Alumna’s passion for travel created rich learning environment for students

by Sal Nudo   /   Aug 04, 2016

Betty Trummel

Study abroad option for today’s Education students provides huge opportunity to expand educational outlook

Betty Trummel ’78 C&I began her 35-year teaching career in the small farming town of Tampico, Ill. She looks back on that fact with a tinge of irony after a lifetime of traveling the world and a career in which she incorporated many international elements into her classrooms.

“I can’t believe I was ever there, in Tampico, to be honest,” said Trummel, a 2015 recipient of the College’s Distinguished Alumni Award.

What began as a somewhat confining teaching environment for Trummel emerged into a lifelong professional journey in which she always made sure to stay personally curious and engaged with interesting colleagues, as well as involved with stimulating school projects.

Along with an international focus within her lesson plans, Trummel also implemented an environmental emphasis into her curriculum for elementary students at Husmann Elementary School in Crystal Lake, Ill., where she taught for nearly 30 years.

“Betty exemplifies the great educators that come from Education at Illinois,” said Lisa Denson-Rives, the College’s associate director of alumni relations. “They are lifelong learners who have an impact on their students’ lives well beyond the classroom.”

"Betty exemplifies the great educators
that come from Education at Illinois."
- Lisa Denson-Rives, associate director of alumni relations

Now retired, Trummel views the positive influence she had on former students’ lives as special. In July she attended a wedding where she socialized with several past pupils who told her they vividly remembered the fourth-grade projects she designed.

“These students are all in their 20s and 30s, but they’re coming up to me and saying their experience in fourth grade was one they won’t ever forget. That’s a cool thing when a teacher hears that,” said Trummel, who gave a talk in 2015 on professional development at the College of Education Graduate Student Conference.

Trummel is a supporter of the College of Education Fund for Excellence and is pleased to see the College’s proactive support for students who want to study abroad, assistance that includes individual scholarships of $500. Such opportunities weren’t available when Trummel was a college student, though that didn’t stop her from bringing the world to her classrooms through various intercultural activities.

Betty Trummel abroadThrough the years, Trummel has participated in educational and research expeditions to Antarctica, Sweden, Zambia, and New Zealand. She also has been a part of a continuing education program with the National Wildlife Federation called Family Summits, which offered workshops in wildlife biology, botany, and environmental education and conservation. The experience inspired her to pursue and attain a master’s degree in environmental education from Northern Illinois University, where she also taught for 10 years as an adjunct professor.

This summer Trummel traveled to the Arctic islands of Svalbard as part of the Research & Education Svalbard Experience project (RESEt), which was led by Matteo Cattadori, an Italian colleague. The expedition included a week in the Arctic studying flora and fauna, as well as geology and glaciers. The RESEt group, which was made up of 22 high school students—20 of them girls—also studied the history and life of Arctic communities.  

“I love that it was a bunch of girls,” said Trummel, who maintains a website called Science Roadshow. “I’m particularly focused in retirement on keeping girls in science and making science really accessible to them.”

In December, Trummel will return to Antarctic Peninsula as one of 78 selected women in science for the Homeward Bound Project, a leadership and strategic initiative that promotes environmental sustainability, leadership lessons, and collaboration components. The three-week journey by ship seeks to raise the profile of climate science and empowers women and girls to be leaders and remain in science fields.

Allison Witt, the College’s director of the Office of International Programs, said Trummel embodies the results of everything faculty members in the College hope to convey to students regarding the excitement of being a worldly, engaged teacher in a diverse, globally connected world. From Trummel’s longtime colleagues in the Crystal Lake school district to the educators she has worked with worldwide, Witt said the passion for teaching among all of these difference-makers is an admirable commonality.

Witt added that exploring the world makes global and environmental connections clear for Education at Illinois students and offers them experiences they can use in their future classrooms to make worldwide connections available to students.

“Betty's career has taken her all over the planet, enabling her to have international as well as local impact, transforming the lives of others around her, and in turn transforming disciplines that were previously closed to some in society. That’s what it means to be a teacher today in our globally connected world,” Witt said.

Learn more about the $500 scholarships available to Education at Illinois students who want to study abroad and discover how you can support the learning and important work of the College’s students and faculty members.