NEH Summer Institute for School Teachers Oaxaca, Mexico

NEH Summer Institute for School Teachers July 11 to August 7, 2010 Oaxaca, Mexico
The overall goal of the Mesoamerica Institutes is to increase such content in the curricula of our schools, whether in language courses, social studies, or the arts, and to build appreciation for the heritage embraced by a large percentage of our population and by our neighbors.

Participant's Blogs

Participants N-Z

Pearl Lau
        Artist, art educator, Brooklyn, NY
I am so excited to be able to study art and architecture in Oaxaca. I love old cultures and have studied Chinese art in China, and the Renaissance in Italy. While searching, I found a piece of Mesoamerican art that closely resembled a vase from the Shang Dynasty. My elementary school is title one and three in Brooklyn, NYC. Most of my students are Asian and Mexican. I really look forward to bringing back tons of art lesson plans for them. My media are pastels and watercolors. I plan on getting up early to sketch daily life in Oaxaca. I also hope to have time to do some pastel landscapes. Last year I went to China with the Freeman Foundation and came back with an art show of 11 paintings called “Gardens of China”. It’s on display this month in the Ellenville Museum. I told them that next year it will be “…of Oaxaca” 

Antonio Losada
         I teach Spanish at Rio Americano high school in Sacramento, California. Besides my duties and dedication as a teacher and department chair I truly enjoy running and biking. I live on the banks of the American River in Sacramento along a 32 mile long bike trail that has become literally my backyard in the last 25 years of my life. I have two daughters: one a senior in high school and the other a sophomore; so... if you notice some grey and missing hair on my head you know why. My wife is also a high school teacher who two summers ago enjoyed participating in an NEH seminar in Spain on the "novela picaresca". I am a native of Spain where I grew up and lived until I was 25. Participating in this NEH Summer Institute in Oaxaca fulfills my other passion; the one that has to do with indigenous cultures in America and life across this continent, from the Southern tip of Chile to the Northern end of it. I am looking forward to July 11 and meeting all of you.

Laura Hovey Ozuna 
I’m Laura Hovey Ozuna and it may be obvious from this picture that I live in Ann Arbor, MI.  Even though the past 2 seasons have been heartbreaking, this is what I do on Saturdays during football season.  This picture happened to be taken on one of the good days when we beat Notre Dame.   The first part of my life I spent growing up on a farm in Rosebush, Michigan raising sheep, beef cattle and chickens. But for the last 13 years, I have taught Spanish.  Right now I teach AP Spanish, Spanish 1, and Spanish 4 accelerated at Pioneer High School in Ann Arbor.  In the few hours I can get away from reading essays and listening to speeches and simulated phone conversations, I love spending time with my husband and our families.  I am also obsessed with exercising.  I have water weights ready to use in the pool at Villa del Campo and welcome anyone who wants to get a well-rounded workout with me.   I also LOVE Mexico.  I constantly dream about the food I’ll be eating! I’ve only been married for 1 year and 8 months, but this is my second marriage.  My first marriage began and ended many years ago in Guanajuato, Mexico, where I lived for about 6 years.  However I still communicate with my ex-husband’s family and may hop on a plane to Guanajuato one of those weekends.  Again, I am open to whoever wants to join me.  I’m also looking forward to dedicating some of this summer to my other passions – writing and reading. 

Brady Rochford
My name is Brady Rochford and I can’t wait to be fully saturated in Oaxacan culture, history, and art.  Right now, I live in Asheville, NC, the epicenter for artists, healers, and locavores of the South East.   Besides teaching middle school Language Arts and Social Studies at a small charter school, I love to cook new dishes, learn about wild crafting in the Appalachian Mountains, and get a fresh serotonin balance with some running and dancing. 
 As a teacher, I am passionate about uniting my students with others from around the world.  In the past we connected with an Athabascan group, called the Gwitch’in, and became allies in the fight to prevent drilling in ANWAR.  I hope my stay in Oaxaca allows me to unite students once again and develop another fruitful, long-term relationship. 


Pamela Rogers
My name is Pamela Rogers and I am an instructional resource specialist at an elementary school in the northwest suburbs of Chicago, Illinois.  Over the past four years I have realized that several of my students are not bilingual, but rather multilingual. Although they come to school speaking Spanish, at home they converse in Zapotec or Nahuatl.  I am looking forward to learning more about the Mesoamerican cultures and hoping to even pick up a few words and phrases to use with my students back in Illinois. 




Jake Sproull
Hi, my name is Jake Sproull and I teach 6th grade at the Chinese American International School in San Francisco, CA.  I grew up in Vermont, but I've lived in SF for eighteen years, and I'm very Californian by now (happily so).   The Chinese-American International School where I work is a bilingual Mandarin-English immersion school.  Half our teaching staff is from China or Taiwan, and the majority of the students are from Chinese-American families, although the number of non-Chinese students entering our school is growing each year.  I teach English and History (not Chinese!), and am very excited about incorporating this upcoming Oaxaca experience into my curriculum.  Outside of teaching, I try to get outdoors whenever I can, and I have spent many of my vacations traveling abroad, mostly throughout Asia, but I've also had some great adventures recently in Mexico and Peru.  I'm really excited to meet everyone in Oaxaca this summer!



Lisa Sragovicz
 In 1998 I studied at the Ciudad Universitaria in Morelia, Michoacan.  That was the last time I “lived” in Mexico.  I am excited to return to Mexico after teaching Spanish I and II for the last six years. 
      On a personal note, my friends call me Lisa Sragofish, because I love to swim, kayak, sail, boogey board, snorkel, and just go to the beach. See you at the pool at the Parador Sto. Domingo!




Deborah Strother
Hi, I’m Deb Strother.  My husband Bill is an editor at our local newspaper and our two grown sons are, at the moment at least, together in Kenya. I grew up in Louisville but have spent most of my adult years in other places, including London, England, where I met Bill. We lived there and on the west coast of the U.S. – in Oakland, CA – before settling in Bloomington, Indiana. We came back to America so I could attend the California College of the Arts, where I earned a fine arts degree. After we arrived in Indiana, I earned my master’s at Indiana University. I’ve taught fine arts, including two-dimensional design, ceramics, sculpture and art history in a small rural high school near Bloomington for 16 years now, and have traveled extensively in that time, mostly through grants such as the one that’s taking me to Oaxaca. I’ve been able to bring back to my students a great deal of the world from these trips, and really look forward to doing the same with this one.

Stefanie Tietz
My name is Stefanie Tietz and I am joining you guys from Georgia.  I currently teach Biology at Cherokee County’s Alternative High School and love it.  I have been a biology teacher for 6 years now and have been teaching various levels of biology including ESL biology.  I am originally from Germany where I went to High School.  My father is German and my mother is Mexican-American making me a MexiGerm.  I came to the U.S. in 1989 at the age of 18 and went to Auburn University for my BS in Zoology, Kennesaw State for my BS in Biology Education and to the University of Maryland for my Masters in Chemical and Life Sciences.  I am 39, and live on a horse farm with my crazy dog “Olli”, two cats and 5 horses. Other than horses my big hobbies are traveling the world learning about other cultures and disappearing into a good novel.  I look forward to meeting ya’ll this summer!




Elise Weisenbach
I am Elise Weisenbach from New Haven, Connecticut and have been teaching Spanish at Branford High School for the past 16 years. I developed a passionate interest in Latin America at Tulane University in New Orleans where I received Bachelor and Master’s degrees in Latin American Studies with concentrations in anthropology and history. I have studied and done research in Mexico, Guatemala and Colombia. While at Tulane I worked at the Middle American Research Institute and with the special collections of the Latin American Library. Life took me in a different direction for many years and I worked in the hotel business and the candy industry. After marrying and having two children I realized that I wanted to reconnect with my interest in Latin American so I pursued a Master in Teaching from Quinnipiac University. I have been involved with several projects at the Yale University Peabody Museum of Natural History and Yale’s Programs in International Educational Resources (PIER) and the Council on Iberian and Latin American Studies.



 Celeste Williams
My name is Celeste LeTard Williams and I live in the Atlanta, Georgia area.  I teach English as a Second Language to middle school students in the Marietta City Schools System, but I have also taught French (middle through high school) and Spanish (exploratory - mostly about art and culture) in the past.  I have lived in France two separate times - once through a scholarship through the Council for the Development of French in Louisiana, and another time courtesy of a Fulbright Teaching Assistantship.  I also studied Spanish in college, which came in handy when I began to work in the Atlanta area.  I travel as often as I can to Mexico, and find that it helps to create a connection with my students, the majority of whom are from Mexico and Central America.  Three years ago, I was awarded a grant through Fund for Teachers to study Spanish and Mexican arts and crafts in the Michoacán region.  I am also an artist, working in mixed media and collage, as well as digital art.  Much of my art is inspired by the Mexican culture, and I collect Lotería (Mexican bingo) and other game boards. I am constantly coming up with ideas to integrate the arts and Latino culture in my Social Studies and Reading classroom.  I am so excited to have a chance to develop lesson plans with the resources that will be provided during this summer institute.  This summer, my husband, Wheat Williams, will be accompanying me.  He is currently working with video editing for an event company, but is also well-versed in many things computer.


Irma Vega
Hello all!  My name is Irma Vega and I am joining the group from Chicago where I was born and raised.  I teach World and Latin American History at a predominately Latino High School on the southwest side of Chicago.  I enjoy reading, learning, listening to music and exploring new places.  Latin American History and traveling are two of my biggest loves along with my wonderful husband and huge Mexican family.  I look forward to being back in Mexico and our adventure in Oaxaca.  Hasta Pronto!  




Kimberly Young
Kimberly Young has been teaching World History for seven years at Weston High School in Weston, Massachusetts.  She is originally from Ann Arbor, Michigan, but moved east to attend Boston College.  She has a Masters degree in Gender and Cultural Studies from Simmons College.  She enjoys outdoor sports and traveling in her spare time.  Nepal is her dream travel destination.