Meet the Amazing K¹² International Academy Teachers and Students Who Embarked on a Real Journey!
Kimia Pourali , Staff Writer
As an online school, nearly every week, K¹² International Academy students have the opportunity to go on virtual trips, and learn about new people and places. Just recently, however, two fantastic teachers, along with some adventurous students embarked on K¹² International Academy’s first ever student trip.
Meet our amazing K¹² International Academy teachers, Mr. Meehan and Mrs. Murnane:
Mrs. April Murnane has “been teaching middle school French for two years atK¹² International Academy and she is one of the advisors of Explorer’s Club.” She is “originally from Cleveland, Ohio, but currently lives in Columbus, Ohio.” She earned her Bachelor of Science in French in 2004 from Capital University. “In 2006, she graduated with her M.A. in French language and literature from The Ohio State University.” In 2011, she “finished a graduate program at Ashland University earning her French Pre-K-12 Licensure.” She has also “taught French to university students for two years, and has taught French to middle and high school students for the last eight years.
Mr. Charlie Meehan is “originally from Warwick, Rhode Island, but now lives in Miami Florida.” He is “the World Languages Department Chair and teaches English Electives courses” at K¹² International Academy. Mr. Meehan has “a Bachelor’s Degree in English from Rhode Island College and a Master of Fine Arts in poetry from University of Miami.” He is also certified to teach English in the state of Florida.
This year, K¹² International Academy decided to offer a student trip, for the first time ever. Mrs. Murnane and Mr. Meehan incredibly organized and chaperoned this one-week long trip, from London, England to Paris, France. Considering this was a trip with students from all around the globe, whom they never met before, across multiple countries, and for such a long duration, it absolutely was a huge responsibility to execute the trip appropriately, safely, and joyfully. When I mentioned this point to Mr. Meehan, he responded “there is always a degree of stress involved when traveling abroad,” and that he, Mrs. Murnane, and the students “spent the better part of a year getting to know” each other through Blackboard sessions. By the time the trip rolled around, they all “were pretty knowledgeable of each other.” In fact, Mr. Meehan said ecstatically, “Ms. Murnane and I have been working together for a few years atK¹² International Academy, but this was the first time we got to meet in person, too!”
Mrs. Murnane continued, “There were certainly stressful moments during the planning stages of this endeavor!” The trip was actually planned and organized over the course of a year, to ensure it would be the best and safest possible for students. “As a World Language teacher,” Mrs. Murnane, “loves being able to share her passion for experiencing the world with students.” She enthusiastically continued that her first abroad student trip “was a school trip to France her junior year of high school,” and, “it was an absolutely unforgettable time.” In fact, her roommate from the trip is her best friend, today!
Ultimately, Mrs. Murnane emphasized that “a trip like this really can open one’s eyes to a new world of experiences and spark a desire to become a life-long learner through exploration and adventure.”
And, then, the journey began when Mr. Meehan, Mrs. Murnane, and the students all met each other for the first time ever at Heathrow Airport, in London, England.
I asked Mrs. Murnane about the challenges and techniques needed for organizing this trip, and she stressed the need to be “hyper organized and communicating frequently with the students and their families.” Her previous experience “working and traveling with international students and organizing similar trips truly helped put together a plan for this trip.” She mentioned specifically, that she has “worked and lived in both France as a Resident Director of The Ohio State University’s Study Abroad Program and Switzerland as a French teacher at The American School in Switzerland’s summer French immersion program.” I thought this extent of experience is honorable, and for students to have the opportunity to travel with such teachers is astounding!
Considering K¹² International Academy is a virtual school, it brought to my attention the likely differences between preparing for such a trip in a brick-and-mortar school, compared to a virtual school. The biggest difference in planning for the trip lay mainly in mediums of communication. Mrs. Murnane and Mr. Meehan wouldn’t see participating students in classes, hallways, or the cafeteria “to remind them to turn something in, or log-in to their trip account or ask their parents this or that.” Instead, they “had to make a more concerted effort to keep contact with one another and to update one another about trip details.” There were constant “Skype calls and messages, phone calls, and Kmails in addition to…monthly meetings,” which helped in guiding students through the preparatory process of the trip.
Meet the students who took advantage of this fantastic opportunity offered by K¹² International Academy, and shared their thoughts and experiences: Amelia W, Brittany L, Caitlin L, Danny S, Eden M, and Fatimah S.
In response to which city, between London, England and Paris, France, was their favorite, most claimed London, because of “it’s nice blend of old preserved historical sites, and modern buildings and culture,” as Danny said, and “because of the busy, fast-paced lifestyle there,” as Fatimah said. On the other hand, Caitlin chose Paris, because she “enjoyed the French culture and being able to practice [speaking] French…the food, the architecture, and the people were all amazing!” Mrs. Murnane also chose Paris, and, smiling, admitted to being “a little biased since she absolutely loves the French language and culture,” as well.
When I asked about their favorite attractions, a couple students and Mr. Meehan chose the Eiffel Tower as their favorite, “especially being at the top,” mentioned Amelia, and especially seeing it “all lit up at night,” added Mr. Meehan, describing the sight as “spectacular.” Brittany favored the day in London, when they “went to Big Ben and the Tower of London.” Eden said she preferred the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, “because the area outside of it was busy and full of entertainment.” Fatimah was torn “between Trafalgar Square in London and Montmartre in Paris.” She also excitedly noted that, “the Nutella crepes in Paris are to die for!” And, on the note of food, Mrs. Murnane joked that “if you asked the students what my favorite attraction/cuisine was, they would answer: the French pastries.”
In addition to the mentioned locations, Mrs. Murnane, Mr. Meehan, and the students visited the Louvre museum, saw the Crown Jewels, and toured the Windsor Castle.
Then, I asked if this was the first time any of the students traveled abroad without parents and for this duration. For a few students, this trip was actually the “first time away from home without my parents,” as Caitlin said. As for Amelia, “it was not her first time being away from her parents for a long time, but this was by far the longest distance.” Everyone believed that they would definitely go on another trip like this one; as Eden said, “I’ve shown myself that I am capable of doing it. Traveling alone gave me a liberating feeling that I loved.” Caitlin elaborated that “it was a challenge and took a lot of responsibility but it was exciting to be able to do it on my own and to take care of myself. I would definitely do it again, it was a wonderful experience.”
As this was the first time traveling such a long distance and duration, and even the first time visiting England and France for students, of course, despite all the assistance and preparation provided by Mrs. Murnane and Mr. Meehan, there is always the chance for noticing things that could have been improved. Mr. Meehan and Brittany would have preferred the trip be longer. Amelia said she “would have packed a few warmer clothes for London,” and Fatimah said she, surprisingly, “would’ve definitely brought a little less clothes.” Brittany laughed and said she “could have packed more clothes to wear because by the end of the week all of [her] clothes were kind of stinky, but it was okay,” she joked, “because everyone stunk by the end of the week!” Meanwhile, Danny, like a few other students, regretfully recalled not being as social as they hoped to be.
Mrs. Murnane stated one of her initial concerns was possible delayed flights, about which she said, “the best thing you can do is plan for the worst and hope for the best.” She said she “was also nervous about how the students would relate to one another….or if personalities would clash.” Gladly, she “was so overjoyed that the students instantly connected. It was as if they’d known each other for years!” she exclaimed. In fact, “a teacher from one of the other school groups on [their] tour even asked if they were family because of the way they interacted with one another. They were inseparable during (and even now!) the entire trip.”
Conclusively, Mrs. Murnane said “there were small details here and there,” that she would have altered, “from an organizational standpoint, but overall, despite all of [her] worrying, the trip was an unforgettable experience for us all,” and “a great success,” as Mr. Meehan added.
To conclude the interview with the students, I asked what the most memorable aspect was through the entire trip. They all emphasized befriending others from iCademy that they had never met before, and befriending other people from other schools. Eden said, “although the trip was only a week long, I made life-long friends whom I will cherish for the rest of my life.” Caitlin said, “One of my most memorable memories was the first night in Paris. The rest of the tour group went back to the hotel and we didn’t want to go back. So Mr. Meehan and Mrs. Murnane took us out and we walked through Paris at night for hours. We walked about six miles from Notre Dame along the Seine River all the way to l’Arc de Triomphe. We just walked and talked and ate food and saw the beautiful city of Paris at night.” Danny mentioned a very interesting instance where he and a few other students were in a hall in the Louvre, and “farmers [came] storming in with their sheep.” He said, enthusiastically, “I definitely would if I could go on this or a similar trip once or ten times more.”
Mr. Murnane concluded:
Right from the beginning, despite the diversity of our group, no one was ever left out, cliques were never formed, but instead, each student welcomed the other with open arms. No matter the student’s gender, ethnic background, first language, religion, or style of dress, these students were without fail always inclusive and accepting of others. Our students were outgoing, enthusiastic, energetic and ready for anything. This trip certainly broke the stereotype of the introverted home-school student who lacks social skills! They were an absolute joy to be around and the fun they had everywhere we went was totally infectious. I couldn’t have been more proud of the way they represented our school, and it was very difficult to say goodbye to them.
Finally, I ended the teacher interviews by asking if Mr. Meehan and Mrs. Murnane would be interested in offering and chaperoning for another one of these trips, to the same locations, or others. Mr. Meehan said they, “hope to be able to offer K¹² International Academy students the opportunity to participate in trips every year,” and that, “it would be fun to experience different cities each year.”
Mrs. Murnane said, “this type of trip offers students at our virtual school the opportunity to physically meet, interact and engage with one another in a very unique, fun, and exciting environment. When you put all of this together, the hope is that something magical might happen, that students will create lifelong bonds and friendships with their classmates from all across the globe and that they will create memories that will last a lifetime.” She said passionately that, “It fills my heart with great joy to say that I believe that is exactly what happened on this trip.”
I would like to thank Mrs. Murnane and Mr. Meehan, as well as Amelia, Brittany, Caitlin, Danny, Eden, and Fatimah, for participating in this interview, and providing all of their insight and experiences on this first-ever K¹² International Academy trip.
The fact that K¹² International Academy, a virtual school in which students come from all over the globe and are rarely in the same vicinity, offers these types of joyous and educational travel opportunities is absolutely marvelous.
If such an experience has gauged your interest, as Mrs. Murnane said, “please watch k-mail and K¹² International Academy social media sites very closely for information coming soon about next spring’s Europe trip!”
This story and more student stories can also be found at our student News iGlobe