Jennifer “Addie” Schafer, a third-grade teacher at Hillsboro Charter Academy, is getting the professional opportunity of a lifetime—for those who love visiting exotic places with the world’s most established nature photography organization. Schafer is one of 45 teachers selected to be a 2019 National Geographic Grosvenor Teacher Fellowship.
Securing this honor wasn’t easy, as she was picked from among more than 300 qualified applicants. Getting selected is just one part of the application process, which also involved completing National Geographic Educator Certification. The 2019 class of fellows is the largest in the history of the program, which was founded in 2006 as a partnership between Lindblad Expeditions and the National Geographic Society.
Schafer joins a group of individuals who will embark on expeditions to places like Alaska, Antarctica, Central America and the Galapagos Islands using Lindblad Expedition ships the National Geographic Explorer, Endeavour II, Orionand Quest. Experts will accompany the teachers on the trips, including undersea specialists and National Geographic photographers.
Her fellowship includes an eco-tourism expedition in December. Plans call for Schafer to fly to Argentina in mid-December and then travel from Buenos Aires to Ushuaia to board the Lindblad ships and head toward Antarctic waters.
“Once we pass the Drake Passage [near the bottom of South America], then our exact journey agenda depends on mother nature,” she said, noting that the teachers will stop along the way to “see wildlife and the vast background of the glacial icebergs up-close,” along with activities such as a polar plunge and kayaking. After 13 days, the ship will return to Argentina, with the teachers returning home shortly after.
After getting back from the expedition, Schafer and the other 44 teachers will complete various assignments to spread the training with others in the school systems they serve. “Since there are 45 of us educators going on 11 different expedition offerings this year—the largest class of fellows in the 13 years of this program yet—we can collaborate with our fellowship peers, as well as previous fellows,” she said, noting the supportive nature of National Geographic and Lindblad’s involvement with the Grosvenor fellowship.
The full program involves a two-year commitment where the teachers agree to serve as ambassadors before, during and after their expeditions, sharing lessons learned with students, other teachers, school administrators and people throughout their professional networks.
Even from the first week of professional development during the first week of April, “I have new strategies to bring back to my school and classrooms,” Schafer said. “I cannot wait for the expedition to learn new ideas and bring back even more adventures to my students through the amazing sites and activities, as well as talks from experts in the field on the ship.”
Schafer will continue to spread the knowledge from her experience when she starts in fall 2019 as a drama teacher at Woodgrove High School in Purcellville.