They say all roads lead to Rome, but Rotorua teacher Gillian Cook never imagined that embarking on further study would lead her to the Vatican.
The John Paul College teacher has been selected to take part in a trip to Rome, which includes spending time in the administration part of the Vatican, lectures from international church document specialists and spending time with the Vatican Congregation for Catholic Education.
Mrs Cook was one of 25 Australian Catholic University master of educational leadership students selected for the trip from around Australia and New Zealand.
While there she will complete two courses towards her master's degree.
"Many of the places and people we will visit are not accessible on a tourist trip."
She said the opportunity to study overseas was exciting in any profession but for teachers of religious education in Catholic schools, an invitation to study at a university in Rome was a highlight of their career.
"They say all roads lead to Rome but I never thought my study would."
Now in her 34th year of teaching - 20 of which have been spent at John Paul College - Mrs Cook said she tried to take whatever opportunities she could when it came to further study. She said it was quite unusual for classroom teachers to have leadership qualifications such as the one she was studying towards, but she had no immediate plans to change her current arrangements which have her teaching eight junior classes - six in religious education and two in cooking.
Mrs Cook said she was looking forward to meeting the group which set down the Catholic education curriculum for all schools around the world.
"To meet with them is quite exciting. My students are intrigued with the whole thing and I've had to start making a list of what they specifically want me to find out about or photograph for them.
"I'm really excited that what I see and learn while I'm away will directly benefit the students who I teach."
She leaves for Italy on June 27 and is due to return in mid-July.