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Teach English as a Foreign Language in Vladimir, Russia!

[program background] [teaching opportunity] [application information]
[notes from teachers] [student comments]
[parent comments]

2013-2014 Teachers

L-R: Olya Solovkina, Teacher Supervisor; Adam Treml, University of Pittsburgh; Will Murawski, Lehigh University; Kelsey Maher, University of North Carolina; Chris Shuping, University of South Carolina; Lindsay Smith, Notre Dame; Graham Welling, The Ohio State University; Ali Thieman, Kenyon College; Christine Herrmann, Wheaton College; Lena Belova, Teacher Supervisor

Program Background

The English program was initiated in the fall of 1992 with 3 young American teachers and 80 Russian students.  The primary goal was to generate income to cover the cost of operating the newly built American Home. From that modest beginning, Serendipity's language school has developed into a highly respected program that emphasizes effective communication through the "international language" of English.
The combination of formal classes and informal interaction between the students and the combined American and Russian staff benefits everyone directly involved -- as well as the community at large.

The American Home's language school is licensed by the Russian Government as a "Nongovernmental Private Educational Institution." The Program currently averages more than 500 students a term in its English classes, with a waiting list for some levels. We now employ nine full-time American teachers, two experienced Russian Teacher Supervisors, both of whom also teach the first semester of the lowest level course, an experienced Russian teacher who is responsible for our new program for 8 to 11 year old children (see below) and two Russian language tutors.  The latter provide one-on-one Russian lessons for each American teacher as a part of his/her compensation package. They also teach individual students and small groups studying Russian with us full time or as a part of a short term program. (See the separate information on our Intensive Russian program and our Alternative Spring Break program and educational tours.)

For those 12 and older we offer eleven semesters of regular classes from beginning to advanced. During the fall and spring terms these classes meet twice a week for an hour and a half each meeting. Conversation classes are also offered which meet once a week. During the intensive summer session classes meet three times a week for two hours and fifteen minutes each class period.  Special classes, such as preparation for the TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language) exam, can be provided when there is sufficient demand. Supplementing the formal classes, the American teachers present a series of lectures on various aspects of American history and culture during the course of the fall and spring terms. All of these lectures are then offered to the general public over two Saturdays in April. These lectures are very well received. Additional special Saturday activities include the showing of American movies, and activities such as spelling bees and "Brain Fest" competitions (with "trivial pursuit" types of questions), and, depending on the interests of the teachers and students, the playing of games (e.g., chess, poker, and other card games), along with the celebration of Halloween, Christmas and either Mardi Gras or Valentine's Day--with appropriate party games. When there has been sufficient interest, the School has sponsored a Music Club and has informally staged several plays.

• In any given term about 75 percent of the School's students have been studying with us for more than one semester.

• Generally 40 or more students are in at least their 5th semester. Some students have completed the entire program.

•About half of the students are in the equivalent of junior high or high school, or are in "post graduate" programs (roughly the equivalent of American junior colleges), or are university students.

• Over the years, many business people, medical and other professionals, and a substantial number of government officials have taken classes at the American Home.

• In one of the program's early semesters, before the passage by the Russian government of a "law on privacy" which bans the collection of "personal information," in addition to full-time students, there were 11 teachers, 8 lawyers, 14 medical professionals, 6 military personnel, 24 engineers, 12 secretaries, and people from additional professions.

• Since the beginning of the program in September 1992, a significant number of our employed students have told us that, thanks in large measure to their improved command of English, they had been promoted--or had found better jobs.

In January 2016 we moved all of our offices and classrooms to leased space in a new building.  (At the time of the move about 70% of our students were having to take class in leased space about a 10 minute walk for the American Home. Everything is now under one roof.)  Our new address is 5 Fedoseeva St. The Vladimir City Administration now has full responsibility for the maintenance and operation of the original American Home.  Fortuitously, their takeover of the AH freed up the resources we needed in order to be able to make the move to the new facility.  For a full discussion of this move, see A Brief History of the American Home at A Brief History of the American Home, beginning on page 42. Additionally, click here to download a PowerPoint tour of our new facility.

Our new "home"

New Reception Area

Tea time!

Be sure to check out The American Home English Program:  Participant Comments & Observations!

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English Teaching Opportunity at the American Home in Vladimir, Russia

*Application deadline is April 1st each year!*
(or until all the open positions have been filled)

The Serendipity American English and Culture Program has been in continuous operation at the American Home in Vladimir, Russia since September 1992 under the auspices of Serendipity: Russian Consulting & Development, Ltd.—now doing business as Serendipity-Russia. Demand for English lessons from native speakers remains very strong. In addition to classes, as noted above, our teachers offer lectures on topics of special interest to Russians.

This is an exceptional opportunity to experience Russia in a uniquely supportive atmosphere and to accomplish something worthwhile in the process. Previous teachers have commented very favorably on the quality of our facilities and teaching materials; the tremendous support provided by their colleagues, including our dedicated Russian staff; and how much they have enjoyed their Russian students. A significant number of our teachers have parlayed their experience in Vladimir into employment in Moscow or stateside—or into admission to major graduate programs, including top ranked law schools. (See the comments below.)

Contract period: First or second week of August--depending on the start of the fall term in Russia--through the end of June.  (Renewal possible.)

Benefits include:

•  Stipend (See Contract Supplement)

• Room and board with a Russian family

• Three hours per week of customized individual Russian lessons taught by trained native speakers

• Pleasant, well-equipped working environment in a new building

• Substantial assistance from the very knowledgeable and supportive Russian staff 

Teacher Responsibilities:

• Applicants must have, at a minimum, completed a Bachelor's degree before the beginning of the contract period, and be able to teach American English. 

Those hired are required to:

• Cover the cost of their airfare to and from Moscow.

• Apply and pay for the required Russian visa. Serendipity will provide full visa support, including, if needed, assistance with filling out the online visa application, and will pay the visa fee on the Russian side. Teachers are responsible for paying the visa fee and related costs on the American side.

• Have health insurance coverage valid in Russia, including emergency medical evacuation coverage. Check with us if you need to add medical evacuation coverage. American Home staff will provide all possible assistance with dealing with any medical problems that might arise.

•  Earn a TESOL course certificate. New hires who have not completed at least a forty hour on-line course such as the one offered by i-to-i, will need to complete an appropriate course by no later than the beginning of July. (If you do not plan on taking the i-to-i course mentioned above, you should check with the AH English program staff regarding the acceptability of the course you do plan on taking.

• By the beginning of the contract period, new teachers will need to provide notarized copies of the following:

    - A certificate of completion of a TESOL course as noted above. 

    - An official copy of their college or university transcript – and their diploma, if available before their departure for Vladimir.

    - An Apostille for each of the above notarized documents.

   - A notarized copy of the facing pages of your passport with your photo, signature, and passport number – an Apostille is not required for this document.

You will need to give these documents to the designated AH staff member on your arrival in Vladimir.

NOTE:  An Apostille is an internationally recognized certification of the legitimacy of a notarization. You will need to obtain this document from the designated office in the state where you get your documents notarized. In most states, this will be the office of the Secretary of State. A Google search will provide you with the necessary contact information for the office that issues Apostilles for your state.

Be sure to apply for the required Apostilles in plenty of time before your scheduled departure for Vladimir.

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Application Information

*Application deadline is April 1st of every year!*
(or until all the open positions have been filled)

The Microsoft Word file from the link below provides a list of the information and documents you need to submit in order to complete your application, and it includes instructions for the submission of your letters of recommendation. Download the application instructions and apply now!

Download Application Instructions

To assist you with your application, you should send a request for additional information – including a request for a copy of the current version of the contract, contract supplement, and AH Teacher Handbook to serendipity.american.home@gmail.com.

(If you do not receive a reply within 5 days, please resend your request- with a copy to ron42.pope@gmail.com).

If you have any questions about joining the American Home team, please contact Dr. Ron Pope at ron42.pope@gmail.com or the AH Assistant Director Oxana Ustinova at serendipity.american.home@gmail.com.

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Notes from former teachers

Teaching at the American Home was an invaluable experience.  It gave me the opportunity to greatly improve some very important practical skills like public speaking, thinking on my feet, and tailoring a message to an audience.
Dana Buckman, Illinois State University and Washington University in St. Louis School of Law

The following is a response to the question, "What are the best things about your present job?"

Hands down, the people. The teachers that I work with are from all over America and all have different educational backgrounds. Most have studied Russian, but not all of them have. We are all teaching for the first time, and teaching EFL in Russia has its own unique set of challenges that we are facing together. The Russian staff at the American Home is also wonderful, and very supportive when we have questions. The students are the people who are really making my experience great though. It's incredible to see their progress in class, and also to learn about their lives outside of school and meet their friends and families on the weekends.
Sarah Forman, University of Virginia; from the AATSEEL Newsletter Vol. 51, February 2008

During my time in Vladimir I have been able to learn an immense amount about teaching, Russian culture and language, and myself.... Every day here provides me with new perspectives and experiences that I know I would never have had if I were still in the United States. Coming to Russia as an English teacher is a powerful experience, one that will test you in many ways. It is a great way to immerse yourself in a new culture and to get some valuable teaching experience in the process.
Michael "Misha" Kogan, Indiana University
Note: The above is from an article in the School of Russian and Asian Studies newsletter. For the complete article: www.sras.org/news2.phtml?m=631

I started studying Russian my third-year of college and then graduated knowing that I wanted and needed to learn much more Russian and more about Russia -- and what better way to spend the year after graduation than abroad. The Serendipity program was the best way I found to do that. I was able to live with a family, experience provincial Russia (I figured it would be fairly easy to find a way to live in Moscow or Petersburg at some later point), develop my Russian language skills, be part of a community, have a network of other Americans (but not too many) and explore what the other side of the desk is like after 18 years as a student. All of this and more was what I got. My co-teachers were people to learn with and from, and provided a support base -- when we learned a new custom, or had a question, we were able to share. The staff at the American Home were also an invaluable and constant resource. Galya had answers to all questions, and the "night guards" were always happy to call a cab for us or drink a cup of tea. And then there were the students. I learned so much from them, about teaching, learning, Russia, them and myself. I had some of the same students for two semesters. It was astounding seeing their improvement, and having them comment on my (constantly growing) teaching skill. I felt that I really gave them a feel for the poems we read, the movies we watched, the words we used -- and they, through their learning process, opened up the English language to me. Would I do it again? YES.
Bowie Snodgrass, Vassar

Teaching English at the American Home in Vladimir is the best way I can imagine to get to know Russia. You live with a Russian family and take Russian lessons from an excellent teacher at the same time that you have the support, assistance and friendship of the other American teachers and the wonderful Russian staff. As you get to know your students better they begin inviting you to dinner, to the theater, to go dancing, etc. Thanks to the friendships I've established here, I feel even more comfortable than I did last year in France where I was more familiar with the language and culture. However, I do recommend learning as much as you can about teaching English to foreigners before you get here. There is an orientation before classes begin, but the more experience you have, the more comfortable you'll feel.
Nicole Mercer, University of California at Santa Cruz

I would highly recommend this job, not only to Russian majors, but to anyone with an interest in Russia. Vladimir is a nice place--quiet and provincial, but within daytrip-distance from Moscow. The teachers here all live with Russian families and are offered three hours a week of Russian tutoring as part of their salary, so even though we're teaching English, there's ample opportunity to speak Russian. In terms of teaching English, there are many opportunities in Russia, but I can't imagine finding a better situation than I have here. The staff at the American Home (both Russian and American) is incredibly supportive and encouraging and has been a wonderful part of my experience here. Because of the maximum 2-year contract, there is a constant influx of new ideas and passing on of learned lessons and experience.
Kira Lee, Carleton College

Vladimir offers a real opportunity to immerse yourself in Russian language and culture. Such immersion can be very frightening at first, and that is why working at the American Home is such a plus. Here I am given the opportunity to work with Russians in an atmosphere that is very familiar, fostering, and comfortable. I would certainly recommend it to anyone who wants to experience Russia for what it really is--and be involved in an internship-style occupation that is both flexible and rewarding.
Matt Plischke, Miami University (Ohio)

Vladimir and the American Home are ideally situated. Vladimir is a part of Russia's famed Golden Ring, and the American Home lies in the heart of downtown Vladimir. Here, you have all the advantages of Russian city life, but with all the charm of the nearby dachas. The American Home really is the meeting and mixing point for two cultures. You live and work with a friendly staff and friendly students. The Russian lessons and the Russian homestay give you a chance to improve your speaking abilities while experiencing Russian culture firsthand. The longer I stay, the more I discover how much Vladimir has to offer me.
Erika Boeckler, University of Wisconsin at Madison & Harvard (PhD in comparative literature)

Working in Vladimir is the best thing I have ever done to improve my Russian, learn more about Russian culture, and give myself time to decide what my next step will be.
Rachel Lu Owens, University of Montana

One of the things my current professors [at Columbia University] have pointed out to me is that, for people interested in pursuing anything related to Russian or post-Soviet studies, there's a real advantage to living in a city like Vladimir. Because of the political situation which restricted most travel and research outside of Moscow and Leningrad for so long, a lot of the current specialists are people who may very well not have spent much time outside these two major cities. For this reason, I'm told, the younger Americans who are living in small towns in Russia are seen as possessing a "unique and valuable experience" when compared to those who worked pretty much exclusively in the larger cities.
Jason Muse, Occidental College

For more information, be sure to check out
The American Home English Program:  Participant Comments & Observations!

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Student Comments

The lectures the American Home organizes about American traditions help to eliminate stereotypes....

The conversation classes are a great addition to the regular courses. If we ever have a chance to go to the United States it will definitely be easier to understand people.....

Having 10 different levels of proficiency [i.e., 5 years with two semesters each] is a great thing. The people who are studying with me are all at the same level which allows us to use our time in class efficiently...

(NOTE:  With the addition of a third semester at the A level, we now have a 5 1/2 year program.)

Their extraordinary sense of humor, kindness, understanding, and even their artistic abilities--all this is a great combination in our teachers....

The opportunity to communicate with American teachers is wonderful....

This program is great. The classes are taught in an open, relaxing way, and this makes you feel the same...

We like our classes very much. We don't feel intimidated in the American Home like we do in our regular foreign language classes. When the class is over each day we don't want to leave...

The relaxed system of teaching, the humor, the willingness to answer all of our questions--all of this helps to break down the language barriers...

Everything we talk about is very interesting, as are all the videos. I think they have found the best way of teaching here at the American Home...

The discussions in class, the home work, the audio and video materials--all of this provides a solid foundation for learning....
I took the TOEFL test [Test of English as a Foreign Language--required of all students who want to study in U.S. or Canadian universities] at the beginning of our special class. After just two months I had improved my score by 30 percent!

Parent Comments

Our son is confined to a wheelchair, but thanks to his English classes, he has been able to enter a new world and to be with others. He is able to study a different culture and to feel the warmth and caring of the people who work at the American Home.... We want to thank the administration of the American Home for giving him a chance to study here.


Dear Ron Pope!

I am writing to express my gratitude to all the people who work at the American Home. My son has been attending classes at the AH since 2009. And this year I hope his group will continue at the final level.

We are from Moscow.  But fortunately my son lives in Vladimir now, and I split my time between the two cities.  We couldn’t find anywhere in Moscow a community like the AH in Vladimir.  The American Home is a wonderful place where children [young people] can communicate with and learn from their peers from the United States.

You do a great job for our children!  My son says that the AH is a place for meeting with interesting people, a piece of true America.  Every time he returns from the AH he tells us about everything they discuss in class.  It’s very interesting to learn about how Americans see us, our country.

Thank You very much!!!  

It would be great if you could open branches of the American Home in Moscow and other cities.

Ella Igoshina

[program background] [teaching opportunity] [application information]
[notes from teachers] [student comments]
[parent comments]

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