Summer Trips for Teachers

Combine learning and traveling for a fantastic summer!

By Jen Scott Curwood
  • Grades: PreK–K, 1–2, 3–5, 6–8, 9–12

I Did It! – Teach at an American School Abroad
Patrick Gallagher – Gainesville, Florida

When my wife, Kat, and I first started teaching, we worked at a middle school in St. Augustine, Florida. After several years there, we decided to pursue our dream of teaching overseas. We used the International Schools Service, a well-established recruiting agency, and attended one of their annual job fairs. It was there that we met the Director General from Paraguay, and we were offered positions. Since we had never heard about Paraguay, we thought it would be a great adventure, and it was! Working at an American school abroad was wonderful. During that time, I taught middle school and high school English. I had small class sizes and a generous pay package that included good insurance and housing. Both of my children were born in Paraguay and our family enjoyed amazing medical care. Our standard of living was quite high - we had a maid and a full-time nanny. Some of the drawbacks were the lack of infrastructure - we were not able to drink the tap water, for example. When I moved to Paraguay, it was the first time I had left the United States. But after living there for seven years, I had to have new pages added to my passport! Our family is now back in Florida, but we miss our lives in South America, too.

I Did It! – Teach at a Department of Defense School Overseas
Wendy Smith – Naples, Italy

After teaching in the United States for years, I made the decision to head overseas a decade ago. For the first four years, I worked for a private contractor to provide early intervention services to children, from birth to three years old. That position took me to Korea, England, and Italy. Then a colleague suggested that I apply to teach at a Department of Defense school; in my application, I said that I was willing to go anywhere in the world. As a result, I spent three years working in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, before coming back to Italy. I spent a couple years on an island off Sardinia, and then I moved to Naples. In each country, I worked with Sure Start, a program that serves the youngest children (similar to Head Start). These students are often the children of military personnel, embassy workers, and government contractors. Since I came to Naples three years ago, I have also been a guidance counselor. I have found that the military community is incredibly close-knit and supportive, and I love teaching at Department of Defense schools. I have had endless opportunities for travel – at any time, there are group trips that I can join in, for instance. While teaching abroad isn’t for everyone, it will work if you’re open to new adventures and can take on the challenge of living in a different culture.

I Did It! – Teacher at Sea
Elizabeth Eubanks – Lake Worth, Florida

As a middle school science teacher at St. Mark Catholic School in Boynton Beach, I’ve always looked for ways to make science exciting for my students. Last summer, I had the opportunity to participate in the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Teacher at Sea Program, and I spent two weeks on the NOAA Ship David Starr Jordan. We departed from San Diego, with scientists, teachers, and students alike onboard. Every day, our crew fished for Blue and Mako sharks, and tested the catch rate of two different hooks. My favorite part was when I was able to collect data from the sharks up close – by taking blood and fin samples, attaching tags, and recording their vital statistics. Every day, the weather was stunningly beautiful – I cherished every minute that I was a Teacher at Sea. Once I returned home to Florida, I created a number of lesson plans for my students – and I initiated an October Shark Month for the entire school, which ended with a Shark-O-Ween celebration. All the students became so excited about learning about sharks – and as a teacher, that’s something you can’t put a price on.

I Did It! – Hollins University
Marcie Flinchum Atkins – Salem, Virginia
For as long as I can remember, I have always wanted to be a children’s book writer. I love reading children’s books even more than I love writing – as my fourth grade students at West Salem Elementary School can tell you. While other students came from all over the United States to attend Hollins University, I was fortunate – it’s just fifteen minutes from my home. The Masters degree at Hollins really appealed to me – partly because I could complete it through taking six-week long summer classes and online classes. Everyone in the program is just as passionate about children’s literature as I am. Every summer, Hollins also brings in writers-in-residence, book editors, and leading critical theorists to work with graduate students. My professors have included Susan Campbell Bartoletti, Han Nolan, Alexandria LaFaye, Lisa Rowe Fraustino, and Ruth Sanderson. As a result, I have been exposed to a wide variety of books across genres, age levels, and interests, so it has helped me have a good working knowledge of the type of literature that is published for children. While Hollins is not a teaching program, it has definitely made me a more knowledgeable and enthusiastic reading and writing teacher.

I Did It! – Concordia College
Katherine Curran – Milton, Wisconsin
I chose to pursue a Masters degree through Concordia for a few reasons. I really wanted to get my masters degree in a specialized field, this degree in World Language Instruction coincides with my job perfectly. As a teacher at Milton High School, I can use what I am learning at Concordia directly in my classroom – the very next day if I want! Another reason that I chose to go through Concordia College is due to the schedule. I am able to spend part of two summers in Minnesota, taking classes and learning about immersion methodologies, and then complete several online classes and my thesis during the school year. While it is a very intense program, I have had the chance to interact with other teachers and professors, which is invaluable. My classes at Concordia have also taught me so much about technology and how to incorporate it into my classroom. This semester, for example, my Spanish IV students are using voice chat, which gives them a more authentic opportunity to use their Spanish skills. I have also used programs such as Garage Band, Comic Life, and iMovie. The students love it when they get to use fun technology in the classroom because it doesn’t seem like work to them!


From summer programs in archaeology or Russian to teaching abroad for a year or more, there are so many opportunities available to you as a teacher this year. So get out your pen and circle your favorites, whether you plan to order that application right now or just dream of going next year. (You can find even more listings online at

Four Unique Programs

1. Become an Archaeologist
What it is: Time for playing in the dirt. The University of Alabama’s Museum of Natural History offers a scientific field program for teachers interested in archaeology, history, and natural science. Work alongside scientists in a hands-on exploration of Alabama’s diverse natural heritage. You’ll dig deep to discover archaeological remains buried at the Tannehill Ironworks Historical State Park. After a day in the dirt, explore the progressive community of Tuscaloosa.
Dates: Four different weeks in June are available. Check the Web site for details.
Cost: Program tuition is $200 for a mini-week (four days) or $400 for a full week (includes accommodation, food, and
scientific equipment).

2. Do Fieldwork in Maine
What it is: Summer camp for grown-ups. With daily trips to beautiful Arcadia National Park, the College of the Atlantic combines fieldwork, labs, and faculty lectures guaranteed to spark your interest in everything from geology and astronomy to botany and oceanography. Whether you’re on land, in Bar Harbor, or at sea, you’ll find countless ways to enrich your curriculum.
Dates: Two-week courses are available in June and July, or choose the one-week course later in the summer. Find specific dates on the Web site.
Cost: In-state tuition is $600 per week; out-of-state tuition is $800 per week; housing is available for $100–$200 weekly.
To learn more:

3. Explore Mars’ Geology
What it is: A hands-on study of other planets right here on Earth. Spend the week visiting the site of ancient Glacial Lake Missoula in Montana with planetary scientists and increase your understanding of water flow, volcanism, glaciation, and sedimentation on Earth. Then apply what you’ve learned to interpreting what the surface features on Mars might be like. This NASA-sponsored field-based workshop is designed for middle school science teachers, although others may apply.
Dates: July 13–19
Cost: $700 (includes lodging, meals, and teaching materials); grants are available to cover registration.
To learn more:

4. Tour the Taj Mahal
What it is: Budget travel for teachers and their friends. With Global Exploration for Educators Organization (GEEO), visit schools in rural and urban India and see some of its most famous landmarks. You’ll hit the Taj Mahal, ride an elephant in the legendary pink city of Jaipur, and camp in the Rajasthan Desert. GEEO will help you find exciting ways to bring the knowledge you gain on your trip into the classroom.
Dates: August 1–20
Cost: $1,785 (plus travel costs)
To learn more:

Five Cool Master’s Programs

1. C’est Bon
What it is: A full immersion experience—no passport required. Concordia Language Villages in Minnesota offers you the opportunity to brush up on Spanish, French, Japanese, or Russian, as well as gain critical cultural knowledge. Teachers can also earn a Master of Education in World Language Instruction from Concordia College by participating in two consecutive summer sessions and writing a thesis. Technology is integrated into the curriculum—so think iMovie, not flashcards.
Dates: June 22–July 2
Cost: Tuition is $1,560 for four semester hours of graduate credit; $682 for room
and board.

2. Go to Principal Academy
What it is: A chance to move from the teachers’ lounge to the front office in three short months. After spending 12 weeks taking classes at Columbia University’s Summer Principals Academy and completing an intensive internship, you’ll become licensed as a school administrator, opening new career opportunities. Between coursework and scouring New York’s shops, restaurants, and museums, you’ll fit right into the city that never sleeps.
Dates: June through July
Cost: Contact Columbia University for current tuition rates. Housing is available; rates vary from $45 to $75 per day.
Note: If you work in a high-needs school, you may qualify for up to $9,500 in tuition awards from AmeriCorps.
to learn more: /summerprincipal

3. Write a Children’s Book
What it is: An opportunity to become the next Lois Lowry. Set in Virginia’s beautiful and historic Roanoke Valley, Hollins University is one of the few U.S. institutions to offer an M.A. and an M.F.A. in the study and writing of children’s literature. Over the period of three to five summers, you will become part of a writers’ community and engage in scholarly study of children’s literature. Learn from visiting speakers and writers-in-residence.
Dates: June 16–July 25
Cost: Tuition is $590 per credit hour; university housing is available for $860 for the six-week term.
To learn more:

4. Take On TESOL
What it is: A focused way to help ESL students (and increase your hiring desirability). Earn a Master of Arts in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (MATESOL) from The New School in New York City. This pragmatic program focuses on the political, economic, cultural, and ethical implications of teaching English, and the degree can be earned entirely online or in conjunction with short-term summer residency in New York.
Dates: June 28–August 22
Cost: Tuition is $1,000 per credit hour; university housing is available.
To learn more:

5. Do it Online
While there are many travel programs to consider, there are also online degrees that you can “attend” no matter where you are. The University of New England has four innovative Science in Education MAs, which can be completed in eighteen months.
Dates: there are six annual starts throughout the year
Cost: varies depending on program
To Learn More:

Three Overseas Adventures

1. Switch Places
What it is: “Life Swap” for teachers. Through the Fulbright Teacher Exchange Program, you swap teaching positions with an overseas counterpart. While you often teach the same subject at the same level, you will have the chance to do it in another country, such as France, the Czech Republic, India, or South Africa. In many locations, instruction occurs in English. Meanwhile, students at your home school will have the benefit of learning from a foreign instructor. Fulbright also offers exciting summer seminars in Italy and Greece.
Dates: Year-round; the exchange can be a year, a semester, or six weeks in length.

2. Pack Your Bags
What it is: The chance to trade
Toledo, Ohio, for Toledo, Spain. Approximately 35,000 professionals are employed in more than 700 American elementary and secondary schools abroad, according to the Overseas Placement service. To find out more, plan on attending one of the annual recruiting fairs sponsored by well-established placement services. There, you can meet school representatives and learn more about teachers’ typical salary and benefits (which may include a housing allowance, a vehicle, tuition discounts for dependents, and much more!).
Dates: Year-round; many schools offer two- or three-year contracts.
To learn more: Visit placement services such as International Schools Service at or University of Northern Iowa Overseas Placement Service at /overseas.

3. Work With Military Kids
What it is: A government gig. The Department of Defense Education Activity operates 199 schools in 14 foreign countries, as well as Guam and Puerto Rico. All schools are fully accredited, and are staffed by over 8,700 educators. Like their stateside counterparts, DoDEA schools cater to the needs of the learner – whether it’s gifted programming, special education, or English as a Second Language instruction. Perks include a competitive salary, living allowance, and participation in the federal government’s retirement program. Not to mention the chance to live in a vibrant country overseas!
Dates: Year round; tours of duty are a minimum of one or two years in length
To learn more:

2 Backyard Surprises

1. Head to Your Local Zoo
What it is: A behind-the-scenes look at the monkey house. Very often, zoos offer professional development opportunities that you can take part in. At the St. Louis Zoo, for example, the education department staff will even work with you individually on designing hands-on lesson plans and inquiry-based curriculum units.
To learn more:

2. Don’t Forget Community Colleges
What it is: An idea exchange with local experts. Many area colleges are eager to share their knowledge and equipment with K–12 teachers. For instance, the McDonald Observatory, at the University of Texas at Austin, offers workshops throughout the summer for educators. The best part? All participants receive full scholarships through NASA or the National Science Foundation!
Dates: The Age of the Milky Way, June 25-29, 2008; Chandra: Stellar Evolution, July 6-10, 2008, Light and Optics, July 28-30, 2008; Formation of Planetary Systems, August 3-6, 2008
Cost: Free. To learn more:

Choose Your Own Adventure!
What is it: The sky’s the limit. Apply for grants offered by local groups, professional organizations, or national foundations. With some Internet sleuthing, you’re bound to turn up grant opportunities that are available to you. For example, the Toyota TAPESTRY program has awarded over $7.5 million dollars to 900 teams of teachers to create innovative science projects for classroom use. Choose from three categories (physical science, environmental education, and integrating literacy and science) and submit your application today! To learn more:

  • Subjects:
    Travel and Vacations, Summer Themes, Teacher Training and Continuing Education