Monarch Teacher Network: Day 1 in Mexico

Between the days of 02/16/02-02/23/08 I was privileged to be a part of a life changing professional development experience. When I began my student teaching a few years ago, my cooperating teacher introduced me to the Monarch Teacher Network. The Monarch Teacher Network is a growing network of teachers who have received training to use monarch butterflies to teach a variety of concepts and skills, including our growing connection with other nations and the need to be responsible stewards of the environment. Even though I am now a language arts teacher, I use the monarchs as an overarching theme for the entire year. “Journeys” is the theme for this year, as my 6th graders end their journey in our school and begin to plan the journey that will be the rest of their lives. The monarchs serve as a community-building activity in the beginning of the year, when we raise them as a class.

I took the workshop two years ago, worked as a staff member last year, and finally applied for the fellowship to Mexico this year. When I received the fellowship, I was ecstatic! The trip was 8 days of intense professional development and I changed the way I look at my teaching and the world around me. I HIGHLY recommend taking the workshop this summer if it will be near you. We are expanding nationwide over the next few years and would be thrilled to hold a workshop in your state if you are interested. The workshops for this summer are as follows:

  • June 18, 19, 20 – Birmingham Southern College, Birmingham, Alabama
  • June 23, 24, 25 – Texas A&M University, Texarkana, Texas
  • July 28, 29, 30 at Webster Hill School, West Hartford, CT (minutes from Interstate 84)
  • August 6, 7, 8 – Forest Park High School, Woodbridge, VA (Prince William County)
  • August 11, 12, 13 – Waples Mill School, Oakton, VA (Fairfax County)
  • August 11, 12, 13 – Knox Agri-Center, Galesburg, IL (Knox County close to Interstate 74 exit)
  • August 11, 12, 13 – Brookside Elementary School, Columbus, OH (Franklin County)
  • August 13, 14, 15 – Cox Arboretum, Dayton OH (Montgomery County)
  • August 18, 19, 20 – Paramus, NJ (Bergen Community College; New York City area)
  • August 19, 20, 21 – North Branch NJ (Raritan Valley Community College; Somerset County, Central NJ)
  • August 20, 21, 22 – Sewell, NJ (EIRC facility, Gloucester County, Philadelphia area)

Info for Canadian Teachers

  • Kingston, Ontario – July 23, 24, 25thFrontenac Secondary School
  • Brighton, Ontario – July 29, 30, 31st – Brighton Public School
  • Wiarton, Ontario – August 5, 6, 7thPeninsula Shores District School
  • Winnipeg, Manitoba – July 22 – 24th

If you are interested in the 3-day workshop, I can forward the brochure to you! This 3-day workshop was the most rewarding workshop I have ever taken!!

Journal Entries

*taken from my moleskine journal entries, written daily over the course of the trip.

February 16, 2008

It’s been an interesting day. Chris and I left the house at 3am, ready to arrive at the Philadelphia Airport with plenty of time to make out 6:10am flight. (As an aside, 6:10am is entirely too early for a flight). I was nervous and excited about the trip, a jumble of emotions. This trip is something I have looked forward to for years, since my first introduction to the Monarch Teacher Network. I couldn’t wait to get to Mexico City!

We checked in, made it through security, and even had time to spare before boarding our plane. We took off on time and enjoyed watching our in-flight movie, Martian Child, starring John Cusack. After the movie, I started to feel like we had been on the plan for too long. We had hit a lot of turbulence, so it was a rough flight. I fell asleep for a few minutes and when I woke up I knew it had been longer than the predicted 3.5 hour flight time. Moments later, the captain announced that due to a severe weather pattern in Dallas, we had been circling and rerouted for over an hour. The storms were too severe and we had been unable to get near the Dallas/Ft. Worth Airport. He then announced that we were running low and fuel and would be heading to Little Rock, Arkansas to refuel. About 45 minutes later, we landed in rainy Little Rock.

Let me tell you what I learned about Little Rock- it’s flat, brown, and there is a huge Waffle House near the airport. On the plus side, I do get to add another state to my list of “States I Have Physically Been In”.

While we were on the ground in Little Rock, I frantically attempted to get through to American Airlines. There was no way we were going to make our connecting flight to Mexico City and I wanted to see if they had also been delayed. I finally got through and was informed that our connection was already on its way to Mexico City. The very sweet customer service agent let me know that we should be landing in Dallas at 11:22am and that she could rebook my tickets on the 3:25pm flight to Mexico City. I was upset because this meant we would not make it to Mexico City in time for the Museum of Archeology tour. But I took the flight and chalked it up to experience.

About 2 hours later we finally landed in Dallas, in the middle of the same storm that had prevented us from landing earlier. We had spent over 6 hours on the flight instead of 3 hours! This left us with some time to explore the Dallas/Ft. Worth Airport, which is gorgeous. It is absolutely ginormous and has many stores and restaurants in the various terminals. My favorite part was the Skylink, a monorail system that connects the various terminals.

After having lunch, the weather in Dallas (and all over the South) worsened. There was a terrible thunderstorm going on. One crash of thunder was so loud that it shook the terminal windows in front of our seats! The severe weather led to many more cancellations and delays. Thankfully, though many flights were canceled, our flight was only delayed by an additional hour.

Our Mexicana flight got off the ground around 4:30pm. On this flight we had an entire row to ourselves! We also were fed dinner and watched an episode of the CW’s Life is Wild. And between the two flights and the extended stay at the airport in Dallas I was able to finish reading Tunnels (review coming soon).

After we landed in Mexico City we went through immigration. The line was a veritable melting pot of international flavors- around us we could hear French, German, Dutch, and Chinese. The English accents we heard were American, British, and Canadian. The wall behind us was covered with a gorgeous mural depicting the most famous aspects of Mexico (more accurately, the most famous tourist areas).


The line moved fairly quickly and after both customs and immigration we headed to baggage claim. We assumed our bags would be unloaded because so much time had passes while we were on line. Now, we have obnoxious baggage- mine is sea-foam green and Chris’ and bright red. It should stand out from across the room. As we approached the baggage claim it was nowhere in sight. I began to panic slightly, seeing as we only had our daypacks and nothing else. It was 9pm, I had no contact supplies, no deodorant, nothing. I was hoping and praying our baggage had just been removed to another location.

I went up to the Mexicana counter and asked the agent about our luggage. After the initial language barrier, we were told our luggage had not been placed on our flight due to the cancellations and delays in Dallas. It should, theoretically, be on the next plane out of Dallas. Of course, that would be the last plane out before the next morning. The agent had us fill out a claim and told me my luggage “should be on tonight’s flight, arriving at 1am”. I made sure to emphasize the fact that I was only in Mexico City until 8am the next morning. The luggage absolutely must be delivered before 8am. Otherwise, I would be 6 hours outside of Mexico City with only one pair of underwear! The luggage handler promised me that the luggage would be delivered between 1am and 6:30am.

Stressed out, exhausted, and sore from sitting in an airplane seat all day, we exchanged our dollars for pesos. We were able to get an official government taxi, loaded our tired selves and backpacks inside, and headed to our hotel. Once we arrived (30 minutes later), we checked in, left a quick message telling Erik we had arrived, and collapsed in bed.

I would spend the next morning hunting down out luggage and making sure it arrived before 8am. But for that moment, all I needed in the world was sleep!