The world is this special teacher’s classroom

Published: January 17, 2008 | 6920th good news item since 2003

Patty Stone pulled a page out of an Atlas and began tracking the South American journey of her 25-year-old daughter, Sarah. A trail of yellow highlighter snaked through Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Panama, Colombia, Ecuador and Peru.

A life of adventure has long appealed to Sarah Stone, and she spent most of 2007 trekking through Central and South America.

After graduating with a degree in psychology from the UNC Chapel Hill in 2005, Stone taught in Wilmington and worked with children with special needs. While she loved the area and her job, she wanted to explore the world before settling down into real life, she said.

“I wanted to do something exciting and a change of pace before becoming so career-oriented. I was able to combine teaching, which I love, with traveling,” said Stone, who spent a semester in Italy for a study-abroad program in college.

She and her boyfriend, Rhett Schools, also a teacher, enrolled in Transworld Schools in San Francisco in February 2006. It took a month to train to for certification in TESOL (teaching English to speakers of other languages).

By March, they had started their travels in Guatemala, meandering down to Ecuador.

For one month, Stone lived in Costa Rica with her college roommate who was living there as part of a mission trip.

In May, she returned to Kernersville before heading back to South America. She began teaching in Cuenca, Ecuador, in August.

She was paid $250 a month.

“We were paid very little, but it was enough to survive. It is very easy to live on $2 a day there,” said Stone said.

A dollar paid for lunch. That would include a meat, salad, juice, rice and beans. Rent was $50 a month in a picturesque terra cotta colored street side apartment with turquoise shutters.

When Patty and John Stone visited their youngest child in November, they stayed in an upper-story apartment, paying $75 for one week’s visit. The luxurious hotel in Cuenca had a nightly rate of $50.

Life slowed to a different pace for Stone. She walked to school where she taught adults and children to speak English. She had no car and no television. She spent her days teaching, reading, cooking, shopping for fresh vegetables and fruits in the market and traveling.

Her hair grew long and wavy. Upon return to the U.S., Stone had her hairdresser cut off 10 inches to donate to Locks of Love to make wigs for cancer patients.

While learning about the culture of South America, Stone also took time to scuba dive while living in South America and received her master-scuba certification.

Born without her right hand, the certification process took extra diligence during the skills performance.

“I had to take all of the equipment off and put it back on underwater. They gave me a little extra time,” Stone said.

Visiting the Galapagos Islands in the Pacific Ocean was amazing, she said.

“She’s been figuring things out her whole life,” Patty Stone said. “I really admired her for going on such an adventure.”

Now that Stone is back in the United States, she is teaching English as a second language part time at Konnoak Elementary School in Winston-Salem while saving for her next round of travels. She plans to get her master’s degree and hopes to teach abroad again one day.

“I’d like to go back to South America, and I’d like to go to Asia,” Stone said. “I can’t see staying in one place my whole life.”

Published in Teachers
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