This is our second blog post featuring stories from the road at the time when the coronavirus hit (here’s the first one, in case you missed it). We spoke with Scott M., a teacher of 15 years from Texas.
Scott M., AP World History and AP European History teacher, Texas
Have you previously taken your students on an overseas tour?
This is my sixth trip with students. Six straight years! My first trip in 2015 was to Venice, Paris and London. Since them I’ve taken students to Italy, France, Spain, the U.K., Belgium, the Netherlands, Switzerland and Germany. In March this year our itinerary was to London, Paris, Normandy/Caen, Munich, Dachau, Nuremberg and Salzburg.
Why is travel important to you as an educator?
So many reasons. The classroom is an amazing place. In the history classroom I have the privilege of teaching and exposing student to ideas and history that they often had no clue existed. This information helps to create cultural awareness, and hopefully leads to a desire to experience what you learn in the classroom in real life. No matter how engaging or amazing my classroom is there is nothing that compares to experiencing the history and culture in real life. Learning about the absolute French Monarchs, the French Revolution and Napoleon is one thing…. Going to Paris and seeing and experiencing it yourself can change your life.
Tell us about your most recent travel experience – what was your planned itinerary?
In March 2020, we had a group of 31 students that traveled on the ‘World War II in Depth’ trip. It was a very packed and energized itinerary.
Where were you when news of the coronavirus made you realize you’d need to adapt your plans?
Now this is a crazy story! It was about 2:30 AM on our last night in Paris. I had gone to bed about 12:30 but my wife was still up working on her daily Europe trip post for the parents (amazing wife!). At 2:30 my wife was pretty panicking and woke me up. She told me that there was some type of travel ban on Europe. I immediately got up and called ACIS. Everyone in the world was confused and we all started brainstorming what to do. I went and woke up the leaders and the crazy journey to get home began!
How did you work with ACIS on this?
ACIS was amazing. The tour manager Jana and I were in constant contact with ACIS. Our goal was to make the best decisions as we continued to get relevant information and still try to maximize and enjoy our experience in Europe.
What happened next? How did the situation play out?
The decision was made to continue with our early 6:30 AM flight to Munich. At that point we did not expect to be able to go to Nuremberg and Salzburg so we tweaked out itinerary in Munich. We did the city tour with our amazing local tour guide and went to Dachau. We ended the night at the Hofbrauhaus, which was amazing! At one point all of the students raised their glasses to our tour guide Jana and began chanting her name in celebration. Jana was amazing and the students truly fell in love with her. ACIS decided to fly us back to London the next day. They put us up in an amazing hotel in Windsor and we were able to see Windsor Castle and enjoy the city. I loved that ACIS did this. Since we had already seen London they wanted us to have a new experience. I had never been to Windsor and it ended up being one of my favorite places. We were able to get two separate flights back to the U.S. The chaos began at the airport in Chicago but we made it home with zero health problems.
How did your students react to the situation?
The students were amazing. The parents and students wanted to stay as long as possible and squeeze out all of the experiences that we could. They followed as we led and had a blast at each moment. I was so thankful for the attitudes of the parents at home and the students on tour. This was an amazing group of students that I am very close to.
At ACIS we say we have a culture of care, and taking care of our group leaders and their participants is our mission. Did you feel this care when traveling?
Before ACIS I traveled with a different company for five years that I loved. ACIS took it to another level for me. I feel a true friendship to so many people at ACIS. Peter Jones and my program consultant Tricia Holda are two of my favorite people in the world. I look forward to getting to know more and more people. I have gone on two global teacher conferences in Barcelona with ACIS and they are like a big family reunion!
What’s next for your school travel program?
As soon as I get home I’m always ready to go on the next trip. Having a trip planned and recruiting for it every year makes my school year more exciting. All year long I get to talk about and recruit for my trip knowing that I get to go see amazing things with my students that I teach about. If anything is different I will adapt. Most importantly I will lead with passion and never stop!
What has your experience taught you about educational travel?
Attitude and Excitement is everything. Crazy things were happening in the world but we enjoyed every minute together. If you travel with a company and group with passion then everything will work out!