The idea of the trip began to germinate in the fall of 2017 after a previous trip to Spain. Over the next 15 months, the students, two adults, and four chaperones signed up, and trip “prep mode” began: the mechanics of what was needed ahead of time, how to get around once inside the country, safety protocol and expectations, packing and dress, Scheel explained.
He applies the educator attitude of “70 percent of the work is done before the lesson” to prepare for the trip. And then once immersed in the trip itself, it’s all about enthusiasm and being involved, Scheel said.
“A deeper answer would be that I myself traveled twice in high school (once with my Spanish teacher to Spain, a second time with an art teacher to Italy), which was a contributing factor in not only my wanting to give students the same experience I had, but also was a factor in my decision to become a teacher myself,” Scheel said.
Scheel has taken these tripes every two years to Spanish-speaking countries — which parlays with being a Spanish teacher, after all — but it’s also about his desire to experience as much as the world as possible. His dad, a Marine during the Vietnam War, saw a lot of the world and his mother who never had those opportunities, both pushed and loved for Scheel to experience those things as a kid.
“A number of travelers are fortunate to have parents who do the same. For the most part parents use this as an opportunity to teach their kids responsibility having them cover $1,000 or half on their own. Birthday and holiday presents definitely come into play as well. I also have had a number of students pay for the entire trip themselves,” Scheel said.
As of now, the trips are being financed by the individual (or their parents) involved. Scheel said he would love to be able to offer a scholarship program or do some sort of fundraising for those who can’t finance such a trip, but it’s not at that point yet.
Spain and Cuba, after relations improved with the latter, were trip options in 2017, but it came down to Ecuador and the Galápagos after issues in Cuba changed. Panama was also a consideration, Scheel said; that’ll be the next Spanish-speaking location, however.
Any student is welcome to come, but most so far have tended to be from the Spanish classes and a number of them are soccer players. Some are seniors, but not all, Scheel explained.
“I once had a younger sibling travel before his freshman year as his brother was going as well. He actually intends to travel for each year of his high school experience. His mom helped with the first two trips, and he is paying the [next] two trips on his own,” he said.
“I tell students often that I’m not going to be looking over their shoulders [to check] their speaking ability, and most of them love the opportunity to try it out anyway,” he said. “They quickly realize that by trying to use their language and respecting them, they will receive respect and a friendly response in return.”
Interested students can get half a high school credit or college credit, if they do want to do more formal activities during the trip, however. Some students even make a travel video Scheel uses in the classroom.
Ultimately, the trips are a way for the students to demonstrate their own responsibility and decision-making skills — and for Scheel to as well, even though he’s that quasi-leader for the students, he views the trips as a growth experience for himself.
“It’s always fun to watch them trying new foods and seeing new places. Without fail I have at least one student each trip so far who has never flown on a plane,” Scheel said. “It has been an amazing opportunity for me when I was younger, and I’ve seen the same from students as well.”
One such student even went on to study abroad in Australia, and work opportunities that took her to Buenos Aires, Argentina with Junior Olympics, Scheel said.
Scheel said it’s hard to say what his favorite trip has been. There was the whitewater rafting experience in Costa Rica, or the hot springs, or the hotel with 30-40 Scarlet Macaws (an endangered species) flying around. Or the opportunity to knock one of the Seven Wonders of the World off the list in Machu Picchu in Peru (“everything and more than I expected”). Or the three days spent in the Amazon Rainforest on a night boat ride.
The Galápagos also lived up to expectations.
“Watching the students as well as my wife struggle to stay six feet away from the sea lions, marine iguanas, giant tortoises, and other wildlife practically begging to be touched for fear of the $17,000 fine and possible jail time was immensely fun,” Scheel said. “But even greater was seeing the friendships grow from our amazing guides that were with us throughout the trip.”
The trip will start in London and then move to Paris to see the Eiffel Tower and the Louvre, and then on to Munich, which features a most anticipated moment for Scheel in seeing the Neuschwanstein Castle. Then they’ll head up to the Swiss Alps and Lucerne. The tour finishes traveling to Prague, which Scheel said he’s excited for students to see such an old-world city.
Scheel’s goal is to do these trips every year, with odd-number years being Spanish-speaking and even-numbered “wherever else in the world I want to go.”
Another teacher at Batavia, Jolene Pappas, offered a science trip for students to work with sea turtles in Costa Rica, Scheel said. Pappas first took students in 2018 and is planning a summer 2020 trip.
“There are a number of other teachers interested in going or leading these trips as well, and I’d love to be able to see every teacher at Batavia travel at least once if possible. So far, I’ve taken seven teachers already, and hopefully I can take another three or four next year!” he said.
By Brett Milam