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Teacher Spotlight: Ryan V.

January 2, 2019 Sarah Bichsel No Comments

It’s time to meet another of our amazing ACIS Group Leaders. Ryan V., from Clarksville, Tennessee, has a long history with us and plenty of wonderful stories to share as a result.

Tell us a little about yourself! 

I teach Latin in Clarksville, TN, at the same school where I also attended high school! This is my eighth year teaching. I am also co-chair of the state Latin club, the Tennessee Junior Classical League, and sponsor of the Rowdies, a spirit squad of obnoxious, painted teenagers. My parents were in the military and had been stationed abroad, so they understood the value of travel and sent me to Australia as a kid, plus two ACIS trips to Europe in high school. Through these trips, I learned early on the impact travel can make on a kid. Meeting people from different cultures, only to realize we’re all the same deep down; seeing history come to life; taking in the natural beauty of the world…these experiences made an indelible impression on me and inspired me to continue to explore our planet.

My main hobby outside of Latin and education is photography. I normally do sports photos, but my trips overseas as a kid were the first times I really enjoyed taking photos, seeing the results, and looking back on them fondly. One reason I enjoy my trips overseas so much is not just to see the world, but to capture it through my lens(es…I carry way too much equipment with me…). Then, years later, I can reminisce and recall the wonder and excitement my students and I felt when we visited.


Had you previously traveled with ACIS or lead students abroad? 

My first experience with ACIS was as a high school sophomore going to Greece. I loved it so much I went to Italy the next year. A couple years into teaching, my former history teacher approached me about taking students to Italy. Since that moment I have been the assistant leader on two trips, Group Leader on three trips, and I have attended two amazing Global Conferences. So in total, nine trips with ACIS, taking me to Greece, Italy, Spain, Costa Rica, Ireland, the UK, and Japan!

So you had traveled with ACIS in the past as a student: What made you decide to choose us as a teacher?

I decided to stick with ACIS because I knew the quality I would receive based on my experiences as a student and an assistant. The tour managers are absolutely phenomenal at their jobs, plus being incredibly knowledgeable, and the students (and I) love them to death. With ACIS, excellence is the norm – I don’t have to worry about requesting a hotel near the action or better food or anything like that because I assume (correctly) that my students and I will be more than satisfied with our experiences.

What classroom goals did you have for your tour? Did you feel ACIS helped you meet them?

Being a Latin teacher, it can be hard to make kids feel like what we’re talking about is real. After all, it happened 2,000+ years ago on the other side of the globe. And while Latin and Roman culture are infused into our lives more than kids realize, nothing beats seeing it in person. Nothing makes it come to life more than feeling small next to the Colosseum, walking the streets of Pompeii, or reaching out and touching a building that has seen so much. ACIS not only takes us to these amazing places, but they tailor the experience to whatever their teachers ask from them. We want to enter Pompeii from a different direction than normal to see the amphitheater? Done. We want extra time to explore this part of town (whether we say it or not, the tour manager knows)? Done. We want to break up into three or four groups and scatter across Rome with vastly different intentions? Not only does the tour manager allow this, he/she equips the teachers with everything needed to be successful, efficient, and on schedule.

Photo by Ryan Vinson

Which aspect of the trip do you think your students enjoyed the most? Which aspects did you like best as a traveler and as an educator?

As an educator, I love seeing those moments when the kids’ jaws drop and they can only utter, “Oh my God.” Watching them really take in what we’ve talked about in class, with genuine appreciation, makes my day. Their faces fill with wonder at the scale and beauty of the sites we visit – not only the historic and religious sites, but views filled with natural beauty as well.

As a traveler, I always appreciate the seamless experience in airports and in transit. ACIS always has a plan and it’s always a solid one. And even though I’ve been to Italy with ACIS four times now, every trip has included several new things for me.

My students tend to enjoy that overwhelming feeling of entering an enormous and beautiful building rich in history, where you can think of how much has happened within those walls. They also have a true appreciation for the artwork and craftsmanship behind all the classic pieces we see. But they also love exploring the town on their own, playing with the local cat or finding the best gelato. And it’s always fun to read the Latin inscriptions with them – on the wall in a famous church, on the face of a building, or, well, anywhere because it’s Latin!

Any fun stories to share from your many trips with us?

One of my favorite teacher moments ever was in Ostia Antica, where a group of kids found a staircase that took us underneath the Roman baths. Most were content to poke their heads in and soon go back to the main group, but I ended up following David around underground because he was too curious and excited to go back. Together we crawled around the underbelly of the ruins, discovering all the parts of the bath heating system that we had talked about in class. Just sharing in the enthusiasm and discovery with him has always been one of the most rewarding moments in my whole career.

As a “customer” of ACIS, one of my favorite parts was when ACIS President Peter Jones made a surprise visit to the Piazza Navona to check on our group – not because anything had happened, but just because he was in town and genuinely cared to know that we were enjoying our trip.

Another one of my favorite things from my trips as a student: Any time the locals in Greece found out we were from Tennessee, they immediately yelled, “Ah, Jack Daniels!” This helped me realize as a kid how small the world really is.

Where would you like to go next?

I’ve already got a 2020 trip to Rome and Madrid planned, and it’ll be my first time exploring Madrid, so I’m looking forward to that. Several islands are also calling me – Sicily, Hawaii, and the Galapagos, so we’ll see where I end up next.

In 15 words or less, why would you recommend ACIS?

In short, they spoil you!

Shoutout to my Program Consultant in Boston, Jill Federschneider! She is absolutely amazing to work with and goes to great lengths to make sure that my trip is set up and happens exactly the way I want.

Sarah Bichsel

Sarah Bichsel

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