Five Great Ideas for Traveling Teachers!

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We are down to those final school days. 19 to be exact, not that we’re counting or anything. The last few before those glorious words “summer break” are a reality and days that aren’t chock full of instructing, grading, lesson planning, pencil sharpening, test writing, hall monitoring, lunch duty-ing (and so on) are the norm, for a couple of months at least. As an educator, vacations can seem daunting because it’s just one more thing to plan, one more thing that costs precious dollars, one more thing that must, of course, come to an end. But, also as an educator, vacations, self-care, a chance to unplug are so deserved and needed. So let’s find a way to make this more attainable and realistic, shall we?

Not all vacations mean traveling to the ends of the earth, spending oodles of dollars, or getting stressed over planning the details. Below are five travel ideas that I would consider doable, plannable, and bookable for an educator yet also exciting, somewhat exotic and definitely worth showcasing on social media (if it isn’t on Instagram, did it even happen?).
 

1) Marfa, Texas

 El Cosmico, Marfa

El Cosmico, Marfa

Not only is Marfa one of the most Instagrammable places ever, it exists in our very own great state and is totally drivable! No, I-20 isn’t the most scenic going through the western part of Texas, but once you arrive in the charming village of Marfa, all thoughts of tumbleweeds and oil rigs will be a distant memory. Art, shopping, delicious meals and easy access to Big Bend National Park set this little desert town apart as an oasis worth visiting. If New Yorkers are coming down to experience it, you know it has to be something, right? Not to mention the variety boutique hotels - Hotel Saint George, Hotel Paisano, Thunderbird Hotel, or if you really save those pennies, El Cosmico - to name a few. And, of course, who wouldn’t want to catch those eerie Marfa Lights?!
 

2) San Juan, Puerto Rico

Sunshine, beach, colonial town and no need for a passport? Sign me up! Puerto Rico, despite the tragedy from Hurricane Maria, has recovered so nicely and is anxious for visitors, allowing for a very affordable beach vacay. Old San Juan, the oldest settlement on the island, is home to a ton of history, fabulous restaurants and super quaint lodging. All of this coupled with some really great beaches (Isla Verde, Dorado, Rio Grande) make for a wonderful getaway that doesn’t take hours or lots of $$$ to get to from Dallas. Some of my favorites for boutique lodging include El Convento (think old world charm meets contemporary elegance), Olive Boutique Hotel (definitely ideal for a romantic stay!), La Terraza de San Juan (happy hour on that rooftop terrace is a must), and The Gallery Inn (the ultimate bed & breakfast experience). There’s also quite the bar and casino scene, if that piques your interest!
 

3) Pacific Northwest

 The Burrard Hotel, Vancouver

The Burrard Hotel, Vancouver

Summer time in Oregon, Washington and western Canada is tough to beat, especially when we are constantly waging war against the heat here in Texas. Cooler temps, gorgeous scenery, hiking, wine tasting, whale watching and just a general sense of the outdoors? How could anything be better?! With direct flights on a variety of airlines to Portland, Seattle and Vancouver, the PNW proves to be a perfect escape from the triple digits and insane A/C bills. Pick one and do a long weekend, or pick all three and turn it into a road trip marked by national park after national park, one insanely good cup of coffee after another, and a stamp on that passport upon entering Canada. Airbnbs and super cool boutique hotels (i.e. The Society Hotel in Portland, Hotel Five in Seattle, The Burrard in Vancouver) are not hard to come by in any of these spots, and neither is delicious food (Portland - Pine State Biscuits and Pok Pok, Seattle - Spinasse and Matt’s in the Market, Vancouver - Uva and Rodney’s Oyster House) and a variety of activities. Breakfast in PDX, morning photo op at Cannon Beach, an afternoon hike in Rainier National Park, and an evening spent at Pike Place Market equals the perfect PNW day in my book!
 

4) Contiki Tours

The mission statement of Contiki is to plan travel for the “young, wild and free” (AKA those who are between 18 and 35 years old) to places all over the world and within a moderate budget. The idea here is to bring people from a variety of backgrounds and homes together and introduce them to new places, new cultures, new ideas. Their philosophy is to change perspectives and open eyes to see what is out there and to do it with some new friends - and I LOVE this philosophy! They plan the nitty gritty of over 300 trips to six different continents all throughout the year, yet you get to make many of the decisions (transportation, activities, lodging, how you spend your time, etc.). Being able to filter trips by destination, length, cost, etc., there is something out there for everyone. The world is truly your oyster with Contiki!    
 

5) U by Uniworld

 U by Uniworld

U by Uniworld

When you first hear the words “river cruise”, your mind probably automatically says “no thanks, that’s for people my parents’ age”. And that isn’t completely inaccurate. However, Uniworld, one of the leading river cruise companies, decided it was time to tap into the millennial generation and get us cruising in a way that still kept us feeling young and adventurous. Enter: U by Uniworld. Originally designed as river cruises for 21 to 45 year olds, U by Uniworld is the perfect way to experience some of the greatest gems of Europe with an all-inclusive part hotel/part yacht homebase. They max out at 120 guests per cruise, which offers a unique and intimate experience. Not to mention, these boats can squeeze into the tight river spaces that larger ships cannot, equating to a truly all encompassing experience. Money wise, this isn’t as budget-conscious as Contiki, but you are getting an all-inclusive five-star experience for a fraction of what it typically costs. Bon voyage, my friends!

If you found yourself saying “YES SIGN ME UP NOW” to any of these or want to know what else is out there (just the whole of our planet, really), shoot me a line (contact info below)! 

 
 
 
 
 Hillary Taylor

Our guest blogger, Hillary Taylor, is a luxury travel designer and advisor based in Dallas. She is part of The Simple Sol team (www.thesimplesol.com) in Dallas, an affiliate of SmartFlyer (www.smartflyer.com, a leading agency of independent advisors) and a member of Virtuoso (www.virtuoso.com). She designs highly curated and personalized luxury travel experiences for clients of all kinds to places all over the world. Most recently she has traveled to Portugal and Morocco, and next up on the schedule is Northern California. Interested in learning more? Contact her at hillary@thesimplesol.com and follow along on Instagram (@the_foreignanddomestic).

 

Welcome Tessa Alexander to the TEC Staff!

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We at The Educator Collective are thrilled to announce the addition of the newest member of our staff! Tessa Alexander has been hired as TEC’s Director of Operations, effective April 1, 2018. Tessa brings a depth of experience in Dallas ISD schools to the table, having spent the past 5 years as the community liaison at Edward H. Cary Middle School. In addition to her on-the-ground work experience, Tessa is also equipped with the kind of passion, skill, and character that we believe will help make TEC a better resource for the educators it serves. On top of that she has a wonderful family - she is married to Kevin and in September they welcomed their baby girl, Lyla, into the world! We are honored and humbled to have Tessa on board!

At this point, however, we would be deeply remiss if we did not thank Kate Benson, our outgoing Director of Operations, for her leadership and hard work over the past year. Kate was our first ever hire, and any success TEC has experienced in this first year of existence is largely thanks to her effort and commitment. We will miss Kate dearly, but we’re also eager to see her thrive in the next phase of her journey as she heads off to grad school. Thank you, Kate, and best of luck!

Moving forward, Tessa will be the primary point of contact for all TEC members. Please do not hesitate to reach out to her directly (tessa@educatorcollective.org) with any questions, requests, suggestions, etc.  Our lines of communication are ALWAYS open. My hope is that you all will get to know Tessa in the months ahead so that she, and the rest of TEC, will know how we can serve you better. As an unofficial introduction, please read on for a letter from Tessa as she looks forward to beginning her time with TEC.

I could not be more excited to be working for the Educator Collective! This organization holds a special place in my heart as I had the privilege of partnering with Robert and Austin during their initial work in the founding stages of TEC. As a community liaison at Cary Middle School at the time, I felt so encouraged to have an organization that existed specifically to rally around and support our teachers.  

I have always frankly been intimidated by the classroom. I have been an ESL “teacher" twice a week to parents, a cooking club “teacher” in the after school program and a summer school Spanish “teacher” at a private school for 6 weeks. To put “teacher” on my resume though, would be unfair. I have not put in the extra hours that you have dedicated to lesson planning, copy making, attending your students’ band concerts and football games, staying late to tutor or making sure a student got home safely.  You are on the front lines doing the most important and most thankless job that exists. You deserve limitless zeros added to your paycheck, yet you do this work for next to nothing because you believe in the students that fill your desks each day.

I am thrilled to devote myself to finding ways for you to feel supported, rallied around, educated, and inspired. I have seen the hard work you put in firsthand and am excited to connect you to resources that will help you thrive, in turn equipping the next generation!

-Tessa

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Speaker Series with Taylor Toynes / Recap

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Taylor Toynes was born and raised in the 75216 “super block” in South Oak Cliff.  It’s his home, his neighborhood, and the community he has been called to serve. As a Victims Advocate in the Dallas County District Attorney’s Office, as a 4th grade teacher at W.W. Bushman Elementary School, and now as the founder and executive director of For Oak Cliff, Taylor has made an all-in commitment to empowering the people and places that make up the super block.

From GED classes, to civic engagement workshops, to a back to school festival in the summer, For Oak Cliff offers a holistic approach to community empowerment.  And while its scope is broad, For Oak Cliff’s impact is laser-focused. Taylor, and the men, women and children who work with him, have made the powerfully simple decision to take ownership of the community they call home.  The 75216 super block is that home and they are answering the call - a call common to all of us - to ensure its flourishing.

As TEC endeavors to explore the ways teachers can become advocates for their schools, students, and communities, there is perhaps no better example from which to learn than For Oak Cliff and Taylor Toynes.  We count ourselves lucky to have had Taylor join us as the lead presenter at our Spring Speaker Series event on Friday, February 23rd. After hearing from Mike Koprowski (founder and executive director, Opportunity Dallas) in October, we wrapped up the 2017-2018 Speaker Series cycle with a compelling message from one of our city’s bright, young servant-leaders.

We at TEC are inspired by the noble work Taylor is doing in south Dallas, and we are beyond grateful for the wisdom he was willing to share with our members, staff, and supporters at the Spring Speaker Series.  We are eager to see how our members apply his advice and encouragement as they work to become advocates for the communities and schools in which they live and work. If you are a TEC member and would like to find out more about opportunities for advocacy, please contact us.

Future Teachers Summit

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On Saturday, January 13th, TEC had the privilege of hosting two seminars at the TeachDFW Future Teachers Summit at the University of North Texas – Dallas.  The Summit provided prospective educators from across the metroplex with the opportunity to gather valuable information, resources, and relationships as they prepare to enter the profession.  TEC was honored to stand shoulder to shoulder with many other stellar organizations at this half-day event, as we introduced ourselves to an inspiring group of future educators.

Our host at the Future Teacher Summit, TeachDFW, is an organization committed to empowering leaders across Dallas-Fort Worth to enter the teaching field with confidence and complete preparation.  Beyond providing answers to key questions (e.g. how much does a teacher make?  where should I teach?), TeachDFW also connects future educators with stellar teacher prep programs, many of whom - Urban Teachers, Teach For America, and Dallas Teacher Residency, etc. - TEC is honored to count as valuable organizational partners.

At the Summit, TEC hosted two 45 minutes seminars.  Participants who attended the TEC seminars learned that “It Pays to Teach,” as our longtime friend and financial coach Robert Hunt discussed the in’s and out’s of teacher salaries and retirement savings plans.  From monthly budgeting to selecting the lowest cost retirement plan, Robert equipped his audiences with powerful resources that will help them make the most out of the compensation and benefits currently offered to entry-level teachers.

TEC always wants to be at the vanguard of individuals and organizations who are serious about educators becoming the best they can be.  We want to be a part of a collective effort to fully equip, encourage, and empower those who have been called to this noblest of professions.  To that end we are grateful that TeachDFW, who shares in this conviction, would allow us to be a part of such a meaningful and well-executed event.  More than anything we are grateful for the chance to get to know the men and women who attended The Summit as they prepare to embark on their careers as teachers.  Best of luck to each of you!

Advisory Board Announcement

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At TEC we want our members to play an integral role in leading the organization into the future.  We have a vision for a vibrant professional community this fiercely relevant and valuable to the teachers it serves, and we are convinced that this vision can only become a reality if that community is led by the teachers themselves.  

To that end we are excited to announce the formation of The Educator Collective Advisory Board, a council of educators that will serve as TEC’s core column of leadership. These educators will be an indispensable resource as we plan future programming and recruit members.  

We have started the Advisory Board with five committed TEC members, all noted below. However, our vision is to add more educators in the months and years ahead. If you are interested in this unique leadership opportunity, please do not hesitate to contact us.

 

Join us in congratulating this year's appointees.

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Taylor Henry
Woodrow Wilson High School

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Joi Bowers
Billy Earl Dade Middle School

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Shafarion Romashyn
Dan D. Rogers Elementary School

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Erika Shisler
Thomas C. Marsh Preparatory Academy