Middle East and African Cultures Teacher Fellows

Migration & Diaspora | Cultural Landscape & Community | Shared Histories & Cultural Retention

This intensive year-long professional development opportunity will explore Middle Eastern and African heritage through structured site-visits across the state, from visiting a refugee resettlement agency in Greensboro, to dining at a Middle Eastern restaurant in Charlotte, to attending a performance in Durham by Alsarah & The Nubatones, this program aims to enhance expertise in Middle Eastern and African cultures and communities, explore the growing diversity of North Carolina, and develop culturally competent pedagogy.

Fellows will first attend a two-day orientation workshop January 19-20, 2018 at UNC-Chapel Hill to introduce program themes, and then attend a minimum of 5 site-visits throughout the year (held across North Carolina) while engaging with readings, scholarship, discussion, and pedagogy. Program content will be organized around three strands: Migration & Diaspora, Cultural Landscape & Community, and Shared Histories & Cultural Retention. At the culmination of the program, teachers will develop curricular resources related to program content and present their work at a culminating workshop in December 2018. Click here for answers to Frequently Asked Questions about the program.

Welcome to the 2018 Middle East and African Cultures Teacher Fellows!

Tomika graduated with honors from North Carolina Central University with a degree in Family and Consumer Sciences and Sociology.  She obtained her M.Ed in Specialized Education with an emphasis on Learning Disabilities and Literacy from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro.  She has taught every grade level kindergarten – twelfth grade either as a classroom teacher, gifted specialist, or Family and Consumer Sciences Teacher (Home Ec.)  She has been teaching for fourteen years and recently matriculated to Chapel Hill Carrboro City Schools to teach in the LEAP (Learning Environment for Advanced Programming) Fifth Grade Class; a specialized program for highly gifted students.

She is a recipient of numerous grants and awards such as the Durham Public Schools AIG Teacher of the Year, National Council of Teachers of Mathematics Emerging Leader and Future Leader Initial NCTM Annual Meeting Awards; the Burroughs Wellcome Fund Career Award for Mathematics and Science Teachers; and NC Central University 40 Under 40 Award for contributions in Education. She is also a Kenan Fellow, NC Science Leadership Association Fellow, and the K-2 Engineering Curator for the Next Generation Science Standards with the National Science Standards Association.

In her spare time, she loves to volunteer, read, and spend time with her family.

Savannah is an avid animal lover and history buff. She studied history at NCSU before transferring and graduating from ECU with degrees in History and History Education. Savannah has plans to pursue her Masters in American History in the coming year. She teachers Social Studies at Gates County High School and she previously taught for 3 years at Northeastern High School. Savannah is an African Diaspora Teaching Fellow the Duke/UNC Consortium in Latin America & Caribbean Studies. Savannah resides in Elizabeth City, NC with her husband and dog. On the weekends Savannah can be found at her family home in Gates County riding horses or at the beach.

Jeff Crisp has been a High School Social Studies teacher in North Carolina Public Schools for 18 years.  The son of public school teachers, Jeff studied at the University of North Carolina Asheville as a North Carolina Teaching Fellow.  There, he earned a Bachelor of Arts in History in 1997.  He then completed studies to receive his Masters of Teaching Social Studies from Western Carolina University in 1999.  In his time at three different high schools, Jeff has taught all Social Studies classes, especially concentrating in American History and AP Psychology.  Jeff also enjoys coaching a variety of athletics, including basketball and baseball.  Most recently Jeff has taught at Hibriten High School in Lenoir, NC where he leads the school’s Fellowship of Christian Athletes, coaches Middle School basketball, and represents the Social Studies department on the Caldwell County Curriculum Council.  In 2009, Jeff had the opportunity to travel and study in Israel for two weeks, and is excited to be leading the Middle East Studies class at Hibriten in 2018.  Jeff has been married to Michelle Jennings Crisp for 19 years, and they have three children ages 15, 13, and 11.  In his free time Jeff loves to read and exercise.  He spends most of his time away from work watching his kids’ sports or dance activities and supporting his wife who runs a busy dance studio.

Zachary grew up in the western part of North Carolina, in the mountains. He studied English education and music at Western Carolina University, then attending graduate school at the Center for Ethics at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia, where Zach also served as a hospital chaplain before returning to teaching in 2014. Zachary currently teaches honors and AP juniors at Currituck County High School.


Suzanne Finch received her Bachelor’s of Arts degree in Elementary Education from Elon University in 2001, where she was a North Carolina Teaching Fellows recipient.  In 2007, she graduated from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro with Master’s of Education with an emphasis in K-12 Literacy.   In 2008, she was selected by her peers as Teacher of the Year at Hopewell Elementary for her intricate role in establishing Professional Learning Communities within her school and serving as a pilot member for implementing this process into the Randolph County Schools system.  In 2009, she received her National Board Certification in Early & Middle Childhood Literacy.  Her peers selected her the following year in 2010 as Distinguished Educator due to her active leadership roles on the school’s Response to Instruction Committee, district’s K-2 literacy representative, mentor to National Board candidates and adjunct curriculum liaison with the School of Education at University of North Carolina at Greensboro.  Ms. Finch served on a district committee for developing units of learning for the implementation of Common Core standards.

This is Suzanne’s 17th year at Hopewell Elementary in Trinity, North Carolina.  She has twelve years of experience teaching kindergarten; she looped one year to teach first grade and is currently in her fourth year teaching 4th grade.  Suzanne serves as the Multicultural and Global Committee Chair, where she facilitates methods of incorporating global and 21st century topics into all curricular areas K-5.  Suzanne attributes her initial love of global awareness to her parents for taking her and her sister on many childhood trips and exposing them to a variety of cultural events. 

Marsha Harvey is a teacher of English at Henderson Middle School in Vance County. She is also the English Department Chair and Grade level Chair. Marsha is originally from Jamaica and has taught in several countries including Oxford, England where she pursued studies at the University of Oxford. Marsha has taught IGCSE, CXC, CAPE and is an International Baccalaureate trained teacher for Theory of Knowledge. She formally lectured Communication Studies, a linguistics course, to pre- college students. Marsha writes children’s books and is currently working with Author House Publishing on her soon to be released book, Follow the Wind, Charlie. She is the founder of the Let’s Read Jamaica teacher-training program. Marsha believes in life-long learning and is eager to continue educating students from underserved communities to help bridge the gap in educational inequality. Marsha currently lives in Raleigh, North Carolina with her partner, Derek and her two children Daniel and Olivia. When she is not spending time with family she enjoys reading, travelling, and hosting.


Guy Hill is an English teacher at Triton High School in Harnett County, where he has taught for 18 of the 21 years of his teaching career. At Triton, Mr. Hill has taught regular and honors English I and II, as well as AP Language and Composition. He has served as a member of the Board of Directors and President of the North Carolina English Teachers Association.  Mr. Hill was a member of the North Carolina 10th Grade Writing Test Committee and former Governor Beverly Perdue’s Governor’s Teacher Advisory Committee. He served as an inaugural Teacher Fellow for Hope Street Group and is now a member of their National Teacher Advisory Committee. He was also recently an American South Teaching Fellow. He is a graduate of both the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill with a Bachelor’s degree in English and Wake Forest University with a Master’s degree in Education. He is married to Angela Hill, principal of The Capitol Encore Academy in Fayetteville, North Carolina. They live in Coats, NC with their two children, Zora and Charlotte.

A passionate and innovative author and educator, Eboné M. Lockett received her Bachelor of Science degree in Psychology and Bachelor of Arts in English from Fairfield University.  Never imagining a career in education, she joined the Hartford, CT Teaching Fellows pilot program in 2001 as a way to give back to her community.  From the moment she stepped inside the classroom, her passion for teaching and leading was lit, and has never dimmed. Subsequently, Eboné earned a Master of Science degree in Educational Leadership from Central Connecticut State University with a focus on curriculum and instruction. She has taught Secondary English Language Arts for over 16 years, originally in Hartford, CT and for the past 11 years in Charlotte, NC. A three-time-consecutive recipient of the Charlotte Hornets Teacher Innovation Grant, Winner of the Arts and Science Council Cato Excellence in Teaching Award, and creator of Culturally- Responsive Curricula, Eboné applies her pedagogy and love for literacy and learning to lead in the classroom, at her school and in her local, national and global communities.  Eboné shares her love for learning, cultural diversity and travel with her husband and three children.

Originally from Georgia, Erica Luetzow currently lives in Durham and is the Cultural Studies teacher at Club Blvd. Humanities Magnet School.  She earned her BA in Sociology and German at UNC-Chapel Hill and studied abroad in Vienna, Austria.  Erica received her Middle Grades teaching certification in Social Studies from Appalachian State and taught in middle schools before switching to an elementary school setting.  When not at school, Erica enjoys biking with her family and reading or playing games in coffee shops.


Akwete McAlister cannot believe that she will complete her 17th year of teaching at the end of the school year.  She teaches at the Career Center in Winston Salem, NC, and has primarily taught Human Geography, U.S. Government and Politics, and Comparative Government and Politics.  She is from Anderson, SC and was a sociology major at Spelman College and earned her Masters of Education from Wake Forest University.  Her favorite things are spending time with her family, reading fiction, traveling, and walking when time allows.  She looks forward to learning about the presence of Middle Eastern and African cultures in North Carolina.

I was born in Vietnam during the war.  I am ethnically Chinese.  I am a Cajun, a Texan, a Southerner, an American, a global-minded citizen, a teacher, a student, a coach, a prankster, a husband, a father.  I will cook and eat almost anything. I love the outdoors. I love to travel–the more adventurous and to the most far-flung places the better.  These collection of identities and experiences have had a profound impact on who I am today and what I do in the classroom with my students.  Durham Academy and North Carolina have been my home since 2003 after seven years teaching in the Washington D.C. area.  Although I take pride in being able to teach all of the core history classes offered at DA, the 9th grade World Cultures class, with its emphasis on exploration and understanding of “cultures” and developing “cultural capital”, and AP US History top the list.  I am ecstatic to be part of this program–to be a student once again.    

Wendi Pillars, ​NBCT, has been teaching English language learners in ​multiple content areas, in ​grades K-12 for​ 22​​ years, stateside and overseas. ​She​currently teaches at Jordan-Matthews High School in Siler City, North Carolina​, works as both facilitator with the Teacher Leadership Institute, and as a teacher leader with the Center for Teaching Quality. She is the author of Visual Note-Taking for Educators: A Teacher’s Guide to Student Creativity​, and a regular contributor to EdWeek and other educational platforms.​ ​Obsessively curious, she is a 2017 Grosvenor Teacher Fellow, 2016 State Department Global Classroom Fellow, and freelance Graphic Recorder with a healthy addiction to markers. When not working, you’ll find her with her son, at the baseball field, and most likely, with markers, sketchbook, and a map in hand. She believes exploring through another’s eyes, languages, experiences, and terrain is vital to making sense of our evolving world. Follow her on Twitter @wendi322.

Schaefer is a native Tarheel having grown up in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. She is excited every day to teach the young scholars at Parkland Magnet IB High School, where she has been for the past 4 years. In her 8 years teaching she has taught in both North Carolina and Florida. As a history teacher she has had the ability to be trained in the Sheltered Inclusion Observation Protocol extensively which has given her the privilege to teach a large population of immigrants or children of immigrants. It has been through her exposure to diverse student populations that she has been able to explore and learn about the exciting cultures of countries such as Pakistan, Syria, Tanzania, Rwanda, Guatemala and Mexico. Travel being one of her biggest passions she has been many places from most recently the Caribbean, where she swam with pigs in Exuma, to Aztec ruins in Mexico, and seeing the Northern Lights in Iceland. Lauren has assisted the Museum of Anthropology at Wake Forest with content appropriate curriculum and written extensively for both Forsyth County, NC and Orange County, FL. These opportunities have allowed her to become a teacher leader and collaborate with many wonderful educators. She loves teaching and is passionate about helping kids better understand and appreciate the cultures and religions that make every person unique and special. She believes that education is the key to eliminating discrimination and bigotry. In keeping with that message, she strives to have students understand both their similarities and differences. When not at school she enjoys spending time with her family David, son Cade, and their dog Lily Potter.


Program Schedule:
February 16-17, 2018 | Orientation Workshop, UNC Chapel Hill
March 1 (Thurs. eve) | Migration and Diaspora: Al Sarah and the Nubatones, Durham
April 28 (Sat.) | Shared Histories & Cultural Retention: Masjid Omar Ibn Said, Fayetteville
June 22 (Fri.) | Shared Histories & Cultural Retention: Middle East & African Food, Charlotte
August 10 (Fri) | Migration and Diaspora: NC African Services Coalition, Greensboro
September 8 (Sat.) | Cultural Landscape & Community: Triangle Lebanese American Center, Raleigh
October 6 (Sat.) | Cultural Landscape & Community: Iranian Cultural Society of North Carolina, Raleigh
December | Final Workshop, UNC Chapel Hill

Contact: If you have questions regarding the program or application process, contact Emma Harver, Program/Outreach Coordinator, Duke-UNC Consortium for Middle East Studies at 919-962-6732, harver@email.unc.edu

The Middle East and African Cultures Teacher Fellows Program is a collaboration between the UNC African Studies Center, Carolina K-12 and the Duke-UNC Consortium for Middle East Studies. This program is funded by the UNC College of Arts & Sciences, Carolina K-12’s Warren A. Nord Endowment for Teachers, and Title VI funding from the U.S. Department of Education.