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MENA-SEA Teacher Program Fellows

Alison Sullivan
Traverse City East Middle School
Traverse City, MI

Twenty-three years ago, I became a teacher for the most selfish of reasons: it guaranteed that I would always have an excuse to learn. I am excited to now expand my learning through the MENA-SEA Teacher Program and to share it with my school community. It is especially inspiring for me to return to my alma mater and be a student again at U-M. My students in northern Michigan have few opportunities to personally experience diverse cultures. I want to bring diversity to them by creating specific units focusing on the history of world religions, the role of culture in international issues, and how one’s worldview shapes life’s decisions. I do not want to simply “cover” this information for my students. I don’t want to just teach tolerance, but to create advocates for diversity in our community. With this goal in mind, I can’t wait to share the lessons of my experience from the MENA-SEA Teacher Program to bring the world alive for my middle-school students.

Because my mother is an immigrant, I have been privileged to live with her perspective in my life. Her mindset has allowed me to look openly at the world and appreciate all the stories people bring with them.

I am eager to meet and converse with people whose experiences are different from mine. This is simply the best way to learn.

I live in Traverse City with my husband Chris (SNRE ‘97) and two sons, Riley (18) and Owen (16). We love going for hikes with our dog Luna, heading to Tigers games, and cheering for the Pistons. Like all teachers, I love to read. My favorite kind of day is one that has a good cup of tea, time to bake a cake, and a book in my hand.

Alison speaks about her experience in the MENA-SEA Teacher Program »

Amy Perkins
Lakeshore High School
Stevensville, MI

I am thrilled to join the 2019-2020 cohort of the MENA-SEA Teacher Program! This unique opportunity will afford me access to academic experts, professional peers, and religious leaders best suited to enhance my understanding of faiths prevalent in Southeast Asia, the Middle East, and North Africa. My World History students have very little direct exposure to diverse viewpoints and religions. Their knowledge of the “outside world” is often limited to details presented in the news and content we discuss in class. To date, I have explored Buddhism and Shintoism in my travels to Japan and South Korea.  I have examined the political and economic dimensions of religious conflicts during my tours of Israel and the West Bank. And this summer I will join Qatar Foundation International on an exploration of the Bedouin culture and religious sites of Jordan. These experiences, paired with my participation in the MENA-SEA Teacher Program, will excite my students’ interest in world religions and introduce them to the various ways in which these diverse faiths shape identity, alter geography, inspire nation-building, provoke wars, and enable peace.

I should add that I am a proud Gator with a graduate degree from the University of Florida and a healthy respect for Wolverines. My partnership with the University of Michigan will most definitely delight my brother and my mother, both U of M graduates, who remain supremely annoyed by my continued affection for my alma mater. My sincere thanks to the Center for Middle Eastern and North African Studies (CMENAS) and the Center for Southeast Asian Studies (CSEAS) for inviting me participate in this extraordinary program!  I look forward to our year of insightful discussions, academic research, and experiential learning. 

Colleen Kalisieski
All Saints Catholic School
Canton, MI

Hello! I’m excited to share in the experience and enthusiasm of my fellow educators in the MENA-SEA Teacher Program. I pursued teaching as a career after studying Art History at Vassar College. So much of what excites me about literature is the same as what excites me about art: its ability to both reflect the larger societies that produced it and impact those who continue to engage with it.

As an English Literature teacher, I have a unique opportunity to present my students with difference, to encourage them to participate in pluralistic inquiry and explore this ability of literature to create discourse. I’m looking forward to strengthening myself not only in terms of my content knowledge of the Middle East, North Africa, and Southeast Asia, but also pedagogically, creating opportunities for my students at All Saints Catholic School in Canton, MI, to engage with difference in a way that helps them make sense of these experiences and further reflect upon their own.

Gabrielle Popp
Beacon Day Treatment
Southgate, MI

I am an English teacher at Beacon Day Treatment, a school for children with behavioral difficulties in Southgate, MI. There are so many things about the MENA-SEA Program that I am looking forward to: the content, field trips, and meeting and collaborating with other educators. The most exciting aspect of this program for me is the ability to be in the role of a student and explore the rich cultural landscape of southeast Michigan. I am passionate about bringing global education into the classroom; it provides my students with a chance to see themselves reflected in the curriculum and learn about cultures other than their own. I plan on incorporating the new information learned into existing units and creating units based on my experiences throughout the year. Teaching and traveling are two of my greatest passions; international educational experiences have been a wonderful way for me to combine both of those passions. I have previously taught English as a Second Language in Oaxaca, Mexico, and in Hangzhou, China. I also recently completed a Fulbright Fellowship to New Zealand, where I looked at best practices to increase school engagement for children with behavioral disorders. 

Greg Dykhouse
Black River Public School
Holland, MI

I [have taught] at Black River Public School since its inception in 1996-1997. Throughout the years I have taught many courses in secondary school, additionally serving for eleven years as Academic Dean. I work with the College Board as a table leader for scoring AP European History examinations, since 2002, and with the Big History Project as a Mentor Teacher Leader, since 2013. I am excited to participate with the MENA-SEA Teacher Program because of the opportunity for my students to explore more deeply the history and culture of world communities, which contribute to the life of Michigan in substantive ways.  My own international study experiences appear limited to Europe, where I completed undergraduate and graduate work (1985-1986, Freiburg, Germany; 1989-1990, Salzburg, Austria; 1993-1994, Vienna, Austria). I have traveled extensively with my family throughout Ontario, Quebec, and the Maritime provinces (including Newfoundland and Labrador).  I look to infuse my Big History and AP European History courses with material that reflects exchanges with Middle Eastern and North African groups, as well as with Southeast Asian people. 

Greg Dykhouse recaps how the program highlights Michigan.

Kiersten Gawronski
Saline High School
Saline, MI

I am really excited to explore the Middle East, North Africa, and Southeast Asia [in the MENA-SEA Teacher Program]! Having the opportunity to learn about the countries, cultures, and vibrant peoples through the program will be life changing. I am open to whatever opportunities are presented and then transferring those opportunities into personal and classroom application. It seems trite, but I love history, travel, cultures, religions, food, and personal connections. I have chaperoned multiple trips to Europe with students and some of my classes have a world focus (“World Mythology” and “The Bible as/in Literature”). The more I can learn the more my students can learn. Knowledge is power and powerful. When we open our eyes through travel and learning, we simultaneously expand and contract our view: we expand through seeing humanity’s interconnectedness and we contract because we internalize and transform through the learning. I hope to take what I learn into my classroom and school by opening students’ eyes (mostly white and Christian eyes) to the beautifully complex world within and beyond Washtenaw County.