A Prior Lake-Savage Area Schools teacher’s dreams are coming true this year as she embarks on a once-in-life time expedition to the Galápagos Islands later this fall thanks to the National Geographic.
According to a press release from the National Geographic, Laura Hageman, a fourth- and fifth-grade teacher at Jeffers Pond Elementary, along with 50 other educators, was recently selected to be a 2023 Grosvenor Teacher Fellow through the National Geographic Society and Lindblad Expeditions.
The 2023 cohort of Grosvenor Teacher Fellows consists of educators from 24 U.S. states, five Canadian provinces, and the first-ever fellow from Puerto Rico, according to the press release.
Also according to the release, the 2023 fellows will embark on expeditions around the world on board Lindblad Expeditions’ state-of-the-art expedition vessels to enhance their geographic knowledge with hands-on, field-based experiences that they will bring back to their classrooms, communities and professional networks.
“Each year, hundreds of educators apply and this year, 50 were selected for the program. The fellows will travel to many different parts of the world including Antarctica, the Arctic, the Galápagos, Australia and Japan,” Hageman said. “While on the expedition, the fellows will learn about geography and the environment to bring back engaging learning to their students. It is probably the most exciting and noteworthy professional development there is as the fellows will learn from naturalists on the Lindblad ships and take back meaningful knowledge about the world to their classrooms.”
Determination pays off
Hageman, who has been a PLSAS teacher for 10 years, said when she first learned about the fellowship a few years ago, she applied for it five times before she was finally selected.
“I first heard about it when I was looking for lessons on the Nat Geo educator website. It looked like something I would enjoy because I love to travel and learn,” Hageman said. “I dug deeper into the requirements and took a course to become a National Geographic Educator. After that, I applied multiple times since it is a very selective process. I finally was accepted this year.”
When Hageman discovered she was selected as a fellow, she said she was overjoyed with excitement.
“I was so excited and surprised. I answered the phone during my class because I thought it was the doctor’s office calling about my child who was sick at the time,” Hageman recalled. “I shouted out, ‘No way! Yes, I’ll accept!’ My class was very curious about what was going on but I was told to keep it quiet until I attended the workshop. They would keep asking me questions the rest of the month, trying to find out where I was going.”
Hageman said now that the secret is out, she is most excited to see the diverse and rare wildlife in the Galápagos Islands.
“I can’t wait to see the differences between the islands. I have heard that each island is very unique and diverse in wildlife and I want to be able to document that,” Hageman said. “Seeing things that I cannot see here such as a Galápagos tortoise or marine iguana will be exciting to photograph and journal about as well. I am also looking forward to snorkeling and seeing the many different creatures in the ocean.”
Hageman said one of the biggest reasons she has decided to go on this epic journey is to motivate students to want to learn and explore more of the outside world.
“I think it is an educator’s job to bring learning to life for the students. Hands-on experiences and being outdoors is a huge motivator for kids to learn,” she said. “I cannot wait for this expedition to give me new experiences and perspectives on learning so that I can bring it back to my students. I want my students to understand our world better and to think about ways to protect our environment. Bringing back real-world examples and evidence will help inspire students to think critically and come up with new ideas to make a positive impact.”
Hageman will be traveling to the Galápagos Islands the day after Thanksgiving for 10 days (Nov. 24-Dec. 3) and will be accompanied by another 2023 Grosvenor Teacher Fellow from Texas. The two will be learning from the naturalists with Lindblad Expeditions aboard the ship.