The Global Footprint of Sturgis Faculty (Fall 2011)

By Steven Martin

Megan Briggs – Curubandé School, Costa Rica, 2009

When Gandhi said, “I want freedom for the full expression of my personality,” he may very well have been speaking of those fortunate and brave enough to have endeavored taking their skills to foreign lands in hopes of enhancing those very skills through new connections and unpredictable experiences. Sturgis is indeed the beneficiary of what those folks have to offer as this year has seen the unparalleled hiring of a faculty and staff with an array of international experiences as expansive and colorful as a Baskin Robbins 31 flavors menu.

From Ecuador to The Netherlands, from Thailand to Cairo, through international schools and volunteer organizations, from elementary ages to university scholars, the Sturgis faculty brings a wealth of experiences to a proudly eclectic curriculum. The community is also small enough to allow its students, faculty, and parents the opportunity to sample all of these flavors, and thus giving Sturgis a unique educational opportunity. This is significant in a place like Cape Cod, an environment not typically associated with the idea of international contact. However, with daily encounters, students can learn a bit of Russian from Alla Zbinovsky, Spanish dialects from Jenn Kirk and Patrick O’Kane, chat about Rio’s Carnival with Tonja Weimer, and compare and contrast American public education with that of International schools in The Hague with Arthur Pontes and Pete Steedman. Eric Hillebrand and Joel Tallman can integrate some of the disciplinary standards learned in Asian classrooms in Taiwan and China respectively and Steve McDowell can elucidate the regulations and orderliness of a Muslim classroom in Egypt. And these barely scratch the surface of what this faculty brings.

Steve Martin-Kanagawa University, Yokohama, Japan-2010

So how do all of these experiences contribute to the Sturgis experience beyond making for a few quirky stories of foreign cultures, languages, and food? The assembly of such a varied background of instructors allow for a unique narrative of what an International Baccalaureate education represents. When the world is in need of global understanding more than ever for its survival, there is no narrative more valuable than this. It is a narrative rooted in understanding, tolerance, and most importantly, it is a narrative that demands we look inwardly and critically in order to think about who we are, where we come from, and where we would like to go. More than that, a faculty as varied as this one further demand the student understand why they answered the previous three questions as well.

Randy Carspecken, Ruamrudee International School, Bangkok, Thailand – 2005

If one subscribes to the notion that a classroom is a microcosm of a community, then Sturgis students are inherently trained to understand that ignorance of the world outside their own is akin to being merely half-educated. It is the capacity to perceive academic disciplines through a rainbow of lenses that establishes the foundation of a well-rounded education.

Faculty comments:

We asked Sturgis Faculty to comment on how their international experiences influence the way they teach.  Here are their responses:

Gordon Bellemer       I love bringing internationalism into my classroom.  Even though Scotland is an English speaking country, many mathematical terms are not the same here as in Europe.
Carine Blanc  International students often arrive at a given international school with a wide range of academic and personal experiences.  International teaching requires that teachers regard students as individuals- not as a collective body- with individual needs, talents and perspectives.  At the same time, international teaching as taught me that students from around the world are also quite similar- despite differences of language, dress, religion, and appearance. Student diversity and commonalities exist in every student body, and the IB Program at Sturgis offers the chance for our student body to explore their own unique and individual personalities and interests, while celebrating the commonalities that make us and “internationally minded” student body.
Megan Briggs  Even though I was teaching elementary school there, it is where I learned most of my teaching techniques that I use at Sturgis to create a fun-filled and playful high school classroom. Teaching abroad, especially with Global Learning, helped me see that the value of education lies not only in the subjects being taught, but also (and perhaps moreso), in the respect and care shown between teacher and student. I learned that teaching is a wonderful way to keep learning!
Jim Buckheit    My experience as a student is relevant: I was a member of the second entering class at Atlantic College (the first United World College and one of the two schools that developed and piloted the original IB program), 1963-65. In other words, I was an IB guinea pig, and that experience is a major reason why I became an educator.
My experience with the IB in its infancy, as well as more recently as an educator, has convinced me of the value of international perspectives in every subject and the value of student reflection as a component of every lesson I teach.
Randy Carspecken and Dawn Cope    I know our students enjoy our stories about living overseas which be both share in our classes. Yesterday, for instance, when my students were wondering about my Midwest pronunciation of “square ROOT” or the “roof” of a house I told them that after living overseas I discovered how colloquialisms in just one language, English for instance, that vary so much around the world as they do just across the USA, underscore the necessarily narrow life I had growing up. Now, after living with expressions like “off-en the lights” or “pick up your luggages at the airport” or better yet, the nonverbal flick of the eyebrows we learned to love in the Pacific Islands, I no longer think there is a right way to communicate. The subtle tones of the Thai language are another set of stories but I think this paragraph already exceeds your request to “Comment briefly on…
Laurie Davis  I use experiences from my time abroad to add perspective to lessons on world music and diversity issues.
Eric Hieser     Working at some of the highly respected American and international schools around the world has helped me gain a perspective on and a respect for the views of others as being very powerful in problem solving.  I have come to firmly believe that including diverse perspectives enables the whole to become greater than the sum of the parts.  Living in other cultures helps one think outside the box and consider options and possibilities that may be beyond one’s own original consciousness.
The “IB for All” experience at Sturgis challenges the conventional wisdom at most other schools as it emphasizes the perspective that virtually all students can do rigorous work if they embrace their opportunities.  The international experiences and perspectives that many faculty members have brought to their work at Sturgis have enriched the lives of our students and have contributed to the vibrant school culture at the school.  Seeing our non-traditional and diverse students, in addition to our highly capable students, thrive and be quite successful in the IB Programme has been one of the most rewarding experiences in my life.
Eric Hillebrand          I learned about the excellence that is expected in academic programs for the mostly-privileged students that attended overseas IB schools.  What made that experience truly worthwhile was arriving at Sturgis where we would deliver those kinds of expectations to kids who truly had no option for excellent education.  It helped me know what COULD be expected of students.
Steve McDowell         As an American school in Egypt, we had a diverse student body consisting of Americans abroad, local Egyptians and students from over 50 other countries in smaller amounts.  As you can imagine, the broad range of experiences contributed to a rich educational atmosphere where there were multiple cultural perspectives and sometimes little common ground.  As a result, it was a constant challenge to keep an open mind and a degree of tolerance.  Those factors help implement an IB-for-all approach here at Sturgis.  Our diversity isn’t as much a cultural one, but the range of students, even in HL sections, is broader than in many other IB schools; therefore, as a teacher, I need to use that open mindedness and tolerance for difference to administer the program effectively to all.  Lastly as a literature teacher, I often use those overseas experiences to illustrate the texts and share my life in a developing country and my travels overseas.  It has served as an invaluable resource.
Patrick O’Kane          My international experience has allowed me to take into account the many factors that influence a child’s learning experience.  Every student in your classroom has influences outside of that classroom that are affecting his or her learning–sometimes positive, sometimes negative.  My international experience has also allowed me to bring more flavor to my teaching of culture within the context of the Spanish language.  My year teaching in Spain (as well as a semester of study abroad during college) put me in direct contact with the culture I am now teaching to my students.  My first hand experiences with Las Fallas (a festival in Valencia, Spain), for example, allows me to vividly describe this tradition in ways that no textbook or website ever could.I believe that IB for All connects many students with a much larger international community…students that ordinarily would not have this opportunity living on Cape Cod.  Students at Sturgis attend classes taught by teachers who have been abroad and lived within diverse international settings.  These teachers (myself included) convey a broad sense of international understanding to their classes.  In my particular case, I am able to emphasize to my students the simple fact that most people in the world share the same hopes, dreams, and values as we do.

Joel Tallman    My experiences overseas have inevitably broadened my perspective, personally and professionally.  I’m a more well-rounded teacher because of them. The rigor of the IB is combined with an international-mindedness, an emphasis on community service, and a spirit of personal growth and reflection.  While meeting the challenges of the IB, our students on Cape Cod have the chance to compete academically with students from around the world, as well as develop their own identity and character.
The attached photo is from Thailand, the Prem Teacher Team on the Bike for Elephants charity bike ride to benefit the Chiang Mai Elephant Nature Park elephant sanctuary.

Alla Zbinovsky   My international experience has made me more aware of the interconnectedness of our global village, and the importance of tolerance and respect between diverse groups of people.  I hope I bring my experiences in living and teaching abroad by integrating ideas of multicultural awareness into the classroom. The IB program is a great vehicle for bringing an international perspective to our students here in Cape Cod. Students who complete the program are well prepared for the challenges of our complex world, both within and beyond our shores.

Former Faculty Members

Chris Andre     All is well in Istanbul.  The second year has been much more sane now that we know our way around a bit better both physically, and culturally.  We love the city and the school is an exciting place to work.

Carrie Brummer       I have been working for Dubai American Academy (DAA) for 5 years now, ever since I left Sturgis. Last year they made me Head of Fine Arts and I have been thinking about going the administrator route; time will tell! Two years ago I completed my Masters of Educational Leadership and Administration from The George Washington University while also working at DAA. Dubai is a great travel hub and has offered me opportunities to travel to places like Sri Lanka (that’s where I am holding the baby turtle), Jordan and Egypt. The city itself has a burgeoning art scene, great for an artist and photographer like myself, and has plenty to do and see!  Best wishes to former colleagues and students. 🙂 I miss Sturgis and think of you all often!

See Below for a List of Sturgis Faculty and their International Experience.


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Sturgis Faculty International Experience

Carla Aiello

Kaohsiung American School, Taiwan (2009-2011)

Gordon Bellemer

International School of Aberdeen, Scotland (1996 – 2007)

Carine  Blanc

France – Lived there prior to 1995
Kent, U.K.   (1995-2002) -student exchange, teacher’s qualification and first year experience
Istanbul, Turkey, IB International School (2002- 2011)

Megan Briggs

All my international teaching experience was volunteer work through the non-profit organization Global Learning ( Along with teams of volunteers, I visited and taught in over 20 schools located in and around Liberia, Costa Rica; San Jorge, Nicaragua; and Santa Ana Maya, Michoacán, Mexico. (2009)

Jim Buckheit

Anglo-American School of Moscow, USSR (1983-86) – Director (and teacher of mathematics, ethics, and writing)

Frankfurt International School, Germany (1993-1998) – Director (and teacher of TOK and IB Psychology) – during my tenure we also opened International School Wiesbaden as a branch of FIS.

Vistamar School, Los Angeles (2004-2011) – founding Head of School (and teacher of history, ethics, and TOK) — I mention this because Vistamar is a member school of the Council of International Schools and serves a very diverse student population, including many expatriates and first generation Americans. (It’s deliberately not an IB school, but the curriculum I developed there is very much akin to the IB.)

Dawn and Randy Carspecken

Tinian High School, Northern Marianas Islands, (1996 to 1999)

Ruamrudee International School, Bangkok, Thailand (2002 to 2005)

Laurie Davis

Colegio Roosevelt: Lima, Peru (1990-1992)

John F. Kennedy Schule, Berlin, Germany (1996-2000)

American School of Barcelona: Spain (2000)

Qatar Academy: Doha, Qatar (2002-2006)

Aaron Dunigan AtLee

Colegio Maya, the American International School of Guatemala, (2002-2009)

Kate Dunigan AtLee

Colegio Maya, the American International School of Guatemala, (2005-2009)

Sheila Gilligan

Antwerp International School, Antwerp, Belgium (2001-2004)

Vallensbaek HF School, Denmark (1997-1998)

International School of Lusaka, Zambia (1989-1993)

Eric Hieser

International School of Stavanger, Stavanger, Norway, (1976-78)
American School in Japan, Tokyo, Japan, (1978-90)
Zurich International School, Zurich, Switzerland (1990-98)
Escola Graduada (the American School of Sao Paulo), Sao Paulo, Brazil, (1998-2002)

Eric Hillebrand

International School of Panamá (1994-96)

American International School of Budapest, Hungary (1996-98)

Kaohsiung American School, Taiwan (2009-2011)

Divya  Johar 

Guru Nanak Dev University, Amritsar, Punjab, India (2006-2008)

Joanna Kallio

The American School Foundation of Guadalajara, MEXICO for 8 years

ELCIN Nkurenkuru High School in Nkurenkuru, Namibia, AFRICA for 2.5 years

Jenn Kirk

Colegio Bolivar, Cali, Columbia (2002 -2007)

Colegio Albania, La Guajira, Columbia (2001-2002)

Centro de Educacion Creativa, Monteverde, Costa Rica (1998 – 2000)

Steven Martin

Toin University, Yokohama (2001-2002)

Translator- Seiko-Epson Corporation, Nagano, Japan (2003-2004)

Interpreter -MTV Japan, (2005)

Kanagawa University in Yokohama, Japan (2010)

Steve McDowell

Cairo American College in Cairo, Egypt (1983-2005)

Cambridge University, England (1970’s)

Patrick O’Kane

Colegio Munabe, Bilbao, Spain (1996- 1997)
American International School of Rotterdam, The Netherlands (2007- 2009)

Paula O’Keefe


Thevenet Training College – Rabweh – Lebanon

Université Blaise Pascal – Clermont-Ferrand, France

CIEP – Centre International d’Etudes Pédagogiques – Sèvres, France

CAVILAM – Formateur de formateurs – Vichy, France

Formation des maîtres – ongoing for 9 consecutive years – French Embassy, Beirut, Lebanon

Work Experience

1990 – 1992 Jesus and Mary School – Rabweh – Lebanon

1992 – 2001 École des Soeurs de Besançon – Beirut, Lebanon


Congrès Mondial des professeurs de français:

1992 – Lausanne, Switzerland

2000 – Palais des congrès – Paris, France

2004 – Atlanta – Georgia, USA

2008 – Québec – Québec, Canada

2012?  (Hopefully Durban – South Africa)

Rachel  Ollagnon

 La Sorbonne, Paris, France (2007)

Anglo American School of Moscow, Moscow, Russia (2006-2009)

Lycee International de Saint Germain-en-laye, Saint Germain-en-laye, France (2005-2006)

American International School of Muscat, Oman (1998-2001)

RAHADS Theatre, Muscat, Oman (1997-2002)

Ecole Francaise de Mascat, Oman (1996-1998)

Arabian Center for Arts and Human Development, Muscat, Oman (1996-1997)

Arthur and JoMary Pontes

Academia Cotopaxi in Quito, Ecuador (1979 – 83) and (1988- 1995)

American International School in Florence, Italy (1985-1987)

Antwerp International School, Belgium (1987–1988)

International School of The Hague, Netherlands (1983-85) and (1995–2004)

“We started overseas in 1979 in Ecuador, then The Hague, Florence, Belgium, again Ecuador, and again in The Hague:  1979 – 2004.”

Peter   Richenburg

Grace College, Brisbane, Queensland, Australia, (1990 – 91)

Amanda Sandland

BS Honors from University College London (UCL)

Post graduate certificate in education (PGCE), King’s College London

Bridgend South Wales Public Schools (1994 – 1998)

International Baccalaureate Curriculum and Assessment Centre, Cardiff, Wales, UK (1998 – 2008)

Peter Steedman

The Kilmore International School, Melbourne, Australia

Gulliver Preparatory School, Miami, Florida

International School of The Hague, Netherlands (1995-2000)

Joel Tallman

American Collegiate Institute, Izmir, Turkey (1995-2001)
International School of Geneva, Geneva, Switzerland (2001-2003)
International College, Beirut, Lebanon (2003-2005)
Escuela Bella Vista, Maracaibo, Venezuela (2005-2008)
Prem Tinsulanonda International School, Chiang Mai, Thailand (2008-2011)

Natalia Wallace

 Mary Mount School, Medellin-Colombia

University of Panama, Panama

El Colombiano, Editor  Miami – Florida (1997/98)

La Voz, Editor / Miami – Florida (1999)

Mundo Hispano, Editor /  Miami – Florida (2001)

El Panameñito, Editor, Owner / Panamá – Panamá (1991)

Periódico de la Cámara de Comercio, Free Lance Medellín – Colombia

Tonja Weimer

International School of Curitiba- Curitiba, Brazil 2008-2011

Alla Zbinovsky

Anglo-American School of Moscow, Russia (2006-2010)

American Community School in Cobham, England (2002-2004)

Oslo, Norway 1987-89
Moscow, Russia 1989-92, 1995-2000, 2004- 2010

London, England 2000-2004


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