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TAP Teachers

The TAP teachers and a pair of hilarious Irish musicians after a concert in Kilarney, Ireland.

TAP is made up of teachers who share a common belief – the best way to learn about the world is to go out and experience it.  We feel the best way to understand history is to go and stand where it happened.  The best way to explore literature is to see where the authors lived and the stories took place.  The best way to ‘get’ science is to get your hands dirty out in the world.  We all think that what TAP offers is the world’s greatest classroom.

Mr. Curtis

Mr. Curtis has been with TAP since the beginning.  Since Germany was the first trip he took, it is still one of his favorites, although seeing all of our students get up on stage in a Greek dinner theater and try to follow along with the Greek dancers was one of the funniest things he’s ever seen.  Even though he’s seen some amazing stuff, the real cultural experiences have been his favorites – the Greek theatre, music night in the Irish pub, singing along with the musicians in Munich, Germany, seeing a Japanese baseball game, watching Spanish Flamenco dancers, Shakespeare’s theatre, the Czech black light theatre and getting to know people from the other side of the world – like our tour directors – Bernhardt (Germany), Elaini (Greece), Juanito (Spain), Miss K (Japan), Lorna (Ireland and England), Tristan (France), Robert (China), Gloria (Rome), Michael (Poland), and Dwayne (South Africa).

Mr. Curtis and Lorna share a poem by WB Yeats with the students while standing alongside his grave.

Of all the things TAP has to offer students, Mr. Curtis thinks that the most important is the way our trips change their view of the world.  “We’re so sheltered over here in America, so one of the highlights of every trip for me is seeing kids have these ‘lightbulb’ moments when they realize how big the world is, how different things can be, and, at the same time, how much is the same everywhere, for all of us.   My hope is that these kids all go home changed a little bit – a little less ethnocentric, a little more open to new ideas, and eager to share and see more.”

While Mr. Curtis loves sharing the world with students, the thing he really can’t wait for is his three sons being old enough to experience a TAP trip.  “When I see one of my students in awe looking at the Sistine Chapel, or with a huge smile on their face as we learn a foreign dance, or with a tear in their eye as we walk through a Nazi concentration camp – all I can think is – ‘we got this kid, we changed them.’  When we have one of those moments, all I want to do is go home, gather up more kids, including my own, and share that moment with them.”

Mrs. Harig

Mrs. Harig shared the story behind Annie – the statue behind her – with some of TAP’s Ireland students.

For six trips (and counting) Mrs. Harig has been with TAP.  She started traveling with the group in our second year and enjoyed exploring Greece so much that she’s come back five more times, bringing her husband with to Spain, England and South Africa, but skipping Japan and Poland to be with her newborn daughters.  Even though her favorite TAP memory is 35 American kids, teachers, and parents attempting to learn some Irish dances, her favorite trip is still her first – Greece, “because visiting all the islands was like visiting a completely new and beautiful place each day.”

“I think that TAP offers kids an opportunity to experience the history that they only hear about in books at school.  It also provides them with an opportunity to really learn about themselves and realize how responsible and independent they can really be,”  Mrs. Harig says.  She is also awed by the excitement and change she sees in the TAP kids, “After seeing some scientists working on a dig at Knossos Palace on Crete, we now even have a student who was inspired to be an archaeologist.  She’s in college now, studying archaeology.  That these trips can move a kid that much – How great is that?”

2011’s trip to Spain marked a first for TAP – Mrs. Harig was the first TAP teacher to bring along her spouse, and Mr. Harig was a great addition to our group (He came back again to England, and so did Mrs. Curtis).  “I love seeing the program grow and evolve,” Mrs. Harig said.  “I look forward to seeing what TAP has to offer these kids and their future.”

Mr. Doerr is well known for telling his students, at every opportunity they have, to actually touch history. He then tells them to sanitize, because you never know who touched history before you.

Mr. Doerr

Mr. Doerr started with TAP during our third year – Italy.  As a history teacher who focuses on the Roman Empire in his class, he thought there’d never be a way to top the experience of traveling through Italy and seeing places like Vatican City with his students.  However, Mr. Doerr fell in love with Ireland.

Since our trip, Irish music has been a staple on his iPod, Irish stories are always in the conversations, and he’s been known to update his Facebook every so often with the phrase – “I miss Ireland.”  When asked what it is about the Emerald Isle that won his heart, he just smiles and remarks, “It’s not just the cool history and the castles – although it was awesome learning about how the Giant’s Causeway was formed and the history behind Blarney Castle – there’s more –  it’s the people, it’s the culture.  It’s such a warm, inviting place and everyone there makes you feel so welcome.  I feel like I could belong there.”

Mr. Doerr wasn’t the only one that felt that way about Ireland.  Several of the students who traveled with us have vowed to return someday, and there’s a few who looked at Irish colleges.  That connection students make with a place, how the trip they took and the places they saw sort of become theirs, that’s what he thinks is great about our program. “The best thing though,” the history teacher said, “is the connection we all make together.  The students bond, the teachers bond, father and son, mother/daughter, teachers and students have become friends through this.  More than anything, I look forward to creating those friendships with my students through these amazing shared experiences.”

Miss Lara, like a lot of us, loved learning Irish Dancing in a little cottage near Blarney Castle.

Miss Lara

Italy was Miss Lara’s first adventure with TAP – oddly enough, she joined up with us after meeting some of the other TAP teachers in a Spanish language class.  She put those mad Spanish skills to use a few years later when we visited Spain.

Even though Miss Lara’s grandmother insists that she had Irish in her blood, we all know Spain was her favorite trip.  “It was a place that I’d never been before and have wanted to visit since I was a kid.  It surpassed all of my expectations and lived up to all of the pictures you see in books.  It was beautiful!  The locals were amazing and so friendly, and their accents were pretty cool too.  Juanito, our tour director, was awesome – just awesome.”

When we asked her what her favorite TAP moment was, Miss Lara, just like a lot of us, immediately thought of our Irish Music night.  “Talk about getting a taste of the Irish culture – people, music, and dancing….  It was an awesome night! Stuff like that, that’s what TAP is all about.   TAP offers students a once in a lifetime experience.  Not very many adults can say that they traveled to a foreign country when they were in junior high or high school.  Students get to learn history in action, visit amazing sites, build new friendships and learn more about themselves.  It truly is one of the greatest opportunities of a lifetime.   Honestly, you get to experience things that you could never imagine – climbing to the top of old church towers, walking into a prehistoric tomb, visiting ruins of one of the most powerful empires in history…I could go on and on.  Not to mention, experiencing people and cultures that are so different than ours.  When you see the look of amazement on the group’s faces and know that you have the exact same look on your face – you know you’re learning about something cool.  It’s a great feeling.  I hope that everyone involved with TAP gains an appreciation for travel and are inspired to be lifelong learners.”

 

The night before we saw a Bunraku puppet theatre performance in Osaka, Miss Tadey prepared the kids for what they were about to see.

Miss Tadey

During the summer of 2012, Ms. Tadey, the school’s band director, joined us for our trip to Japan.  She was a valuable addition to the group because of her expertise in music and the arts, as well as her lifelong interest in Japanese culture and food.It’s tough for her to pick a favorite moment, because the whole Japan trip was an eye opening experience.  The highlights of the trip for all of us, though, had to be meal times, when Miss Tadey would coach us on Japanese etiquette, using chopsticks, and simply understanding what some of that unusual food was.

Since that first trip, Ms. Tadey has continued the life altering experience of world travel.  She first caught the travel bug when she was a junior in high school and went on her own EF Tours trip to Europe.  “I have such wonderful memories of that trip, but I wish I had the experience that TAP students have when they travel.  Before my tour we never met as a group nor did any research about the locations or the culture of our destinations.  Now, I think the experience is richer for one of our TAP students because they have the opportunity to make this trip their own and take some ownership for their adventures abroad.  I loved seeing the excitement and wonder of the TAP kiddos when they first heard the squeaking floors of Nijo Castle in Kyoto and the pride they felt when they navigated the London Underground on their own.  Kids really grow up and gain confidence and independence on these trips.  I love getting to know the kids better through our meetings, and I can’t wait to see how our next trip helps them grow!”

Mr. Keeton

Mr. Keeton’s first trip with us will be South Africa in 2015.  He’s been a valuable member of the group so far, because his passion for history shows in his lessons with the students.  Mr. Keeton is a speech teacher in Joliet, and a much better biography and an awesome picture will be in this spot soon after we return from Africa.

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