Carol Vaughan usually brings Egypt into the classroom, but next week she’s taking the classroom to Egypt.
Vaughan, who has taught ancient Egyptian history for 25 of her 30 years of teaching, is traveling to the north African nation for the first time with a group of 20 former students and parents.
“I have 3 ‘e’s’ that I love in the classroom — elephants, Egypt and Elvis,” Vaughan said with a laugh. “Now I actually get to see one of those things and explore everything we’ve studied.”
Vaughan takes students on trips to Europe every other summer and was excited to see Egypt in her catalogue of choices this year. She sent postcards to former students and asked them to spread the word.
“I told them, ‘Momma C’s finally getting to go,’ and just like that had students and parents sign up to go,” she said. “So many alumni said they would give anything to see me at the pyramids. It’s going to be a lot of fun, and I got married in December, so he gets to see my passion.”
Vaughan began her career at Lakeview Academy before moving to Chestatee Middle School, where she teaches history by telling stories. Knowing that students would rather discuss myths and beliefs rather than memorize facts and dates, she sits in a rocking chair and talks to them.
Fascinated with Egypt, she has collected books, movies and artifacts and visited museums in the U.S. Now she gets to tell tales from her own travels.
“I always start a unit with a myth about that civilization. Egyptians believed the world was covered in water with an egg floating on top, and the sun god Ra hatched out of it to give life to Egypt,” she said. “As we go through the myth, the students don’t realize they’re learning the geography of the Nile or its natural resources. Of course, when we get to the embalming process, the boys just love hearing about how they broke into the brain cavity and slushed it out through the nose.”
The stories stick, and 10th-grader Savannah Cain said they helped her to remember facts for her Advanced Placement World History class this year.
“She definitely knew how to help us remember about Ramses and his sons, Cleopatra and Caesar and their adventures,” said Cain, who is looking forward to traveling with several close friends. “She taught us not just about Egypt but the Renaissance and everything.”
The stories and travels will also prove helpful for those who take AP World History next year, like 10th-grader Sara Bethel.
“It’ll be a great start to the year because the class actually starts with ancient Egypt,” she said.
“I remember a ton from Ms. Vaughan’s class because she would read stories from the Old Testament and go back and recreate it with descriptive imagery, like the story of the 10 plagues and Moses going down the river in a basket.”
During the weeklong trip, the students will visit Cairo, cruise on the Nile and explore the Valley of the Kings, where King Tutankhamen’s tomb was unearthed.
The group also will visit the Temple of Horus, which is the best preserved temple in Egypt, as well as the Aswan High Dam and the 200-foot-high step pyramid of Sakkara. On the last day, the students travel to the Great Pyramids and the Sphinx of Giza.
“I’m looking forward to the Valley of the Kings and King Tut because the kids are always so fascinated with his wealth in the tomb,” Vaughan said. “I tell them he wasn’t much of a king and ruled for 10 years, and I can’t wait to show them all the other artifacts from great pharaohs like Moses III and Ramses II who ruled up to 60 years.”
Debra Davison, mother of Nathan Davison, has no idea what to expect when she and her son tag along.
“More so than the historical is the land of the Bible, for me,” she said. “I’m getting to put my feet where Joseph walked, and it’s interesting in the spiritual sense of the walk. In contrast to the physical, it really makes me wonder about the spiritual.”