Faculty Professional Development
Now in his 20th year teaching science at Suffield, Volker Krasemann grew up in Greifswald, Germany. He is a graduate of EMA University in Greifswald and later earned a master of science degree from Montana State University. Always a lover of languages Volker says they were a way for him to escape East Germany and learn more about the ever-advancing outside world. “I started studying Russian in 5th-grade and after eight years, in 1988, I was ready to travel to the Soviet Union, where I visited an archaeological dig in Tadzhikistan,” he says. “Studying languages for me was an attempt to look beyond the Iron Curtain. I remember very poor quality black and white photos in my English textbooks of places like London and Edinburgh. These were just a few of the cities I was not allowed to visit. So, I learned English by listening to records while trying to understand and translate the lyrics.”
Volker admits he stills loves languages but had gotten quite content from learning any new ones after becoming comfortable with English. He therefore chose to relight his passions and study French in France to immerse himself in culture and intensive classes. He first flew to Paris and went to Rennes, the capital of Brittany. There, he took classes for two weeks in a café off the major square. Because of these intense, totally immersive classes, Volker’s French quickly improved and was considered locally passable. “I hope to return to France this summer to continue practicing my French,” he says.
“I want to thank Suffield for this wonderful opportunity in professional and personal development. Maybe I will learn
MOLLY VIANNEY P’12, ’14
Molly Vianney has been on the Suffield faculty since 1988 teaching American History, various electives, AP US History, and AP Government & Politics. She coaches field hockey and lacrosse and is an annual reader of Advanced Placement exams. Molly discussed how study of theater and visits to landmarks from the Civil War and Colorado helped her teaching of history. Her passion for teaching and the exploration of history were highlights of her talk. Molly is also a relative of the infamous Aaron Burr, the man who shot and killed Alexander Hamilton in a duel. In April she attended Broadway’s groundbreaking production Hamilton and commented, “The creator (Lin-Manuel Miranda) is in my opinion brilliant. He conveys complex and contradictory visions of the Founding Fathers in an engaging way, weaving old political values with current ones.” Recognizing the cultural impact Hamilton has made on and off the stage, Molly spoke about diversity on Broadway and other unique aspects of this award-winning musical. It is a story about America, told by a diverse cast and with diverse music.
Gis-Xi Nahmens is not only a Spanish teacher; she is of Spanish descent. “Throughout my years teaching Spanish and trying to share Spanish culture, I came to realize that many of my students tend to forget that culture is not the result of a single event or unique to one specific country,” she explains. “There are multiple elements of each country’s culture that overlap with its neighbors or even with others from across the ocean. It was through traveling, invasion, and conquests of these physical places that the culture of each individual country was shaped.”
During her two-and-a-half-week summer sabbatical, Gis-Xi traveled to La Mancha and Andalucia in southern Spain to perform research on the influence of the Moors in Spanish culture. She visited the cities of Toledo, Malaga, Marbella, Torremolinos, Cadiz, Tarifa, Córdoba, Jerez de la Frontera, Granada, Sevilla, Gibraltar, Ronda, and Casares. She discovered that much of the influence there was not only of the original Arab culture but also a collection from many areas of the Middle East and north of Africa. Religion, music, food and cooking, bathing, architecture, and medicine were therefore all heavily influenced by the Arabs who arrived to the Peninsula.
While the Spaniards were Christians and the Moors Arabic, there were also Jewish people who lived in Spain and coexisted within some of the walled cities. Influenced by the Muslims, music and instruments would lead way to the guitar and flamenco. Herbs and spices would become as important as the chickpea. Public baths would honor the customs of the Arabs and Allah, and architecture would support both the esthetic and urbanism building techniques.
And finally, the advanced state of the Arabs’ medicine with respect to the Spaniards added to the founding of universities and more precisely of medical faculties, sealing the Arab contribution to the medical evolution.
Melinda Fuller is a graduate of The University of North Carolina at Greensboro with a masters in fine art. She joined the visual arts department in 1996 and in 2016 the faculty presented her the Richter Award for Excellence in Teaching. “I’ve always loved the freshness and expressiveness of children’s art and the bold use of color,” she says. “During the school year I am constantly answering questions, providing instruction and feedback, and tending to students’ needs as artists and people. I love being an art teacher but also need to be the creator of art. For this reason, I chose to return to a series of Nova Scotia paintings I began 20 years ago.”
Thanks to her sabbatical funding, Melinda spent two weeks last summer immersing herself in her paintings and in the solitude of Nova Scotia.
“I fell in love with the lunar landscapes and barren beauty, devoid of trees but covered in mossy, green growth and pools of water,” she explains. “I love to play with color and light, striving for quick, painterly brush strokes and broad areas of color. There is a process I follow which starts with being receptive to the world around me. Working en plein air allows me to really capture the light, color, and atmosphere of a scene. I want to express the grandeur of a landscape while also capturing its feeling. I want it to be a recognizable place, not abstract, but I also don’t want to recreate the scene as if I were a camera. I want to interpret a dynamic pattern within the endless landscape.”
Anyone can develop skills and talents through careful observation and practice. Everyone can find an area of visual arts in which they can succeed. The process Melinda follows starts with being receptive to the world around her. “I paint the things I love in their own environments to try and convey what makes them happy,” she concludes. “In my paintings I attempt to weave together my love for the subject, the scene, and for the paint itself. I am very appreciative for this opportunity and professionally enriching experience and encourage all my colleagues to apply for a faculty sabbatical. Teaching is one of the great joys of my life, but we all need balance, an expanse of time without distractions. I was very fortunate to have that last summer.”
Tobye, Suffield’s Art & Design Director, discussed how a trip to Dakar, Senegal in West Africa helped her build on her passion for documentary filmmaking. She talked about stereotypes and misconceptions of this beautiful land and its people. “I was surrounded by people with beliefs similar to my own,” she said. “Every day we ate together as a family, with all meals cooked by my sister-in-law. I experienced the warmest hospitality, a renewed appreciation for the small things, and a powerful family bond.” Showing a portion of her still-evolving documentary, Tobye shared an intimate look into her experience meeting her husband’s family in Dakar. The film highlights a trip to the House of Slaves on Gorée Island; Ngor Island, known as Senegal’s best surf spot; and a day spent in Thiès at SEEDS Academy (Sports for Education and Economic Development: seedproject.org) where the NBA’s Masai Ujiri and Luol Deng helped lead a basketball clinic.