“Selfies” From Winners of the 2014 Hilton Teacher Trek Competition

There are many things I enjoy about my role as the Director of the Global Teacher Programs Division at IIE, but my absolute favorite activity is to notify candidates when they are selected to study, travel, or teach abroad on one of the many IIE-administered professional development opportunities for K-12 teachers.

Last week, I had the pleasure of joining team member Chelsea Ridenour as she notified the winners of the 2014 Hilton Worldwide Teacher Treks competition via phone. Sponsored by Hilton Worldwide, these unique programs enable U.S. K-12 teachers to either travel abroad and design an international “trek” of choice or teach abroad and deliver English language and American culture lessons to Hilton Worldwide employees in select countries.

Upon return, teachers infuse their curriculum with the cultural learnings of their journeys. Their “trek” plays a pivotal role in increasing global competence, encouraging foreign language learning, and enhancing appreciation of cultural diversity in their schools and communities.

The 2014 program was particularly competitive with an impressive 112 percent increase in submitted applications from teachers all over the country. We were grateful to work with over 40 selection panelists who each meticulously reviewed close to 80 applications before making final recommendations.

Here is Genein Letford from NEW Academy Canoga Park in Santa Clarita, Calif. Genein will be travelling to Japan and South Korea to design curriculum that uses the arts (poetry, dance, photography) as an avenue for cultural and geographical lessons. We surprised Genein a few minutes before she started her school day. “I can’t wait to tell my husband and my students; this is the best day ever!”

Julie Lehan from Lockhart Elementary Magnet in Tampa, Fla., will be visiting Spain to explore the regions of Catalonia, Basque, Andalusia, and Galicia. She plans to gather cultural knowledge that she can integrate into literacy lessons. Julie was teaching when she answered the call from IIE. After her initial excitement she asked if she could share the great news with her students—who were clapping in the background.

Geoffrey Gran from Blue Springs South High School in Blue Springs, Mo., will travel to Thailand and Cambodia this summer to explore the intersection between ancient architectural sites and modern green architectural sites throughout Southeast Asia. We caught Geoffrey on his lunch hour, and he was thrilled to hear the news.

Congratulations to all 2014 awardees!

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