Most people only dream of studying abroad—let alone of traveling across Europe. But Irvine High School humanities teacher Jennifer Donnelly has been there, done that.
She began traveling during her senior year at the University of California, Davis, studying abroad at the University of London, England.
“I lived in London, but it was so close to get to Rome or Dublin that we would travel to different countries,” Donnelly said. “When I started working, I realized that I could afford to have a big trip each summer, especially on a teacher’s schedule. Some of my friends are still in London, so that would be our base, and then I’d fly back, backpack around Europe, see a lot of countries.”
The teacher encouraged students to try studying abroad, as it is relatively affordable; Donnelly said that because the government subsidized her tuition at UC Davis, it was the same price for her to study in England as it would have been to study in the United States.
In fact, the experience turned out to be even more valuable than she had expected—it was what made her realize she wanted to become a history teacher.
“I had a great professor there [in London] who inspired me to want to teach—his name was Mr. Judd,” Donnelly said. “He’s a renowned historian in London, and because I was an apprentice to him I helped him with research. I became more interested in history that way, more excited to learn.”
After working as a substitute teacher in San Diego for one year, Donnelly taught for three years at Northwood High School, after which she transferred to Irvine High. This is her third year at the school teaching U.S. history, world history, political economy, and English.
“I love teaching, especially the challenge of preparing for an AP exam and making it fun and manageable for the students along the way,” Donnelly said. “It really is rigorous coursework— a college class— but then when you see that they can do it and enjoy it, it makes it worthwhile.”
Donnelly also advises multiple clubs and organizations, including Pink Ribbon Club, E.A.R.T.H Club, Link Crew, the California Scholarship Foundation, and Quiz Bowl. Quiz Bowl in particular has more personal significance to her, as she and her friends often meet to play trivia games.
She says that traveling gives her experiences that still inspire her when teaching her students.
“When you travel—like when I went to Iceland— you get all these great pictures and adventures,” she said. “Then you get to bring them back to use it in the classroom. “