Two veteran Leaside High School teachers, who between them have been on a total of 28 March Break trips, have joined forces for this year’s trip to Italy and France from March 8 to 19.
Ms. Helen Panayiotou, curriculum leader of science, and Dr. Enrico Vicentini, assistant curriculum leader of French and World Languages, are working with the tour company Explorica to introduce 47 students in Grades 10 to 12 to such famous locales as Rome, Pompeii, Sorrento, Capri, Olympia, Athens and Mykonos.
Ms. Panayiotou, who was born in Cyprus, has been on 17 March Break trips throughout her career, everywhere from European countries to farther-flung destinations like India, China, Japan, Australia, Vietnam, Peru, South Africa and Egypt. Dr. Vicentini, born in Arzignano, Italy, has been on 11 trips to such European countries as Italy, Greece, France, Spain, Austria and England.
With these track records, both bring a great deal of expertise and enthusiasm to their travels. When it comes to choosing a trip, they look for a good price, a wealth of cultural experiences and places the students have expressed an interest in. It was a natural step for them to collaborate this year on a trip that reflects their own backgrounds and is a perennial favourite with students.
Most students are understandably enthusiastic, describing the trips as “life-changing,” and an opportunity to see different parts of the world, gain a global perspective and become part of a close-knit group. Ms. Panayiotou says that when they are touring without their parents, “the students seem to pay more attention and connect more with their surroundings, embracing the experiential nature of the learning.”
Dr. Vicentini adds, “The students enjoy talking to the locals and seeing sights such as the Colosseum or the Sistine Chapel, moments when they say ‘the trip pays for itself’.” These trips are so successful they attract many repeat participants or younger siblings of former travellers.
For Ms. Panayiotou “every trip has its special moments whether they are at Kruger National Park in South Africa, Hiroshima or Auschwitz.” Her own favourite moments include riding a camel in front of the Pyramids in Egypt and seeing the “magical” Taj Mahal. Dr. Vicentini’s counts among his favourite spots the Blue Grotto in Capri and the resonating chamber in the Baptistery in Pisa.
While these trips are definitely a lot of work for the educators, they feel energized by the students’ excitement and delight at being exposed to new experiences.
We wish all of them a bon voyage!