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2021-2022 MENA-SEA Program Fellows

Abigail Kuhn

Charlotte Middle School
Charlotte, Michigan
Grade 7 World History, Grade 8 U.S. History

Quite simply, I love to learn, and I love doing so with other people. I am eager to be part of a deep dive into an often-misunderstood part of the world, and then share what I learn with students and colleagues through new lessons and professional conversations. As it becomes increasingly important to understand those from whom we are different, I am looking forward to developing my own thinking in ways that will support me in improving how I represent the diverse cultures and religions of the Middle East, North Africa, and Southeast Asia. In turn, I will be better equipped to craft lessons across social studies disciplines that honor all people and assist students in appreciating and celebrating diversity.  Additionally, I desire for my students to develop empathy and to listen to understand, while also becoming more aware of who they are and their place in our increasingly connected world. In 2013 I traveled to China as part of a group of a dozen teachers with National History Day for an immersive study of leadership in China in the 20th Century. Not only did this experience help continue to deepen my understanding of this part of the world, but it also challenged me to step out of my comfort zone and served as a humble reminder of all the learning I can still do. I continue to use my own travel, professional and personal, to share with my students my life of learning and desire to explore the world. Having previously lived in Ann Arbor for a number of years, I look forward to “coming home” and experiencing the University of Michigan in a new way while connecting with educators from across the region as we learn together throughout the year.     

Anthony Zanin

Hutto High School
Hutto, Texas
Grade 9 AP Human Geography, Grades 10-12 Psychology

As a lifelong learner and a teacher of social studies, I am always seeking unique opportunities to learn more about the world around us and to bring these experiences back to my students. Most of my educational background has been focused in American and European history, which has led me to seek opportunities to study other areas of the world. I have had the opportunity to participate in various different programs, including those hosted by the University of Texas at Austin, the University of Arizona, Duke-UNC Consortium for Middle East Studies, Harvard University’s Reischauer Institute of Japanese Studies, which have greatly enriched my teaching of different regions of the world. These experiences have allowed me to be more creative in my teaching and brought new resources and perspectives to my teaching. I find students to be more engaged as well as have an interest in furthering their learning outside of the classroom. Having the ability to attend [this] programs allows me to broaden my understanding of the Middle East, North Africa, and Southeast Asia to better enrich the content presented to my students. I look forward to the opportunity to learn more about the rich diversity of these regions and to learn more about the religious and cultural identities of Southeast Asia.

Bryan Williams

Pritzker College Prep
Chicago, Illinois
Grade 10 AP World History, College Prep World History, Push-In World History, World History

I am incredibly excited to be a part of the MENA-SEA Teacher Program for the 2021-2022 school year. What excites me the most about being a part of this program is having the opportunity to engage in activities with educators from the Midwest, and going deeper into an area of study that I am greatly interested in. What I look forward to the most about being a part of this experience is the ability to learn more about the Middle East, North Africa, and Southeast Asia and bring that knowledge back to my students, helping them open their eyes to cultures that are different than their own. As an educator, I believe that this is incredibly important for us to do.

I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to study abroad in Galway, Ireland, for two summers. During my time there I not only was able to explore the beautiful treasures that Ireland has to offer, but I also had the opportunity to learn about the Irish school system. My time in Ireland was a phenomenal experience and I loved being able to immerse myself in a culture that was different from my own. While not related to international education, I have had the opportunity to travel to Egypt, Kenya, Tanzania, Thailand, Italy, and the Czech Republic. With each visit, I make sure to bring back something specifically related to that country's culture so that I can incorporate it into my classroom and have my students see the beauty in it.

I anticipate taking everything that I learn from this program back with me to my colleagues. I am the type of person who is constantly taking notes when attending PDs and my time within the MENA-SEA Teacher Program will be no different. When I am not teaching I am most likely enjoying the outdoors with my wife and my dog Wallace, or I am reading. I look forward to working with everyone here!

Christine Sloan

Lakeshore High School
Stevensville, Michigan
AP Literature, College Writing, and Honors Sophomore English

I am so excited to be part of this year’s cohort for the MENA-SEA Teacher Program. Two years ago, one of my colleagues entered the program and emerged a changed individual. While she was always an excellent teacher, she now had even more passion and drive for engaging her students in the interesting work of learning about the world with her. She invited me to attend an event at U of M with a speaker from Myanmar, and by the time the evening was over I knew that this was a program I wanted to be part of.

Too often, my curriculum includes only the limited scope of my own experiences and choices. I was an adventurous kid who loved to travel and try new things, and somewhere along the line, I fear I lost some of that curiosity. While I did visit Europe several times during my life, I have not traveled to other continents; learning now about areas in the world that I have never investigated will allow me to introduce new cultures and ideas to my students as well as broaden my own knowledge.

Most of my life’s travels have happened within the pages of a book. I learned early that people are very much the same inside, regardless of their external circumstances – we fall in love, we laugh, we grieve, we strive to make the world a better place. The compassion deficit that we see in our country feels directly related to the lack of exposure to other countries, other stories, and other histories. I am a storyteller, but I am increasingly realizing that the stories I share are insular in their scope; it is time that I share the stories of other people with my students that will allow them to think beyond the confines of our small-town classroom and become more global citizens. 

I feel like a kid about to have the first day of school all over again, and I can’t wait!


Deanna Jones

El Camino Jr. High School
Santa Maria, California
Grade 7 World History

As a 15-year-old high school sophomore, I traveled to Europe with 20 other high school students. With our Spanish teacher as our watchful chaperone, we toured England, France, Spain, and Portugal for a few weeks. Little did I know that experience would change my life forever. It opened my eyes to the world and gave me an education like no textbook could ever provide. Because of that trip, I pursued a career in archaeology, allowing me to explore history and culture around the world. Now, I love opening my students’ minds to the world beyond their horizons, much like my Spanish teacher did for me all those years ago. This is why I am excited to participate in this teacher program. I am eager to learn about the cultures and religions of the Middle East, North Africa, and Southeast Asia so that I’ll be able to provide my students with high-quality information and first-hand experiences to teach them to be curious and respectful of others.

While my teaching is contained within the walls of my classroom, I take it upon myself to travel extensively whenever I can. I seek out opportunities to blend my passion for teaching and traveling. This love of learning inspired me to apply for many teacher programs. In the summer of 2019, I was honored with the opportunity to travel to Morocco with 14 other American educators as part of the Fulbright-Hays fellowship. But that experience didn’t quench my thirst for knowledge, instead, it ignited the fire within me to continue learning. I’ve also been awarded a fellowship with the Yad Vashem museum in Jerusalem, where I will learn about the Holocaust. In addition, I’ll be studying the European Union with the University of Pittsburgh’s Brussels Study Tour. These hands-on experiences, along with the MENA-SEA program, will undoubtedly enhance my ability to teach students about the world.

As a teacher leader with the California Global Education Project (CGEP), I am able to share knowledge with educators across my state. In conjunction with the CGEP, I’ve begun a culture box project, which will allow teachers to borrow carefully curated boxes of artifacts and books to help them teach about various world cultures. By participating in the program, I’ll have the opportunity to learn and travel to a new destination, not only giving me firsthand experiences, but also the chance to develop additional culture boxes so that I may amplify this knowledge for other teachers and their students. I am very honored and excited to be a part of the 2021-2022 MENA-SEA Teacher Program!

Elisabeth Wood-Wallace

University of Detroit Jesuit High School
Detroit, Michigan
Grade 9 World History, Grades 11-12 Sociology and Asian History

I studied art history, sculpture, and biology at Emory University before earning a Master’s in Japanese Studies and a Master’s in Education from the University of Michigan. I have worked as a professional seamstress and customer, a research assistant, a docent at a living history site, an English and Japanese tutor, an art gallery attendant, and a museum archivist before finding my place in secondary education. All of these experiences fostered my appreciation and respect for international education, research, and collaboration. I am grateful and excited to be part of the MENA-SEA Teacher Program and I’m hoping to gain more of the tools and knowledge necessary to decolonize the history curriculum as well as build students’ appreciation, understanding, and respect for diverse religious and cultural backgrounds. This incredible opportunity will help me bring more education to my students about regions of the world our classes haven’t previously studied or celebrated enough.

Jenny Oster

Houghton Lake Community Schools
Houghton Lake, Michigan
Grades 10-12 Economics, World History, Government

During my twenty-year career with the district, I have [also] taught American History and various English classes to high school students. I have been able to partner with our local community college, Kirtland Community College, to teach American Government to dual-enrolled, exceptional high school learners. Outside of my classroom duties, I am the social studies department head, the building school improvement chairperson, and I also have the pleasure of serving my fellow teachers as the president of our local teachers’ association. Living in beautiful northern Michigan, I find the time to enjoy the outdoors. I love to snowshoe in the winter and boat in the summer. My other hobbies include reading, gardening, and cooking.

I am very excited to grow and develop as an educator through the MENA-SEA Teacher Program! As a rural area teacher, I have had little opportunity to advance my knowledge in this content area and truly look forward to learning as much as I can for myself and my students. Like many, I feel more confident as an American History teacher than a World History teacher due to the hands-on experiences I have had in that content. I have worked with other teacher collaborative programs on various US history eras. Through this work of sharing and learning shoulder-to-shoulder, I have been able to make a huge impact on my classroom instruction. I hope to improve my content knowledge and confidence as a World History teacher with this new learning experience through the MENA-SEA Teacher Program. 

Megan Cummins

Midland High School
Midland, Michigan
Grades 9-12 English and Drama

I am thrilled to be able to bring new knowledge from the MENA-SEA Teacher Program back to my students. One of my primary jobs as an educator is to teach my students to think critically about the world around them, a world that looks different from the halls of their school. I feel that it is important that my students are given the opportunity to hear other voices and perspectives in a very real and meaningful way and [this] program provides me resources to do just that. I have actively sought out such courses through my post-graduate work through courses on Human Rights and World Literature. I have actively participated in Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion committees in both my school building and my district. However, this program will demonstrate new and creative ways to encourage student exploration of global issues in my classroom. I must recognize that my voice is the one that my students hear most often, and my voice is still coming from my own perspective and privilege. If I want my students to be global citizens, then I, too, must be a global citizen.  I am eager for the opportunity for both the students and me to be able to make greater connections, improve critical thinking, and develop greater appreciation and respect for voices that are not our own.

Robin Roberts

Frankenmuth High School
Frankenmuth, Michigan
Grade 10 World History, AP World History

I'm very excited to be a part of the 2021-2022 cohort. Ever since I was little, I've been fascinated by stories of far away or long ago places.  In my free time, I love to read historical fiction or research genealogy. Having the opportunity to share with my students not only the stories of past societies, but the skills historians use when discovering these narratives is a great joy to me as I teach. I look forward to interacting with other like-minded people as we delve deeper into understanding the wide variety of cultures and lifestyles that color our planet. I've spent time working with other teachers and educators at the AP Readings in the past, but I look forward to interacting more directly with educational leaders from international entities as a part of this program. My hope is that my experience in [the MENA-SEA Teacher Program] will provide me with a greater understanding of world religions and cultures and allow me to pass along this information, creating deeper connections between my students and their peers throughout the world.

Sam Ness

Copper Canyon High School
Glendale, Arizona
Grade 9-10 AP Human Geography & World History

Teaching is not a field in which an educator thrives while working in isolation. I am most excited to be surrounded by teachers who are passionate learners in their craft. This program recruits and requires the best teachers as participants. To be on the young side of life, and also of career, being selected is an honor and something I am grateful for. I am eager to see how I implement content I am given into my classroom, bringing more of my students' backgrounds into the curriculum.

In regard to the regions [under study], I know the basics. I am looking forward to learning more about the culture, society, how religion impacts both, and how they are similar and yet beautifully different from the lifestyle I know here in metropolitan Phoenix, Arizona. I specifically take interest in the architecture of the Middle East and North Africa, so I am excited to have more time learning about that potentially.

While in school, I was always surrounded by international students, and have always had a desire to travel all the corners of the world. I now teach in a school with over 30+ languages spoken by families. Learning and experiencing a culture most of the world is fairly uneducated about excites me because it bridges cultures, peoples, and languages. History is a story and to leave out these regions or push them to be minor characters is a disservice. I truly have a global classroom and to be able to give students history which they can be proud of and relate to gives me joy because it builds the relationships and gives them something to take ownership of.

My district is consistently revising the curriculum to ensure it is up to state and cultural standards. Passing the knowledge imparted to my team and department is a leadership role I look forward to. When it comes to my district many schools are like mine, therefore it will benefit many teachers. I am excited to spend more time focusing on these regions in the future.

Sharolyn Stauffer

Star Valley High School
Afton, Wyoming
Grade 10 World History, College Concurrent US History, College Concurrent US Government

Greetings, global citizen friends! I am finishing 27 years of teaching and love it more than ever. 

I am thrilled to participate in the MENA-SEA Teacher Program. I have been to Morocco and a few places in the Middle East, but not to Southeast Asia yet. My favorite foods are from the region, and I am a good cook and experiment with them on my family and friends, usually to their delight. Recently I have been exploring women hip hop artists of the region and how they are using that voice to influence policy and awareness of certain issues. This opportunity will allow me to keep exploring and learning about these regions, especially Southeast Asia, which I would like more experiences and learning in. 

As a Teachers for Global Classrooms fellow with the US Department of State since 2012, I have gained a wonderful network of teachers around the world. I have traveled to Israel and Palestine, Jordan, Oman, Qatar, Turkey, and Morocco, mostly with educational fellowships. I was also on the Qatar Foundation International’s first teacher leader cohort of 2018-2020, in which I was able to learn, in a series of extended weekend workshops, with other teacher leaders about teaching the region and learning from scholars. I am also a Transatlantic Outreach Program fellow and traveled to Germany with a group of teachers I still network with. These past programs and travel have taught me how important it is to observe, be open-minded, and especially listen. I eagerly anticipate learning with other teachers and scholars, as well as, hopefully, traveling to a southeast Asian country, and bringing back new understandings and resources to engage my students in learning about these amazing regions. I also see this program as a wonderful opportunity for me personally to build on my learning and share with other educators in Wyoming and even in my side hustle job as a faculty adjunct. 

Stenn Jedele

Dearborn High School
Dearborn, Michigan.
Grade 9 World History

In the past, I taught US Government, Economics, and a variety of [English as a New Language] classes. I am very much looking forward to the MENA-SEA Program for a lot of reasons! First and foremost, I'm looking to develop a curriculum that is more culturally responsive to my students. On top of that, I am excited to address a gap in how World History is typically taught. Too often, "world" history has a Euro-centric focus, so I look forward to acquiring the tools to give my students a more global perspective on history. I am eager to collaboratively design lessons, projects, and/or units that I can take back to my World History content team and, perhaps, the district social studies council.

My experience with international education started when I taught a course called Oral English for one year in a Chinese public school in Hunan. After that, I earned a master's degree in International Educational Development from Teachers College in New York City. While in NYC I taught in so-called "international schools" in the public school system - schools that cater specifically to the needs of NYC's diverse immigrant population. Then, I moved back to my native Michigan for the 2018-19 school year and began teaching in Dearborn, a district with international relevance due to its demographic makeup and its still active ties to the Middle East. International education offers many advantages - and I tend to gravitate toward it just because I am always curious to learn about other cultures! - but I am most interested in comparing methods and perspectives in order to enrich my own practice and those of my colleagues.

Learn about the previous program fellows by visiting the cohorts' pages: