Teacher of the Month – October 2013
Congratulations to Erin Brown from Odyssey Academy in Galveston, Texas!
Erin was chosen for her enthusiasm for student travel and her dedication to expanding her students’ minds by bringing her history classroom to life each year in Washington, D.C.
What do you teach and/or what is your title?
How long have you been at this school?
Is your school a high school or middle school?
We are both! We are a charter school expanding into high school. This is our first year adding our first freshman class. We will grow every year until we have our first graduating class!
Have you traveled domestically or abroad before you chaperoned the ETA programs at your school? If so, when and where?
Yes, I have traveled very much domestically and somewhat abroad. I had been to most states growing up, as my family traveled quite a bit. My dad built hotels so we were fortunate enough to visit a new place every summer. As an adult, I have been to San Juan, Puerto Rico and Cozumel, Mexico. One of my husband and my favorite places to visit is Las Vegas! My annual trip to Washington D.C. with ETA is always something I am super excited for every year!
What are your favorite things about traveling?
I love being able to see the “touristy” things you see in books and magazines. I think growing up I always had a love for history. It just moves me to be able to sit on George Washington’s back porch and look over the Potomac. I love to learn the ins and outs of the cities and where historical events took place. Eating at the local restaurants is always a highlight. My husband is a chef, so we always find the local hot spots!
Why do you feel your school was interested in ETA Programs?
ETA was very accommodating and friendly from the beginning. We are a group that needs people to work with us and they were very good at meeting every request we have ever asked for. Every year we have had the same team from ETA working with us and they really feel like they go above and beyond for us. It helps put a teacher at ease knowing you are not just “another group” but a valued friend.
They also customized our trip to fit our wants and needs. They didn’t try to push their standard trip like other companies, instead they always ask us what we liked, could add or could do again. For the price of the trip and everything that is included they just can’t be beat.
Were domestic/international travel programs a part of the school culture before your trips with ETA?
No, these trips were not part of our school culture before we started going to Washington with them five years ago. We needed to make sure the trip was affordable for our students and parents. We also needed to make sure we worked with a company that put our parents’ concerns about travel at ease, so we can take their babies so far from home with peace of mind. ETA was able to help us ensure and safe and worry free trip every year.
As a school we wanted to give our 8th graders that amazing Washington D.C. experience. We wanted them to see a different part of the country, with different people and different cultures, all while connecting their classroom learning. There is something so special about seeing the place we talk about in class and the “light bulbs” going in their heads as we walk through the historic places. Many of our students would never get the opportunity to leave Texas and we pride ourselves on giving them that experience.
What is the value of taking students on an educational tour?
The students get so much value from seeing the actual places they are learning about in their textbooks. You can make a lesson fun and interesting in your classroom, but you can’t make it real until they stand there and experience it firsthand.
The students often remark, “Mrs. Brown! Why couldn’t we have gone to D.C. before our state test, because I would have known everything now!” To be immersed in the history is truly amazing.
How many years have you taken students on a trip program with ETA?
How do you feel these trips have impacted your students?
Every year the students have so much fun in Washington D.C. The next group is always asking before they get to my grade level, “Mrs. Brown, are you taking us to D.C.?” They have heard the stories and are ready to go the moment they walk in my class. All year I point out things we are going to see and do when I am teaching about the subjects, and they are excited to learn the history and go see it for themselves. The students are motivated to learn knowing they will soon experience it.
I show them the pictures from the previous years so they can anticipate going and taking their picture in the stocks at Williamsburg or at the house of George Washington. They can’t wait to see where one of our greatest Presidents, Lincoln was assassinated.
They truly remember this trip for their entire lives. I always get an email every year from a former students asking if they pay, can they go too. It is the highlight of their school year.
We make our yearbooks before we go to D.C. due to publishing deadlines, and every year our students put the D.C. trip is their favorite memory before we even go! They just know and have heard how awesome it is! It always is thankfully, but they just know Washington D.C. is their favorite memory.
Where have you gone?
Washington D.C. and Williamsburg, VA.
Why did you choose these trip destinations?
It is American History so this directly connects to everything we are learning all year. We spend time in our Nation’s capital and go to Williamsburg, VA.
What have been some highlights on your ETA trips?
Colonial Williamsburg, Virginia has always been a highlight for teachers, parents and students. Getting to be transported back in time to this preserved colonial town and talking to the town’s people is so exciting.
The students are very moved by the exhibits at the Holocaust Museum. Every year they have heard how serious and interesting the museum is on the trip. They are asking every day while we are in Washington, “Is this the day we go to the Holocaust Museum?”
Do you find that incorporating educational activities into your trips brings added value? If so, why?
The point of our trip is to connect with the history that we have been learning about all year. I teach American History so our Washington D.C. trip is all about the history. The educational hands on opportunities are what make the trip worth it.
What advice would you give a fellow teacher interested in planning an educational tour?
This is definitely the company you want to trust with your students! I always say you treat your students better than your own children, because at the end of the day they are someone’s baby. You don’t take risks with someone else’s child. You want to make sure your parents know you are reliable and trustworthy to take their child on a safe and fun trip. As we have done the trips it has become easier convincing parents to let their child go because of the stability and trustworthiness that ETA has been able to give us.
You will also get a good price for a wonderful experience. They take over and make sure the trip is everything you want it to be without you having to do all the work. Every year you will be excited to start planning and working with ETA! They have always given me wonderful customer service and kept my students’ parents happy.
How do these trips compare to your previous travel experiences?
Every teacher I have taken has commented on how, never in a million years would you see everything that we are able to without doing it with ETA. You see so much! You are tired by the end, but it is so worth it. Your days are mapped out, and you have an ETA Tour Manager with you at all times, so you know what you are doing and when. It really cuts down on the amount of planning you have to do. You are just able to enjoy the trip and see all the sights. I have to agree that if I was going on my own planned vacation with my family, I would never get to see and do so many things.