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Rich and Kris Besel of Worthington have the Roman Colosseum as a backdrop in this travel photo
Rich and Kris Besel of Worthington have the Roman Colosseum as a backdrop in this travel photo

Expanding horizons: Local teachers experience the world

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Worthington, 56187
Worthington Minnesota 300 11th Street / P.O. Box 639 56187

WORTHINGTON -- Over the last dozen or so years, Rich and Kris Besel have gotten a lot of mileage out of their passports.

Their travels have literally taken them around the world, visiting such faraway spots as China, Egypt, Turkey and most of the European continent. Next on their itinerary is Spain, set for this summer, and the Galapagos Islands in the summer of 2014.

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Their travels are a natural extension of their interests and professions -- both teachers in Worthington Independent School District 518 -- as they have led groups of students on international excursions.

Married for 37 years this coming summer, Rich and Kris met during their studies at St. Cloud State University. Rich was a farm boy from St. James; Kris, a city girl from the Minneapolis area. Despite their different backgrounds, they were drawn together by mutual interests in education and especially music.

Their first teaching jobs were in the small community of Hamburg, Iowa, near the Missouri border. Rich was employed full-time while Kris had a part-time position.

"I taught fifth and sixth grade and drove school bus, too," recalled Rich. "We went down for one year and ended up there for nine years. We wanted to get back to Minnesota, because once it's in your blood, it's always in your blood. And we wanted to get back closer to family."

So in 1985, the Besels moved their young family -- son John is now 34, and daughter Denae, 30, and they have two grandchildren -- to Worthington. Kris has been at Worthington High School for 16 years, teaching communications, speech, theater and English. Rich is at Worthington Middle School, teaching mathematics, reading and communication arts at the sixth-grade level.

They both have distinct preferences for the levels at which they teach.

"I love sixth grade," he said. "At that age, kids are looking at being adults, but inside they are still kids. They are always trying to figure out who they are at the middle school level."

"I could never teach sixth grade," countered Kris. "I like high school kids. It's just a little bit different every day."

The Besels find their careers to be complementary, and Rich sometimes gets to catch up with the kids he once taught through his wife.

"When she gets invited to graduation parties, I get to go along and see them all grown up," he said.

The Besels' first international travel experience was as a family -- a trip to Worthington's sister city, Crailsheim, Germany, with the city band, in 1994 when their kids were still in school. All four of them played with the band, and they relished every moment of the opportunity, although it was an expensive proposition for them at the time.

"I took my first group in 2000," explained Kris. "There was a German teacher (at Worthington High School) who had been an exchange student, and she put together a theater trip to London. Then she had to drop out, so I took my first group by myself.

"I enjoyed it so much, and then I felt guilty that I'd left him at home," she added, looking at her husband.

"Yeah, I went to pick her up at the airport, was waiting there with open arms, and she didn't even tell me how much she missed me. All she said was, 'I want to go back,'" teased Rich.

Kris didn't think about putting together another travel opportunity until some students broached the subject.

"In 2004, I had some kids in a humanities class who said, 'We want to travel. We want to see Italy and Greece,' and asked me to organize it. We had a group of 10, and we had such a fantastic time. The next year, a group of kids saw me at a party and said, 'Where are you going to go next summer?' They wanted to go to China."

Over the subsequent international excursions, the Besels have developed a system of trip leadership. She's the "organizational freak," planning out every last detail of the trip, and Rich takes a more laidback approach.

"That's why we make a good team," said Rich. "I'm the one who says, 'Let's stop here a little longer.' I want to stop and smell the flowers."

They especially take specific roles when dealing with the student tours.

"I lead the group, and he brings up the rear to make sure nobody strays behind," said Kris. "He sometimes plays devil's advocate, asking questions about where we're at -- 'So what is that thing?' Half the time, it's because he didn't do the research prior to the trip and really doesn't know, and the other half it's just to get me to talk about it. He asks the questions that maybe the kids don't want to ask."

"Being a farm boy, I thought maybe I'd get to go to Iowa sometime in my life," quipped Rich. "But Kris infected me with the travel bug, and I'm fortunate to get to go along as the male chaperone."

The group travels -- which are also open to interested adults from the community -- have included: London, Italy-Greece, China, London-France, Italy, Egypt and last year, Scotland and Ireland.

"For the Italy trip the second time around, I'd let the students vote on where they wanted to go, and then none of the kids who had voted for it actually signed up," noted Kris. "So I pick the destinations now."

In addition to their group travels, the Besels have traveled as a couple to Peru, Portugal and Turkey, and they have also extensively explored the United States, including an Alaskan cruise.

"We try to hit some of the places we haven't seen in the U.S.," Kris said. "I think there are only two states we haven't been to. We did Savannah and Charleston last fall. Our bucket list just keeps on growing."

The Besels look forward to seeing Spain this summer, but they are already anticipating an even more ambitious trip to the Galapagos, an archipelago of volcanic islands located near the equator off the coast of Ecuador, renowned for unique species of wildlife.

"We will also spend two days in Ecuador and visit four different islands," explained Kris. "It's an all-inclusive tour."

WORTHINGTON -- Over the last dozen or so years, Rich and Kris Besel have gotten a lot of mileage out of their passports.

Their travels have literally taken them around the world, visiting such faraway spots as China, Egypt, Turkey and most of the European continent. Next on their itinerary is Spain, set for this summer, and the Galapagos Islands in the summer of 2014.

Their travels are a natural extension of their interests and professions -- both teachers in Worthington Independent School District 518 -- as they have led groups of students on international excursions.

Married for 37 years this coming summer, Rich and Kris met during their studies at St. Cloud State University. Rich was a farm boy from St. James; Kris, a city girl from the Minneapolis area. Despite their different backgrounds, they were drawn together by mutual interests in education and especially music.

Their first teaching jobs were in the small community of Hamburg, Iowa, near the Missouri border. Rich was employed full-time while Kris had a part-time position.

"I taught fifth and sixth grade and drove school bus, too," recalled Rich. "We went down for one year and ended up there for nine years. We wanted to get back to Minnesota, because once it's in your blood, it's always in your blood. And we wanted to get back closer to family."

So in 1985, the Besels moved their young family -- son John is now 34, and daughter Denae, 30, and they have two grandchildren -- to Worthington. Kris has been at Worthington High School for 16 years, teaching communications, speech, theater and English. Rich is at Worthington Middle School, teaching mathematics, reading and communication arts at the sixth-grade level.

They both have distinct preferences for the levels at which they teach.

"I love sixth grade," he said. "At that age, kids are looking at being adults, but inside they are still kids. They are always trying to figure out who they are at the middle school level."

"I could never teach sixth grade," countered Kris. "I like high school kids. It's just a little bit different every day."

The Besels find their careers to be complementary, and Rich sometimes gets to catch up with the kids he once taught through his wife.

"When she gets invited to graduation parties, I get to go along and see them all grown up," he said.

The Besels' first international travel experience was as a family -- a trip to Worthington's sister city, Crailsheim, Germany, with the city band, in 1994 when their kids were still in school. All four of them played with the band, and they relished every moment of the opportunity, although it was an expensive proposition for them at the time.

"I took my first group in 2000," explained Kris. "There was a German teacher (at Worthington High School) who had been an exchange student, and she put together a theater trip to London. Then she had to drop out, so I took my first group by myself.

"I enjoyed it so much, and then I felt guilty that I'd left him at home," she added, looking at her husband.

"Yeah, I went to pick her up at the airport, was waiting there with open arms, and she didn't even tell me how much she missed me. All she said was, 'I want to go back,'" teased Rich.

Kris didn't think about putting together another travel opportunity until some students broached the subject.

"In 2004, I had some kids in a humanities class who said, 'We want to travel. We want to see Italy and Greece,' and asked me to organize it. We had a group of 10, and we had such a fantastic time. The next year, a group of kids saw me at a party and said, 'Where are you going to go next summer?' They wanted to go to China."

Over the subsequent international excursions, the Besels have developed a system of trip leadership. She's the "organizational freak," planning out every last detail of the trip, and Rich takes a more laidback approach.

"That's why we make a good team," said Rich. "I'm the one who says, 'Let's stop here a little longer.' I want to stop and smell the flowers."

They especially take specific roles when dealing with the student tours.

"I lead the group, and he brings up the rear to make sure nobody strays behind," said Kris. "He sometimes plays devil's advocate, asking questions about where we're at -- 'So what is that thing?' Half the time, it's because he didn't do the research prior to the trip and really doesn't know, and the other half it's just to get me to talk about it. He asks the questions that maybe the kids don't want to ask."

"Being a farm boy, I thought maybe I'd get to go to Iowa sometime in my life," quipped Rich. "But Kris infected me with the travel bug, and I'm fortunate to get to go along as the male chaperone."

The group travels -- which are also open to interested adults from the community -- have included: London, Italy-Greece, China, London-France, Italy, Egypt and last year, Scotland and Ireland.

"For the Italy trip the second time around, I'd let the students vote on where they wanted to go, and then none of the kids who had voted for it actually signed up," noted Kris. "So I pick the destinations now."

In addition to their group travels, the Besels have traveled as a couple to Peru, Portugal and Turkey, and they have also extensively explored the United States, including an Alaskan cruise.

"We try to hit some of the places we haven't seen in the U.S.," Kris said. "I think there are only two states we haven't been to. We did Savannah and Charleston last fall. Our bucket list just keeps on growing."

The Besels look forward to seeing Spain this summer, but they are already anticipating an even more ambitious trip to the Galapagos, an archipelago of volcanic islands located near the equator off the coast of Ecuador, renowned for unique species of wildlife.

"We will also spend two days in Ecuador and visit four different islands," explained Kris. "It's an all-inclusive tour."

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Beth Rickers is the veteran in the newspaper staff with 25 years as the Daily Globe's Features Editor. Interests include cooking, traveling and beer tasting and making with her home-brewing husband, Bryan. She writes an Area Voices blog called Lagniappe, which is a Creole term that means "a little something extra." It can be found at http://lagniappe.areavoices.com/.  
(507) 376-7327
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