Below is a Group Leader spotlight story recently featured in our brochure on Ashley P., a high school teacher from Rhode Island. Learn how she embraced the unexpected during her first year of tour planning and built a travel program for students at her school.
After returning from an EF training tour, Ashley P., a teacher from Rhode Island, couldn’t wait to start a travel program at her school. “It was like a fire was ignited within us,” she says. “Every teacher on that tour felt so inspired to bring students abroad.” Without wasting any time, Ashley set up a 2016 trip to Italy and a 2017 trip to Spain. She refused to let anything get in her way—not even the exciting (and unexpected!) news that she was pregnant.
Ashley and her husband were planning on starting a family, but they weren’t positive when. In the meantime, she didn’t want to put her travel plans on hold. So, she began arranging for the next few years of her travel program. She enrolled students for her 2016 tour and found teachers who could lead her 2017 tour, should she get pregnant. Then, just a few months before her 2016 tour—and much sooner than she had ever anticipated—she learned she was having a baby.
“It’s so funny because I planned this tour for so long, but then there were all these things that happened that weren’t planned,” she says. Yet, while traveling pregnant was a surprise, Ashley says the tour couldn’t have gone any smoother. “As soon as we got to Italy, our Tour Director immediately put my mind at ease,” she says. “I felt supported the entire time.”
And, most importantly, Ashley’s students had an incredible time. They were paired with a group from Boston, and by the end of the tour, everyone had become extremely close. “It was cool that they had the experience to make these friendships that will hopefully last way beyond this one year,” Ashley says. Plus, she loved seeing their faces as they rode a gondola and visited the Colosseum. “I think these were things that a lot of them thought they’d never see,” she says. “It was so fulfilling for me to see how happy they were to have these experiences.”
Now that she’s seen the impact of going abroad, Ashley’s determined to make sure her school’s travel program thrives. “It isn’t necessarily about me traveling right now since I’m starting a family,” she says, “but I want to make sure my students continue to have this opportunity.” That’s why she’s already found colleagues to lead tours in 2017 and 2018, and is even seeking out another teacher for 2019.
And while she’s learned that you can’t plan for every un-foreseen situation, she wants to encourage teachers to take the leap and lead a tour. “Yes, it takes a little bravery to bring students overseas,” she says, “but once you get there, your Tour Director takes care of you. EF has everything covered.”
As for regrets? Ashley only has one. “I’m so disappointed I didn’t do this sooner,” she says. “But now I’m just gearing up to make up for it for the rest of my teaching career.”
See the tour Ashley went on here.