local workers in the fields of international relations, business, banking, and trade all need to have some level of English proficiency.
The most common opportunity to teach in Guatemala comes in the form of volunteering. Volunteer teachers are needed across the country, at both rural and urban public schools. The best way to find a volunteer teaching position in Guatemala is to apply through a volunteer placement organization.
Salaries & Costs
Individuals who work at international schools in Guatemala or teach in Guatemala through tutoring job opportunities in Guatemala City, can expect to make from $500 to $1,200 per month. Language schools in Guatemala may provide earnings up to $300 a month, which is definitely enough to survive in Guatemala considering the low cost of living in comparison to the U.S. and Europe.
If volunteering to teach in Guatemala, individuals can expect to pay from a few hundred dollars to several thousand dollars to work as a teacher, depending on the program’s inclusions and the organization’s structure. For example, nonprofit organizations that place volunteer teachers in Guatemala may be funded solely by volunteer fees and therefore require more program costs.
Accommodation & Visas
Guatemala was made for homestays, which can be arranged in almost every location in the country. Tourist offices often even have lists of homestay families where travelers can spur of the moment go and book a room. In addition to the language practice opportunities that are involved in living with a Guatemalan family, homestays will allow you to eat plenty of local foods, like beans, homemade tortillas, and aguacate.
Apartments are generally available in all but the smaller villages of Guatemala. While apartments are typically quite basic, individuals who teach in Guatemala will also find them to be quite affordable, typically under $300 a month.
Visas are not typically required of individuals who decide to teach abroad in Guatemala. Many nonprofits avoid the issue by calling teacher’s pay a living allowance and considering them to be volunteer English teachers. Language schools will often pay cash under the table too. Most informal, short-term teachers in Guatemala can stay on tourist visas, which are good for up to 90 days. Tourist visas can be renewed at immigration offices in Guatemala once, after that renewals require a trip outside the country. Mexico and Costa Rica are the best places to renew a tourist visa because the borders are closest. Teachers can travel to San Jose, Costa Rica via the Tico Bus for a cheap fare and get to see Central America with hop on hop off privileges.
Benefits & Challenges
- Teachers at Spanish language schools can often trade English teaching for Spanish language lessons.
- Professional dress is expected as the “hippy” appearance is often equated with drug use.
- Guatemalans are less direct, like most of Latinos, and appreciate non-confrontational and non-direct communication.
- Teachers are typically hired in person and rarely hired from abroad, because most teaching jobs in Guatemala will require an in-country interview as part of the applicant selection process.
- Teaching in Guatemala will not make you rich but the experience is valuable beyond dollar signs.