GenEd welcomes 2023 Teacher Fellows

SAN FRANCISCO, Calif.  — Fifteen secondary school educators from 14 US states have been selected to participate in the one-year GenEd Teacher Fellowship Program, which includes a 10-day intensive professional development trip to Armenia in July 2023, based at the Armenian Genocide Museum-Institute, after which the GenEd Teacher Fellows will lead their own teacher training activities for their peers. 

The 2023 GenEd Teacher Fellows gathered for the first time in March via video call, where they met each other and GenEd team members.

2023 GenEd Teacher Fellows

Brenda Boehler

Brenda Boehler (Tucson, AZ) is currently teaching IB Theory of Knowledge, World History and Western Civilization, while also serving as the chair of the Social Studies Department at Cholla High School. Boehler has lived and taught in England, Ukraine and Russia. Her most recent journey was a week-long pilgrimage in the Sacred Forest of Northern Italy. Boehler is currently exploring “Everyday Life in the USSR” as a fellow with the Davis Center on Eurasian Studies. In addition to teaching and travel, she enjoys advocating for animal rights, reading, hiking and practicing mindfulness. Boehler’s ultimate passion is to empower students with new possibilities.

Sarah Dixen

Sarah Dixen (Winona, MN) teaches AP World History, human geography, AP Government and service learning in Winona, MN. She taught and developed the curriculum for a masters in education program for 10 years and returned to high school teaching to work more closely with students and her content area. She serves as department chair, advises her school’s National Honor Society and Knowledge Bowl team. She is also an active member of her local community.

“I am looking forward to studying with others and then incorporating an understanding of the Armenian Genocide by developing a unit on genocide into our school’s human geography course, as it is imperative that the future generations understand this history,” said Dixen. 

Misty Ebinger

Misty Ebinger (New London, OH) is a social studies teacher at New London High School. An educator for 21 years, she teaches government and Chinese Communist Party history classes, along with several electives, including Holocaust and Genocide Studies. She also serves on the board of Ohio’s Holocaust and Genocide Education Network, representing small, rural school districts. She has previously traveled to Germany, Poland and Israel to study the Holocaust.

“I am excited to travel to Armenia, to learn from experts about the Genocide, in order to enhance my lessons at home about this little known, but incredibly important event in world history,” Ebinger enthused.

David Green

David Green (Acton, MA) has been a teacher for 28 years outside of Boston, Massachusetts. He has taught world history, US history and psychology. For the last eight years, he served as department leader for 20 social studies educators. Through his travels to places like Syria, Lebanon, Israel, eastern Turkey and Armenia, he has learned firsthand about the wide impact of the Armenian Genocide and far reach of Armenian culture. He is interested in formalizing these experiences and new insight gained by participating in the GenEd program into a new and innovative curriculum.  

“I am extremely excited to share the GenEd experience with such a dynamic and accomplished group of educators and to work firsthand with our Armenian counterparts on such a critically important topic,” shared Green. 

Leigh-Ann Hendrick

Leigh-Anne Hendrick (Chautauqua, NY) is the director of the Holocaust and Social Justice Education Program of Chautauqua and a co-founding director of the Chautauqua Country Summer Institute for Human Rights and Genocide. She is a social studies teacher with 24 years of experience and has worked as a consultant with the United States Department of Education where she presented both nationally and internationally. Hendrick has received training at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, DC and is a Museum Teacher Fellow. She strives to empower students and educators to take an active role in our shared humanity.

“Every person should know the horrors of history and the implications of being a bystander. These are the stories that repeat time and again and are evident in this history,” said Henrick. “I am so grateful for the opportunity to learn the history of the Armenian Genocide with a dedicated team of educators – to foster respect and empathy through the study of human rights.”

Don Jenkins

Don Jenkins (Oak Harbor, WA) is a teacher at North Whidbey Middle School in Oak Harbor, Washington. He has been teaching social studies for 30 years; his students have been learning about the Armenian Genocide in his Pacific Northwest history and US history classes. Last summer, he traveled to Poland with The Pilecki Institute with teachers from all over the world to learn about the impact of totalitarianism during the 20th century.

“I look forward to getting to know the people of Armenia during the study tour, collaborating with educators to integrate the Armenian Genocide in my classes and to share what I learn with other teachers in my network,” said Jenkins.

Cynthia Martinez

Cindy Martinez (Felton, CA) has been teaching social studies for the last 26 years. She currently teaches 12th grade economics and AP government, as well as 10th grade core world history at San Lorenzo Valley High School in Felton, CA. She also serves as department chair. Along with helping her school develop an ethnic studies program, Martinez’s most recent endeavor is working with GenEd to develop a curriculum unit on resistance in the Armenian Genocide.

“I’m so excited about all that I’ll learn and experience on this trip to Armenia, so much that I’ll be able to share with students and include in curriculum development,” shared Martinez.

Regina Bouroudjian Odishoo

Regina Bouroudjian Odishoo (Libertyville, IL) is a certified speech/language pathologist and special education teacher. She holds a doctorate in reading, language and literacy, which she uses in her roles at Libertyville High School, teaching literacy and co-teaching US history. Her experiences as a first generation Armenian/Assyrian American have been the catalyst for incorporating genocide studies into curriculum and emphasizing the development of students’ critical thinking in order to build a more inclusive and accepting society. 

“As a surviving legacy of the Armenian Genocide, this opportunity is surreal,” described Odishoo. “To connect my ancestral home to my home in the American public school system in order to educate and prevent further atrocities from happening again is an honor.” 

Mary Ellen Richichi

Mary Ellen Richichi (Jupiter, FL) teaches Holocaust/Genocide Studies, world geography and pre-AICE global perspectives at Independence Middle School (IMS). She brought the Holocaust elective course to her school and turned it into a growing program. Richichi runs the Culture Club and the UN Club, where students connect with peers around the world in real time. In 2021, she made IMS a No Place for Hate school through the Anti-Defamation League. In 2022, Richichi received the inSight Outstanding Holocaust Educator Naftaly Award. During spring and summer breaks, she organizes international educational trips for her students to see the world.

“The GenEd Project will deepen my knowledge about the Armenian Genocide every step of the way through educational cohorts, professional collaborations and travel experience to Armenia,” noted Richichi. “I truly look forward to this educational opportunity and to share what I learned with others.” 

Jennifer Sepetys

Jennifer Sepetys (West Bloomfield, MI) teaches social studies at West Bloomfield High School. She serves as the social studies department chair and teaches AP Government, global studies of genocide and positive psychology. She was honored as the Region 9 Teacher of the Year for 2022-2023 by the Michigan Department of Education. Last summer, she received a fellowship through the Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial Foundation and traveled to Poland with educators from across the country. Sepetys is currently pursuing a Ph.D. in educational leadership at Oakland University. 

“The fellowship offers an incredible opportunity to learn more about Armenia and share my experience with students, teachers and the community,” she shared.

Katherine Todhunter

Katherine Todhunter (Northampton, MA) has been teaching about the history of genocide for 21 years at Northampton High School. She is also a lecturer in the history department at Smith College and the program supervisor for Smith’s student teachers in history. Over the years, Todhunter has been awarded fellowships and led study tours to Cambodia, Central and Eastern Europe, Guatemala, Japan, Rwanda and Turkey. She earned an undergraduate degree in Peace and Global Studies with a focus on Russia at Earlham College and visited Yerevan for the first time in 1990 when she was studying in the Soviet Union. It was then that she first learned of the Armenian Genocide. She holds graduate degrees in geography and international development from Clark University and a master’s degree in education from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. 

“I am most excited to learn about how Armenian people, in particular women, resisted and fought to keep their culture alive in the face of genocide,” said Todhunter. 

Debra Troxell

Debra Coram Troxell (Winston-Salem, NC) is a National Board Certified teacher from Winston-Salem, NC. She received her bachelor’s degree in history from Appalachian State University, a master’s degree in information studies from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro and a graduate certificate in geospatial technology from NC State University. Troxell teaches AP Human Geography, international relations and world history at West Forsyth High School. She serves as the social studies department chair, the Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools district coordinator for National Boards and is in the Teacher Academy. 

“The best way to ensure a group of people ‘never again’ experience a genocide is to teach students and adults about ‘forgotten genocides,’” she asserts.

Kristi Ugland

Kristi Ugland (Mt. Pleasant, SC) is an English teacher at Palmetto Christian Academy in Mt. Pleasant, South Carolina. She teaches world literature, AP English literature and senior thesis seminar. Ugland has created and taught several courses on Holocaust and genocide history, 20th century history and literature and collective memory. She is a US Holocaust Memorial Museum Teacher Fellow and works with the South Carolina Council on the Holocaust. Ugland holds a master of arts in Holocaust and Genocide Studies. 

“To better understand the present and the future, students need to be aware of the past,” she believes. “It’s time for the history and effects of the Armenian Genocide to be widely taught and known.”

Emily Wardrop, PhD

Emily Wardrop, Ph.D. (Oklahoma City, OK) teaches interdisciplinary studies and several advanced topic history seminars (including a seminar on genocide) at Casady School in Oklahoma City. In addition to teaching, Dr. Wardropy serves as the history department chair, a member of the school’s academic leadership team and as a co-advisor to Casady’s Youth in Government club.  

“I am very interested in the ways in which events, especially instances of mass violence, are remembered, memorialized or forgotten,” she explains. “I particularly look forward to learning about the ways that Armenia and Armenians have remembered and memorialized the victims and the events of the Genocide.” 

Dr. Mike Xiarhos

Mike Xiarhos, Ph.D. (Warwick, RI) teaches philosophy, genocide studies and AP Psychology at Pilgrim High School in Warwick, Rhode Island. He also teaches theological studies at Salve Regina University in Newport, Rhode Island. Dr. Xiarhos has degrees in education, modern European history and philosophy. He has published articles in academic journals focused on ethics, religion and student travel. He has also taken over 300 high school students to over 20 countries during his 19-year teaching career. 

“I am honored for the opportunity to take part in this truly important work, and I’m grateful to have this experience with such dedicated and talented teachers,” said Dr. Xiarhos.

The GenEd Teacher Fellowship Program is made possible thanks to the generous donors and foundations who support The Genocide Education Project.

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Guest Contributor

Guest contributions to the Armenian Weekly are informative articles or press releases written and submitted by members of the community.

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