Every month, we’re proud to introduce you to an extraordinary educator from the US who believes in the power of educational travel to shape the lives of students, both academically and personally.
Today, we’d like to introduce you to Pamela Reynolds, a Spanish teacher from New York, who has traveled extensively with ACIS since 2007. As well as a passion for languages (she speaks Spanish, Italian and French) Pamela also loves animals—she owns dogs, cats, horses and hens.
Hello Pamela! Thanks for taking the time to talk to us. First of all, what would you say has been the most rewarding aspect of teaching thus far in your career?
Pamela: I think it’s when students tell you what an impact you’ve had on their lives, how you have inspired them both in and out of the classroom. Or even a simple ‘thank you’ at the end of the year.
What made you want to teach in the first place?
Pamela: I never planned to be a teacher, but a phone call to a former professor, after I left the corporate world, led me to take classes for teaching. To be honest, I was still unsure about my decision while I was enrolled in the classes, but that all changed the first day of teaching students. I knew it was the right move.
You’ve led nine trips with ACIS—what would you say was the best part about bringing a group of students on a tour?
Pamela: I think the best part is watching their transformation throughout the week. It’s great to see them gaining confidence, trying new foods, practicing their language skills and appreciating a new culture.
What do you hope your students will get out of traveling abroad?
Pamela: I want the trips to break down borders, for my students to realize that although we may speak different languages or eat different foods, that our similarities outnumber our differences. I want them to not have fear about traveling, to go out and explore for themselves what they’ve seen in books and on the internet, to experience all the beauty that exists in the world.
Has a tour ever changed the life of one of your students in a small or significant way?
Pamela: I have taken nine trips with students since 2007 and with each one I have seen changes in them, or they have shared with me how the experience positively impacted their lives. These two quotes from students on my last trip to Costa Rica sum up these experiences:
“This trip allowed me to come out of my comfort zone with trying new things”
“This trip has been the most amazing experience of my life; I conquered a lot of fears here and learned I am a lot stronger than I thought”
And how about you? How do you think travel affects you personally?
Pamela: Each trip I take, either personally or with students, enhances my life, providing me with new experiences, more knowledge and a desire to never stop learning and exploring.
If you had to convince another teacher to bring students on an ACIS tour, what would you say to them?
Pamela: If you love learning, teaching and traveling, leading students on an educational trip connects that learning with life. You gain a new perspective when you travel with students by seeing the sights through their new eyes. It enhances your teaching and is unbelievably rewarding!
And how about when you’re not traveling with ACIS—what has been your favorite travel experience?
Pamela: There have been too many to list! One of my favorite trips was a South African safari for a special birthday—as an animal lover, being so close to these wonderful beings in their habitat was truly amazing. Enjoying a sundowner while the sun is setting and listening to lions roar in the background is an unforgettable experience!
I had a true once-in-a-lifetime experience in Italy many years ago when I was fortunate enough to participate in a sfilata before a palio. Walking through a small Italian city for the parade in a Renaissance costume—such an authentic day, reliving history and living like an Italiana.
Another highlight of my travels was visiting Havana, Cuba, last summer. To be able to experience the complexity of a country that was off limits for so long was incredible. I left with insight of what life is like in Cuba yet because of its complexity, not truly understanding what life is like. As a local told me, “don’t try to understand it here, even we don’t understand!” It’s that complexity that makes me want to return to learn more!
What advice would you give to a student who is about to travel abroad for the first time?
Pamela: Put down the technology, such as your phone or iPad, for a while (unless you are taking a really great photo) and truly appreciate where you are. Soak it in, get out of your comfort zone and be flexible! Travel does not always go according to your plan—and sometimes that is a good thing!
Finally, what advice do you have for a teacher about to travel with their students for the first time?
Pamela: After all the work and time you’ve put into planning the trip, breathe and enjoy it! The rewards for providing your students with a new perspective on travel and life are countless!
A big thank you to Pamela for taking the time to tell us about her travel experiences.
If you’re interested in learning more about ACIS Group Leaders from around the country, visit our YouTube channel for videos and short clips.