- Associated Press - Saturday, May 26, 2018

FAIRMONT, W.Va. (AP) - East Fairmont High School teacher Annalese Weldy teaches more than just math to her students; she teaches them about international culture and travel as well.

“I love to travel,” Weldy said. “That has just been in my family forever and a day. We used to pick up in our big conversion van, and there were 10 of us that would fit in this van, and we would go across county for like 2-3 weeks out of our summer. So I have some pretty crazy stories as you can imagine. I like to share that with my kids and let them know that I’ve traveled since I was little, and before I can even remember. I just love it.”

Weldy has taken that love and interest in traveling and shared it with her students and their families. She has been planning international trips for six years, taking students to Italy, England, Ireland, Wales, Spain, Costa Rica, Greece, Amsterdam and other destinations. Currently, she’s putting together a trip to Belize in the summer of 2019.

Weldy chooses EducationFirst (EF) Tours to plan these international trips for her students. She said they’re a great service who develops a unique itinerary and takes care of most of the planning. Weldy does the “recruiting.”

“EF Tours is phenomenal,” Weldy said. “For Belize, we will be there a full eight days and experiencing things like cave tubing, snorkeling, ziplining and visiting a school where we will see kids who are in school all year round.”

But for Weldy, it’s more than just a fun vacation with her students. She enjoys getting to watch them open their eyes to other parts of the world, and immersing themselves in a new culture.

“It’s so hard to explain, but it’s so cool to watch,” Weldy said. “From my perspective, I get to see quiet and shy kids that go on the trips and by the end they will not stop talking. They’re just like ‘Oh my gosh, did you see this? This is my favorite part!’ They just open up and kind of broaden their own vision by getting to see different things.”

Weldy said she got to watch her students experience the Anne Frank house in Amsterdam, something they learn about in school.

“That was so emotional for everybody,” Weldy said. “The kids really took that to heart, and a lot of them had parents or family serving during the war, so it was kind of neat to have that connection.”

Weldy said she also enjoys watching her students learn new languages, even if it is “just a phrase.”

“When we start to learn some of the phrases in the native languages of where we are, they want to try it out constantly,” Weldy said with a laugh. “It is so cute to listen to them try to intermingle and they pick up very quickly that people like it when tourists try versus just speaking English and not attempting it. They’ll learn phrases like ‘Where is the bathroom?’ or ‘How much?’

“In Costa Rica, the phrase of the trip was ‘pura vida,’ which means live life to the fullest, so every time we did something crazy, like when we went white-water rafting, all of my kids were screaming it on the river. It was so funny.”

Weldy describes moments on these international trips as ‘a-ha’ moments.

“Of course they’re just astonished by the beauty of everywhere that we go because it is so different and unique,” Weldy said. “I also enjoy watching the kids that are scared to try new things just say ‘Let’s do it,’ and they just go with no fear. It’s just so neat to watch them evolve and see the world from their own perspectives.”

She said that her students immerse themselves in the culture 100 percent every trip by eating local cuisines and shopping for authentic merchandise. For EFHS junior and history buff Charles Meyers, he was excited to hear that Weldy was planning a trip to Normandy, where he was able to find authentic World War I and World War II brass casings and a British war helmet at a market.

“I’m interested in any military conflict,” Meyers said. “I just started watching documentaries when I was little, and I just enjoy it. I’ve been really interested in history ever since.”

Meyers shared some of his favorite moments from his trip and some favorite destinations in which he admits Normandy was the “best.”

“I just loved going to Normandy,” Meyers said. “I feel like we didn’t spend enough time there. I like the atmosphere and I had a connection with it.”

For Meyers, it was his first time traveling out of the country and by airplane, something he got to experience with his mother, who joined them.

“I just open these trips up to everybody,” Weldy said. “If they’re interested, I tell them to check it out. I have some repeat offenders who love to travel and get hooked the first time, so they keep asking me ‘Where are you going next?’”

Right now, Weldy’s focus is on the Belize trip, which is still in the open-enrollment stage. For more information on the trip, visit eftours.com/1941978NC and follow updates on the EFHS Travel Club group on Facebook.


Information from: Times West Virginian, http://www.timeswv.com

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