Teaching Traveling: Interested in a grant where teachers can get funding to design their own travel professional development?
Fund for Teachers is that magical opportunity, and Arkansas teacher, Breann Johnston, is here to explain how she used a FFT grant for a learning voyage through Panama!
Breann, tell us about your background.
Breann: Hello! I am from Hot Springs, Arkansas. This is my fourth year teaching, and I’m 30 years old.
I love to travel, and I’ve traveled to a little over half of the US states and five countries. I am certified to teach middle school Social Studies, Math, and Language Arts.
I taught middle school Social Studies and Math for two years at a small private school, and last year, I began teaching 7th and 8th grade Math at a small public school here in Hot Springs.
TT: Nice! Now, tell us about your Fund for Teachers professional development travels.
B: I had the opportunity to participate in a Fund for Teachers Fellowship this summer. I went to Panama City, Panama and Gamboa, Panama while on my 9-day journey.
My friend and mentor, Margaret McNeely, joined me on the trip. We mainly stayed around the Panama Canal Zone, traveling through the canal from the Pacific Ocean to the Atlantic aboard the Pacific Queen, as well as visiting museums and the visitor center.
We also took a fascinating helicopter tour over the canal and city! Our journey also took us to Gamboa Rainforest and an Indigenous Village in Panama.
TT: Fascinating. How do you find your travel opportunities?
B: One of my professors I had in college is my Facebook friend. During my first year teaching, she posted on Facebook about NEH workshops with National Endowment for the Humanities.
That is when I applied for my first workshop, and I was selected to attend an NEH workshop in Berkeley, California.
Once you attend one workshop with other educators who have interest in traveling to various workshops, they become a great network to find other teacher travel opportunities.
TT: So true! How did you find the money to fund your travel?
B: Fund for Teachers grants up to $5,000 per person and $10,000 per team to travel to your planned destination if they see your proposal as a worthwhile cause.
My NEH teacher workshops that I have went to have had stipends to help cover travel and materials.
TT: Excellent. So, tell us one moment from your travels that was particularly powerful.
B: When we made our journey to the Indigenous Village in Panama, we had to hike through slippery mud because it was the rainy season. The heat and humidity were almost unbearable. We were so tired and feeling overheated, but we pressed on through the jungle.
Although this was simply a one-day excursion for us, the tribe lives here every day and faces these challenges every day. It was very humbling and rewarding to experience this level of immersion into their daily lives, even if it was only for a day.
TT: Amazing. Now, how have your travels impacted you as a teacher, and how have your travels impacted you as a person?
B: I have now attended 3 NEH teacher workshops throughout the summers and experienced Panama this summer. As a teacher, I am able to bring experiences back to students, and they live through my experiences.
The first question the students I had last year asked when they saw me this year was, “How was your trip to Panama?” They were genuinely interested in knowing how the trip was and what I learned.
As a person, I believe everywhere you travel becomes part of who you are. The people of Panama, the culture, and some of the language sticks with me.
I knew very little Spanish (and only know slightly more now), but the willingness of the amazing people of Panama to work with me to decipher what I wanted to say was incredible. The welcoming spirit of the Panamanians will be with me forever.
TT: So beautiful. What advice do you have for teachers who are dreaming of travel?
B: Whatever you have to do, make your travel dreams happen! I live in a modest home, drive a modest car, and travel as often as I can. To me, nothing is more rewarding and incredible than visiting a new place and experiencing another culture.
Don’t be afraid to travel alone or with your children. Some of the best trips I have taken have been just my son and myself. Just be smart about it. Research the area(s) you will be going, be prepared, and then, enjoy yourself! The world is waiting on you! Get out there and go see it!