Teacher Appreciation Week was different this year as we remain apart with social distancing measures in place. We are grateful to teachers each and every day, so this year, Teacher Appreciation ‘Week’ lasts all month here at Rustic!
We are running a series of stories highlighting some of the outstanding teachers that travel with Rustic Pathways.
So for this second week of May, we’ll be sharing another spotlight on how an educator goes above and beyond for her students. Every teacher deserves recognition and we are honored to tell a few of their stories.
In week 2 we are sharing a story from Monica Lucey, Dean of Faculty and Academics, who travels with a group to the Dominican Republic each year. Monica goes above and beyond to show her students they can truly make a difference in the world and educate others on how they can too.
Educators Who Go Above and Beyond: Monica Lucey
Rustic Pathways, hands down, provides the best service learning trips for my middle school boys. Being the Dean of Faculty and Academics at an all boys junior boarding school for boys in grades 4-9, it was imperative that we travel with a company that understands boys, specifically middle school boys, and is able to put together a comprehensive program that both educates our students on why they are doing the service, but also provides them with service opportunities that make sense for them.
I have been traveling with Rustic Pathways for 8 years, each year bringing at least 15 students to the Dominican Republic for 9 days of service. Every year, we return to the Dominican Republic to continue the work from the previous year. Originally, we chose the Dominican Republic because of the direct flight option from Boston (there was no way I was going to clear customs or have a layover with 15 middle school boys)! Once we saw the work to be done, and we started learning about the sugar cane workers and how poorly they are treated, it became obvious that every year we wanted to return to the same place. The benefit is that we have made friends with the communities that we work in. We see the same community leaders and the same workers every year. They get to know our boys and our boys get to know them. They also have learned that even though some of our boys are small, they can do lots of hard work!
The best part about running this trip is the impact that it makes on our entire school. When the boys return to campus after March break, they are excited to show their peers what they accomplished, whether it was putting in cement floors, building a latrine, putting in the foundation for a house, planting mangroves, or cleaning up a beach. They have such an immense sense of pride in what they have done and they come back invigorated and ready to educate our community. The part that hits home the most is the bateyes. The boys see the way that people live, they see how they are treated, and they come home ready to try to do something about it. Over the years, my students have raised money for the Rustic Pathways Foundation, so they can continue to give back. They take pride in letting our community know how the sugar cane companies are hurting people and they know it is a real thing because they have seen it firsthand. That’s huge for middle school boys because a lot of times, if they can’t physically see or feel it, it isn’t real. It also opens their eyes to how lucky we are and how much the world needs our help.
We were one of the very last trips out the door in March of 2020 due to COVID-19. I am so grateful that we had the opportunity to travel to the DR before this “new normal” of social distancing and stay at home orders went into effect. We have now transitioned to online classes and it is safe to say that we all miss interacting, in person, with our students every day. We are working on staying connected every day with zoom calls, messages, and all school meetings twice a week that showcase our students. I am very much looking forward to traveling back to the DR with Rustic next year (as long as it’s safe to do so)! We love Rustic Pathways and everything they stand for!