Heather Halstead
Reach the World classroom visits The Explorers Club HQ

Heather Halstead

Virtual Education Pioneer

reach the world

meet heather

In 1998, Heather Halstead, a pioneer of virtual exchange, founded Reach the World (RTW), a global education nonprofit with a mission to bring the world into the classroom. RTW accomplishes its mission by identifying volunteer travelers and explorers, managing web-based content they post, and delivering support and professional training to classroom teachers. Halstead has led a world circumnavigation aboard a small sailboat—equipped with one of the world’s first satellite transmitters—to demonstrate how explorers’ voices could bring the world into the classroom, connecting their own journeys in real time to often under-resourced educational institutions.

reach the world
Nominated by: Brianna Rowe MI'11
Class of 2023 Location USA

Virtual exchange programs—defined as sustained, technology-enabled, people-to-people education programs—can vastly expand the number and diversity of young people who have access to profound global experiences as part of their education. Yet, when I launched Reach the World (RTW) in 1998, such critical teaching tools simply did not exist. I am happy to say that RTW has played a significant role in their development. As individuals cultivate their curiosity, compassion, and confidence through the forging of global relationships, each is better equipped to make the most of their personal journey through life and work. The building of such global relationships contributes positively to the social fabric, providing an enhanced prospect for the development of international understanding and fostering an explorer mindset in the community at large.

“My goal with RTW has always been to weave global storytelling into the school day in all subject areas, for all students, in all communities.”

- Heather Halstead

I consider an absence of a global network to be as significant a barrier to self-determination as many other drivers of enduring poverty and prejudice. Technological tools, if deployed at scale, can give all youth access to positive, personal global networks, which, in turn, can power opportunity. They also power positive attitudes and beliefs. My goal with RTW has always been to weave global storytelling into the school day in all subject areas, for all students, in all communities. Through RTW’s virtual exchanges, students not only get to meet the leader of an expedition; they also get to know all of the roles that contribute to an expedition’s success.

In the past, exploration was reserved for the very few. Today, RTW flings the doors to exploration wide open, inviting children in to share in the journey and imagine that they are explorers, too.

My hope is that RTW will continue to build out sophisticated CRM, CMS, and automated matching tools that can bring the world into the classroom at a tremendous scale. This will help build future generations of curious, confident, and compassionate global citizens who will approach our complex future on planet Earth with the explorer mindset intact.

there are 49 other visionary explorers

read about the class of 2023