Galapagos Islands provides summer classroom for teachers

Published 12:00 am Thursday, June 5, 2014

Two teachers from Florala High School have been selected to travel abroad to study science as part of a global program to improve education in rural communities.

John P. “Pat” Maddox and Jennie Ward have each been awarded the Global Teacher Fellowship by The Rural School and Community Trust, allowing them to travel to the Galapagos Islands in South America, where Ward will study science and Maddox will study, more specifically, the biological diversity of the region.

Officials with the RSCT said the program is designed to directly benefit rural schools and communities by creating unique learning experiences for teachers. The Rural Trust Global Teacher Fellowship supports unique personal and professional development experiences for teachers by designing their own international study and travel experience.

Doris Terry Williams, executive director of the RSCT, said the program makes a huge difference in the lives of teaches and students alike.

“This program enriches the personal and professional growth of rural teachers by recognizing and supporting them as they identify and pursue opportunities around the globe that will have the greatest impact on their practice, the academic lives of their students, their schools and their communities,” Williams said.

Maddox and Ward each said the trip is special because there is no substitute for first-hand experience.

“This is the trip of a lifetime and it’s incredibly exciting,” Ward said. “That was really the motivation behind us writing the grant for this. I felt like what we would bring back would create so much excitement and help (the students) get more out of what we are teaching, because we’ve been there and we’ve seen it. We’re not just talking about something we’ve read or heard stories about.”

Maddox said the 10-day trip will begin Sunday with a flight to Miami, will continue on to Guayguil in Ecuador, and will end with a seven-day stay in the Galapagos.

“We’re going to get to explore the island and look at the diversity there,” Maddox said. “Being in science, it’s exciting. This is where Darwin did his most famous work.”

Maddox said he and Ward will spend two nights in Ecuador, before moving on to the Galapagos.

“We’ll get to do some exploring, kind of on our own (in Ecuador),” he said. “Then, we’ll fly out to the Galapagos, where we will be on board a ship for seven nights going from island to island. We’re going to explore volcanoes and do some snorkeling, but the biggest thing is just to expose our kids to a great big world. We want to show them there is more out there than pine trees.”

Maddox said he and Ward will return to Alabama Wed., June 18, but will also travel to North Carolina in December to meet with other Rural Trust Global Teacher fellows and share what they learned on their trip to South America.