WorldStrides is celebrating 50 years as the leader in student travel by sharing the stories that have shaped our company’s past and will propel us into the future. Throughout the year, we will highlight stories from our history, many of the people who have made us what we are today, and some of the special ways travelers have been impacted by their experiences in our blog series, 50 Years of WorldStrides Stories.
When Sherrie Whittenburg’s mother sent her on her Texas middle school’s trip to Washington, D.C., with Lakeland Tours in the mid-1980s, neither of them had any way to foresee the impact that trip would have on Sherrie’s life and career.
Years after her 8th grade trip with Sweetwater Middle School began her passion for history and travel, Sherrie came back to the same school to teach.
“I spent my first years of teaching at the 4th grade level until the [U.S. History] spot came open at the middle school,” she explains. “When it did, I jumped on it and taught 8th grade U.S. History for 12 of my 20 years.”
Of course, Sherrie wanted her students to visit Washington, D.C., just like she had! In 2014 and 2015, she had the opportunity to travel with her students to D.C., alongside her husband – who also attended Sweetwater Middle School, went on the 8th grade trip to D.C. and taught at the middle school – as co-leader and chaperone. One of the things she remembers most vividly from her trip in 8th grade was exploring Jamestown and Williamsburg, so when she became a Program Leader, she made sure to include those destinations on the itinerary for her students as well.
“I would incorporate the trip into everything [I was teaching], which made the classroom really come to life in a new way,” Sherrie reminisces. “I would tell them, ‘I’ve been there, I’ve done that, and seen that, and you can, too!’ WorldStrides is the tool that allows those experiences to happen.” She worked hard to make her history class fun, using tools like an interactive notebook, pictures and experiential activities to excite her students about the subject.
This year, Sherrie decided to leave teaching at Sweetwater behind to start a new journey with WorldStrides – working for the company that fueled her passion for travel! Today, she helps teachers, just like she once was, plan new travel programs for their students.
When speaking about the impact these trips have, Sherrie’s passion for travel comes through clearly: “Travel is so important in the community where I live. It’s where I grew up, where we impact our students, but it’s important for students to get out of this community and see what is out there.”