An Interview with Hannah Gregory, science Teacher at Hillcrest High School.
We recently caught up with science teacher, Hannah Gregory from Hillcrest High School in New Zealand. Hannah began thinking about leading an international school trip because although there was many examples of earth science to choose from in New Zealand, there was limited options for her new space program. Hannah recruited Educating Adventures to help plan an educational travel experience of a lifetime to the USA. Eighteen months on from that initial conversation, Hannah and her students have recently returned from the school trip, and she is already looking at planning the next one. Here are her words on why she loves being a teacher, and why she decided to organise an educational school trip.
Why did you decide to become a teacher?
Despite spending two summers interning in an inorganic chemistry lab, Hannah became a teacher. Hannah knew that there was no way she wanted to do that full time, the lack of access to the outside world including working in a lab with no windows was a major factor in this decision. Having studied both biology and psychology she wanted to work in a field that combined both and teaching certainly ticked all the boxes!
“I loved learning about the adolescent brain and my love for biological and earth sciences gave me what I believed were the right qualities for being a secondary school teacher. Especially as classrooms often have windows to the outside world and I have never regretted my decision. I adore teaching!”
Can you give us three reasons why you love your job?
Teenagers are intriguing, from the way they think in the classroom to the questions they ask. They often exceed all of my expectations.
I love science, and I love how those students who don’t have the best relationship with school or science enjoy my subject. It’s just so versatile, and there is always something for all our learners. I’m in a unique position where I get to help emerging passions and the learning of our students; it’s spectacular. The way they think and what they want to achieve is outstanding, and I get to be a part of that.
As a teacher, what is the biggest challenge you face in your role and how do you deal with that?
I think the biggest challenge of being a teacher is seeing kids who are trying their best but are not reaching what other people perceive as excellence or success. Our kids have a hard enough time, especially with hormones and social media in the mix. And then add others expectations on top of that it’s honestly a recipe for disaster. Don’t get me wrong high expectations are a must, however, if a kid has a parent hounding at them for excellence in all subjects, sports and then the social expectations as well. A teenager can only handle so much. I can and will do all I can to help and support them, but I can’t always change the mindset of those around that student, and that’s challenging for me.
How did you find working with Educating Adventures?
Working with Educating Adventures was so easy. I felt fully supported and kept in the loop. Every single team member I worked with during the planning and on the trip were outstanding. I could not have had a better experience. The team was so organised and accessible.
Why did you decide to use Educating Adventures to help you instead of organising the trip yourself?
When it comes to planning a school trip, I had no idea where to start. Taking a large group to another country (especially one consisting mainly of teenagers) is daunting enough without adding even more stress on top of that. I teach full time, and during the process of planning this trip, I had a baby, so my life is pretty full-on as it is. Having a company help with the planning side of things took all the stress away.
What was the biggest obstacle you had to overcome when planning your trip away?
I don’t think I had any obstacles - EA was so easy to deal with. I think the hardest part was chasing around 23 teenagers to get me their passports and completed forms. But that wasn’t even that bad.
What were the top three highlights of the trip?
Walking into the Kennedy Space Center and seeing the NASA sign and rocket garden was amazing. It was unbelievable that we had pulled this trip off. The I-Fly was also really fun. The kids’ videos were hilarious, and it was a real pick me up after departing our three days at NASA.
Seeing how much the kids had grown from 10 days isolated away from family and their friends. They did things they would not have a chance to do in NZ, and a lot of them grew so much, it did wonders for their social and mental health.
What was the most challenging thing about travelling with a group of students?
I think one thing that can be hard is that the kids don’t get their own space. They are continually in groups and don’t get space in their rooms. This can be a considerable challenge, especially for kids who typically have their own space.
Did your students enjoy the trip?
I can confidently say our kids loved the trip. The biggest highlight for them was NASA followed closely by Universal studios.
For you, what was the most rewarding thing about the trip?
Seeing the growth in the students. Both personally and socially. I knew a number of our students had anxiety-related issues, and each one of them flourished, and it was exciting for me to see that. I felt so proud of what they had overcome.
Do you think international school trips are important to a student’s education or learning experience? If so, why?
Absolutely. Experiencing something is much more important, exciting and engaging when it comes to learning. The memories and experiences these kids have taken from our trip together will last a lifetime. It has evoked passions kids didn’t know they had. Opened their eyes to what’s out there and given them a sense of self they would never have had without this experience.
What would be your advice for another teacher considering a school trip abroad?
Do it. But don’t try and plan it all yourself. EA is outstanding, and they have everything sorted for you!