Jason Edwards leads what he calls "a dichotomous life": He's a 9th grade computer teacher and a world-class mountaineer. But his latest undertaking--an assault on the world's highest peak--will bring both halves together.
As the leader of a Mount Everest climbing team of five Canadians and Americans, Mr. Edwards, 38, is pursuing a lifetime goal of reaching the snowy, 29,028-foot summit in the central Himalayas. The team aims reach its goal early in May.
Mr. Edwards was a guide on two previous Everest climbs in 1991 and 1994 but retreated just short of the summit because of equipment problems or to rescue another climber.
This time, he hopes to use his climb to inspire students to set higher goals for themselves.
"I think most kids are so involved in their day-to-day lives that they don't realize this [kind of activity] is going on," Mr. Edwards, a teacher at Stahl Junior High School near Tacoma, Wash., said in a recent interview. "They think about owning things or having lifestyles--not facing the challenge of the unknown."
The expedition, underwritten by several corporations, has a broader educational mission. Regular reports from the team will be beamed from Nepal by satellite and posted at a site for schools on the Internet's World Wide Web. A Canadian educator stationed at the base camp will coordinate contacts with schools and field students' questions.
Mr. Edwards said he introduced his students gradually to the dangers he will face in high-altitude climbing.
One day he wore his full-body climbing suit and oxygen mask to class, and his teaching colleagues have joined in making the ascent a schoolwide event.
Mr. Edwards said he owes a lot to administrators in the Puyallup, Wash., district for granting him leave to make the climb.
"They realize that there are great things to accomplish out in life that allow a teacher to enhance his ability to share things with students."
The Web address of Adventure Everest is http://www.vrsystems.com/everest. Curriculum materials and full access to the site cost $150 per school.