Travel with GEEO
Roble, bottom right, is joined by two fellow educators (top center and left) as they visit with future educators at a Teachers College in Mozambique.
Maricar Roble and Joyce Mogil are among the growing number of NJEA members who have traveled with GEEO (Global Exploration for Educators Organization). GEEO isn’t just another tour company looking to make money off of teachers. This (501)c3 non-profit makes travel for educators affordable, educational, enticing and easy. Here’s what makes GEEO unique:

  • You travel with fellow educators.
  • Most trips feature school visits and a meeting with a group of local teachers.
  • GEEO provides resources (book clubs, social media) to expand your knowledge about your destination. These resources provide a basic understanding of customs, history, culture, and current events, which allows for a deeper experience.
  • The easy-to-implement Education Program helps you bring your travel experience back into your classroom. This includes GEEO’s lesson plan database, PowerPoint and Google Earth presentations.
  • Each participant gets a free professional development certificate; graduate credit is also available.
  • Because this is a professional development program specifically for educators, many participants have been able to find grants and other funding to subsidize program expenses.
  • GEEO trips are priced to fit within a school employee’s budget. In fact many of the programs cost little more than domestic travel.

This summer, GEEO is offering 21 travel programs: India/Nepal, Italy, Portugal/Spain, Amalfi Coast, Eastern Europe, Budapest to Istanbul, Vietnam, Comfort Thailand, Thailand/Laos, Cambodia, China, Comfort China, Russia/Mongolia/China, Turkey (15 days), Turkey (eight days), Kenya/Tanzania, South Africa/Mozambique/Zimbabwe/Botswana, Morocco, Peru, Ecuador, the Galapagos Islands and Costa Rica. Additional programs may be added.

The registration deadline is June 1, but space is limited and many programs will be full well before the deadline.

The trips are open to all nationalities of K-12 and university educators and administrators, as well as retired educators. Educators are also permitted to bring along a non-educator guest.

Detailed information about each trip, including itineraries, costs, travel dates, and more can be found at www.geeo.org, or seven days a week, toll free at 877-600-0105, 9 a.m.-9 p.m.

Still not sure this experience is right for you? See what Maricar and Joyce, who have both been honored as teacher of the year in their respective schools, have to say about their  GEEO experience.

Maricar Roble
Maricar Roble feeds an elephant during a training session in Zimbabwe.

Maricar Roble

1. Tell us about you professionally.

I’m an eighth-grade science teacher at Bloomfield Middle School. This is my 10th year there, but I have been teaching for 13 years. I majored in biology at Rutgers and earned my certification via the alternate route.

2. How did you hear about GEEO?

I read about GEEO in the NJEA Review, in the Sussex to Cape May column where professional development opportunities for teachers are listed.

3. Why did GEEO interest you?

I’d always wanted to go on safari, and GEEO not only offered this opportunity, but a chance to visit schools in the area as well.

4. Why did you choose the southern Africa trip?

I’d always wanted to see these majestic animals in their own backyard!

5. How was your experience with the application/notification process? Did GEEO effectively prepare you for the experience?

 The application/notification process was very easy. Everything was done online, and I was always kept updated through emails about the status of our trip. I even received phone calls from GEEO asking me if I had any questions or concerns about the trip that they could address. I was well prepared for the experience. There were multiple resources available online, as well as  links and information emailed directly to us regarding our specific trip.

6. Did you pay for the trip on your own or did you find outside funding?

I paid for the entire trip on my own, but it was very reasonably priced.

7. What were the trip’s highlights and lowlights?

Where do I begin? The toughest part of the trip was definitely the cold weather in certain places (it was winter in southern Africa) and having to pitch our tent and take it down in the cold.

 

“I believe that every experience that enriches me as a person enriches me as an educator, and this trip was no exception.”
But there were so many highlights! The education-related visits were some of my favorite memories. In South Africa, we visited a nursery school, spoke to the director and one of the teachers there, and got to tour the grounds. We also visited a Teachers College in Mozambique and met 18- and 19-year-old men and women who were enrolled in a one-year training program. We were divided into small groups so we could tell them a little bit about ourselves, our lives as teachers in America, and what students are like in America. The students then had the opportunity to ask us questions about teaching, and many of their questions were about motivating kids to learn and helping them stay focused and on task (questions that I still grapple with on a daily basis.) They were so anxious but excited about their chosen profession. My best advice was to use whatever strengths they had to help kids to learn and keep a sense of humor about teaching.

Interestingly enough, they also had some questions about Jean-Claude Vandamme!

We also visited an elementary school in Zimbabwe; a group of students performed a dance for us. We got to speak to teachers and students in small groups and received a tour of their classrooms.

A small group of us went on a town tour in Mozambique and got to visit a fourth-grade classroom. One of the educators in my group told the teacher that it was my birthday, and the kids sang “Happy Birthday” to me in Portuguese! On that same tour we also visited an orphanage and talked with the kids there.

Seeing the sights like Victoria Falls and the African landscape and animals was breathtaking. We rode elephants and went on a Lion Walk in Antelope Park, where we got to walk beside a couple of lions, along with a couple of lion trainers, of course!

I cannot tell you enough about how wonderful all the people were--from the locals to fellow travelers to tour guides. I just had an amazing experience!

8. How has this trip affected you as an educator? What are you doing differently in your classroom because of this experience?

I believe that every experience that enriches me as a person enriches me as an educator, and this trip was no exception. This trip expanded my knowledge and appreciation of the people, history, animals, culture, and geography of the countries we visited--South Africa, Mozambique, Zimbabwe, and Botswana.

I have a lesson planned on the dominant and recessive traits of the animals I encountered on safari for later on in the year. In general, my approach has changed because I want to incorporate more wonder, awe, and appreciation of the environment and animals that we find around our school and backyards.

9. How have your students reacted to these changes?

They enjoyed the slideshow that I made and had a lot of questions about the Lion Walk. Many of them indicated where they had already traveled or how much they want to travel and where they would like to go. I have encouraged them to go past their comfort zones and see what the rest of the world is like outside of the United States!

10. Do you hope to participate in another GEEO trip? Would you recommend it to your colleagues? Why?

Yes, I hope to participate in another GEEO trip, and I would definitely recommend it to my colleagues, especially because you have the opportunity to meet students and teachers.

Joyce Mogil

1. Tell us about you professionally.

This is my 10th year teaching at Creative Arts Morgan Village Academy in Camden. I love working in a performing arts school because there is always something exciting happening! Students must audition for dance, instrumental music, vocal music, drama, creative writing, visual art, or fashion design to be accepted into our program. I feel blessed to be a part of a school where the principal and staff strive to provide a nurturing, safe environment where students flourish and strive to reach their dreams.

I want my students to be aware that there is a huge world outside of Camden, and when they are able to I want them to explore it.”
My undergrad degree is in secondary education social studies; my master’s is in junior college education with an emphasis in the social sciences. I have a teacher of the handicapped certificate and a supervisory certificate. I have taught nursery school, pre-K, and special needs at a Jewish Day School. When I came to the Camden district in 1998, I co-taught the fourth grade  special education component for four years.

I currently do pull-out support, co-teaching and I am the college prep teacher. I am a part of our Teen Pep program, I chaperone the choir, participate in school musicals and help mentor our students. 

2. How did you hear about GEEO?

Joyce Mogil 
 Joyce Mogil walks an 18-month old lion in Zimbabwe.
After almost 25 years of marriage, my husband died of leukemia. My sons were grown, and the potential of a summer alone was unacceptable. I had to find meaningful, growth experiences to help me on my new journey as a widow. For two years I volunteered for the Israeli Army. Another summer was approaching and I needed something new, so I Googled cheap programs for teachers and discovered GEEO.

3. Why did GEEO interest you?

GEEO's programs were not the typical touristy trips. I had traveled extensively through Europe with my husband, staying in great hotels, visiting museums and famous places and dining in fine restaurants. They were romantic trips, with memories I will always treasure. But now I had different needs. I wanted to infuse my life with new cultures and exotic locations and yearned for adventure and challenges. 

4. Why did you choose the India and Nepal (2011) and southern Africa (2012) trips?

Have you ever been on a sleeper train in India? Did you ever stay in a totally eco-friendly environment where you could pick rice and wash elephants? Can you imagine yourself taking a walk with a lion that is 18 months old?

Consider exchanging teaching ideas in India, Nepal, and Botswana? Dream about joining hundreds of young men dressed in orange from head to toe chanting and making offerings at a shrine during the Festival of Shiva? Picture yourself running across a bridge covered with thousands of black bugs in order to be able to visit a shrine? Daydream about camping through South Africa, Mozambique, Zimbabwe and Botswana? How about a boat ride to a national heritage site with clear water for snorkeling? I could go on forever with the unique experiences that GEEO provides.

5. How was your experience with the application/notification process? Did GEEO effectively prepare you for the experience?

The application process is a no-brainer, Jesse [Weisz, GEEO’s executive director] helps with visa information and anything else that comes up. The company is highly organized, efficient and reliable.

6. Did you pay for the trip on your own or did you find outside funding?

I paid for my own trips.

7. What were the trip’s highlights and lowlights?

 Travel with GEEO
Mogil pitches a tent in Zimbabwe with teacher Patty Kolodnicki of New York.
My first trip to India and Nepal was nothing short of incredible and our tour guide was sensational! We were able to really get a taste of life in India as we traveled, talked to people, used several types of public transportation, and had free time to wander the cities and villages. I highly recommend the trip and look forward to visiting other parts of India when GEEO offers new programming.

In 2012, I traveled to South Africa, Mozambique, Zimbabwe and Botswana with two women I met on the India trip. Part of the beauty of GEEO is that you don't have to know anyone, because you will make friends with everyone on your trip.

8. How has this trip affected you as an educator? What are you doing differently in your classroom because of this experience?

My travel helps me bring the world to my students. I enjoy sharing stories, pictures, customs and artifacts that I have brought home.

9. How have your students reacted to these changes?

I think it inspires them to think about traveling and being open to diversity. It opens up new horizons and possibilities for students to think about. It gives my students an understanding of what their peers are doing in other countries. I want my students to be aware that there is a huge world outside of Camden, and when they are able to I want them to explore it.

10. Do you hope to participate in another GEEO trip? Would you recommend it to your colleagues? Why?

This summer I have a deposit on trips to Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam and Thailand. I highly recommend GEEO! The trips combine connecting with the local people and schools, visiting great places and unique modes of travel.