The Learning Journeys Team
The Story of Learning Journeys.
Owners Simon and Michele met at St Andrews University in Scotland where they were both undergraduates completing science degrees. After graduating they did one year teaching diplomas and set off on their careers with Michele eventually becoming Head of Science and Simon Deputy Principal at an international school in Cyprus. It was in Cyprus that Michele became interested in tourism and guiding, leading tours in the Troodos Mountains. It was here also that her passion for wildlife and the environment began.
In 1992 they visited New Zealand and were struck by its beauty, the environment and the lifestyle it could offer them and their three young children. In 1993 they moved to Tauranga in the Bay of Plenty, to start a new life. On arrival Michele enrolled in an Environmental Tourism course at the local polytechnic, a move that changed both their lives. And so their ‘learning journey’ began which in 2001 led to the founding of their business, Learning Journeys.
Michele Beaton – Director, Owner
Michele was born in Germany (Scottish parents) and spent much of her childhood there and in Cyprus, Malta, France, as well as two years living on a boat in the Mediterranean with her parents and 3 siblings. She attended St Andrews University in Scotland graduating with an Honours degree in biochemistry. After completing a Diploma in Education at Dundee University, she moved to England and then Cyprus teaching Biology and Chemistry to ‘A’ Level (year 13).
In Cyprus Michele was an active member of Friends of the Earth and with Simon was involved in a number of campaigns. These included creating Cyprus’s first national park on the Akamas Peninsula, highlighting excessive levels of nitrate in drinking water, publicity against the sale of antibiotics across the counter in pharmacies, raising awareness of ozone depletion and raising funds for the protection of green turtles in the Mediterranean.
On leaving classroom teaching Michele spent two years as part an environmental education team working with teachers to implement the Ministry of Education’s then new Environmental Education Guidelines in schools.
Michele started Learning Journeys in 2001, initially offering curriculum linked field trips to fellow science teachers. Word quickly got around and soon she was offering science and geography trips to visiting overseas schools as well. New Zealand is one of the world’s top tourist destinations, and, with so much on offer, it was a logical step to add adventure and sightseeing tours to Learning Journeys’ repertoire.
Michele also loves languages, regularly guides in French, is currently studying Spanish (has attended language schools in Malaga and Seville) and speaks a little German and Greek.
Simon Beaton – Director, Owner
Simon grew up in Scotland and did a science degree at St Andrews (where he also represented the university and earned his ‘colours’ in judo). Unusually for a science undergraduate, he also managed to study Modern History, a subject that still fascinates him to this day. After graduating he attended the University of London Institute of Education and then started his career as a chemistry and biology teacher (as well as some physics and I.T.). After one year teaching in England, Simon headed off with his new wife, Michele, for Cyprus. Always an ‘environmentalist’ he became ‘chairman’ of the Limassol branch of Friends of the Earth. He also wrote a best-selling educational economics and geography computer program called Geoscan which was widely used in the UK in the 1990’s.
Arriving in New Zealand, Simon left teaching and was initially employed by a firm of insurance brokers. His background in teaching was soon recognised and he was often seen in front of a white board teaching ‘risk management’ to business owners, solicitors and accountants. It was not long before he was senior partner in the firm, which was by then the largest independent brokering firm in the region. His role also grew to include mentoring small business owners which he saw as just another form of teaching. In 2009 Simon sold his share in the business and joined Michele, working with her in Learning Journeys.
Simon still maintains his love of history, reading extensively about Maori and the early European settlers in New Zealand, with many of his groups assuming he must have been a history teacher. He too has a love of languages, which he discovered late in life and for the last two European summers has attended language school in
Learning Journeys is Qualmarked which means we have been externally audited for safety and compliance by Qualmark (which is an organisation that sets standards and monitors tourism operators)
INBOUND TOUR OPERATOR
Additionally we are also full members of the Tourism Export Council which represents all large inbound tour operators in New Zealand which meant another set of standards we had to achieve and yet more auditing.
DEPARTMENT OF CONSERVATION
Finally in terms of external endorsements, we are also licenced as a tour operator by New Zealand’s Department of Conservation or DOC, which means that we can legally take you into the New Zealand Government’s Conservation Estate.