Seeking funded educator travel to learn about World War II in Europe and Hawaii?

Read on to learn about summer programs with Sacrifice for Freedom, National History Day, and the NEH.

WWII travel and sites: Hawaii

Katherine studying WWII in Pearl Harbor.

Teaching Traveling: Welcome to Virginia teacher, Katherine Corrado, who will show us how she found these free travel opportunities to study WWII! Tell us a bit about your background. 

Katherine: Hi! I’m from Loudoun County, VA and I’m 27 years old. I am about to start year 5 of my teaching career. I’ve known I wanted to teach history since my own high school days! I had some particularly excellent educators pave the way for me.

At the Grand Canyon of the Pacific in Kauai, HI.

At the Grand Canyon of the Pacific in Kauai, HI.

TT: How did your funded travels to study history through grants and travel programs begin?

K: I received a National Endowment for the Humanities stipend to travel to Kansas City in the Summer of 2017. The workshop was about the Border Wars in Missouri and Kansas surrounding the Civil War, but I decided to extend my trip afterward by visiting the homes of Truman, Lincoln, and Grant.

Lincoln house with toy figurine

Touring the Lincoln House during a NEH Program.

I was selected for the Sacrifice for Freedom: Albert H. Small Student and Teacher Institute for the Summer of 2018. For six months, my student and I studied D-Day through readings and online discussion posts. We also spent this time researching a soldier from our state.

In June of last year we met up with the other 14 teams from other states in D.C. After a week in the classroom, we traveled to Normandy, France. We toured for a week and on the final day our students gave eulogies for our soldiers at Normandy American Cemetery.

A soldier at a Hawaii Cemetery.

A soldier at a Hawaii Cemetery.

This year I was asked to participate in a follow up program with National History Day entitled Sacrifice For Freedom: WWII in the Pacific Student and Teacher Institute. The program repeated the research process but focused on the Pacific Theatre and culminated in a week long visit to Hawaii.

There were six mainland student teacher teams and six from the islands of Hawaii. Since my student’s parents were able to meet us at the end of the program I was able to spend some time on my own in Hawaii. I flew to Kauai and visited the Grand Canyon of the Pacific and the Napali Coast.

In October I’m taking four students to my high school’s sister school in Budapest, Hungary for nine days. Students and teachers visit us from Hungary in the Spring and we visit them in the Fall.

A broken window in a Pearl Harbor hanger.

A broken window in a Pearl Harbor hanger.

TT: Wow! How do you find your funded travel opportunities?

K: I have been incredibly fortunate that people believed in me as a young/new teacher. My colleague encouraged me to apply to NEH workshops in my second year teaching. During my time at the workshop I asked some of the veteran travelers where I should apply in the future and they recommended National History Day Programs.

I have also had great luck with the facebook page: Scholarships, Grants, and Summer Institutes for Teachers. There are tons of opportunities posted there and other teachers will also offer suggestions on what to pack for these trips!

Eisenhower on Omaha Beach.

Eisenhower on Omaha Beach.

TT: Amazing. How did you find the money to fund your summer travel? 

K: Most of my programs have been completely paid for by sponsors. For my trip to Budapest, I paid for my flight but all other expenses are covered. For cheaper air travel, one option is “travel hacking” or using points to get free tickets.

Katherine on her travels.

Katherine on her travels.

TT: Tell us one moment from your travels that was particularly powerful.

K: During my student’s eulogy in France, our bus driver was listening in (she didn’t speak a word of English). She asked one of our teachers who spoke French if she were of blood relation to our soldier. I suppose between my student’s charisma and my blubbering she could tell, beyond language, our bond with this soldier.

Normandy American Cemetery

Normandy American Cemetery with a student.

TT: So powerful. How have your travels impacted you as a teacher, and as a person?

K: All of my experiences are connected by a new appreciation for the sacrifices of our military. When I had a paid trip to the midwest I was able to visit my Great Uncle’s grave who died in WWII. He was buried in a mass grave and interred equidistant from all of the families.

Beautiful Napali Coast, Kauai in Hawaii.

Beautiful Napali Coast, Kauai in Hawaii.

As a result, no family member had ever visited his grave. He was my age when he died protecting us from the Nazis, and I fell apart at his grave knowing he would never have the marriage, house, or travel opportunities I have.

That trip inspired me to apply for the program in France. I never thought they’d take a teacher three years in, but I knew I wanted to research and tell the stories of these men who died at such a young age. Most people will tell you that you are never quite the same after walking on Omaha Beach. I feel far more grateful and patient.

Omaha Beach: Normandy, France.

Omaha Beach: Normandy, France.

But it can be a double edged sword. Although these experiences have made me a better teacher, it can be so much more frustrating when students are apathetic towards topics I’m passionate about.

On the whole, I think the best professional development one can offer to a history teacher is travel. We’re expected to develop empathy for human stories, and we can’t do that staying in one spot!

I can’t even describe the way my students light up when they notice I’m in the picture of the spot we’re discussing during notes!

Visiting the Truman House during a NEH program.

Visiting the Truman House during a NEH program.

TT: What advice do you have for teachers who are dreaming of travel? 

K: First of all, you can’t be accepted to travel programs if you don’t apply. Do something. Start something.

When you apply to anything, have several people read it. As teachers we often think we are above this, but the truth is that we’re exhausted and we’re human. It would be a shame to miss out on an opportunity just because of a typo.

Utah Beach, Normandy France

Utah Beach

Don’t let anyone tell you you’re “just a teacher.” You have skills no other profession can develop in quite the same way. The tide is turning in how people view our profession. This can be seen in the #ClearTheLists movement! I believe in you!

Many Thanks!

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TT: Thanks so much, Katherine! Readers, what questions or comments do you have about these history and WWII study travel programs?

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