For the past seven years, Erin Riley's love of teaching and bridging cultural gaps has taken her to many exotic places. But her current trip, and her method of travel, may be the most exotic of all.
For the past seven years, Riley has been taking high school and junior high school students abroad for study.
"It's phenomenal. I love doing it. It's amazing but you can only take so many," Riley said.
So she came up with a way to take as many students as are interested by starting Teachers on Bikes.
Riley teamed up with Marin Aldich, a teacher from the San Francisco area, to ride from Panama to the Mexico/California border. Along the way, she will have 20 to 25 classes that will participate by logging onto their website and getting updates from the trek.
Genevieve Herrick, a 7th and 8th grade teacher of Social Studies and Spanish at Dunn Middle School hopes to use some of the website content in her Spanish class.
"I thought it would be a great chance to have them listen to native speakers," Herrick said.
Riley will focus on various questions and answers from students and post interviews in Spanish and English.
Riley expects some interesting questions from students.
Riley gave a presentation at a Santa Barbara school and the students asked questions like, "How come Costa Rica doesn'at have an army? And how come if they don't have an army they don't get taken over?"
The trip will make an important part of school curriculum because of California's proximity to Mexico and Central America.
"California has a large population of students who have ties to Central America or Mexico but yet our curriculum is European-based," she said.
Riley, a native of the Santa Ynez Valley, has taught at the Outdoor School and at schools in Ojai and in Japan. She recently took a year off and to complete a masters program. An avid bicyclist, Riley has taken students on biking trips as well.
"You go at a speed where I can take everything in. You're exposed to the elements, and the peole. And you meet a lot of people. You can't prevent it. And it keeps you in shape," she said. "When we get back we'll really be in shape."
She said anyone is welcome to interact on the website www.teachersonbikes.com.