Trevi Fountain

St. Peter's Basilica

The Roman Forum

Inside the Coliseum

I probably did more selfies at the Coliseum than anywhere else. I have always loved seeing the changes over the years.

Education First Teacher Training in Rome

In January, I had an opportunity to go to Rome, Italy, as part of an Education First Teacher training program. I was able to interact with teachers from all over Virginia who travel with their students. This tour was an excellent opportunity for me to ask questions from how to manage trips to what to do in an emergency.

I was impressed with the quality of educational opportunities scheduled each day. I initially thought that we would spend a lot of time waiting for buses, which wasn't an issue. I learned from this experience that as a tour group, we are assigned a coach and stay on-site ready for our departure to the next location.

We had a daily schedule, and we were always doing something, so by the end of the day, we were exhausted and ready to either sleep or talk about our experience with the other teachers. I also discovered that the tours are parent-friendly, so if a parent wants to travel with their child, that isn't a problem. The cool thing about travel like this is you get to see a lot and experience an overseas trip in a safe setting.

I had been to Rome a few times in the past and visited a few of the same places that I did on the EF tour. To my surprise, I learned so much from our expert tour guide; she was so full of knowledge, and you could tell she loved her job. I nicknamed her "Mama Bear" because she was open and funny with us, and when we were supposed to be someplace, she made sure we understood her expectations.

She also was very straightforward with people at the locations we were visiting and wouldn't allow them to drag their feet. If you've ever been overseas, you will learn that your schedule isn't always the same speed as the people offering entrance to locations. Mama Bear always made sure our group became their priority.

I was extremely impressed with our tour of the Vatican and the Sistine Chapel. Honestly, I could have spent hours and hours only looking at Michel Angelo's work. We were given 40 minutes in the chapel, which sounds like a lot of time to look at paintings; it wasn't. EF brought in an expert on the Sistine Chapel, and he spent a lot of time telling the story of how the chapel came to be painted and the reactions of the paintings. We were also told detailed stories about each of the pictures that made up the entire project's entirety.

I had seen pictures of the Sistine Chapel and never really gave it must be thought other than it was an old painting. When I learned the history and the story behind the work, I was awestruck on how the paintings impacted me deeper than looking at art. I know that for all future trips I take students to Rome this is a must-see and I will make sure they have the time they need to grasp how amazing this one artwork is and how it impacts them.

I will go back to the beginning of the flight going to Rome. When I found out that we were leaving in the afternoon and flying all night, I imagined that we would be exhausted during the first day. I was wrong. When on a long flight, the right neck pillow comes in handy. I slept for about 6 hours of the 10-hour flight from Philadelphia, so when we arrived, I was awake and alert.

We made Tiramisu at Fuorinorma. This is how it looked before we started.
The Roman Forum had do many buildings that is was interesting to get a sense of daily life.

We quickly gathered at a central location to meet up with multiple groups that were going to participate in the same tour. All the groups were teachers; my group comprised of Virginia teachers, and the other group we met were Texas Teachers. They grouped us in this manner so we could network and share ideas that work for our state. I was surprised at how many schools support teachers traveling with students.

After we dropped our luggage off at the hotel, we were off to the races heading directly to the Trevi Fountain. Of all the fountains in Rome, this is, by far, my favorite. It has so many details and rich history that it's not hard to see why so many people like to visit. Once we had an opportunity to see the fountain, we were given free time. During our free time, I started walking to see the Pantheon and Piazza Navona. I was focused on spending my free time taking pictures and taking the time needed to get the images that I wanted. Plus, I found the most fantastic restaurant and feasted on my first authentic Italian meal.

On the evening of our second night, we went to a unique business that taught us how to make Tiramisu. It was a lot of fun and hard work to make this delicious dessert. We broke up into teams of four, and as we were making our dessert, we started to bond and talked about everything we saw on the trip and how we couldn't wait to share these experiences with our students.

Other places that we visited included the Roman Forum and the Colosseum. For the first time, I stood where Julius Caesar was stabbed, and then we walked over to where they cremated him. To me, this was a real history lesson that I took for granted. I read about it in books and thought I knew the history until I stood on the site and imagined how Rome looked when it happened.

For me taking this type of educational trip helps students learn history first hand. I think it's cool traveling and seeing something different, but as a teacher, I find it fascinating what students will bring back after their trip. I get excited to see how the world opens up to them and how it emotionally matures them for life after high school.

As a parent, I know how hard it was for us to trust that our oldest son was going to be OK and responsible when he traveled to Korea, Guam, and Taiwan from Japan. After he graduated from college and moved to San Antonio, he told me that if he hadn't traveled in high school, he would be too scared to decide to move and take a job in San Antonio. When students can travel, they will experience a change in mindset that helps them deal with change and adversity. I know that my first travel experience opened me to exploring our world and share these experiences with others.

One of the many paintings on the wall in the Vatican.

One of the many views of the hills overlooking the Vatican.

The instructions to make Tiramisu was easy but took a lot of stirring to get the right fluff from the egg whites.

During free time you get to explore what I call the smells of the city. We found an awesome deli that made sandwiches to order from the meat they make themselves.

This is the ruins of where they cremated Julius Caesar.