Katie on the island of Burano in Venice, Italy, in front of the lace museum.

Katie on the island of Burano in Venice, Italy, in front of the lace museum.

TT: Get psyched to learn about a program that allows rural teachers to travel the world! Welcome to Katie Hendrickson who participated in the Rural Trust’s Global Teacher Fellowship.

Katie, tell us about your background.

Katie: I’m in my 6th year of teaching middle school math in rural southeastern Ohio. My first trip abroad and first true travel experience was completing my student teaching during 3 months in South Africa. That was my first bite of the travel bug, and after that, I was hooked!

TT: Great! Tell us about the Global Teacher Fellowship.

K: Two summers ago, I received a fellowship from the Rural Trust to travel and develop unique lesson plans based on a self-selected topic of study. I chose to study the mathematics of textile and fashion design in Europe.

I visited Italy, France, and Belgium. I learned about lace-making and leather in Venice and I took a lace-making course in Bruges, Belgium. I learned about the history of textiles, wool tapestries, clothing design, couture fashion, and more in Italy and Paris.

I visited fashion and textile museums, took a tour of the YSL museum which included a visit to his workroom, and I talked to tailors and shoe-makers. I visited Lake Como, outside Milan, to learn about silk at their museum and fashion school. Overall, I was in Europe for 5 weeks.

The Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II (big shopping mall) in Milan, Italy.

The Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II (big shopping mall) in Milan, Italy.

TT: Wow! How did you find this travel grant opportunity, and how did you fund it?

K: I found out about the grant through Rural Policy Matters, the e-newsletter of the Rural School and Community Trust.

The Global Teacher Fellowship through the Rural School and Community Trust funded my trip, though I also spent a bit of my own savings.

Katie near the Louvre, in Paris (she visited the Musée des Arts Décoratifs, and the Musée de la Mode et du Textile).

Katie near the Louvre, in Paris (she visited the Musée des Arts Décoratifs, and the Musée de la Mode et du Textile).

TT: What a great opportunity. Tell us one moment from your travels that was particularly interesting.

K: I was taking a weeklong lacemaking course at a former nunnery in Bruges, Belgium with 3 other ladies: an American, a Canadian, and a Frenchwoman. Our instructor was a woman whose native language was Flemish, but she also spoke French and English.

She would give us instructions in English, and then give the same instructions in French. Because she was accustomed to teaching lacemaking in English, sometimes she had trouble thinking of a word in French, and vice versa- so we had a good time trying to find appropriate translations for her to use!

TT: Hah! How have your travels impacted you as a teacher, and in your current career?

K: I believe that knowing mathematics is powerful, and it is such an important tool for everyday life. But we don’t teach it as a tool for life- we teach it as a series of isolated facts that must be practiced. I want my students to see that math is all around them and buy into the idea that what I’m teaching them is important.

While there is a growing concern about STEM education fields and encouragement for students to study STEM, I know that not every one of my students is going to go into one of the fields.

I want all students to see the value if math even if they choose not to study it later. Personally, I am interested in fashion, trends, and clothing design, and middle school students are also beginning to care about their appearance and take an interest in clothes. Many of my middle school students are beginning to develop personal style, and it’s great to show them how math is involved in fashion.

More generally, my travel has helped me relate to my students and be understanding and patient with them. Through travel, I have met a lot of different people, and I have had a lot of experiences that were out of my control — I had to learn to be patient and let go of my need to control my environment.

I also have a fairly diverse group of students, with a variety of cultures and backgrounds, and some of whom travel abroad to visit family often. I can relate to their excitement about travel and what they experience, and I also think that they have respect for me when I can talk to them about visiting the same countries.

Katie making a piece of lace in the classroom in Bruges.

Katie making a piece of lace in the classroom in Bruges.

TT: Awesome. How have your travels impacted you as a person?

K: Traveling has made me more aware of the world and the people who live in other places. I have also learned how to be lonely, and how to challenge myself and do things that are scary or intimidating.

Getting outside of our comfort zone and seeking out new experiences is important for being able to grow as a person. I blog about my travel experiences at www.travelsbykatie.tumblr.com, and I also blogged about student teaching in South Africa at www.afrikatie.blogspot.com

TT: What advice do you have for teachers who are dreaming of travel, or travelers dreaming of teaching?

K: I love that teaching provides me with the time to travel. While teaching doesn’t pay well enough to travel as much as I would like, with a little effort it’s possible to seek out grant opportunities and find cheaper ways to make travel happen.

Teachers who are interested in the fellowship I received can visit http://www.ruraledu.org/ to find out about others’ projects and how to apply.

TT: Thanks so much, Katie! Readers, what questions or comments do you have?


  1. Great interview and I love Katie’s approach to maths in life and not just as a subject to teach.

    I also love Lake Como! I’d love to go back there today.


  2. This is a really great opp. Will definitely share!


  3. I love Katie’s story. It’s very inspiring to see someone who’s not only resourceful enough to find ways to travel, but who aims to help others at the same time.


  4. I love the idea of giving rural teachers the opportunity to travel. It will make a huge difference in what they can bring to the classroom for years to come.


  5. Sounds like a terrific fellowship — and opportunity!


  6. I LOVE this. I had no idea – thanks for sharing!!


  7. Katie you were a fabulous fellow and just the kind of young teacher the Rural Trust hopes to support. I know you have gone on to do great things on your return. Your students are lucky! Thanks for taking the time to share your experience and happy holidays to you. Margaret


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