How Teachers Can Travel For Free: Crowdfunding Your GEEO Program

By Shawn McCarty & Yessenia Gutierrez in collaboration with GEEO

Hello, teachers! We are Shawn and Yessenia, fifth and third grade teachers at Hoover Elementary and TEAM Charter School in Stockton, California. As fellow GEEO travelers, we’d like to share a great resource available to you for funding and sponsoring your professional development programs abroad with GEEO. We’ll walk you through the steps teachers need to take so they can travel for free!

We are always looking for new and exciting ways to bring real-life experiences into our classrooms. Teacher traveling opportunities are a life-changing, career-boosting recharge for educators of all grade levels and subjects. On top of that, they are so important when bringing the world to students who otherwise have not yet had the opportunity to experience this wonderful world and its beautiful cultures. We believe that every teacher should take the opportunity to not just experience different cultures, but to learn and teach about them too. Sharing some of these once-in-a-lifetime experiences with your students can lead to class chats, deep conversations, and plenty of communal ‘ah-ha’ moments. By sharing your experiences abroad with them, there is potential for you to open doors for your students that they never even knew existed!

While we could tout the endless benefits of teacher travel for days, let’s get into how we funded our upcoming PD program in France and Italy with GEEO through DonorsChoose. Even as frugal spenders, we both know that funding an entire PD program abroad can be difficult on a teacher’s salary. We have been lucky enough to create DonorsChoose Professional Development (PD) projects to get our GEEO program fully funded by people from all over the world so we can travel free of charge. Let’s walk through the steps you’ll need to take to create your own DonorsChoose campaign so you can travel with GEEO.

About DonorsChoose

DonorsChoose is a nonprofit organization that helps teachers fund thousands of creative projects for their classrooms. They also help teachers like us fund learning and PD opportunities such as our GEEO program! This crowdfunding educational website lets teachers design and build a personalized campaign to fundraise for classroom resources, programs, and unique experiences that will sharpen and improve their knowledge-base of a particular topic, theory, or real-world connection. It is quick and easy to register and start making connections like never before!

Create Your Project

DonorsChoose has a very user-friendly website that walks you through the steps to register and create a project. Visit their website and follow their lead!

Make Your Case

As you create your project in DonorsChoose, share with your potential funders how your PD program abroad with GEEO is going to benefit your students. You can see Shawn’s projects here and here. Yessenia’s project is here. Feel free to use our projects as inspiration, but make sure you include specific details unique to your classroom and your school’s needs. As you can see, we focused on the arts for our upcoming program in France and Italy. What are the ways that a GEEO program might impact your learning community? Will visiting the Terracotta Warriors complement your school’s connection with a Sister City in China? Would exploring the Galápagos Islands help you be a better biology teacher? Explore GEEO’s upcoming programs and make your selection. Then, tell DonorsChoose how that program will help you become an even better teacher or leader.

Share, share, share!

Now is the time for your story to shine! You could share the link to your DonorsChoose project with your friends and family and ask for donations in lieu of birthday or holiday gifts. And don’t forget to share your project on social media! Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, and Snapchat are all great platforms to get the word out. Tag your friends, family members, and even celebrities! They can help to share your project as well.

Keep an eye on your GEEO Program

As you create your DonorsChoose project, keep in mind that final payment is due to GEEO 60 days before travel. You’ll want to make sure you start your fundraiser several months in advance to allow plenty of time for donations to come in. GEEO’s programs usually have a maximum number of 14 to 16 teachers in a group. Make sure you monitor the program you want to participate in to see if it’s soon to be sold out. You can see how many spaces are left by looking at the box on the top right of each program page. Once your project is fully funded, get in touch with GEEO to find out how to register. The booking process when paying with DonorsChoose is a little bit different than if you were paying out of your own pocket.

Let the Magic Happen

DonorsChoose teacher with students

One of the most incredible reasons we are able to partake in this amazing program is because of the generous donations we received. With nonprofits GEEO and DonorsChoose, the possibilities for teachers are endless. How amazing is it that  through this crowdfunding educational organization, we are able to experience a beautiful part of the world and bring back all the gained knowledge to our students? They will get to see pictures from the eyes of their teacher, and not just the pictures they see in their books. They will hear first hand accounts of other cultures and will (someday) realize that although other countries might do things a little differently than we do, we’re all in it together on this amazing planet of ours. Traveling the globe and learning about its rich history and beauty inspires us to be better teachers every day. Who better to benefit from our renewed inspiration than our students?

P.S. Please see the Guidelines for Teacher Professional Development Projects as outlined by DonorsChoose:

Professional development projects must clearly describe:

  • The learning objective (eg. socio-emotional teaching techniques)
  • How the learning objective will be achieved (eg. books, conferences, training)
  • How students will benefit (eg. more up-to-date AP content)

P.P.S. A few participants had a question for the GEEO team: What do we do if we want to guarantee our spot on a GEEO program before our DonorsChoose project is fully funded? If you want to guarantee your spot, you will need to fill out a booking form and make a $350 deposit. The good news is that you can be reimbursed by DonorsChoose for your deposit. Here’s what the folks at DonorsChoose had to say:

“We are able to reimburse teachers for the deposit amount and send payments to GEEO for the remaining amount!

When creating their PD Trip project on DonorsChoose.org, teachers are able to input multiple costs. In this case, teachers should put in two separate “Activity” costs – one for the already paid deposit amount and one for the remaining costs. Once our team processes these, they can send out two separate payments.

Alternatively, teachers are also welcome to request just the remaining amount if they’d like! We sometimes see this if teachers were able to cover the deposit cost through a school PD budget, for example.”

We hope this helps you create your own crowdfunding project on DonorsChoose! Feel free to contact the GEEO team with any further questions.