"Hugely meaningful. Simona is both an exceptional teacher and an inspiration. The project she is working on is inspiring the kids to be interested in school and reach for a bigger and fuller future which will resonate with the rest of their communities and help them build better foundations. We started the week with about 15-20 kinds and had about 45 kids by the end of the week that all wanted to be there and actively participate in learning. It inspired me to take real steps when I returned home to begin pursuing a career in teaching (although this process with take me about three years to make a full transition). It's something I thought about for a while, but this trip gave me a taste of really making it happen.

Oh boy there was almost too much food! But I'm not really complaining, it was all so delicious. There was plenty of free time too to really explore Romania and my only regret was not being able to contribute more to the physical projects. Next time I will coordinate bringing at least one other person with me to help in that regard and I'd love to bring my mother who is also a teacher to collaborate for additional activities for the kids. Ever since I returned, I've been craving apples :)

The accommodations were top notch, clean, comfortable, and warm. Simona's family are incredibly kind people. When I go back I'm going to have taken more classes in Romanian so I can converse more with her mom.

For one thing, I am much more conscientious about conservation. They do not waste anything over there and I'm trying to retain that mind set now in my daily life. I also don't mean to sound self righteous but I shake my head a little at some of the things people make a big deal about over here. I don't mean this in a bad way, but I just feel like my perspective had shifted to focus on things more important, like helping to build communities and work n problems that everyone is facing rather than my own little world. That of course also requires attention but it needs to be balanced to not be self absorption. In a nutshell, I just feel more grounded and maybe even a little more mature from this experience. But one thing especially that resonated with me was how Simona said that a classroom was really a reflection of yourself and what you bring. The kids are incredibly astute. This is something I will always be mindful of when focusing on what I wish to achieve as a teacher. She really is a wise teacher and we all are very lucky to have her fulfilling this role.

ne of the things we liked was starting off the week by teaching the kids where I was visiting from (California). Then we did a lesson plan on the folk tale of Stone Soup (which was one of my favorite stories growing up) so it was nice to include something that was culturally relevant to where I was from. Finally, our last lesson plan was on creative expression and teaching the kids adjective words so they could express who they were and what they felt by drawing dragons that were reflections of the kids. So having a creative expression was really great for crossing language barriers. I want to see the center get completed first, then I have some ideas about possibly using music next time for teaching language. I'll keep you posted :)

'm hoping to come back to Romania in about two years. Hopefully by then I'll either be a teacher or enrolled in grad school to obtain my teaching degree. Simona's project needs funding to complete the construction process. I was going to research to see if there are any grants available that can help her with this and will spend the next year trying to help connect her with people who might be able to help. Hopefully I can make some headway on that and I will keep you posted.

You really are making this world a better place. Thank you for the enlightening experience. All the best, Natalie - Natalie Poltz, October 2012

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