Having retired a little over a year ago, Bonnie Clark Taylor taught for a total of 28 years and still finds joy in seeing others experience new sights, people, and food. During her teaching career, Clark Taylor substituted and coached, taught keyboarding and computer skills to other teachers, and more. The bulk of her time was spent in Victor, Montana, a small Western city where she taught English, Business, Physical Education and Health.
“As a coach, I began traveling with my players to various tournaments,” said Clark Taylor, who regularly looked to Teach & Travel for tips from other educators and new trip options. “Once I became a full-time teacher, the district assigned each teacher to become a class adviser and stay with that class for four years, which culminated in a trip their senior year.”
One particularly memorable adventure is a trip to Southern California with her daughter’s senior class.
“Many students on the trip had never flown on a plane or seen the ocean before,” said Clark Taylor. “We had a campfire and cookout on the beach, visited an aquarium, watched a professional baseball game and went to a local theme park. Everyone had a great time and the students were so grateful.”
Clark Taylor will always remember the trip because she was able to share it with her students and with her daughter. “She helped me navigate traffic in Los Angeles!”
Besides exploring diverse landscapes, nature and new environments, the students treasured their time with their friends on the trip, forming bonds they won’t soon forget. “Traveling allows students to experience a culture they don’t often see in their small community,” said Clark Taylor. “Just traveling on a plane or being in a large city is an educational experience for most of our students.”
Fundraising was the biggest challenge Clark Taylor was always met with when planning student trips.
“There’s great importance in students seeing the value of working hard and saving for a goal,” said Clark Taylor, noting she tried to ensure every fundraising event planned was useful and valuable. “We’d raffle off gas cards or gift certificates for haircuts or meals at local restaurants—selling only useful items everyone needs at some point while supporting local businesses at the same time.”
Clark Taylor built a rapport with several companies who now donate yearly to the school after seeing the effect of trips on the lives of students.
“Always make sure to send out thank-you notes with trip pictures—companies like to see the value of their donation,” said Clark Taylor, noting being organized is something to keep top of mind. “Getting large groups of students organized daily and going in the same direction in a timely manner is quite the task, especially when working with students who may not be accustomed to traveling.”
With careful planning, it can all come together.
“You can never be too organized! Plan ahead, make lists and deadlines and stick to them.” Communication with parents is also vital. “Don’t assume that students are passing all the necessary information along. Use a variety of modes to communicate.”
Clark Taylor finds a final face-to-face meeting for the group an absolute must in ensuring all expectations are clearly spelled out before the trip and giving parents ample opportunity to ask questions beforehand.
When getting started with planning your first student travel trip, Clark Taylor says, don’t be afraid if it seems like an overwhelming task at first.
“Most everyone from administration, parents, community members, businesses and travel companies are willing to help in any way they can,” she said. “They see the value of travel in education and are usually more than willing to contribute with either time, money or resources.”
Students expressing appreciation for their travels has always been rewarding for Clark Taylor.
“It makes me feel good that I played a part in giving them a memory they will never forget or an experience that could help them make decisions for their future.”
Written by Sarah Suydam, Staff Writer for Teach & Travel.
Photo courtesy of Bonnie Clark Taylor.
This article originally appeared in the November/December 2019 issue of Teach & Travel.