Teachers unwind from the grind with trips and relaxation

May 22, 2019 — by Anna Novoselov and Sandhya Sundaram

After months of constant grading, preparing lessons and stress, teachers look forward to a summer of relaxing and exploring their interests. However, while some unwind at home or teach summer school, others reconnect with family and friends while traveling to distant places.

Biology teacher Lisa Cochrum, for instance, is known for traveling to remarkable locations and recounting passionate tales from her journeys. This summer, she will continue exploring the world by camping in Olympic National Park in Washington, visiting Butchart Gardens in Victoria, Canada, and climbing Mount Lassen in Northern California.

Along with 10 friends, Cochrum will begin her trip by camping and hiking for seven days at Olympic National Park, which is referred to as one of the nation’s most diverse parks due its distinct ecosystems. It includes temperate forests, ocean coastlines, glacier-topped mountains, natural hot springs and an abundance of wildflowers.

Cochrum looks forward to seeing the Hoh Rain Forest, the only Northwestern Pacific rainforest in the world. It features dense green canopies, rushing streams, blankets of moss, ferns and trees, such as Sitka spruces and western hemlocks. She believes the best part of the trip will be Hurricane Ridge, a mountainous area that is known for its beautiful scenery and abundant wildlife.

“I am a flower fanatic, so if you want to see wildflowers, Olympic is one of the best places to go,” Cochrum said. “Their wildflowers should be exquisite this year, and they’ve had an abundance of water, so their waterfalls and their streams are going to be crazy.”

The group will also spend one night soaking in the Sol Duc hot springs. Afterwards, they will travel to Butchart Gardens in Victoria, Canada, which, according to Cochrum, is the best planted garden in the world. The garden spans 55 acres and includes a carousel, rose gardens, boat rides and more than 900 species of plants.

Later in the summer, Cochrum will hike Mount Lassen in Lassen Volcanic National Park. She hopes to see boiling mudpots and steam vents.

Besides that, Cochrum will visit her family, work on house repairs and adapt her lesson plans to fit a new curriculum, which focuses more on applications of concepts rather than simply memorization.

While Cochrum mostly backpacks, visits national parks and hikes, she traveled extensively and often internationally before purchasing a house. She once journeyed from Japan to Indonesia, visiting schools, talking to teachers and seeing various sights and animals along the way.

“Travel radically changed the way I teach, and I think it made me better at integrating ecology into my curriculum,” Cochrum said. “I’ve got a thousand examples and life experiences that I can pull from.”

For instance, while visiting an animal reserve in the Galapagos, Cochrum saw logging trucks cutting down trees. When she read a National Geographic article about how those areas would be completely deforested in the next 20 years, she “knew it to be true,” for she had seen the damage with her own eyes.

“Traveling has given me a much better vision,” Cochrum said. “It gives me a heart for the world.”

French teacher Elaine Haggerty will also travel this summer. She will go to Utsunomiya, Japan to visit her cousin, who lives with his wife and his wife’s family in a rice paddy out in the country.

“They have all these wonderful fresh vegetables, and they put on a big spread for us, and the whole family comes and joins,” Haggerty said. “It’s really nice.”  

They will also celebrate a beloved family member, Haggerty’s sister-in-law's grandmother, who will be turning 106.

“I feel like we really get to immerse ourselves in the Japanese culture by staying with a Japanese family,” Haggerty said.

Haggerty also plans to travel through the main island Honshu as well as Hokkaido, Japan’s northernmost island. She hopes to travel up to Sapporo, Hokkaido’s capital, as well as to visit the country’s renowned national parks.

Haggerty said that she enjoys experiencing new cultures and appreciates the conscientious aspect of Japanese society. She said that while in California the government bans plastic to reduce excess waste, in Japan, there is no such problem because people are mindful of their environment.

After her trip to Japan, Haggerty’s family will conclude their summer by celebrating her cousin’s the wedding in August.

While Cochrum and Haggerty embark on various adventures across the world, other teachers plan to stay mostly at home and unwind after the hectic school year.

“Teachers work really hard during the school year, so it’s really nice to decompress and sleep in and not have to worry on Sunday nights about what we’re doing next week,” Spanish teacher and language department head Sarah Voorhees said. “You get to recharge and get ready for the next year.”

Voorhees will spend the summer relaxing, watching Netflix shows, going to the gym, reading and traveling. She spent most of the last summer preparing to teach AP Spanish and moving classrooms but does not need to work as much this summer, since she will be teaching the same classes next year.

She plans go on two short trips — one to New Orleans for four days at the end of June and another to the Lake of the Ozarks in Missouri for four to five days at the end of July. In addition, she will briefly visit her mother in Kansas City.

Voorhees said that New Orleans is one of her and her husband’s favorite places. She looks forward to listening to jazz music and walking around the French Quarter.

At the Lake of the Ozarks, which is featured in “Ozark,” one of Voorhees’s favorite Netflix shows, Voorhees will reunite with her high school friends and their families. She will stay in one of her friends’ houses.

Houses, hotels and trees surround the man-made lake. Voorhees and her friends have fun waterskiing, swimming, jet skiing and catching up with each other during the annual trip.

“It’s always hot and sunny there, and the water is warm,” she said “It’s really pretty. There are a lot of inlets that you can explore [along the lake].”

Whether it’s vacations, relaxation or family time, teachers do in fact have plans over the summer. Haggerty said that many students are surprised to see that she has a life outside of school.

“[Students think] we just cease to exist when we leave the classroom, and they’re always surprised to see you at the grocery store or doing something outside,” Haggerty said. “That’s always kind of startling for them that we live outside of the classroom sometimes.”

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