The student news site of Westwood High School.

Westwood Horizon

The student news site of Westwood High School.

Westwood Horizon

The student news site of Westwood High School.

Westwood Horizon

Teachers After 4:10 — Ms. Katherine Hickman


  Have you ever dreamed of travelling to far-off places, seeing things that seem to only exist on Tumblr? Well, that is Ms. Katherine Hickman’s reality: during summers between teaching Algebra II and Statistics here at Westwood, Ms. Hickman travels the world with friends and family, from caring for AIDS patients in South Africa to summiting Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania.

Ms. Hickman started travelling when she was young, taking vacations with her parents and siblings around popular spots in the U.S.

“We did family vacations growing up, like when we were younger we would go to Destin, Florida and go to the beach, or go to Colorado and go skiing, so we did little in-the-States trips like that,” Ms. Hickman said. “We went to Hawaii one year, which I loved – we would always go out and explore, see the volcanoes or hike around; we went to Costa Rica one year, that was awesome, because there’s an active volcano there and you can actually see the little lava chunks come up! We took some cool vacations – I feel like they were normal, but when I started to talk to other people about my vacations, it was like ‘oh, this isn’t normal.’”

When she started college, Ms. Hickman’s family began serving on mission trips in South Africa, helping fund an orphanage for HIV+ children and taking care of those who suffer from AIDS.183842_10100318390200448_4408416_n

“They have a hospice for AIDS patients and we spent time with them, because those are people who are dying – once they’re in the hospice they can’t take care of themselves,” Ms. Hickman. “We worked with a lot of kids, sharing with them and helping other people out. We would fundraise while we were at home, depending on what they needed, and then helped them with whatever they needed when we were there.”.

After going to South Africa, Ms. Hickman began extending the trips, visiting other destinations along the way and after the missions were over.

“It started with going on a safari, visiting Cape Town – other stuff in South Africa,” Ms. Hickman explained. “Then my mom, my sister, and I went to Greece one year after we left South Africa, and then my second year here [at Westwood] I went to Switzerland, Austria, and Germany afterwards with my mom and we just hopped around and stayed in different places; then she flew home and I flew to Italy and met Ms. Obarowski and Ms. Willaman, two other math teachers here, and we travelled around Italy for ten or twelve days.”

After years of travelling, one of Ms. Hickman’s biggest adventures occurred: climbing Mount Kilimanjaro. Along with her dad and their close friends, she backpacked up the 19,341 foot dormant volcano, the highest peak in Africa.

“Kilimanjaro will always bIMG_0803e at the top of my list, because it was the craziest adventure I had ever gone on. I’d never really done any backpacking or anything like that before, so going and staying on the side of a mountain for a week and hiking through the wilderness was new,” Ms. Hickman said, reliving her most exhilarating adventure. “It’s so beautiful, and you’re up there in the clean air – it was a really cool place to be, and the accomplishment that goes with that, standing on the top of that mountain – that feeling is so cool, it’s super rewarding.”

Ms. Hickman has also had the opportunity to see some of the most beautiful places in the world, as well as experiencing their local culture and way of life.

“When I went to Austria this summer I stayed in a place called Hallstatt: it’s gorgeous. It’s in the Alps, and it’s on this lake that’s fed by glacier water, so it’s the cleanest water – its freezing! – but it’s the cleanest water I have ever been in (we swam in it, cause you can’t go and not swim!). We stayed with this family and got to know them, and ate at local places, because it’s a small town, there’s only like a thousand people, so they told us what to do and where to hike. Most people who go through there just do the tourist things – and we dIMG_1677id do those things, but we also hiked around and spent time with the people, and that was really cool,” Ms. Hickman said.

With all the amazing places Ms. Hickman has explored and the breathtaking things she’s seen, she’s always adding to her list of where to go next. If she were given a plane ticket and left tomorrow, Ms. Hickman excitedly stated that she’d love to visit New Zealand.

“Given the time of year, it’s summer [in New Zealand], so I would be able to spend a lot of time in nice weather and hike around and adventure there – that would probably be where I would go,” Ms. Hickman stated.

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