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Mit Frau Orr nach Deutschland reisen

Shelley Orr, right, with chaprones Drew Pelehos, Kaia Pelstring and other chaperones led a group of 44 Red Wing High School students on a European trip. Orr has visited the Neuschwanstein Castle in Bavaria, Germany many times. (submitted photo)

Shelley Orr first traveled to Germany as a high school junior. Taking advantage of that school trip, Orr said, sparked an intrigue that shaped her career and still lasts today. The veteran Red Wing High School German teacher of 34 years never looked back from her initial journey to Europe.

"It made me want to learn everything about Germany," Orr said. "Getting just a taste of it, I fell in love with the culture and the language."

This October, Frau Orr, as she is known by many students, embarked on her 26th trip to Germany, with a group 44 students and nine adult chaperones.

"I know what students will learn from and what they will enjoy," she said. "These trips are perfectly planned and very efficient. We mix in just enough free time for kids to explore on their own and bring in some history and beauty."

Orr said the key to a good trip is a top-notch tour director. Working with various travel companies, Orr said over the past 10 years she has been very happy with Explorica, which focuses on educational travel and student tours.

"I talk to the kids to see what their dreams are, what are some of the things they've always wanted to do," Orr said. "Whether it's eating a bratwurst while listening to polka or skiing in the Alps, we try to make plans around what the kids really want to experience. This trip, we decided to add Venice to the itinerary."

This year's trip was the first time Orr took students over MEA break.

"Traveling during the school year is considerably cheaper than summer travel. I have learned over the years that it's so much more efficient to travel during the off-season," Orr said.

When she first took students abroad, they began as summer trips. Orr said it became harder for students to commit with sports and other activities. The trips then shifted to spring break or winter. Orr said the ease and success of this fall trip will be factored into future planning.

"Seeing my students know and understand things and phrases in German is so rewarding for me," Orr said. "To show kids that there is something beyond the borders of the United States is why I do this. Getting to travel internationally in high school, I think it teaches kids to think differently."

Orr believes the cultural experiences can help enhance academic learning.

"Traveling and seeing the world helps connect the dots in other classes," Orr said. "In history or art classes, if a student has visited a famous or historical location, it sinks in more."

During the trip, Orr met up with a former student, Cameron Beebe, now living in Germany and a current RWHS exchange student, Rachel Jacobson, studying in Germany.

"The world is a lot smaller than you think," Orr said.

Adult tours

After numerous student tours, inquiries started pouring into Orr to lead adult trips.

"Parents of students and friends of mine started asking me to organize adult tours to Europe, so I did," she said.

Orr took her first adult group in the fall of 2015 to England and Ireland. The group had a blast, Orr said, and continued to urge her to plan more tours. An adult tour to Italy and Greece is planned for October 2017. Orr will hold an informational meeting at 6:30 p.m.Thursday, Dec. 1, in her classroom, J206. Email saorr@charter.net for more information.

"Group travel is the most convenient way to go," Orr said. "You save money, time, have no stress and just get to totally immerse in your destinations and make friends."

Over Orr's many trips to Europe, she has seen countless bucket list locations and landmarks, she said. One ultimate destination remains for Orr, however.

"'The Sound of Music' was such a huge part of my life growing up. Like every little girl, I wanted to be Julie Andrews," she said.

This fall, the tour group watched "The Sound of Music" on the bus while driving through the Alps near Salzburg.

"We drove past the fields where they filmed her twirling and singing," Orr said. "Now that I know where it is, next time I will get out and twirl and sing for myself."

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