Let’s learn about a fascinating career path, and a program YOU can join!
Teaching Traveling: Welcome to Elizabeth Mary Porter, creator of a fascinating teacher travel program. Elizabeth, tell us a bit about your background.
Elizabeth: I am from the Seattle area in Washington State and now live in Richland, WA on the eastern side of the state. I currently run Language with the Five Senses Education, which is a nonprofit organization focusing on teacher professional development and culturally responsive teaching through travel.
I also have Centers for Global Learning in three countries, and opportunities for teachers to get scholarships and travel as part of our team… but the road to create all this was long and winding.
I spent much of my time growing up traveling to France which I call the home of my heart. I went to college at the Université de Caen in Normandy, France where I studied French linguistics and language (FLE Français Langue Etrangère). I started teaching English in French elementary schools in Caen after graduating and loved it.
I had to return to the United States to renew my Visa, and got a job as a long term substitute while waiting for my paperwork to go through at the French Immersion School of Washington. I met my husband during this period and ended up staying at the French Immersion School for three years and working on my master’s degree. After graduating with my masters I taught high school French and then I was a curriculum specialist.
I have always felt that travel is an important part of education and wanted to share this experience with my students. Further, I have always been a free spirit, and wandering is in my blood.
Unfortunately, my district would not allow me to travel with my students, but fortunately I am resourceful and found a way. I’m not the type of person who takes no for an answer. If someone tells me no, or that I cannot do something, my answer is usually “watch me.”
Life continued, I had my children and found myself wanting more and more to work with teachers. The passion to work with teachers and give them the tools for providing a 21st Century Education became very important to me.
I continued to travel with students, and then Covid hit. I decided to change my focus solely on the teachers and what they need. Teachers shape the generations of the future. Teaching is the profession that creates all other professions. Teachers have the power to ignite a flame for culture and global citizenship in their students.
Currently I am working on a very exciting research project that will pair teachers from the United States with teachers from Africa and the Middle East, Spain, and France in an international collaboration called Global Classrooms. I am also currently working on my doctorate in Curriculum and Instruction with an emphasis on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. This project will be part of my doctoral dissertation. The project will be scaled and available for schools and teachers to join at the end of the study.
TT: Amazing! Explain one (or more) interesting travels you have undertaken.
E: It is so hard to think of just one! As I said earlier, I am a free spirit. Wandering is in my soul, it’s in the very fabric of my being. I find such enrichment in each experience.
France is and always will be my “Happy Place” and “the home of my heart,” however, I have to say that Senegal is one of the most beautiful and enchanting places I have ever visited. The people are warm, welcoming, and open.
I find my Senegalese colleagues to be the most open minded and collaborative of my teams. We are not only colleagues but we are close friends and have even become a sort of family.
My son loves Senegal so much that he has named it his “Happy Place.” The first Center for Global Learning was opened in Dakar and so I am there, usually along with my children, at least once, sometimes two or three times a year. I just love Senegal!
TT: Beautiful! How do you find your travel opportunities?
E: I create them, or when I come across them I ask for partnerships with programs. I couldn’t find a teaching job that fulfilled my wanderlust, so I created a job that was perfect for me.
I started with France, since I am so familiar with the customs there, and many of the connections I have made are thanks to a program called CAVILAM in Vichy, France which I have been partnered with for about 15 years.
Jesse from GEEO reached out to me about a year ago and inquired about a partnership with Language with the Five Senses. My answer to him was that I had to travel on the GEEO trips first. I went to Morocco and LOVED it! Now we are doing four programs together in 2022 and 2023: Morocco, Iceland, Egypt, and Italy!
I find a lot of my opportunities when I am traveling. I talk to people and ask lots of questions. I get ideas and then I figure out what I can do in certain countries and create programs.
TT: Excellent. How did you find the money to fund your travel?
E: I create travel programs for teachers, and this will be the last year, but in the past for students. I write a lot of grants and do a lot of fundraising.
Language with the Five Senses Education is a 501c3 so we get a lot of funding through grants and donations. We do everything we can to offset the cost for teachers because we want teachers participating!
One thing that is really cool that we will be implementing in our programs starting in July 2022 is we will be giving teachers a Meta Oculus, and we will be showing teachers how to use it to bring the world into their classrooms and pass the experiences onto their students! In creating VR content for the Oculus and curriculum that goes along with it, I can fund my own travel and grants for teachers to travel with us.
TT: That’s so cool! Now, tell us one moment from your travels that was particularly powerful.
E: I have so many stories to share. Every time I travel I learn something new, powerful, and interesting. Every time I travel out of the country with someone who has never left the United States, and I see the world through new eyes, it touches my heart.
I think the most powerful for me though was the first time I traveled to Africa and experiencing the lack of regular running water. Westerners take so much for granted and up until that point, I had never had to deal with lack of water, and lack of drinkable water.
It was a definite shock and realization that for me it was temporary, but for my friends it was a normal part of their lives. The other shock of my first trip to Africa was the lack of “western toilets.” The toilets were a hole in the ground. I had never experienced that before!
The amount of food we waste in the United States also really resonated with me after that trip. It is amazing to me how much we take for granted in the Western world and how our lives are so intertwined with those who live in other parts of the world. It is important to think about these things and figure out what we can do to serve others.
TT: How have your travels impacted you as a teacher and as a person?
E: My travels have definitely helped me serve my diverse students better and learn intercultural communication. I have also turned my focus more on ensuring all students are represented and validated in the classroom and curriculum materials.
The need to travel and connect with people is something I crave. It feeds my soul and brings me pure joy. Travel is my self care, it is what I need for my mental well being and my social emotional learning.
Travel also gets me out of my comfort zone and forces me to try new things I have always been open to new things but I have experienced so many things that I would have never thought possible or imagined because of travel.
TT: Well said. What advice do you have for teachers who are dreaming of travel?
E: There are lots of grants out there for teachers who want to travel. Find programs that are not tourist programs, but programs that are sustainable and connect you with the people and culture. Find programs that connect your experiences to specific things you can do in the classroom.
Language with the Five Senses had programs that do this. The Language with the Five Senses Education Blog has tons of resources and advice on how to make travel happen.
I also advise traveling in the off season as much as possible. I know this can be hard for teacher schedules, however if you can swing it, the cost can be significantly lower in February vs. June for example.
TT: Thanks so much, Elizabeth! Readers, what questions or comments do you have?
The author, Lillie Marshall, is a 6-foot-tall National Board Certified Teacher of English from Boston who has been a public school educator since 2003. She launched TeachingTraveling.com in 2010 to share expert global education resources, and over 1.6 million readers have visited over the past decade. Lillie also runs AroundTheWorld L.com Travel and Life Blog, and DrawingsOf.com for educational art. Do stay in touch via subscribing to her monthly newsletter, and following @WorldLillie on social media!