When she returns to Brooksville Elementary School each August, global lab teacher Kathy Gates' students know she is going to have something interesting to tell them.
Gates travels each summer. Her students know where she is going when the school year ends and look forward to hearing about her adventures when the new year begins.
She never disappoints.
This summer, Gates, 61, spent three weeks in India and Nepal, traveling with an organization that caters to teachers. She likes to tour with such companies, she said, because they are "affordable education trips for teachers" and allow them "to really see the countryside and get to meet the people."
Back in Florida, Gates has been seeing students and telling them her stories.
"They've been enthralled all week," she said. "They're learning how India is the most populated country behind China."
They are also learning about the country's culture, food, dress and architecture.
"They use a lot of red sandstone," she said.
"Cows are sacred in their religion (80 percent of Indians are Hindu)," Gates told her students. "You do not harm a cow. They're everywhere. They're roaming free. Everyone rural has a cow and uses the milk."
The children were also interested to learn that even though there are McDonald's everywhere, they serve only chicken.
Gates showed the children Indian money (rupees), her visa and her passport. She brought back crafts, photos, videos and silk. One of the photos was of a restroom.
"The kids were intrigued with the squat toilet," she said.
She said she saw a lot of extreme poverty, but was impressed by how well dressed the children were in the schools.
"They're scrubbed down, wearing immaculate uniforms," she said.
She explained: "I struck up a conversation with a retired Indian teacher at the Kathmandu Airport. She said they have a Hindu goddess of education. Her name is Saraswati. When children go to school, they in essence enter her temple and must be clean and ready to learn."
In the classroom Gates visited, the children sat on mats on concrete floors and swatted flies, but were orderly and attentive.
"They are learning English and are very proud to read it to you," she said.
A place of particular interest to Gates was Varanasi on the Ganges River.
"They believe that the Ganges River is sacred. They bathe in it every morning. A goal of many is to die there," she said.
In Nepal, Gates said, the look was completely different.
"South Nepal is jungle," she said. "We went on a jungle safari."
They rode elephants and "walked right up on a baby rhino."
Gates is including writing and vocabulary from her trip as part of her classroom lessons and involving art teacher Laurie Enstorm.
Her summer trips are now an annual kick-start to each school year, and information from this trip was well received.
"The kids have eaten up India," she said.
And she hopes the students realize how good they have it in the United States, compared with the poverty-stricken areas she visited.
"I tell them we all think we're poor," she said. "We're not poor."