Photo montage of CTU member Jill Kehoe on her travels.

I am currently a third grade teacher at Lorca Elementary School, in Chicago’s Avondale neighborhood. During my 27 years as an educator, I have developed a passion for traveling. The fondness I have for travel is because I get the unique opportunity to share my adventures and what I learn about the world with my students.

This passion started back in 2008 when my school had a partnership with the Shedd Aquarium. Sadie, who worked with the students in my classroom, told me about a travel opportunity to go with the Shedd on their research vessel for eight days in the Bahamas to strengthen my science instruction. I was one of the 10 teachers chosen for the trip and had such an amazing experience that I wanted to continue doing this type of work to enhance my curriculum and instruction.  

I learned so much and was truly inspired by that first trip. When I shared my experience with my students, I felt excited and energized. Sharing all of my photographs, findings from my experiment, and new knowledge with my students was my favorite part of the school year. My excitement was contagious, as my students were so engaged and interested in what I had learned and all I had done. This couldn’t be the last time I traveled to improve my teaching. I needed more, so I started looking for other travel opportunities for teachers. 

 In my online search, I found Global Exploration for Educators Organization (GEEO) and it has been life changing. It was the perfect match and exactly what I was looking for. GEEO helps teachers travel in order to gain broader global perspectives which then enables them to bring more enriching experiences back to the classroom. As I communicated with Jesse Weisz, who is the founder of GEEO, he really set my mind at ease about traveling with a small group of teachers whom I didn’t yet know.  

Because I didn’t let these fears hold me back and took a brave leap of faith, I ended up with truly special lifelong friendships with like-minded colleagues from all over the country. We teachers already have a bond from shared experiences and it was a perk that we were able to engage in conversations surrounding our practice, share resources, be sounding boards for each other, and even share struggles that we face in our career. 

Thanks to GEEO, I now have lasting friendships all around the globe. It has been a true privilege to meet so many  wonderful people with whom I’ve shared amazing journeys and adventures. GEEO’s travel programs range from five to 25 days and are scheduled during school breaks and summer. Each trip includes a local guide who shares his/her knowledge with us. The trips are discounted and provide professional development credits along with classroom resources. Through this non-profit organization, I have been able to travel to Morocco, Peru, the Galapagos Islands, and Tanzania.  

I also have found travel experiences through The Bamboo Project, powered by GVN. This was a volunteer trip to Thailand and Cambodia where I taught English to students at two different elementary schools over a two-week period. This trip was a lot of hard work, but I am grateful and appreciative for the experience I had and the people I met.

Being able to travel in this way has been such a privilege, but what brings me the most joy is when I bring my experiences back to students, not just the following school year, but year after year. Being equipped with stories, photographs, artifacts, books, and sharing my memories is something special that you can’t get from a textbook. 

After my trip to the Galapagos Islands, my colleague and I partnered up each of my fourth grade students with one of her first grade students and they worked as a team to research an endangered species. Each partnership planned a presentation and classes were invited to come see their exhibits. On my trip to Tanzania, I was awarded a grant from Boston University’s Center of African Studies and I am currently working with the center as I write a supplement for our current social studies curriculum. I am anticipating the day when I get to teach it and my students are excited as well.  

Seeing  these unique and diverse places in the world has not only made me a better teacher, but it has made me a better human. When you travel, and you meet so many amazing individuals who are both very different, yet very similar to you, it opens your mind and your heart.  What a great way to show our students by example the importance of traveling, while giving them the confidence that they too, can see the world for themselves one day.

Editor’s note: This is member generated content and does not reflect official CTU policy nor does it represent union endorsement of any product or service mentioned by the author.