Returning To FSU As A Peace Corps Recruiter Is A Full-Circle Moment For LSI’s Leaman
By Larissa Martins -- LSI Communications Intern
After a lifetime of living in their hometown of Tallahassee, Madeline Leaman graduated from Florida State and immediately prepared for a new life as an English teacher in Ukraine. The root of this decision tracked all the way back to seventh grade when a recruiter introduced them to the opportunities provided by the Peace Corps.
Leaman knows firsthand the impact recruiters can have on people’s lives and now their journey has come full circle as the new Peace Corps Recruiter at Florida State working at the Learning System Institute (LSI).
They recall the effect of hearing a recruiter share incredible stories from her experience volunteering in Zambia. That day changed the course of Leaman’s life because it lit a spark that lingered in the back of their mind and eventually led them to serve in the Peace Corps. As FSU’s recruiter, they also have the chance to inspire people by sharing their experiences volunteering in Ukraine.
Leaman said, “Being a Peace Corps Recruiter is an excellent way I get to share stories from my service and get to talk about Ukraine with people, and so I’m keeping it alive in some ways.”
During their service, they taught various grade levels ranging from third grade all the way up to eleventh grade in a small Ukrainian town. They enjoyed how their working environment was highly collaborative and enabled them to work with other teachers to create lesson plans that supplemented the curriculum.
Leaman stated, “It’s such a great experience to be able to serve communities and to learn from other cultures.”
Leaman describes how they felt respected, appreciated, and loved by their students every day.
One of their fondest memories was when their male students surprised them by bringing chocolates and by learning how to say “Happy International Women’s Day” in English.
They loved the symbiotic relationship between being a teacher and an active learner.
They said, “Even when you’re off the clock, you’re still in a totally new world, so you’re still learning when you’re not necessarily working.”
Leaman’s favorite aspect of the whole experience was the amazing people it allowed them to meet, especially their host family who they still consider as their second parents. They enjoyed being immersed in Ukrainian culture by practicing the language and learning how to cook traditional foods, such as Varenyky.
Unfortunately, the hardest part of Leaman’s experience was how it abruptly ended six months early because of the COVID-19 pandemic. They received a three-hour notice to pack up all their belongings and prepare to leave, which resulted in not being able to say goodbye to their beloved students. However, they have high hopes of returning to Ukraine in the future and plan to pursue a graduate degree in Eastern European Studies at FSU that will help pave the way for their return.
Nowadays, Leaman enjoys having the same job as the person who inspired them to join the Peace Corps in the first place. They are thrilled to be working as the recruiter at FSU and are delighted to help students learn more about the Peace Corps during office hours, career fairs, and community events on the FSU campus.
They stated, “I was evacuated from my Peace Corps experience, so the idea of being able to continue my service in some way and being able to do it locally is very exciting.”
Prior to the Peace Corps, Leaman considered themselves to be a shy person, but moving abroad and becoming a teacher has given them the confidence necessary to be a successful recruiter. They use the skills they learned during their Peace Corps experience daily, whether it’s from the nine-week technical training they received prior to starting or from the real-life experience they gained while serving.
They said, “The technical training is so valuable, as are the things I learned about teaching. I’ve used those lessons in many spheres of my life, even as a recruiter now it makes me more comfortable talking to people and presenting my ideas.”
As LSI’s Peace Corps Recruiter, they motivate people in the same way they were motivated all those years ago. Their role enables them to educate people on the Peace Corps mission, which is to help countries meet their need for trained people, help promote a better understanding of Americans on the part of the people served and help promote a better understanding of other people on the part of Americans.