Devon didn’t realize how much she’d come to care for Oklahoma when she started working at EF Education First. She studied sociology and the environment in college, finishing her senior thesis on the income gap among students in higher education. She was always passionate about education, but she wasn’t sure what that meant for a career.
When Devon first heard about EF, through a good friend of her sister’s, she felt it was the perfect meld of her interests. She took a role as a Tour Consultant for EF Explore America, which helps teachers bring students on educational trips. She was assigned the territory of Oklahoma, and it was up to her to take it from there.
“I knew nothing about the state when I first started,” she admits. “I knew the first thing I needed to do when I started was plan a visit. I’m a big relationship person; it was important for me to get to know my teachers in person.”
For Devon, the trip was nothing short of eye-opening. “My idea of Oklahoma has completely changed. It gave me a better perspective of who Oklahomans are and what they want. It was huge.”
One of the most memorable impressions for Devon was the strong sense of community. She explains,“Many people who live in Oklahoma grow up there, go to school there, and work and raise their families there. It’s a tight-knit community where everyone knows each other.”
In a state with some of the lowest-paid teachers in the country, Devon says she’s continually impressed by how passionate her group leaders are to help their students see different parts of the world.
“They want to make travel happen for their students—they want it to happen for their community. A lot of my tours become like a community trip, with parents, aunts, and uncles, even the cousins want to go,” Devon explains. “They are so passionate about it.”
It’s the commitment of her teachers to go above-and-beyond to provide students (and the local community) the opportunity to travel that constantly humbles Devon. “I have a teacher who called me the day she found out she had a benign brain tumor and needed to have emergency surgery,” Devon explains. “She called because she was going to miss a meeting with parents to talk to them about the tour and felt terrible about it, she wanted me to know how important it was to her to still have it, so her students would have time to plan.”
But that wasn’t all. “Just the other day, she called me from her hospital bed to go over the tour itinerary. We were on the phone for almost two hours. ‘Don’t think this is going to stop me!’, she said.”
“This is a superwoman,” Devon continues. “She lives in a rural community and drives from school to school in different towns, just to make sure students know they have this opportunity to travel.”
Devon says this extreme dedication isn’t unique among the Oklahoma teachers she works with. “They’re super inspiring, all of them. They’re all there for teaching and the kids. They want to give these experiences to their kids. They have a genuine curiosity and desire to get out there.”
Devon says she feels an incredible sense of gratitude for the teachers she works with. “I stand by the fact that I work with the best group leaders,” she raves. “I feel a responsibility to them. I’m proud to work with them because of how much work I know they need to put into this and how much a trip like this is putting them on the line for their community.”
It’s her work with these teachers that inspires her to be better. “It’s helped me build my own mission, which is to help communities get their trips off the ground.” Devon says. “I feel really passionately about helping them make it happen.”
All of us at EF are proud of the teachers we work with for the work they do and their commitment to their students. In honor of Teacher Appreciation Week, we’ll be lighting up the Empire State Building pink on May 11 to give our thanks to these incredible teachers—keep a lookout!