By FRED KRONER
Joan Jordan and Linda Meachum are former school teachers who are now in another learning stage.
The retired Lincoln Trail fifth-grade teachers are soaking up first-hand knowledge about places many only know about through books and magazines.
First friends, later card club members, Jordan and Meachum are now traveling companions.
Last month, they were with a group that journeyed to Italy and Greece for a 21-day odyssey.
“We had shirts made up with all (10) of our pictures,” Meachum said.
The photos were arranged in a circle. Inside were the words, “The Greek Goddesses.”
They were attention-grabbers.
“People would look at us and laugh,” Jordan said.
As adults, they’ve led parallel lives that included having next-door classrooms for years, working with the union on teacher contracts and, ultimately, becoming widows.
“Mostly through our collaborative work in the union and teaching the same grade, we bonded,” Meachum said.
They both retired from teaching at the same time, in 2011.
Jordan — the former Joan Gumbel — grew up in Bondville and hasn’t ventured far away.
The trips are a welcome relief.
“The reason I travel is I stayed in the same place all this time,” Jordan said.
Jordan started her Mahomet-Seymour teaching career in 1973, though the interest was sparked years earlier.
“I had four younger brothers,” she said. “We played ‘school’ all the time.
“I read to them.”
She felt fortunate to get a job at a time when others were missing out.
There were administrators, she recalled, who “would not hire anyone with young children. A lot of women didn’t get jobs because they had little ones at home.”
Meachum, in fact, started substituting in 1976, but didn’t start her full-time classroom duties for another decade.
“I stayed home with my two kids,” she said.
Meachum accepted a full-time job offer when daughter Kelly was entering fifth-grade and son Will was starting second grade.
The women had a taste of seeing the sights as teachers.
“We spent a lot of time arranging field trips,” Jordan recalled.
Continuing to travel was a natural next step after they stopped working.
“Teachers are lifelong learners,” Jordan said.
Many of the trips earlier this decade were arranged through Busey Bank’s traveling club.
It was a simple process, Meachum explained.
“Sign up and show up,” she said.
The plan was a fit for Jordan as well.
“I want to get on the bus, have it take me there and then bring me home,” she said.
Those excursions were to various parts of the United States.
“I have a map of the U.S. at home,” Meachum said. “I buy a hat pin and wherever I’ve been, I stick a pin.
“The U.S. is filling up nicely.”
Among the stops they’ve traveled to in the continental U.S. are Nashville, Chicago, Indianapolis, St. Louis, Montana, South Dakota, Napa Valley (Cal.), New England, Florida, Savannah (Ga.), Charlotte (N.C.), and Michigan.
Exploring the countryside — and other countries — was always on the Bucket List for Meachum.
“It’s what my husband (Tom) and I were going to do,” she said. “We were going to travel.”
He passed away in April, 2015.
Linda Meachum is appreciative of the opportunities that still awaited her.
“It’s nice to have a group of friends to travel with,” she said.
Years earlier, she helped Jordan when she lost her husband (Tom) in 1998.
“I had a 9-year-old when my husband died,” Joan Jordan said. “I needed to be home.”
In time, she recognized she needed more.
“I had to have something to do, and Linda introduced me to outside interests,” Jordan said.
They are still active with various card clubs and meet four times a month with different groups.
The trips have expanded globally now and are no longer arranged through Busey. Many are orchestrated by another former M-S teacher, Jean Sattazahn.
“Jean works through all the logistics,” Meachum said. “She does a lot of the legwork.”
More than the territory is unfamiliar.
“None of us knew what to expect,” Jordan said. “Because we taught school, we knew bits and pieces.”
By the time they return from one trip, they have more on the docket to anticipate.
“In January, I’m going to Asia,” Meachum said.
“I have plans next September to go to Africa,” Jordan said.
“I’d like to get to Iceland,” Meachum added. “We’re going to Germany in 2020 (for Oberammergau).”
Jordan — who has a sign that says, ‘Born to Wonder’ — visited Antarctica in March, 2013.
“That was an adventure,” she said. “We sat among the penguins, and whales were 20 feet from our Zodiac boats.”
Virtually every trip has produced its share of highlights.
“In Sydney, we held a Koala Bear and had kangaroos eating out of our hands,” Jordan added. “In Montana, we had a bar-b-que and the bar-b-que meat was on the end of a pitchfork.”
Meachum was impressed with exploring a working sheep farm in New Zealand in 2017.
“To see the way they train the dogs to herd the sheep is amazing,” she said. “They sheared the sheep and passed the wool around. You can go to the farm and buy products that are made right there.”
An excursion to the Galapagos Islands, located in the Eastern Pacific, in June, 2016, was also memorable.
“We went to the different islands and every island is so different,” Meachum said, “from red, sandy beaches to lava.
“The islands were pristine. You couldn’t take food onto the islands. All you could take was a water bottle, your camera, a hat and yourself. We saw a blue-footed boobie.”
Numerous other former M-S teachers besides Jordan, Meachum and Sattazahn have joined in for some of the trips. Among the other travelers are Eileene Bunting, Jane Fisk, Janice Koelkebeck, Germaine Light, Judy Swiger and Janet Wattnem.
More changes may be in the works.
“We’re open to adding people,” Meachum said. “We’ve not exclusive. We’re inclusive.”
Meachum got the traveling bug when her children were in high school and participating with the choir.
She chaperoned overseas trips each took with the choir, one to Austria and one to Hawaii.
Meachum hasn’t slowed down.
“My theory is to do it while I can,” she said. “You don’t know what’s around the corner or down the road.”
Jordan and Meachum still have commitments locally. They serve as co-presidents for the Champaign County Retired Teachers Association. Jordan is also president of the Illinois Education Association of Retired Teachers.
Meachum said when she finally visits all of the locations that remain on her Bucket List, she may schedule a final additional venture.
“I’d like to take a trip and sit on a beach for a week and do nothing,” she said.