Curious which teacher fellowships exist for summer professional development, travel grants, and educational tours?
Teaching Traveling: Let’s hear from an expert teacher-traveler, Andi Webb, who has earned over $250,000 in teacher travel funding! Andi, tell us about yourself.
Andi: Hello! I’m from the beautiful Southern state of North Carolina. I’m in my 19th year of teaching (How did that happen?!?) and I had never been abroad until 2011.
My first trip overseas was to Russia, and I fell in love with learning from people in a place very different than what I had ever experienced previously. Since that very first trip to Russia, I have been all over the world, and it has predominately been for educational purposes. I’m in love with teaching and traveling.
I sat down as soon as I returned from Russia, and began researching teacher travel grants and fellowships, and I have not stopped. I have been very fortunate to be a part of some amazing opportunities, and to have received over a quarter million dollars in grants and fellowships.
TT: Astounding! Can you list the teacher travel grants you’ve earned, so readers can be inspired for where to apply?
A: Absolutely! Fellowships, grants, and other teacher travel opportunities I’ve done include…
- Earthwatch Teacher Fellowship (twice, with once being a senior fellow)
- NOAA Teacher at Sea
- Honeywell Educators at Space Academy
- Transatlantic Outreach Program (TOP) to Germany
- Sino-American Bridge for Education and Health (SABEH)
- Fulbright Distinguished Awards in Teaching
- The Chinese Bridge Delegation with College Board
- TEACH Fellowship via the U.S-Arab Bilateral Chamber of Commerce
- America’s Unofficial Ambassador‘s School-2-School Program through Creative Learning
- Japan-U.S. Teacher Exchange Program for Education for Sustainable Development
- Qatar Foundation International
- GEEO: Global Exploration for Educators Organization
- NC Museum of Natural Sciences
- Fund for Teachers
I also traveled to six different countries with World View: a program through UNC Chapel Hill. Participants can travel with them from out-of-state. There is a small out-of-state fee.
There is also a grant for science and math teachers in North Carolina through Burroughs Wellcome Fund called The Career Award for Science and Mathematics Teachers. It is a $175,000 five year award, and you must teach in North Carolina to get this specific grant.
TT: Wow! That’s a lot of free travel for professional development! What’s your secret to earning those opportunities?
A: To find opportunities like all those I listed above, I get on listservs, ask for help, talk to other awardees, and do my research to find what’s out there.
I often meet people who are accepted to fellowships the first time, and that is definitely NOT the case with me. I have learned to persevere, because if I get accepted, it’s usually on at least my THIRD try — sometimes even more.
Don’t give up if you’re not accepted at first!
Though I apply for many teacher travel grants and fellowships, some of the programs I have actually paid for personally. While some teacher travel programs fully fund the professional development, others offer their programs for a partial fee, and still others require more payment.
Do not, however, discount the option of earning money elsewhere to pay for teacher travel.
I have funded quite a few of my trips by finding paid opportunities to work. For example, I was accepted to the North Carolina Governor’s Teacher Network to develop curriculum for teachers throughout the state to access.
While it paid well overall, it was a year of challenging work. But it was worth it!
TT: You make a great point that while free travel grants are great, it’s also worthwhile to self-fund travel through extra small jobs. Now, which was one of the best educational tours you took?
A: One of my most favorite travel opportunities was to Indonesia. Through the America’s Unofficial Ambassadors Program through Creative Learning, I worked to build a relationship with a partner school in Aceh, Indonesia over several months prior to my visit there.
I lived and worked on the school campus for two weeks. I’ve since returned twice to visit my Acehnese family.
TT: Sounds wonderful. Now, tell us about a particularly powerful educational travel moment.
A: The most pivotal moment for me that truly helped me recognize the need to learn from people and places around the world was on that very first trip abroad to Russia.
There were about 28 educators traveling together and we spent much of our time in the small town of Suzdal. Toward the end of the two weeks there, our hosts had a BBQ for us all.
After eating and playing games, we began to sing together. When they sang their national anthem and we sang ours, I simply couldn’t hold back the tears.
I was in a place I never imagined I’d be, known for our animosity with each other politically, and we were sharing our national anthems as friends. I’ll never forget it.
TT: What a beautiful moment! So, how have your travels impacted your career, and you?
A: My travels have impacted my career significantly. I have made my instruction much more globally focused and I have shared lots of stories and experiences with my students.
I’ve shared professional development with my colleagues and at the state, national, and international levels. I’ve lived in Singapore, and my goal is to work in international education full time. I’m much more open minded than I was before my travels, and very much more adventurous.
TT: Yes! What advice do you have for teachers who are dreaming of travel?
A: The best advice I think I can share is to just go after your dreams, but realize that it truly does take A LOT of work and A LOT of perseverance. Teacher travel is not for everyone, but if it is for you, the world is wide open.
Listen, take lots of notes, do your research, get on every listserv possible, express your gratitude, and be willing to put the work into your goals. Nothing worth having comes easy, and this, at least for me, is no exception… but definitely worth it.
Many people see the fun aspects of teaching and traveling, but it’s the Saturday nights in front of the computer, and the weekends full of work that they don’t see. But, I truly believe it’s worth it in the long run. I wouldn’t change a thing.
Edited, August 2018 to include: During the 2018-2019 school year, I am excited to serve as an Albert Einstein Distinguished Educator Fellow in Washington, DC as a Congressional Fellow through the United States Department of Energy. The AEF Program provides a unique opportunity for accomplished K-12 educators in the fields of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) to serve in the national education arena.
The total amount of teacher travel grants and fellowships I have earned is now about $350,000.