Prosba Mary Ziemer o zatrudnienie w NKJO w Toruniu

Peace Corps in Toruń

Extracts from memories and documents of people who worked for the American Peace Corps in Toruń or were from Toruń

Krzysztof Strzemeski (Foreign Language Teacher Training College employee):

In the early 1990s, you did not hear a great deal of English spoken although people were turned on by the prospect of contact with foreigners. Being an Americanophile (as most people were at that time), I gladly applied to work for the Peace Corps during my summer vacation. I thought this would be a one-off job but a few months later I had a ’phone-call from Jean Żukowski-Faust, the First Education Deputy to the Peace Corps Education Director in Poland, asking me to come for an interview for a full-time job since I had apparently proved myself.

Toruń, 1991

Edward Maliszewski (first Foreign Language Teacher Training College Director):

The idea that we should make use of volunteers came not from me but from the Education Inspectorate. I also set up the College on the initiative of the Education Inspectorate in September 1990 after a year’s stay in the United States. During my stay, I had looked at the structure of their colleges. I tried to make good use of the experience and knowledge which the Peace Corps volunteer had brought from the United States – the best source for such experiences. True, we already had a ready teaching programme prepared by the Ministry of National Education. It was not, however, suitable for implementation as it stood – for many reasons. Firstly, it was not possible to put together the sort of teaching body envisaged by the programme. We also thought that, since it was a programme for all colleges throughout Poland, it could not be suitable for each individual college. And anyway, we had our own ambitions.

Toruń, 1990

Anita Lewicka (student of Peace Corps volunteers):

This was my first contact with an American but it was not a culture shock because we were in our own element while Mary Ziemer tried to introduce us step-by-step to her culture, and to make us feel comfortable with it. This was not cultural indoctrination, rather an invitation to learn about her culture. I thought that Americans must obviously enjoy working from basics. We knew from the start that everything would depend on our own systematic hard work and that much more would follow.

Mary, and later Jim were both very flexible. They adapted to our realities and managed to open us up to theirs – they were the same as us but just spoke a different language. The fact that they both came from a country which is very heterogeneous meant that this openness would later prove invaluable.

The second volunteer, Jim Hardin, was always in Mary’s shadow and played second fiddle to her. In my second year I had language laboratory sessions with Jim – in other words mainly listening. Jim tried to introduce methods which were still in their infancy at that time and which are now all the rage. Jim used the textbook only as a point of reference. At the same time, he created a great deal of his own material and even tried to make history into a form of conversation to prevent it being seen as a lecture.

Toruń, 2001