Interview with Doug Garatina, August 11, 2022

Project: Peace Corps: The Returned Peace Corps Volunteer Oral History Project

Interview Summary

Doug Garatina served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Ghana from 1971-1973 working in education, specifically in secondary math and science positions. He attended Trenton State College (NJ), majored in Biology and Education, and learned about Peace Corps opportunities from television broadcasts. He wanted to teach but felt he needed to learn how to teach before he took a position in the field, and the Peace Corps seemed like a good way to get started. After a four-month wait, Doug was given a choice of three countries in his preferred area of Africa and was assigned to Ghana. Upon graduation, he, along with a cohort of 150 others, spent a week in Philadelphia for some cultural and language training, as well as learning Ghanian customs, and he was introduced to the native tongue of Ghana: Twi. He befriended another volunteer, Ron, who roomed with him in training and also for two months in Ghana. Doug and his colleagues left Philadelphia by chartered flight to go to Accra, the capital of Ghana but encountered many delays on route before landing in Dakar, Senegal to refuel. In Accra his group was domiciled at Legon University in dorms and spent a month there learning more about Ghanian customs and the language of Twi. The main group was then split and sent to five different sections of the country. Doug and his group began student teaching during August in a Kumasi secondary school, where they stayed in secondary school dorms. At the end of August, Doug was assigned to his locale, Nsaba, a small town within the rainforest. The school there was called The Presbyterian Teacher Training College in Nsaba. Students wore uniforms, and their academic day began at 6:45 am and ended at 12:45 pm with 50-minute periods. Doug taught basic general science and biology as well as physics, algebra, and geometry. In addition, he was asked to teach a course in how to teach. Furthermore, Doug was assigned to observe student teachers in the field. He taught about 20 students in each class in an open-aired classroom and there was a separate enclosed science building where he held classes, as well. Students spent their afternoons playing sports, working with school clubs, or cleaning their dorm areas. There was also a farm on school grounds which students tended. Both students and colleagues were extremely friendly toward Doug and his approach, exhibiting few or no disciplinary problems. Doug began teaching science and math in a teacher training setting. His students also stayed in dorms and paid no tuition as they were all on scholarships. This four-year school experience focused upon not only subject matter but also on pedagogy skills for teaching elementary and middle school students, and Doug soon found out that his students wanted the main facts of the subjects because it helped them pass state level exams, and he also had to stress incorporating instructional methodology as he taught. In fact, Doug was the youngest instructor, and was even younger than all of his students! Most teachers lived nearby, as did Doug who lived with a roommate, another Ron, in a four-roomed area of mud-bricked housing enclosing a courtyard. His unit had two rooms, a spare room and a kitchen with electricity only at night and only if the generator worked. The college only had sporadic electric power, as well. There was no running water so rain water was collected uniquely with cisterns that piped the rain water up into large containers on each roof. His unit was one of the few with cement floors. Doug did not take well to the local food at first but got used to the diet of yams, dried fish, goat meat (on occasion), and leafy vegetables. Oftentimes, he was able to get prepared food from the college. During his non-teaching time, Doug helped construct a school building during an Easter break and traveled to Togo with Ron. He contracted a mild case of malaria and some chicken pox, but, other than that, he completed his service in good health. He left his position in Ghana at the conclusion of his two years of service and flew to New York City. Upon arriving home he applied for teaching positions, but because it was August, all job opportunities were taken. Doug then returned to Trenton State and pursued a Master’s degree in science education while also receiving an assistantship position to do tutoring at the College Learning Center. He attended night classes. He took a position at the Princeton University Computer Center for a year and then taught elementary school science (Grades 3-5) in Morristown, NJ. He eventually achieved a position in high school science which was his ultimate goal. He became a science department chairman, elementary school principal, a director of curriculum, and an assistant superintendent, all in Morristown. After public school retirement, Doug began to do carpentry work, at first alone and then with his son, and they built up a successful business. He now volunteers his time as a social coordinator with the New Jersey Returned Peace Corps Volunteers and credits the Peace Corps as giving him a significant background for his success

Interview Accession

2022oh1536_pcrv0625

Interviewee Name

Doug Garatina

Interviewer Name

Donald C. Yates

Interview Date

2022-08-11

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Garatina, Doug Interview by Donald C. Yates. 11 Aug. 2022. Lexington, KY: Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, University of Kentucky Libraries.

Garatina, D. (2022, August 11). Interview by D. C. Yates. Peace Corps: The Returned Peace Corps Volunteer Oral History Project. Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, University of Kentucky Libraries, Lexington.

Garatina, Doug, interview by Donald C. Yates. August 11, 2022, Peace Corps: The Returned Peace Corps Volunteer Oral History Project, Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, University of Kentucky Libraries.





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