Sonora Middle School EAST instructor Derek Ratchford is only the second teacher from Arkansas
ever selected as a Grosvenor Teacher Fellow by the National Geographic Society and Lindblad
Expeditions. This is the 14 th year of the program.
“This is a huge opportunity,” said Ratchford. “I want to be the teacher who never stops learning,
the type who jumps in with my kids and explores the content right along with them. This experience will
help me share with our students how huge the world is. I want them to be explorers, whether it is in the
world, as astronomers or in the classroom.”
The Grosvenor Teacher Fellowship is a field-based professional development opportunity made
possible by a partnership between National Geographic and Lindblad Expeditions. When travel
conditions allow, Ratchford and the other 49 Teacher Fellows will embark on a one-to-three week
voyage aboard a Lindblad Expedition ship.
Fellows will travel in small groups to some of the world’s most remote and extraordinary
environments, including the high Arctic, southeast Alaska, Central America, Antarctica and the
Galapagos Islands. The Fellows will encounter wildlife and explore breathtaking landscapes while
accompanied by a team of Lindblad Expeditions naturalists, including marine biologists, geologists,
historians, undersea specialists and National Geographic photographers.
The Fellows will return home with an experience they will translate into reimagined curricula
that inspire their students, colleagues and communities to care more deeply about the planet and take
action on global issues.
“I am looking forward to seeing one of the most remote places on the planet and bringing a
unique and once in a lifetime perspective back to my classroom, my school, my district and my state so I
can help build future explorers and a love for storytelling and empathy for others.
“When you think about National Geographic and Lindblad Expeditions you immediately think
about exploration, storytelling and wildlife. They open the eyes of the world to what is out there. It is a
huge honor they saw me and what we do in EAST at Sonora Middle School as exemplary.”
Ratchford credits the Springdale School District for “being a district that values learning for all,
including educators. In my second year as a teacher I was at J.O. Kelly Middle School and the principal,
Sara Ford, said she wanted me to go with three others to Boston to a conference to learn about Project
Based Learning and the Flipped Classroom approach. It was at that moment I knew if I wanted to be the
best for my students, I needed to learn from doing and learn from the best.
“That same mindset transitioned with me to Sonora Middle School and the principal, Dr. Martha
Dodson. All I had to say was I think this will help me and our kids and she would figure out a way to
make it happen, like the National Geographic Education Summit in October, 2019 that introduced me to
a new way of thinking and approach to exploration in the classroom.”
Ratchford is among the many outstanding teachers who make Springdale Public Schools