Where we work / Iraq

Iraq, known in the ancient world as Mesopotamia


Known in the ancient world as Mesopotamia, present day Iraq in the Middle East was considered one of the cradles of human civilization and a world center of its time. Bordered by the countries of Turkey, Syria, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and Iran, Iraq has 36 miles of coastline on the Persian Gulf.

While the defining characteristics of most of our countries in the MENA region have developed over centuries, what makes Iraq so unique and different from other countries is history. And not just ancient history, but the past two decades of war. It’s hard to maintain your systems and structures when your key cities have been devastated, religious factions still abound, and you live in a constant state of rebuilding. Louis Luzbatek suggested that “culture is the know-how to get through daily living.” For most of us, culture is entrenched and there is little that changes over the years in terms of cultural know-how, belief systems, and worldview.

When war occurs to the degree that it did in Iraq, it causes a shift in culture . . . the know-how that once existed must adapt in order to “get through daily living” in a new way. The Iraqi people (Kurds, Sunnis, Shia, Yazidis, Ka’kai, etc.) are trying to get the new “know-how” to survive in the face of a new, yet feudal, Iraq.

For the most part, the staff and students we work with would be considered middle-class by typical Iraqi standards. These people live in the center of Shia Islam—the women are conservative and the men are ready and willing to defend their beliefs and their country (in that order).

“They are deeply loyal, humorous, fun-loving, friendly, and generous. They are honest, open, dramatic, and love and honor fiercely. Personally, I can’t think of a friendlier, more open people group that we have met.” —ELIC country director in Iraq.

In Iraq, education is viewed as a right for all children and teens. There is great esteem given to teachers. Education is free at all levels and the first six years are compulsory. In fact, Iraq stands out as a country committed to education for boys and girls with an 80-plus percent literacy rate. Respect, diversity, tolerance, excellence, and creativity are deeply valued by the Ministry of Education, post-Saddam.

frequently asked


Job description

Which cities are the new roles in?

Teachers are currently being sent to Duhok, Koya, and Mosul.

What is our history with this school?

The partnership was developed two years ago; we initially started getting visas through the school, and now manage the teaching portion for Duhok.

The partnership in Koya is newer, and we began placing teachers in fall 2021.

List duties and responsibilities of the role.

To fulfill our visa contract, we engage in tutoring, English corners, and develop programs for school partners.

In Koya, we teach classes in the Language Institute center to University of Koya students who are studying across the street.

Describe weekly work schedule and hours for the role?

It has been quite loose as we’ve navigated through COVID and the ability to meet in person. But we ask that teachers spend at least 10 hours per week in education-related work.

What class subjects will the teacher be teaching? Are there opportunities to teach something other than English?

We have developed programs for the IELTS exam, English tutoring, and English Corners.

How many students will the teacher have? How many different classes?

Classes can have from 5-10 students. 

What is the student demographic?

Young adults who are either university students or professionals, both male, and female, from a variety of backgrounds.

How much classroom prep time is required/expected each week?

For experienced teachers, new classes require around two hours of prep per classroom hour. New teachers will probably require three or four prep hours per class hour.

Will the teacher have an office on campus? Will the teacher be expected to hold office hours?

We expect the teacher to have an office in the language center, and office hours are kept for each course they teach.

How many teachers are already placed at this school?

We have five teachers assigned to GEID, planning for four or five teachers in Koya.

How will the new teacher engage with non-ELIC faculty and teachers at this school?

We are the faculty and teachers at the Language Institute.

What are the bare minimum degree requirements needed by a new teacher in this role?

The minimum requirement is a BA with TEFL Certificate or MA TESOL or Education-related field with teaching experience.

What are the ideal degree requirements needed by a new teacher in this role?

Teachers would ideally have the education above with a minimum of 2-3 years of overseas teaching experience and/or an MA TESOL/Ed with teaching experience

What are the experience or resume qualifications needed by a new teacher in this role? Is prior teaching experience necessary?

Teaching experience is a plus in the Duhok Language Institute.  At Duhok University, prior teaching experience is a must. 

Are there age restrictions for a new teacher?


What's something the new teacher will learn after their first week in the classroom that will encourage them as they move forward?

Students are looking to engage in deeper conversation and are highly motivated to learn.

What's something the new teacher will learn after their first week in the classroom that will be a challenge for them as they move forward?

It is hard to manage the engagement/friendship needs of the students in your class because everyone wants some of your time.

Any additional helpful points of the job opening?

Arguably (actually there is no argument), the Kurdish people are the most friendly and hospitable people you’ll meet in the world.

In Koya, our partner has a long history in the ME.  The development of this institute has been ten years in the making, and not only is the building fully paid for, but our partner also owns the land and deed.

Team Dynamics

What is the current team size and team demographic?

In Duhok, 10 people: 2 married couples, 3 single women, 3 single men.

Who are the current team leaders and/or what is the current leadership structure ?

Tim is the Country Director.

Where are some of the team members from in the US or Canada? Hometowns? Alma maters?

Michigan, Wisconsin, Kansas, Illinois, Minnesota, Saskatchewan (Canada), Oklahoma, and Mexico (kind of/sort of). We have people with theatre degrees, PhDs, past analysts, MDivs. Alma maters include Wheaton, Michigan State University, Kansas State University, etc.

How often do you see your teammates each week in formal team meetings?

Twice per week on average

What do formal team meetings entail? What's the takeaway? Why do you meet? What's the value of formal team time?

There is a formal team meeting every Sunday for catching up, lifting, worship, and study. Once a week for various team projects to talk through academics, theology, CR, and LCD; the team is central to the team’s DNA, as most of the team members have been part of other Pinnacle teams in the past and recognize the experience of the team as the springboard for academics, CR and LCD.

How often do you see your teammates each week informally...just for fun? And what do you do together?

Constant interaction with the team in informal settings. Some teammates live together, others live across the hall, some have similar interests and friends, and some just love to cook and eat together.

Share a fun team story.

Highlights include: the week of Christmas – annotating Hallmark Christmas movies, team food poisoning (don’t ever say ‘fish’ to the team again), and winter retreats at a Swiss village in the mountains with snow.

Share a challenging team story.

Learning how exceptionally competent and independent people can come together as human beings and support each other.

Share a meaningful team story.

Our interactions with one local with who we’ve all built relationships – and the questions he asks each of us on deep matters.

Any additional helpful points for your team?

We are fun! We are fabulous and fascinating!

City & everyday life

How long have we been in Iraq?

1.5 years

What does the first week in city typically look like for new teachers? How do they get their lives "started"?

Country Director and/or Team Leader welcome teachers at the airport, transfer them to the new city. Teachers will live in an apartment hotel for the first few weeks, and be taken around to look at possible apartments. In-country orientation starts 5-days to 1-week after arrival and includes survival Kurdish, CR, LCD, team dynamics, etc. Teachers are assigned a team contact who helps them get a SIM card, get an area orientation, teach them how to take public transport, shop, etc.

What does housing look like in Iraq? Please describe the options available to new teachers as thoroughly as possible. How far away are housing options from the school? From their teammates?

Teachers live in apartment complexes in the same vicinity as their team (some actually live in the same apartment complex). Apartments are inexpensive, spacious, relatively clean, and easy to find. We try to keep teams and similar teaching assignments within 5-10 minutes of each other, preferably within walking distance so they share rides to larger team events, they use the same shops and markets (good for CR purposes) – and are well-known by the neighborhood as a group.

What is the local currency in Iraq? Do people typically carry cash? Credit cards?

Iraqi Dinar (IQD) and USD

USD is taken in most larger stores in smaller denominations, but small markets and street vendors prefer IQD. You can certainly use larger USD for larger purchases but will receive change in IQD. This is truly a cash-only economy, and very few people accept credit cards or debit cards. ATMs are available, but often unstocked. Teachers carry the cash they need and a bit of emergency funds daily. We encourage people who have a lot of money with them to use the team safe.

How do people generally travel to their school? What is public transportation like in the city?

Many people walk during the pleasant weather seasons or take taxis.

ers carry the cash they need and a bit of emergency funds daily. We encourage people who have a lot of money with them to use the team safe.

What is the city culturally known for? Where are fun spots to take new visitors?

Duhok is the 3rd largest city in Kurdistan. It is ethnically diverse with immigrants and displaced people living and working side-by-side. Of note are the 2 large concentrations of Yezidi and Assyrian people in the area. Duhok finds itself archaeologically in the plains of ancient Assyria and Nineveh, with release and canal systems built by Synnacherib. Presently, Duhok boasts a thriving, youthful population who enjoy coffeehouses, tea houses, music, and literature. There are several libraries/coffee/tea houses where we meet with students and friends consistently. The surrounding mountains provide cool shelter in the summer heat with ample swimming holes and Swiss-type villages, and fun restaurants and views. There is a cable car to a nearby mountain top, with a lovely garden, fountain display, restaurant, and tea shop: a cool place to visit in the evening of a hot day.

Koya is situated in one of the most beautiful regions in Kurdistan, with several important shrines and mosques. Its’ history dates back to the Assyrians and the Medes, and was historically a center for artists, poets, scholars. There are several lakes and streams and cool oases for respite in the heat of the day. If they end up residing in Erbil – Erbil is the capital of Kurdistan, which has seen significant growth in the past 5-10 years. It is well known for its citadel, Siq, and has a thriving Christian district with Assyrians and Chaldeans. It also houses the international airport and boasts booming nightlife (Pinnacle approved 😉 Most people go to Erbil for shopping, as they have huge shopping districts.

Mosul is modern-day Nineveh. It houses the shrine and burial spot of the prophet Jonah. It has the largest concentration of Chaldean Christians in the world, with the nearby city Al-Qosh. It was basically leveled during the ISIS invasion and was the last of the Southern Iraqi cities to be liberated. It is one of the most historically significant cities in all of Iraq and is currently in the rebuilding process.

What does the shopping for food look like in the city? Do people normally eat out? Cook for themselves? Share meals with teammates?

Most people visit the Siq a few times a month and visit local markets more frequently for fresh produce. Some people eat out more often than others, but a majority of the team cooks for themselves – often sharing meals together and inviting friends to partake with them.

What do meals look like during school hours? Do teachers share meals with students?

In COVID-free times, meals are shared in the evenings and coffee and tea during the day.

What local dish is the city known for?

Biryani is one of the most popular dishes, with kofta and dolma being close seconds. Quzi is a must in Duhok, as well as kanafeh.

Does the city have any western chain stores or restaurants?

There is an IKEA outlet store, a Carrefour, a KFC, a Burger King and a few knock-off restaurants and coffee shops.

Erbil has a wide range of Western chain stores and restaurants and a ton of knock-offs. Koya has no Western chains.

What's your favorite thing to do as a team in the city? What do people do for fun or during downtime?

Visiting the Siq, local coffee, and sweet shops, hanging out with friends, board games…

How do people exercise in Iraq?

They walk everywhere. There are also gyms for men and women (not mixed)

How do people spend their weekends in the city? Are there cities nearby that people typically visit for a weekend away?

Usually, they hang out with friends from the team and the international fellowship. People visit Erbil, Zakho, and some of the surrounding mountains. People like their downtime, but they also hang out.

What's your favorite coffee shop and/or restaurant in the city? Why?

The Wooden House is one of the favorite hang-out places: great for coffee, breakfast, backgammon, and other board games. Elpida Coffee is probably one of the favorite coffee shops, but Mado Coffee and Agha are also there. Elpida is a great place to relax, read, and is a favorite hangout for some foreigners but also locals – great music, great ambiance.

What will a new teacher be surprised to have learned after their first 60 days in Iraq?

Although the city is spread out, there is still a small-town feel. People are willing to help you do anything that you need. They’ll be surprised that they’ll be able to do all the basics within the first few weeks with a bit of language. They also need to realize that they’ll need to pace themselves with locals’ relationships because everyone will want to do coffee and meals.

In Koya, after 2 days in the city, the teacher will find that they are the only foreigners living in the city and nearby vicinity. In Erbil, you might forget that you’re living in a foreign country because there are parts that just feel so American. However, the military presence will convince you that you’re not in America.

Any additional helpful points for the cities?

It’s not so big that you’ll feel lost- and not so small that you’ll feel constrained. There are incredible places to hike: the Duhok Dam, etc.

While Erbil is not the most beautiful city in the world, there are a lot of amenities that are very attractive. Transportation is easy to access, people are very friendly, and there is a huge American presence.

Family & growth

How do people generally work with Member Care Specialists in Iraq?

MENA has regional member care, and a system of semester visits and monthly check-ins.

What does ongoing personal/spiritual development look like in Iraq?

Every team member goes to a local fellowship. Team also works through the word in studies together weekly. People are encouraged to do HOPEs at least 1 x every 2 months and to seek a place of rest and silence at least once during the semester.

What does ongoing professional development look like in Iraq?

The teaching specialist works with each team member to develop a PD plan, and time is set aside monthly in a team meeting to talk about professional development.

Are any current teachers in Iraq continuing their education through our various MA opportunities? If so, what degree(s) are they pursuing?

One member just finished his MDiv, and another is working towards another MA in Classical Literature. The majority of teachers have MAs, but another is considering starting an MA TESOL within the next 6 months.

Is language study available in Iraq? If so, what does that process look like for new teachers?

Yes. We are connected with an excellent language institution. Teachers have the choice of learning Kurdish or Arabic, depending on the project they’re assigned to. Everyone is expected to be involved in language study, whether at the language center or with a tutor. Some are devoted full time currently, but everyone is doing some kind of part-time language study. This is important for our CR and LCD impact in the city and the region.

Are there any families with children in Iraq? If so, how many children are on the team? What is the age range (oldest and youngest)?

Not presently. We are currently researching a family that is joining in Spring 2022.

What's it like to raise a family in Iraq?

The international fellowship that many of us go to has several families with children who have already become a resource for this family in 2022.

What schooling options are available in Iraq? Which city is this new placement for Pinnacle families with children?

Most people homeschool; however, there are international and IB schools available in Duhok.

What roles do non-teaching spouses typically play in Iraq?

Presently, everybody has a role – whether they’re teaching or not. One non-teaching spouse is a business manager, the other works for the OoP. In the incoming family, the non-teaching spouse will be assigned to a project.

Any additional helpful points for families?

If you come – the team loves children and wants more!

Any additional helpful points for growth opportunities?

A family with children in the ME is a CR opportunity just waiting to happen. It gives entrance to entire families, not just to the male or female figure in the household.