Teaching Traveling: Welcome to Brooke Stover. Brooke, tell us about your background.
Brooke: I grew up on a small island near Seattle, Washington. My mother was a teacher when I was growing up and I think deep down I always knew I wanted to follow in her footsteps. However, I became addicted to travel after my first trip to Europe with my high school French teacher at the age of 15 and after that, I decided that I wanted to pursue something that involved living/working/traveling abroad.
After studying abroad in France and Iceland, I graduated from the University of Washington in 2003 with a BA in International Relations with intentions of working for the state department or a company with ties abroad. As someone in my early 20s, I didn’t really know what this looked like and decided just to live life and follow love. After graduating, I spent two years living abroad in Scandinavia. By volunteering and substituting at an international school in Norway, I learned that I could combine my passion for teaching with more of an international community. It was the perfect combination of experiencing the world while working with children. I knew that if I wanted to pursue this further, I would need to get my teaching degree. In 2005, I moved home to Seattle to pursue a Masters degree in Teaching and planned on getting a few years of experience before attempting to pursue a teaching career abroad.
It is now nine years later… where does the time go?! With a steady teaching job, husband, dog and mortgage, I’m itching to get out there and teach abroad, just like I always intended on doing. In the meantime, I try to make two or three international trips abroad each year to help “cure” my obsessive wanderlust! That has led me to traveling/living in over 35 countries; even with that, I still have a list a mile long of where I want to go next. I truly think it is a sickness; I am obsessed with seeing and experiencing the world.
As a 5th grade teacher in Bellevue, Washington, I integrate my travels into everything that I do. Pictures, artifacts and stories about Turkey, Africa, Scandinavia, Eastern Europe, the Baltics and more fill my classroom. My students love learning about where I have been and the world around them. Many of them have lived and traveled abroad, therefore our experiences as a collective community enriches us all. Traveling and teaching children about the world outside of the confines of the United States is an incredible way to make them curious and respectful of other people, places and cultures. Ultimately, I believe my role as a teacher is to help raise global citizens, so that they are curious, prepared and engaged with the world around them. Teaching them to be interested, to be aware, to realize their immense power in making this world a better place by respecting it and seeking to understand it, is profoundly important. I find great joy in teaching my students about where I have been and the experiences I have learned from. Their faces light up when they get to hear about these places in class. It is a beautiful combination of my passions — traveling and teaching.
TT: Yes! Tell us more about your travels.
B: I have been incredibly fortunate and have traveled to many, many places over the years; each trip providing me with lessons and experiences that were life changing in some way. As a teacher, I usually try to take advantage of all of my breaks and make a few trips abroad each year. I feel very comfortable traveling alone and have done so many times; I think it has made me the strong, independent, compassionate woman I am today. For that courage and strength I have gathered over the years, I am thankful. With regards to my “interesting” travels, I would say that everything changed after the first time I went to Sierra Leone, West Africa…
TT: Wow! How did you find this travel opportunity?