Are you an educator who is looking for an almost free way to revitalize for three days during summer in the beautiful mountains of Colorado? Read on to see if the Wild Heart Teacher Retreat might be for you, in an interview with one of its participants, Christa Bell!
Teaching Traveling: Christa, tell us a bit about your background.
Christa: Hello! I am getting ready to start my 20th year teaching. I have taught 7th/9th grade English, 5th Grade, 4th Grade, 3rd Grade, Gifted Education and am starting my 6th year as a Library Media Specialist.
I live in a rural area east of Kansas City, MO. I moved away for 2 years when I first started teaching, but ended back up in the district I attended K-12 for the last 17 years.
Before Wild Heart, one of my biggest trips ever and also my first flight was my freshmen year of college. They take a trip every January called “Janaway,” and that year we went to England, Scotland, and Wales. Definitely my most memorable and educational trip ever! I have also been to Mexico, the Bahamas, and Jamaica.
TT: Nice! Tell us about the Wild Heart Teacher Retreat.
C: In July of 2021, I attended the first year of the Wild Heart Teacher Retreat in Divide, Colorado. It costs just $50 for three days of relaxation and revitalization with other great educators, and that cost covers meals, activities, and lodging!
Myself and two other teacher friends drove out together. Another teacher friend met us there the day after we arrived by flying in. She rode back with us though.
The retreat was held at the John Wesley Ranch, and we had several rooms for the ladies to stay in, and I believe just one for men, due to not having many there. We had bunk beds, but most people were able to sleep on the bottom bunks because there was enough room.
I slept in the less occupied room with two other ladies, and my teacher friends I traveled with chose the more crowded room. (I don’t sleep well in places that aren’t my home so figured the less crowded and less noise, the better I’d sleep).
We had many inspirational speakers and motivational speakers, but we also had time to have fun and experience new things. Some of the choices of activities were a canvas painting class, sightseeing, hiking the Crags, or just relaxing at the retreat.
There was a wonderful staff of volunteers that cooked delicious homemade meals. Steve Woolf is the Director of Wild Heart Teacher Retreat, who was a school principal and then district superintendent, before starting the nonprofit, Wild Heart. He and his wife at the time, Kellie, made sure everyone had what they needed and both had some very moving life experiences to share with us.
I am an animal lover, so I have to mention their dog, Brady. He was my buddy while we were there and laid by me a lot. He loves to play ball! You can see him in my photo, below.
I chose to go sightseeing with a few ladies from other districts, one who was local and drove. We visited Cripple Creek and went to the Outlaws and Lawmen Jail Museum and fed and pet the local donkeys that roam the town.
According to locals, these donkeys were brought to Cripple Creek to work in the mines in the early 1900s and lived their whole lives underground before being cut loose to roam the town (Pike’s Peak Courier, Seth Boster, May 22, 2023).
Some other highlights were morning hikes. I went on many early by myself due to not sleeping well. Those were the only times I saw animals because it was so quiet and peaceful. I saw chipmunks, rabbits, deer, mule deer and elk. There were also two horses on the property that I visited a few times and pet.
The purpose of this retreat is to relax and reset. It reminds us why we do what we do and fills our cups so we can keep doing it. There were also many great reminders of empathy toward students and what they might be going through. We all walked out ready to tackle the new school year!
TT: Wonderful! How do you find and fund your travel opportunities?
C: I mostly find out about teacher travel opportunities from the Facebook Group, “Scholarship, Grants, Summer Institutes and Opportunities.” To fund my travels, I use savings, scholarships, and teacher travel grants.
TT: Tell us one moment from your travels that was particularly powerful.
C: We hiked to the top of the Crags in Divide, Colorado. Longest hike on a mountain I’ve ever done, and it was difficult but beautiful!
TT: How have your travels impacted you as a teacher and person?
C: This specific retreat really reminded me why I went into education in the first place. After the difficult end to 2020 and beginning of 2021, it was exactly what I needed.
TT: What advice do you have for teachers who are dreaming of travel?
C: If you really want to do something, do it. There are ways to get funded. If your application doesn’t get accepted, try again the next year.
Join the Facebook group I mentioned and keep an eye out for things that appeal to you. If you have questions, ask. There are so many helpful and wonderful people in that group that are willing to help.
Wild Heart Teacher Retreat is on a first-come first-served basis, and only costs $50. Everything except travel is covered, but they will pick you up from the Colorado Springs airport and take you back when your flight is leaving.
The last two years, they have added even more experiences for teachers to chose from while there. This program offers so many great experiences, and is a wonderful reset for teachers.
TT: Thanks so much, Christa! Readers, what comments or questions 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!