Addie Schafer already had an impressive resume. The Loudoun County educator has taught children in Malaysia on a Fulbright grant, worked in youth prisons and traveled on mission trips in Central America. Now, she’s preparing to travel to Antarctica as a Grosvenor Teacher Fellow. The prestigious fellowship, which is offered annually in partnership with National Geographic Society and Lindblad Expeditions, was awarded to just 45 teachers this year. Schafer will travel with another fellow and a team of naturalists and videographers to explore the southernmost continent in December. Here, Schafer, who teaches drama at Woodgrove High School in Purcellville, gives us a sneak peek at the trip of a lifetime.
This post originally appeared in our September 2019 issue. For more stories, subscribe to our newsletters.
Tell us about the expedition.
We’ll be on the National Geographic Explorer ship, and we sail through the Drake Passage, which are some of the roughest waters in the world. [Once we get to] the tip of the Antarctic Peninsula, the ice kind of guides the rest of our expedition. We’ll be there about 10 days, disembarking about once a day on various excursions. [Depending on the weather], we’ll be going in Zodiacs to go kayaking, we’ll do some ice hiking or cross-country skiing, and just really see as much of the wildlife and natural landscape on the peninsula as we can.
What does being selected for this fellowship mean to you?
It’s truly an honor. I have had a childhood dream of doing something with National Geographic. I grew up reading the magazines and watching some of the TV shows and just loving wildlife, loving to travel to remote places, learning about remote cultures. So, to go to Antarctica is really going to be a special opportunity and I’m just hoping to soak in every single moment. I don’t know how much I even want to sleep because I don’t want to miss every opportunity available!
What does it mean for your students?
Antarctica is a pristine, untouched area of the world, not many people get a chance to travel there. I’m hoping that not only will I bring back the hands-on experience of seeing the natural and wildlife there, the landscape, but also learning more about the explorers that have been there and the human impact on Antarctica thus far … I really just want to figure out how I can make this experience just as meaningful for my students. Bring back that trip for them so that they can have this explorer mindset, and I hope that they’re as curious about the world as I am.