Teacher of the Month – November 2014
October 13, 2014   //   By:   //   Articles, Ecuador   //   Comments are off

CONGRATULATIONS to Katie Davidson for being chosen in advance as November’s Teacher of the Month here at ETA!  Katie was chosen for her commitment to developing meaningful service programs that provide hands on experiences and real life situations and adventures that challenge comfort zones!

Where do you teach/work?        

Iowa State University College of Veterinary Medicine

Katie 2

What do you teach and/or what is your title? 

Coordinator of International Study Programs

How long have you been at this school? 

6 ½ years

Is your school a middle school, high school?  Day or boarding? University? 

Professional Program at a Public University

Have you traveled abroad before you participated/lead the Sustainable Horizon programs at your school?  If

 so, when and where? 

2 weeks in Spain in high school (1999), 2 weeks in London freshman year of college (2002), semester in Florence, Italy (2002), 2 weeks in China during my MBA program (2008)

What are your favorite things about traveling abroad? 

Meeting local people and learning about all the little day to day customs, foods, and other cultural practices that are second nature to them but so different to me.

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Why do you feel your school was interested in Sustainable Horizon Programs?

Sustainable Horizon was the only provider who had an existing program that went to the Galàpagos Islands and that’s where my students wanted to go!

Were international programs a part of the school culture before your trips with Sustainable Horizon?

Minimally. Before I s

tarted in my position there was one standing program to South Africa and a few faculty-led programs that would go once every few years.

How did you get involved with these programs?

I reached out to Jessica (Jacobs) Burns and she and I created a program.

What is the value of taking students on an international program?

Students learn skills that they are unable to learn in the U.S. I.e., veterinary students learn how to spay and neuter with minimal resources and in sparse settings, with non-native English-speaking clients, something they don’t get to do in the U.S.

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How many years have you taken students on an international program with Sustainable Horizon?

2015 will be our 6th year!

Where do/did you go? 

Ecuador/The Galàpagos Islands 2010-2015 (one trip to Australia in 2011)

How do you feel these trips have impacted your students? 

These trips are a great confidence booster for our students.  They feel like if they can spay/neuter animals in a rural village in Ecuador, zip-line through jungle, and rappel down waterfalls they can do anything!  It’s also a great way for our students to get to know each other on a deeper level and start building their network of colleagues early on.  Veterinary medicine is a pretty small profession, so it’s a good idea to get connected early.

Why did you choose these program countries?

Students told me they wanted to go there, so I made it happen.

What have been some highlights on your Sustainable Horizon trips? 

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Students rave about the zip-lining and waterfall rappelling and love their interactions with the group’s own Veterinarian that is with them during their time working with animals as well as the Program Leaders from Sustainable Horizon.

Do you find that incorporating service learning into your program brings added value?  If so, why?

Yes. Our students have chosen a life of service to pet-owners, farmers, and producers and it’s important for them to learn during vet school exactly what that means.

What service projects have you worked on? 

Our students do a spay/neuter campaign during their trips and sometimes de-worm cattle on a farm in the Galàpagos.

If you stayed with host families, tell us about your experiences. If volunteer lodging, tell us about that experience. 

Katie 3

The volunteer lodging and host families have been fine.  No complaints!

What advice would you give a fellow teacher interested in planning an international program? 

If you have limited time and resources in your office, Sustainable Horizon is a great option for you.  They take care of all in-country organization and keep you updated throughout the trip so you know what your students are up to.

How do these programs compare to your previous travel experiences?

I have traveled as both the tourist and

the tour guide, so I know what hard work it is to keep things organized and efficient as a guide. Sustainable Horizon guides are excellent and constantly think of students’ comfort and are cognizant of every learning opportunity.  The students have also expressed that they love how everything is very planned and organized.  There’s something to be said for traveling on the fly, but my goal is just to get students to travel, and they enjoy their experience with Sustainable Horizon.


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