Out of more than a hundred applications from talented educators, life science teacher Mr. Ben Cooper was selected by the nonprofit organization Ecology Project International (EPI) to participate in an 8-day Teacher Fellowship in Baja, Mexico this past March.

EPI is a field science and conservation organization that partners scientists, students, and educators in ecological hotspots, including Costa Rica, the Galapagos Islands, Belize, Mexico, and Yellowstone.

“I knew that this trip would be interesting because my scientific knowledge and skills would grow,” remarked Mr. Cooper. “What I didn’t realize was the lasting connections I would make with other educators who share the same passions, as well as the incredible cultural and historical lessons I would learn about the people who inhabited the Baja peninsula yesterday and today.”

The fellows were immersed in the diverse ecology of the area, home to 39% of the world’s marine mammal species. Mr. Cooper spent four days on Espiritu Santo Island, a UNESCO-protected biosphere reserve, diving into underwater exploration and data collection, exploring the island’s desert ecology, and experiencing hands-on lessons in incorporating field studies into the classroom.

The experience also included time to explore the cultural heritage of the city of La Paz, with visits to organizations restoring coral reefs and cultivating pearls, and learning about the indigenous peoples who inhabited the Baja peninsula before the arrival of the Spanish.

“This experience not only broadened my own personal horizons, but showed me how I can bring valuable field experiences to my students,” Mr. Cooper reflected.

Mr. Cooper’s trip was subsidized by the Bev Feldkamp Faculty Fellowship, which honors longtime (1980-2017) VL Social Studies and Latin teacher Miss Feldkamp’s legacy, by supporting professional development opportunities for teachers.

“Our EPI Mexico instructors often took time to connect personally with us. We were in Mexico on International Women’s Day, and they asked us to share about women in our lives who had impacted us. I was proud to share of Bev’s passion for teaching, travel, and her love for students. Red velvet cookie bars may have been mentioned,” Mr. Cooper shared with a smile.

“I thought of Bev a lot during the trip. I am so thankful to God for her and for the time we spent in ministry together at Valley.”