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ACIS Global Conference Recap: Bruges, Belgium

February 6, 2020 Guest Blogger 1 Comment

An ACIS Global Conference is meant to reward and rejuvenate – which is exactly how Beth Marshall felt after attending our MLK weekend in Bruges, Belgium. She shared her fantastic experience with us on the blog.

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My first ACIS global conference was in 1995; I remember going to Paris and having the time of my life as a first year teacher as I saw the sights of my favorite city in the world.  Not only did I get an opportunity to talk with fellow teachers about how they plan their trips, but I also was able to remind my 23-year-old self that there was a real purpose to my teaching French.  I fell in love with traveling as a 16 year old student on an ACIS trip, and this global conference opened the possibility for me to continue to travel, and sometimes even earn enough points to share my favorite places with someone I love! I also love sharing my journey that I take with my students so that they can share in my experiences as if they were there with me in videos, pictures and stories when I return.This past trip, my students followed my instagram that I set up to follow Baby Yoda on the journey.

Each time that I have come back from a global conference, I am reminded not only how much I love to travel but I return to my classroom with a sense of purpose to why I teach, and am re-energized and ready to give my best to a room full of global citizens and future travelers.  

Each global conference that I have attended has been a unique experience, and the global conference in Bruges was no exception!  Never in my life would I have dreamed that I would stay in a hotel that was the former palace of the Dukes of Burgundy. Now I can share with my students that I lived as the Dukes did; I slept in their palace and enjoyed a breakfast of champagne and a chocolate buffet! The first evening our group headed to the famous De Halve Maan brewery to find out the history of beer making in Belgium. Not only was the tour informative, but the beer, entertainment and food began the unforgettable weekend with much laughter and song. 

On Saturday, we all headed out on a walking tour of the town using Whisper headsets, allowing us to easily hear the insightful commentary. (I cannot wait to use the headsets on my next group tour since they are now a part of every European tour!) While learning the history of the medieval city established in the 9th century throughout the day, the highlights of the tour were a chocolate demonstration at Pralinette and a visit to one of the oldest private residences in Bruges to be a guest of a famous Belgian artist.  Saturday afternoon was spent sampling the chocolate shops to make sure that we purchased the best ones to bring home to loved ones.

On Sunday, we went to Brussels for the day, where we were able to see how two Belgian cities had evolved so vastly different in the last few hundred years.  After learning the history of the capital and being sure to get that touristy picture of the famous peeing boy, we headed for waffle sampling and mussels. Our last evening was like a fairy tale; we traveled in horse-drawn carriages to dine in a private home of a Countess, built in 1350 , along with the  family chapel which was consecrated in 1429 and inspired by the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem. The 50 or so of us were treated to a banquet that made us truly feel like royalty.

The highlight for me is always an opportunity to chat with Peter Jones, the president of ACIS. Can you believe that Peter tries to go to as many global conferences as he can in the same weekend to talk to teachers and thank us for traveling with ACIS?  His speech made over dinner was not only inspirational for travel but made me feel like I am truly valued as a group leader. It is this personal experience that keeps me coming back and working with the amazing team at ACIS. The personal connections that I have made with other teachers who encourage and inspire me and the wonderful staff through the global conferences are even more important than even the location of any conference, in my opinion. 

The plane touched down for me on Monday evening, and I was back on the ground at school running on Tuesday. These past two weeks at school were typical teacher insanity.  In the middle of making 300 crepes, grading 120 essays, and the other thousands of things that we teachers do, I smiled when I remembered that a little over two weeks ago I was laughing and sharing travel stories with some of the most dedicated teachers I’ve ever met and soaking up the beauty of Bruges. Just as ACIS rolled out the carpet for me and made me feel special, I realize that now my teacher cup is refilled so that I now can pour my energy into my students the next few months to make them feel important, too!

Merci mille fois, ACIS, and a special thank you to Peter Ede for being the best tour manager ever!

Guest Blogger

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