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Participants - 2016

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Louise Bauso

Louise Bauso is an English as a Second Language teacher and program coordinator for a public high school in Brooklyn, New York, as well as an adjunct instructor at Long Island University's School of Education.  Originally from North Carolina, she has called New York home for 12 years, where she has family within walking distance, as well as sunsets over the East River.  She's driven the west coast up and down three times now, and is thrilled to spend July on a slice of land that juts into the Pacific and soak up some Steinbeck.

Cindy Birkner

I'm from Southern Illinois. To help you geographically, 5-6 hours south of Chicago, with another hour or so south of me before reaching Paducah, Kentucky, and hour west of Evansville Indiana, 80 minutes east of St. Louis Missouri. In other words, the middle of nowhere, before you start to get somewhere. But if nowhere is where you want to be this is it. Home of former Utah Jazz coach Jerry Sloan, near the Shawnee forest and the northern most cypress- tupelo swamp, Garden of the Gods and Camel Rock (check your 2016 quarters), starting point for all my adventures.

I have just finished my 22nd year teaching, 21 in my current school. As the only high school science teacher in a small school district, I teach several different science courses, along with being the gifted teacher and academic teams coach. In the past I have also taught history, health and pe as needed. I've also taught Biology for majors and non majors as well as botany for the past 15 years at the local community college along with upward bound science for 5 years and ACT prep courses for 4years. I earned my Bachelors Degree from Southern Illinois University at Carbondale with majors in special education, biology, psychology, health and a minor in history, I attained my Master's from SIU as well in environmental science. Science is my passion, everything else gives depth to the meaning. I am currently the ISTA( Illinois Science Teacher Association) Region VI (28 eastern and southern counties) Science Director and Science Ambassador to the CDC and member of the College Science Teachers Board for NSTA.

I love to travel, having been to all 50 states at least twice in a ten year period, the lower 48 several times over, all on a quest to learn new things and collaborate with great people in science. Adventures like studying mining at the School of mines in Colorado, Physical Oceanography at the Naval Academy in Annapolis, Aerospace education at Wright Patterson in Dayton Ohio, two years at the CDC in Atlanta, wilderness education in the Bridger Tetons with AWLS, to name a few. My companion on all these adventure is my camera.

A story can be told with words so eloquently that vivid images can be imagined, it can also be told within a single image. I try to capture those images for my students to anchor their core learning. I look forward to this institute. Learning from a different perspective, discipline only to enhance the understanding of my core. Meeting new people versed in the literature sharing commonalities. Science through a new lens.

Kelly Bridges

Kelly Bridges is an English teacher and department chair at Leonardtown High School in southern Maryland – a place defined by its geography, a peninsula between the Chesapeake Bay and Potomac River. Originally from Pennsylvania, she has been teaching here for nearly eight years and is a little shocked to see that it’s been that long. She earned her B.A. in English (What do you with a B.A. in English? Avenue Q fans?) from St. Vincent College in PA and her M.Ed in Curriculum and Instruction from McDaniel College. When she’s not working with the best students ever, she enjoys running, reading, kayaking, and spending time with friends and family. She is excited to meet and collaborate with other fans of Steinbeck in the very setting that inspired his work.

Laura Cella

Laura is a writer, a scholar, a teacher, a wife, a daughter, a Boomer, and a native New Yorker. Her short fiction and creative non-fiction have appeared in in various outlets, including Narrative Magazine, the Huffington Post, and the women's fiction anthology What Was I Thinking? (St. Martin's Press).

She has earned a Masters degree from New York University and has worked sporadically toward a PhD.

Despite spending seven years in Hollywood as a trailing spouse - the memories of which have mostly become the entries for her blog - she now lives with her husband and cat in a 1920's house on the remaining two acres of a farm in northern Bergen County, New Jersey, seventeen miles from Manhattan and near her job as an Advanced Placement Literature teacher in Montclair, NJ.

Laura has been a fan of John Steinbeck's writing since her father gave her copy Cannery Row as a prelude to visiting Northern California in 1976 and is thrilled to participate in the NEH Steinbeck Institute Summer Scholars program.

Lyn Cipriano

Currently, I am a high school English teacher and the District ELA Curriculum Chair at the Central Valley Central School District in Ilion, New York.  John Steinbeck: Social Critic and Ecologist will be my second NEH seminar.  In 2012, I attended the Huck, Jim, and Jim Crow seminar at the Mark Twain House in Hartford, Connecticut, one of the greatest learning opportunities of my educational career.  This inspired me to attend additional seminars at the Center for Mark Twain Studies at Elmira College and the Quarry Farm.  Due to my prior NEH grant, I know firsthand how truly valuable the Steinbeck seminar will be to those of us who are fortunate enough to participate, and I am absolutely thrilled to be part of this experience.  It is my hope to bring back insights for my own instruction and to glean information that will benefit my district’s STEM program.

In my earlier life, I served as an officer in the US Army, and I was one of the first women to attend Officers Candidate School at the US Army Infantry School at FT Benning. I have lived on three continents over the course of my life, and I continue to travel abroad annually. I recently completed two years as the president of our local Humane Society, and my husband and I have been active fundraisers for our local chapter of the American Red Cross.  My hobbies include painting, antique restoration, gardening, reading, yoga, and travel.  Science has always held an interest for me, and I am very proud of my two daughters who have pursued science-based careers.  Erica is a pharmacist, and Michelle is a science (Biology and Earth Science) and math teacher.

Sarah Cottrill

Sarah is the science teacher fellow at a private school outside of Boston. She teaches Grade 5 and 8 science, enjoying the all-encompassing curriculum of physical and biological science. Her first year of teaching, she has attended several conferences but is particularly excited to attend the Steinbeck Summer Institute. She enjoys rowing on the Charles, backpacking along the West Coast, and taking trips to new places.

Adam Dennis

Adam Dennis is a high school English teacher in a small public school southwest of Portland, Oregon. Originally from Chicago, Illinois, he taught for five years in Indiana before finding a new home on the west coast, where he’s been for ten years exploring new trails, new sights, and new people. An avid hiker, writer, and vegan cook, he is passionate about social justice issues and teaching Nonviolent Communication and stewardship. Last summer at a nonviolence institute on Gandhi and Mandela, Adam loved meeting dedicated educators from around the country and deepening his professional life. He hopes to do the same in the deep dive through Steinbeck this July.

Christine Diehl

Christine Diehl is a high school English teacher in Memphis, TN. She worked for 10 years in the social services and mental health industry prior to joining Teach for America and relocating to the south. Christine earned a B.A. in Human Development from Prescott College in Prescott, AZ in 2007  She completed her M.Ed in Educational Technology from Northern Arizona University in 2014. She has always enjoyed working with young people to help them achieve their educational and personal goals. Outside of work, she stays active by swimming, hiking and Crossfit workouts. She likes to visit art and history museums as well as drink lattes with a good book. John Steinbeck is a personal favorite and Christine looks forward to exploring his world this summer.

Kelly Donoghue

Kelly Donoghue has been a public school educator in Boston and New York City for the last 15 years. She approaches teaching and learning through the lens of experience-based activities, such as field work, readers’ theatre, arts integration, and interdisciplinary project work, in order to provide diverse learners with access points to the content. Ms. Donoghue has traveled extensively (most recently to Cuba, Croatia, and Quebec) and constantly seeks new ways to integrate these experiences into her teaching practice. She studied African-American History and Political Science at the University of Massachusetts- Amherst, and received a Master of Education from Emmanuel College in Boston.  Ms. Donoghue teaches 9th and 10th grade English at the Henderson Inclusion School in Boston, one of the only fully inclusive k-12 schools in the world.

Jean Fry

Here I am collecting rocks and dipping my fingers into Walden Pond. Any trip to either coast is a thrill for my Midwestern soul.

I teach English at a college preparatory school in St. Louis, MO where I also serve as department chair.

I am proud to say I have (almost raised) three curious and creative daughters!

My recent claim to fame—other than being selected to join this Summer Institute— is living to tell about a rim-to-rim Grand Canyon hike with my 4 brothers.

I am eagerly anticipating this exciting opportunity to study Steinbeck together!

Rebekah Gilliam

Bekah Sloan Gilliam is an English teacher at Spring Hill High School in Chapin, SC where she teaches the emerging readers freshmen English, the seniors AP literature, and a course titled Teacher Cadet. She previously taught English for four years at Chapin Middle School. Mrs. Gilliam received her undergraduate degree in English with minors in Education and Music from Presbyterian College. She received her Master’s in Education from Columbia College in 2013 and National Board Certification in 2014. Bekah and her husband, Jay, met at Presbyterian College, and both are high school English teachers, and have pursued all of their certifications and travel experiences together.

In her free time Mrs. Gilliam enjoys cooking, reading, and running with her husband, Jay. They are excited to be expecting their first child in December!

Tasha Graff

Tasha is a high school English teacher from Portland, Maine. She has spent seven of the last nine years teaching in Maine public schools and taught at an international high school in Barcelona for the other two. Many years ago, her housemate Emily said East of Eden was her favorite book, and even though it took three years before she took it off the shelf, she hasn't turned back since. Tasha earned a master's degree in English literature from the Bread Loaf School of English. She's a dual citizen with the UK and flexes both passports as much as she can as an avid traveler, part-time poet and aspiring cook.

Amber Hastings

I have really only wanted to do two things in my life.  Travel and learn.  If I could convince someone to pay me to do those two things, I would have the perfect job.  I haven’t been able to convince anyone to do that yet though.  I currently have a nearly perfect job as an English teacher at Mason High School in Mason, Michigan.  I truly love it.  I teach American Literature, World Literature, and Composition courses to 9th-12th grade students.  I am finishing my tenth year at Mason High School, and I look forward to many more.  I will be taking 16 students to England in June 2016, and I am fully prepared to be awed and exhausted.

I have a BA in English from Hope College in Holland, MI, and I have an MA in Library and Information Science from Wayne State University in Detroit, MI.  My first year of teaching was in Santiago, Dominican Republic.  I have spent a good amount of time in Austria, Nepal, the Kingdom of Tonga, and Australia.  Travel and learn.  That being said, I am ecstatic to go to California this summer.  I often tell people that East of Eden is one of my favorite books and Steinbeck is one of my favorite authors.  I can hardly wait to be in the places I have read about for years.  I also can hardly wait to meet everyone else who will be traveling and learning with me. 

Katherine Hoover

My Name is Katherine (Kathey) Hoover.  I currently teach AP environmental science and environmental systems at Wylie High School in Wylie, Texas.  This is my 8th year to teach at Wylie and it is my 9th year as a teacher.  I have taught AP environmental science, environmental systems, anatomy and physiology, chemistry, IPC, and 8th grade science.

I am very excited to be participating in this learning adventure this summer and am counting the days until I leave for California.  I will be driving from Texas to California with a stop in Yosemite for a couple of days, so just getting there will be an adventure for me.  I enjoy driving as it is the only way to “see America” and I have already had my fill of airplanes this summer as I had to travel to Cincinnati and to Washington DC for other projects.

Teaching is a second career for me.  I spent 20 years working with animals in different capacities before returning to college to obtain my teaching credentials.  I have found teaching to be great fun and I enjoy developing creative learning experiences for my students.  In recent years, I have spent much of my summer vacation taking part in unique professional development activities, both in the US and internationally. I also serve as an AP Environmental Science reader and travel to Cincinnati every June to assist in the grading the AP exams.  I have also had the opportunity to serve as a mentor to new and student teachers and have found that to be a rewarding role as well.

Personally, I have been married for 26 years to my very supportive husband, Keith.  We have a 24 year old daughter.  We also live with a menagerie of pets-2 dogs, 2 cats, and in the summertime, my classroom snakes and spiders.

I have a BA in Interdisciplinary Studies from The University of Texas at Dallas, a MEd in Science Curriculum and Instruction from The University of Texas at Arlington, and am currently working on my PhD in STEM Curriculum and Instruction from Texas Tech University. 

Lawrence Jarocki

California born and bred, I’m currently living at the site of the flood in Grapes, Visalia, in the Central Valley. I got my BA in Lit and my MA in Linguistics from CSU, Fresno, with a four-year stint as a Russian and Croatian translator in the Navy between the two. Degrees in hand, I headed off to Eastern Europe and Central Asia for five years, where I conducted teacher training workshops for the Soros Foundation. Of course, I got smitten with a Tatar beauty while there, and we came back to the US to start a family in early 2001. Since then, I’ve been teaching English at all levels (ESL to AP), raising two kids, working on personal and professional development (I’m currently ABD and trying to finish up chapter two of my dissertation), and generally trying to figure out what I want to be when I grow up. I’ve been a fan of Steinbeck for decades, and I’m really looking forward to exploring more about his life and work. See you all in July!

Karen Kinnamon

My life as an educator began with my own undergraduate degree in English at the University of the South in Sewanee, Tennessee.  Since the time of my graduation, I have had the privilege of teaching English in a rural Southwest Georgia public school for 24 years.  Our home, Sumter County, is also the home of President Jimmy Carter, an icon for our students and community.   The years have flown by through the busy frenzy of day-to-day life with classes of teenagers, my own two sons, Charles (18) and Thomas (14), my History teacher husband, and me.  It seems surreal that so many years have passed in what seem only a few.  From the perspective of the many years, I can now look back on my own evolutionary process and realize that I am now at a time in my life when I can return to more of my own interests and development just as I was able to do in my youth and early adult life.  This helps to inform my own teaching as each year I say farewell to seniors who are just beginning their journeys of self-development and discovery.  I too feel a sense of this as I now take more time for weekend backpacking trips, travel, and yoga.  While our school studies inform our lives with knowledge, our experiences teach us our own humanity.  My interaction with other people and places and activities enlightens the truth of our human connectedness.  These are the truths I teach through literature and through connecting with my students each and every day.

Besides being a teacher, I also coach tennis and swimming and am regularly seen walking my dog or riding my bike.  In my creative time, I enjoy painting and dabbling in writing both fiction and poetry.  I very much look forward to delving into the life, the work, and the place that inspired John Steinbeck.  I can still vividly remember my seventh grade self in parochial school in Atlanta giving a speech on John Steinbeck and how his life and work made a difference in the lives of others, just as the lives of educators do.  I also look forward to meeting and working with the other Steinbeck Institute participants and scholars.  With great excitement, I will see you all in July!

Sean Madigan

I grew up in the midwest before moving to Phoenix in high school. I went to Arizona State University, where I received a B.S. in Psychology and a B.A. in Religious Studies, and then went to the University of Pennsylvania for graduate school, where I received a Ph.D. in Psychology. Leaving behind research, I returned to Phoenix, where I teach biology (as well as some physical science and earth science) at a small school for students in grades 6-12. My students spend a lot of time reading historical sources outlining scientific observations and making observations themselves, where we work to avoid descriptions that are mere comparisons to other objects or organisms, instead using language to describe, which is a challenge for an 11 to 14 year old. I have been teaching some combination of sixth through ninth grade science for four years now and love working with students who are excited to learn.

My wife and I visited Monterey in 2015, where I read more about Steinbeck's writings on the environment and the his interactions with Ed Ricketts. I am very excited to be a part of the Steinbeck Institute and work to incorporate more of his writings into my classroom efforts.

Brett Navin

Brett Navin teaches 7th grade ELA in Port Townsend, WA. His students read The Pearl and spend a day at the Port Townsend Shipwrights Coop where the Western Flyer is being restored.

Scott Noet

Scott is a social studies teacher on a 5 member Environmental STEM (E-STEM) 7th grade team in Owatonna. MN.  Scott receives further social studies nerd cred due to his involvement with the Minnesota Council for the Social Studies as a member of the board of directors and currently serving as Vice President.  Scott is currently working on a STEM curriculum book with the Transatlantic Outreach Program that ties Germany and STEM lessons together for US and Canadian classrooms.  Scott and his wife Kate share the house with 4 dogs who love to run on the woods and fall into the koi pond at the most inopportune times.

Jean Prokott

Jean Prokott lives in Rochester, MN, and has been teaching for eight years. She’s been lucky to have had a variety of English classes that include Philosophy and Creative Writing.

Jean has a B.A. in English from Winona State University, an M.F.A. in Creative Writing from Minnesota State University, Mankato, and an M.S. in Education from Winona State University. In addition to teaching her high school courses, she works as an adjunct instructor in Winona State’s Education Graduate Studies program where she prepares second-career teachers for their first classroom. They have no idea what’s coming.

Jean writes poetry, has a dachshund named Lenny whose breath smells like a diaper on a beach mixed with a sewer, and buys unloved furniture from garage sales and spray paints it in her backyard.

Freya Sachs

Freya Sachs is a poet and teacher in Nashville, TN. Chair of the English department at University School of Nashville, she has taught various literature and creative writing courses for over a decade-- and for many years, she taught environmental studies and science courses, too. She holds an MFA from Vanderbilt University in Creative Writing / Poetry, and an AB in Environmental Studies from Dartmouth College.

Keshia Stiles

Keshia is an 8th grade English Language-Arts and American History teacher from Seeley, California. She has spent all 5 years of her career at Seeley Elementary School in the middle school grades. Keshia also spends her “free” time working with students outside of the classroom on science fair projects, history fair projects, and migrant programs. The love of the classroom and her students is what drives her to continuing expanding her knowledge experiences each summer.

Whitney Stubbs

Whitney is in her third year of teaching English at Menlo School in Atherton, CA, where she spends most of her time with freshmen, who are her favorite people. She also teaches a couple of seminars to seniors, one in creative nonfiction and one about wilderness and the American Identity. Though she is a Texan by birth and a desert dweller by temperament, Whitney has lived on the California coast for a year now, in the quaint little town of El Granada. She walks her dog along the beach every day, trying to understand. She thinks Steinbeck might be able to help her.

She has an MA in Policy, Organization, and Leadership Studies from Stanford Graduate School of Education, an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Michigan, and a BA from Pomona College. She’s also completed a Semester for Outdoor Educators from the National Outdoor Leadership School because she likes to unplug from civilization every chance she gets.

Nikki Tobias

Nikki Tobias has been teaching ELA and ESL at Silver Creek High School in Longmont, Colorado for the past three years. Although most of her time is spent teaching American literature to tenth graders, she has the privilege of working with a very diverse (Afghan, Indonesian, Chinese, Russian, Mexican, and El Salvadoran) group of ELLs. In her role as the only ESL teacher in her school, Nikki provides professional development training to her staff and acts as an advocate for culturally and linguistically diverse students.

Nikki received a bachelor’s degree in Anthropology and French from the University of Montana in 1997, her teaching certificate from West Chester University of Pennsylvania in Secondary English in 2006, and her Master’s degree in Educational Equity and Cultural Diversity from the University of Colorado in 2013. Prior to beginning her teaching career, she worked as an archaeologist in the Southwest and up and down the East Coast. Nikki and her husband moved to the Colorado for its high quality of living; they enjoy hiking with their Labradors, going to the theater, experimenting with new recipes, and visiting archaeological sites. Nikki adores professional development and relishes the opportunity to spend July immersed in all things Steinbeck.

Gerard Wollak

Born and raised in Duluth, Minnesota I attended St. John’s University in Collegeville, Minnesota, majoring in Sociology and minoring in Religious Studies. After graduate studies and student teaching in Montreal, Quebec I settled into a high school teaching career in Massachusetts, first in Stockbridge, then Kingston, and most of my career at Barnstable High School in Hyannis, Massachusetts. 

I have a wife and two sons and have enjoyed traveling, camping, hiking, bicycling, gardening, reading, tennis, and kayaking.  These shared activities with my family continue as my sons have become young adults and my wife has retired from a teaching and administrative career at the middle and high school levels. 

My teaching has evolved over the years to include Religion, American History, English, and interdisciplinary courses in American Studies and Asian and Russian Studies.  Presently, I am teaching American literature and writing for 11th graders and mostly world literature for my 12th graders.  This year I’ve relished incorporating some Henry David Thoreau writing and activities for my Juniors.