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Participants - 2011

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Jaime Allesandrine

A lifelong resident of southern Connecticut, I grew up and currently reside in the shadow of Hamden’s Sleeping Giant, where I enjoy hiking. I’ve been teaching high school English for fourteen years, and began my career in the city of Bridgeport. For the past seven years I have taught sophomore, junior, and senior English at Haddam-Killingworth High School. I earned my BA from Muhlenberg College and my MA from Southern CT State University. I enjoy cooking, reading, poetry, being in the water, and trying most anything at least once. Looking forward to a wonderful experience this summer!

Linda Beaulieu

I was born and brought up in the White Mountains of New Hampshire, but for the past twenty-seven years, I have lived in Hartford, Vermont. Hartford, always a transportation hub, is on the Connecticut River, not far from Claremont, NH, where I teach English at Stevens High School. Over the course of my career, I have taught grades 7-12, but by far, my favorite courses to teach have been Humanities and American Studies, both co-curricular courses taught by an art teacher and an English teacher. When I am not teaching, I like to travel, read and walk. I look forward to meeting and working with new colleagues, learning more about John Steinbeck and his works, and experiencing the place where he wrote.

Nathan Blom

I grew up in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula on the shores of Lake Michigan. And while my summers were spent idyllically swimming and fishing, it was the winters that shaped me most. Even now, after 17 years away, I am marked by memories of nights walking on the frozen bay, listening to the flexed-steel sound of two-foot thick ice cracking beneath my feet. I don’t think I realized the extent to which the woods and water dominated my life until I moved away from them to attend Michigan State University. I spent nine years in their absence occupying myself with degrees in piano pedagogy and English, two black belts and a wanderlust that has never really gone away.

Paradoxically, I found a salve to both my homesickness for nature and my wanderlust in the Himalayan Mountains of Nepal. As a Peace Corps Volunteer I taught elementary school English for two years. My time in Nepal shaped me even more deeply than the waters of Lake Michigan had – adoption into a Nepali family, snow blindness on Mount Everest, armed rebels and bomb blasts, the loss of friends and family, and a perspective on the world that extended beyond the borders of the U.S. I left the country unable to return to the world I had left behind. I decided that after living in a village of 100 people a three-day walk away from the nearest road, I needed to face the opposite extreme of human experience. So I moved to New York City. There I began teaching in a Title I school in Washington Heights while simultaneously teaching graduate courses and working toward my doctoral degree in English Education at Teachers College of Columbia. After five years of teaching in the Heights, I transferred to Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School for the Arts, the school that inspired the movie Fame.

Laura Chu

The mixture of Chinese, Korean, and Brazilian cultures makes for a mind that thrives on new ideas and a spirit that seeks new experiences. Born and raised in a northern port city renowned for its academic institutions, revolutionaries, and pilgrims, this Bostonian can never turn down a good book, a deep conversation, or any opportunity to learn/teach. She fully embraces the area's tradition of divergent thinking and of taking the path less traveled. Moreover the penchant for seeking her fortunes in different places and celebrating life with gastronomical delights of her and others' creation resonates with the region's history.

I graduated from the University of Pennsylvania with a B.A. and Honors in English. After working several years for the publishers, Houghton Mifflin and Reed Elsevier, I ventured to California to earn my Masters Degree in Education from Stanford University. I have since found my way back to the East Coast, settling for the time being in northern Virginia. For the past five years, I have labored in the high school classrooms of Fairfax, Virgina, working to use literature as a vehicle to help my students gain a better understanding of themselves and of their world, to cultivate within them a sense of awareness and a desire for change.

Erin Deis

I was born and raised in the central San Joaquin Valley of California where each of my four grandparents and their families settled upon migrating (from Oklahoma, Michigan and Russia.) I received my BA in American Literature and Culture from UCLA, and ten years later, returned to Westwood to obtain my teaching credential and Masters in Education. I began my teaching career in downtown Los Angeles, teaching 8th grade US History and English, and I have now returned to the San Joaquin Valley to teach high school English, ESL and Yearbook at rural Selma High School, 15 miles south of Fresno. I love traveling, going to movies, and reading, and I'm a huge San Francisco Giants and UCLA football/basketball fan.

Julie Delimon

I currently live in the little city of Morristown, New Jersey, located about 25 miles outside of NYC. After graduating from Rutgers University in 2005, I was fortunate enough to have been hired at Morristown High School where I have been teaching English ever since. I love it here; Morristown is such a fantastic, eclectic community and living here allows me to be close to most of my friends and family. I am very dedicated to health and fitness and many of my hobbies – cooking, running, CrossFit, hiking, camping, climbing - revolve around those passions. I love meeting and talking with new people and cannot wait to study in Monterey this summer.

C.J. Freeman

I teach Advanced Placement Environmental Science in Virginia Beach, and I have been teaching science since 2003. I earned my M.Ed. in Science & Environmental Education from The University of Maine at Orono and my B.S. in Environmental Studies & Geology from Alfred University. I have researched whales in Hawaii with the Pacific Whale Foundation. I also sailed on a staysail schooner through the Sea Education Association from Woods Hole, Massachusetts to the Caribbean between Trinidad and Tobago. I have published an article in the journal Perspectives on Language and Literacy and an article in The Science Teacher. Do not let my science background fool you; I have a tremendous appetite for all things relating to Steinbeck. I use his work in my classes, and I have collaborated with AP English teachers to do a joint project on The Grapes of Wrath.

As a teacher, I share knowledge and try to instill an excitement about learning to youthful eyes. I love the classroom and the idea that students can teach me as much as I teach them. However, I do not think of a student as a product, and the knowledge they glean is not tangible. A part of me wants the ability to point at something and say with pride “I made this with my own hands”. This yearning for the tangible has fueled my interest in cooking, woodworking and playing music.

I am also an avid backcountry hiker, and I enjoy whitewater canoeing. Spring is one of my favorite times of year. The dogwoods and the redbuds begin to flower, and the rivers are laden and churning with the heavy rains. The springtime is rich with abundance, and my thirst for adventure is quenched with a muddy hiking boot or a trusty paddle.

Wanda Hamilton

I have lived in the same town in upstate South Carolina my entire life and share a home with my daughter Angie, a very spoiled yorkie named Sophie, and Tilly, our Himalayan cat. Hiking is one of my favorite pastimes and I’m fortunate to live about one hour from the beautiful Appalachian Mts. The beach is another favorite weekend getaway and just a three hour drive from where I live. When home I can be found gardening, cooking, decorating, entertaining friends and family, and reading.

The 20010-11 school year marks my thirteenth year of teaching. I am certified in middle level science and secondary level biology with a Masters degree in science education. In 2004, I earned National Board Teacher Certification in science. My goal as a teacher is not only to build students' scientific knowledge, but to help them see the relationship science has to their everyday life.

Melody Jue

I grew up in San Diego and the SF bay area, and earned a B.A. in English at UC Davis.  The following year I went to Hong Kong to teach English to first year university students on a Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship.  Working with a range of speaking abilities in class was challenging, especially when the film curriculum I didn't pick began with Citizen Kane.  But because I was new and my students were new (to English), there was a fun degree of unpredictability and freshness to every day, and I knew I was in the right profession.  I'm currently a 3rd year graduate student at Duke University, working towards a PhD in Literature.  I have half of an answer to that difficult question, "what are you writing your dissertation on?": 20th c literature and ocean science, and probably some combination of environmental writing and science fiction.  If you go to aquariums, or watch BBC documentaries, there's usually some reference to the ocean or deep sea as an alien space, or the place where we can meet weird animals that look like aliens.  I think this is pretty weird, especially since we have to become sort of alien creatures ourselves and don all kinds of (scuba) gear if we want to go there.  I'm not sure what form this piece of writing will take, but I feel "obligated" to spend as much time in the water as possible for first-hand experience ;)  this includes swimming, snorkeling, and scuba diving.  I finished teaching my first summer school class just a month ago in Beaufort, NC called "Literature, Science and the Sea," where I taught Steinbeck's "Sea of Cortez" and got to do a few cool things like taking my students on a field trip to a barn where a sperm whale skeleton was being assembled.  I have a lot to learn as a teacher, but I look forward to finding new ways of engaging students with the ocean environment (and other ones!) through both fiction and non-fictional literature--and Steinbeck is perfect for this.  I don't know where I'll work after my degree, but I really look forward to exploring Steinbeck's work more in-depth, as well as learning/sharing more ideas about how to teach it-- and that's why I'm here!

Carmela Lanza

I am a Language Arts instructor at Bernalillo High School in Bernalillo, New Mexico. I earned my M.A in Writing and my Ph.D. in Literature at the University of New Mexico. This year I started course work in the Educational Leadership program at the University of New Mexico. My high school teaching experience includes AP Literature, Pre-AP Literature, Language Arts, and electives in Drama, Mythology, Creative Writing, and Native American literature. I am also a writer and have published poetry and essays in journals and anthologies. I have lived in New Mexico for over twenty years, but I am originally from Long Island, New York.

Karen McCalley

I have been a high school English teacher for the past thirteen years, and although tired of grading papers, I love the job and feel very lucky to have found a career that combines all my passions: reading, talking about books, working with young people, performing, learning, and laughing. I currently live in Boston and teach in a suburban high school. I have also taught in suburban Philadelphia and overseas in Berlin, Germany. I am a graduate of Cornell University and the Teachers College at Columbia University; I am also currently enrolled in the Bread Loaf School of English at Middlebury College. I participated in an NEH seminar back in 2001 (Shakespeare – Enacting the Text), and I look forward to getting to know another interesting and dynamic group of teachers this summer!

Kerry McMenimen

Born and raised in America’s oldest seaport – Gloucester, Massachusetts, I cannot wait to combine my love for the sea with my love for literature. I am entering my 6th year at Walpole High School in southeastern Massachusetts where I teach sophomore American Literature, junior British literature and senior College Writing.  I also advise the Student Council and coach freshmen girls lacrosse – Go Rebels! When I am not teaching, I enjoy watch my beloved Boston sports teams – especially the Celtics, spending time with my amazing family and friends, working out, traveling, cooking (albeit not well)  and shopping.  I graduated from Boston University with a B.S. in Film Studies and a M.A.T. in English Education.

Katherine Norton

I’m rounding out my second year of teaching in Fairfax County, Virginia, where I am continually entertained and challenged by 9th and 11th graders. A biology-turned-English major at Virginia Tech, I later earned my M.Ed. from The George Washington University. It took me a couple years to arrive at teaching and along the way I lived in Switzerland, studied advertising, and interned at the Jane Goodall Institute. I love good books and bad TV. In order to extend my Steinbeck experience, I’ll be taking a train from Washington, D.C., to Monterey, California. I may end up regretting the decision a day into the journey, but it’s something I’ve always wanted to do. I’m looking forward to meeting new people and learning new things!

Mary Rafferty

I am Department Chair of Humanities, teacher of AP Language and Composition, and 11th and 12th Grade English at New Futures School in Albuquerque, New Mexico.  I earned National Board Certification in 2007, and an endorsement to teach high school science last June.   I love teaching adolescents because they question everything, are brutally honest, curse like sailors, and make me laugh, sometimes till it hurts.

Besides teaching English classes, I teach filmmaking.  It has been exciting to witness teenagers creating via this alternate intelligence.  This class in particular reminds me to nurture creativity in all my classes, but it also gets me thinking about the multiple and varied ways in which people learn, create, and empower themselves.

Daniel O Rourke

Dan O’Rourke has been teaching high-school English for the past 20 years, most recently at Riverside-Brookfield High School where he just completed his seventh year. At RBHS, he mentors new teachers in the English department and plays a major role in developing curriculum. He helped develop both the AP English Language & Composition curriculum and the American Studies curriculum for 11th graders and is currently involved in reformulating the AP English Literature & Composition curriculum so that it correlates with the content taught in AP US History.

Dan successfully completed National Board Certification in his first year of study, and for the past seven summers, he has served as an AP Reader for College Board’s English Language & Composition Exam and has recently taken on a leadership role as a Table Leader.

He earned a B.A. from Villanova University in 1989, majoring in English and Philosophy, and received an M.A. in English from Villanova University in 1992, with a concentration in Irish Literature. Each summer, he takes high-school students on literary tours of Ireland.

He has taught COMP 101 as an adjunct professor at Moraine Valley Community College and is currently working with the administration there to set up a summer travel-study course to Ireland. His professional career outside of academia includes seven years of coaching high-school football and six years of coaching high-school cross country, and he co-owns a martini bar with his brother in Chicago, which has been open since 2007.

Outside of work, Dan enjoys reading, writing and running. He has run four marathons, but has not yet qualified for Boston. The most important part of his life is his family--he is devoted to his wife and to their three daughters who will be starting 8th, 7th and 4th grade next fall.

Erin Pollack

After coming west for a summer job at a dude ranch during my college years, I vowed never to live east of the Mississippi again (those mountains were so beautiful). A transplanted Midwesterner, I attended graduate school at the University of Utah and landed my first teaching job in Denver, Colorado. I moved west again nine years ago with my husband to the San Francisco Bay Area, where I teach English to freshmen through seniors at a small, independent school. Next school year, I am excited to be team-teaching a 1930s history and literature course with my good friend and colleague—a humbling and exciting prospect that prompted me to apply for this particular NEH institute. In my time away from school, I love yoga and have recently rediscovered that I like running, having completed two 10Ks this spring and signed up for my first ½ marathon this fall.

Christina Pommer

I’m the Middle and Upper School Librarian at Saint Stephen’s Episcopal School in Florida. I have undergraduate degrees from Johns Hopkins in Writing Seminars and Political Science. My masters degree is in Information Studies, and I’ve also worked as a Poet in the Schools. In addition to teaching information literacy skills, I’ve also established a sister farm partnership with on-campus CSA delivery. I love the outdoors, and I spend my free time hiking, reading on my front porch, and creating recipes with local foods. My husband is another Steinbeck enthusiast, while our two cats prefer Billy Collins.

Sue Protheroe

I’ve been teaching 7th and 8th grade language arts for 31 years! I began my career in Houston, but now work in Solon, Iowa, a small town 10 miles north of Iowa City, where I live. For several years, I have been blessed with a perfect schedule: my students come to me for an 84-minute block every day. In addition, I have (almost) complete freedom in terms of curriculum. Autonomy is important to me.

My husband and I have two grown daughters, his & her dogs (mine is a greyhound named Louie, his is a German shorthaired pointer named Sam), and a goldfish named Spike. We love travel, hiking, swimming, biking, hot yoga… I also enjoy most artsy stuff: painting, beading, drawing comics, that sort of thing.

Last summer I spent four weeks in Senegal on a Fulbright-Hays seminar abroad, and it was a life-changing experience. I don’t think I can explain who I am without mentioning that.
I love John Steinbeck and am looking forward to spending three weeks in beautiful Monterey deepening my understanding. And getting to know all of you, of course!

Davina Smith

Although I grew up in Louisiana and define myself as a southerner, I have lived and taught outside of Washington, D.C. for the last twenty years. Perhaps because of this I love regional literature and look forward to revisiting Steinbeck country with ya’ll. Beyond teaching IB/AP English and Creative Writing and actually getting paid to read, research, and discuss writing with students, I also love to work with my husband salvaging our 120 year old house, gardening, and traveling. I am thrilled about exploring the local tidal pools and plan to buy squid at the local market this week to overcome my fear of the multi-tentacled through exposure therapy. I am even more excited about close contact with the local artichokes, preferably with butter.

Bill Storz

I am very pleased to have been granted a leave from my prison in Vermont to come to the 2011 Steinbeck Institute. I was born in the Bronx, went through school in Hamden, Connecticut, and earned a BFA in Media and Performing Arts and Art Education at Massachusetts College of Art in Boston in 1987. I received an MAT in Special Education from the University of Charleston in 1998, while living in the South Carolina Lowcountry for most of the 1990s.

I have worked in a number of Human Service positions, including Child Protective Services and Teen Shelter work, before entering the classroom as a teacher in 1999. I have taught emotional/behavioral disability students within public schools, independent schools and residential treatment programs before coming to Community High School of Vermont in 2006. We are an accredited, diploma granting institution within the Vermont Department of Corrections at sites across the state. My site is a Regional Correctional Facility in St. Johnsbury, Vermont.

As much as possible I like to integrate English and Social Studies content, and I find Steinbeck a good author to utilize in this way. Also, certain authors just speak to my students, which are all males, and Steinbeck is one of them. Other classes that I teach include Drawing, Chess, and Guitar.

I enjoy gardening, playing music, and outdoor activities in all Vermont seasons, with and without my three beautiful children. Once again, thanks for springing me from prison! I look forward to the intensive book and site work, making the sea/land connection, meeting people, and to finding out really, truly, what ALL is.

Mary Weber

After spending the first twenty years of my adult life raising my two children, farming, and working in various food and beverage occupations, I finally found my true calling as an English teacher. I am currently in my third year of teaching high school English in Hazen, North Dakota. I just finished my master’s degree in reading and literacy, and my next plan is to learn a second language, so I can pursue a PhD in English. In my spare time I love reading, travelling, shopping, cooking, and wine tasting. I am very much looking forward to the Steinbeck Institute since it will include almost all of the above!

Elisha Wells" width="130" />After spending my college years in Sioux City, Iowa, I decided that I would settle down around my hometown of New Franklin, Missouri.  I met and married my husband John after college, and we currently live in Armstrong on a farm.  I teach high school English to ninth and tenth grade students in a neighboring town of Salisbury.  During the school year I practically live at school because I’m a very dedicated teacher, always planning, always grading.  In my spare time, which occurs mostly during the summer, I help my husband on the farm with our sheep and cattle.  We are also building a house, as we live in the basement, so that takes up any spare time as well.  John generally tells me what to do and I try my best, so hopefully the house doesn’t fall down around us.  I also love to travel, read, and write, so I’m looking forward to all of these things during the Steinbeck Institute.

Richard Willis

Richard (or Dick, or Willis) teaches English and Dramatic Literature at The Indiana Academy for Science, Mathematics, and Humanities, a residence school for academically talented students from the state. Previously, he taught English, Speech, and Drama at New Castle Chrylser High School. He is married (for many years) to Vickie, a former teacher, now an arts administrator, and they have a daughter Emily who is married to Craig, and they have two children Jackson and Victoria. The entire Willis family remains very close to an exchange student from Denmark who was with us in 1992. In fact, Dick visited Jens and his wife and son in Copenhagen in March.Willis has directed plays for high schools, colleges,and civic theaters in Indiana. He has also designed costumes and sets, and he has done some acting...inclduing the role of Candy in Of Mice and Men.He also likes to travel, and his international travel actually began with an NEH Seminar studying Shakespeare in Stratford-upon-Avon.He is very excited about the Steinbeck Institute and looking forward to the many activities and to meeting the leaders and the fellow members of the Institute.

Marty Zottola

I’ve been teaching for about twenty three years, mostly high school. Before that I worked as a milk man (for tax purposes the government defined me as a “dairy products delivery person”). Now, at some restaurants, cinemas, and golf courses, I can take advantage of the Senior Discounts, but so far the rental company has not given me a break on the roto-tiller I get each year to work up the soil for my garden. Still, I like to listen to Rock and Roll, walk around and look at the world, sit in a comfortable chair and read or write, and watch pro baseball on a decent television. I look forward to learning about Steinbeck, his world, and ours.