Participant Bios


Ellen Cohen - New Orleans, LA
Ellen is a native of New Orleans and graduated from Smith College with a B.A. in Spanish Literature and Philosophy/Linguistics. She also holds the degree of Master of Education of the Deaf from Smith College. Ellen has taught Special Education and Spanish for 23 years and currently is the Chair of the Spanish Department at Metairie Park Country Day School. Ellen plans to create a nine-week long course of study on the Maya and Guatemala for Spanish IV students. After spending the summer of 1979 in Guatemala, she has been interested in returning to the country to learn more about the culture, history and politics of the people of Guatemala. 

Sarah Donovan - Lombard, IL
Sarah is a native of Illinois and graduated from the University of Illinois with a B.A. in Sociology. She also holds the degree of Master of Education  in Secondary English from the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC). Sarah is currently a Ph.D. candidate at UIC interested in English Education and children's literature in atrocities, specifically using novels to teach about twentieth century genocides. While teaching education classes at UIC and DePaul University, Sarah is also a middle school English teacher. She developed a literature-based curriculum for genocide studies for her district where she has taught for eight years. Since 2005, she has been researching the paradox of using language to mediate unspeakable acts and how literature can create a framework for helping students respond to atrocities. The young adult novel Tree Girl by Ben Mikaelsen prompted her interest the Maya and further research to understand why the Illinois state mandate to teach about genocide did not include the atrocities in Guatemala. After studying and teaching about the Maya, Sarah looks forward to witnessing the “Signs of Change”and hearing stories from the Maya.

Denise Tullier Holly - Hammond, LA
Denise is an artist/art educator and graduated from the University of Maryland in Studio Art (printmaking and ceramics). She also has a Masters in Education from Southeastern Louisiana University. In August 1994, Denise became the art teacher at the SLU Lab School (K-8) in Hammond. She has served her professional organization, Louisiana Art Education Association, as the Youth Art Month Director, and is currently Newsletter Chair and President-Elect. She has also presented at numerous local and national conferences for the past 12 years and received many awards. In 2007, Denise was named NAEA’s National Elementary Art Educator. She continues to exhibit her own art work regionally and her recent work, Heart and Soul Diva, was recognized with an award at LSU’s Glassell Gallery’s Decadence Summer Exhibition.  She has attended many of the Stone Center’s workshops and summer institutes. Denise is excited about experiencing the Mayan culture and its environs and bringing it back to her students in the form of photographs, drawings and curriculum.

Silvia Jaimes - Honolulu, HI

Rebecca Root - Pittsburgh, PA
Becky Root has been teaching junior high Art for six years.  A graduate of Carlow University in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, she earned a bachelor's degree in Art Education with a minor in Psychology and Art Therapy.  This summer she will complete her Master of Art Education, also from Carlow.  In 2009, she was one of 12 teachers from the United States selected to spend 5 weeks studying in Brazil to develop curriculum on a Fulbright Hays Group Project Abroad.  Becky  looks forward to studying Mayan art and artists, seeing local art (especially the fantastic weavings), spending time with students, hiking the terrain, becoming familiar with customs, and practicing a foreign language.  

Audra Stablein - Pittsburgh, PA
Audra Stablein obtained her Bachelors degree in Spanish education from Clarion University of Pennsylvania  and a Masters of Education/ESL Specialist Degree from Duquesne University in Pittsburgh, PA. She is an avid traveler and has traveled to over 20 countries. She spent 2 years living and working in Quito, Ecuador. There she taught English to corporate clients and later became the academic director of the international school, Inlingua. She is currently a high school Spanish teacher and teaches an adult ESL course at a local community college. She is eager to share her experiences with her students.

Other Participants:

John Cohen - New Orleans, LA
John is a graduate of Metairie Park Country Day School in New Orleans, LA and has just completed his first year at Hampshire College in Amherst, Massachusetts. John studied Latin American Studies at Country Day through a course sponsored by the Stone Center at Tulane. He also studied Latin American Politics and Music at Hampshire College. John plans to major in Immunology and Molecular Biology at Hampshire and hopes to work with Neglected Tropical Diseases as a concentration. He looks forward to travelling through Guatemala because he hopes to do field work in Central America in the future.

Michael Holly - Hammond, LA 
Michael earned his architecture degree from the University of Southwest Louisiana (now the University of Louisiana at Lafayette) and has been a registered architect since 1977. In 1980, he formed Holly & Smith Architects, located on the Northshore region of Louisiana. He has contributed his leadership abilities to a broad array of civic, art, education, charitable and professional organizations and has played a key role in the rejuvenation of downtown Hammond. Today, he serves as the chairman of the design committee of the Downtown Development District, working to keep the city’s downtown center a vibrant place to live, work and visit. Michael has received numerous awards in architecture and for leadership achievements, but he is most proud of the more than 45 awards Holly & Smith has earned for design excellence. He looks forward to experiencing Guatemala and the Mayan culture of the past and present and assisting his wife, Denise, in creating curriculum.

Program Leaders:

Diane Davies - England
Diane is a PhD candidate at Tulane University interested in Maya archaeology, particularly during the Preclassic, Maya architecture and mortuary ceremonialism. She has been excavating at the Late Preclassic site of San Bartolo, Peten (Directed by Dr. William Saturno, University of New Hampshire) on which she will be defending her dissertation in the fall 2012.  Diane has worked with the Stone Center's Latin American Resource Center for many years developing and managing the center's resources on the Maya. She has played a key role in the annual Tulane Maya Symposium since 2006 presenting to teachers and the community in intensive workshops devoted to teaching the Maya in the K-12 classroom.  The latest resource she developed for teachers can be found on the Stone Center website:

Denise Woltering Vargas - New Orleans, LA
Denise manages educational and community programs for Tulane University’s Stone Center for Latin American Studies.  Denise coordinates the Stone Center’s K-12 program by developing teacher workshops, summer institutes, curricular resources, study abroad opportunities and managing the LARC national film lending library.  She has developed curriculum units and curriculum guides with teachers as part of annual summer institutes and film festivals.  She is also currently the Coordinator of the Américas Book Award, an award sponsored by the national  "Consortium of Latin American Studies Programs (CLASP)  Denise earned her BA in Spanish from Reed College and her Masters in International Communication from American University in Washington, DC.  Prior to joining the Stone Center staff in 2006, Denise taught ESL and worked for LanguageLink Translation in Vancouver, WA.