Linda Goldsworthy, a social studies teacher at Rhinelander High School in Rhinelander, Wisconsin was awarded Global Educator of the Year by the State of Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction. According to the announcement of the award by the State of Wisconsin, “She was nominated for the award for helping her students learn about the interconnectedness of the world through her classroom teaching and travel abroad opportunities.”
Linda’s passion for what she does is infectious. That’s why travel has become such an instrumental tool for imbuing her students with that same passion for learning about world history, cultures and perspectives. Her passion for teaching her students about diverse perspectives throughout history was mentioned specifically in the nominating statement for her award, “Linda teaches events and issues through multiple, usually conflicting, views. By examining different points of view, Linda’s students develop the skills of searching for and taking in other perspectives, especially those of people whose voices are often lost in the traditional curriculum.”
We interviewed Linda about her passion for teaching, the unique challenges social studies face, and the ways in which she interweaves her curriculum into her trips abroad:
How long have you been traveling with ACIS, and what led you to choose ACIS as your student travel provider?
I took my first group trip with ACIS in 2013 to Italy and I traveled with ACIS as part of a summer conference to France in 2012.
After attending an Advanced Placement Summer Institute, I met Todd Beach who was our instructor. He talked about his positive experience with ACIS and that he takes a group to Europe every spring break.
What inspired you to lead your first trip?
I’d wanted to travel with students for a long time; however, I had a young son and a husband with MS. Until my son was old enough, foreign travel really wasn’t an option. I really loved the class of 2013 and knew that I could trust them on an overseas trip, so in a sense, they became my inspiration. They were so excited about learning during AP European History that I decided to give it a go.
How does travel help you drive interest in social studies among your students?
Some kids actually took AP classes or our weighted Greek and Roman history classes just so they could travel with me. The travel is like the cherry on top of a chocolate sundae! I’m glad that so many decided to challenge themselves with a rigorous curriculum so they could travel.
How do you structure your trips to accommodate your educational goals?
I have asked ACIS to make sure that our Tour Manager is very knowledgeable. We are on the trip not only to have fun but also to augment what we have learned in class. Our first–and only–tour manager to date has been Edward Bates. Edward is a wealth of knowledge. He knows my expectations and educational goals of immersing students in culture and history. His degree in the Classics from Oxford helps with that. My upcoming trip to Scotland and Ireland is different than in the past as it is called a New Cultural Experiences Program or NCEP (en-Cept) for short. This allows ALL students in the high school who are sophomores, Juniors or seniors to travel. The goal now is to provide a series of workshops on the countries we are visiting. We will cover history, religion, music, art, economics, literature, poetry, etc. as part of the workshops. The trip will be a culminating field trip of sorts.
What were some of the highlights of past trips for you and your students?
Listening to my kids is always a highlight. We studied the Medici family extensively as part of our Renaissance trip. The focal point being the video “Medici: Godfathers of the Renaissance.” This video highlights the building of the duomo. I will never forget the 2013 trip when Edward purposefully make sure our first view of the Duomo was from the Piazza Michelangelo about Florence. There was an audible collective gasp that rang out in the bus as we rounded the corner. That moment alone made the trip worth it. I recall a few days later in that trip sharing with students the story of the Pazzi Conspiracy that almost took out the Medici. The fun part was telling in the very church where it took place. I could see the student’s imaginations taking it all in. Of course, it took place on Easter morning–a few days away! My students have really liked the hands-on experiences like gelato making and pizza making. Biking the grounds of Versailles was pretty amazing in 2015. My students also enjoyed the D-day beaches immensely.
What do students stand to gain from a life and educational experience perspective by going on a trip like this?
We are located about 40 miles from the WI/MI border. Culturally, it’s pretty homogeneous up here! My students really gain perspective about a global world. The take each other into account and realize that not everyone walks 4 wide down the street like we do in Rhinelander and the rest of the US. For many, it’s an inspiration to see more of the world. I also see a lot of growth in independence. Some of my students have never flown before, and it’s amazing to see these students very calm at the last leg of the trip!
What advice would you give to other social studies teachers considering traveling with their students?
I know most of you leave the travel to the foreign language departments, but consider taking the plunge. Why just read about D-Day–see the beaches and visit the American Cemetery. Curious about the Renaissance or Reformation–you need to walk down the streets of Florence and visit the Duomo. Make the stories you have told time and time again come alive. Instead of just reading about the death of 2 of Henry VIII’s wives, why not stand on the very ground where spectators stood and watched hundreds of years ago. I know my kids were bummed when they found out that the Bastille no longer stood. For some reason, they simply wanted to be in that exact spot. I think social studies teachers would enjoy making history come alive!
What are the biggest challenges facing social studies teachers in 2016?
I think many of us are worried that reading and STEM have become the focal points. Often cuts to social studies areas are natural because “the material isn’t tested.” What we need to realize is that through the use of critical thinking and primary sourced documents, we are teaching both reading and skills needed for the sciences.
What’s your biggest motivation as a teacher?
My kids–I’m talking about my students, but I always refer to them as “my kids.” I just came back from an extended Christmas break–we had a slight outbreak of whooping cough that resulted in closing school 3 days earlier than expected for vacation–and I was so excited to see, share and laugh with them. I also love learning new things and students seem to sense that passion in me. Sometimes, that passion transfers to them and becomes a motivator. In turn, there is growth. Watching that growth over time makes teaching so worth it.
Anything else you’d like to add?
Don’t let fund-raising stop you from exploring the world. We work really hard at fund-raising so that even students on free and reduced lunch can make this trip a reality if they are willing to work at it.
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