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Hello educators! We are so happy to have you join us! Please meet the team :)


Dianne McKee, MEd
Project Director

Dianne McKee is an alumnus of ASU and brings over 20 years experience teaching in both formal and non-formal settings, directing federal and regional grants, developing courses and curricula, and designing and delivering both in-person and online professional development for K-12 teachers. She is a Teacher Consultant for the Arizona Geographic Alliance, and a Teacher Trainer for Engineering is Elementary, Makey Makey and Population Education. She has also authored numerous science, environmental, and geographic student publications, as well as developed a number of environmental programs, courses, and training guides for government agencies and non-profit organizations.



Karen A.L. Guerrero, PhD, EdD
Principle Investigator

Karen Guerrero is an educator with 20 years of K-12 classroom experience, 16 years of teaching future educators at local colleges and universities, and 20 years of conducting teacher professional development. She has worked with a variety of students from inner-city children to urban adults.  Her research focus is teaching STEM content to diverse learners. She is a National Geographic explorer with research on STEMSS teaching and learning and continually looks for opportunities to collaborate globally.

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Sara LaPlanche, MPA

Project Coordinator

Of Haitian American decent, Sara Cassandre Laplanche was born in Brooklyn, NY but raised in Haiti. She did her primary studies in Haiti and moved back to the US post the 2010 earthquake that happened in Haiti . She proceeded to complete her High School diploma in Brooklyn , Associate degree of science from  Borough of Manhattan Community College in 2014 and attended St John Fisher University, Rochester NY in 2016 where she obtained a Bachelor of Arts in Chemistry and minor in languages, specifically French and Spanish.  She went ahead to pursue a Master in Public Administration from Long Island University Brooklyn campus in 2021. After the latest studies, she decided to broaden her horizons and moved to Arizona in December 2021.

 ASU Housing Department welcomed Sara among their ranks as an Occupancy manager and provided her with extensive managerial experience. Sara is thrilled to join the team as a program coordinator on this new adventure because she loves to travel, to discover new places, cultures and new challenges. She cannot wait to see what the future will bring with The Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College at Arizona State University (Geocivics Project) . 

Ashley Alarcon
Pensar Academy


My name is Ashley Alarcon and I currently teach at Pensar Academy; a public, Project Based Learning school serving students in grades 4th -8th grade located in the heart of Phoenix, Arizona. Previously, I taught 6th grade and this will be my fourth year teaching 4th grade. I am an enrolled member of the Chemehuevi Indian Tribe: we are the southernmost branch of Souther Paiute.  I’m from a small town alongside the Colorado River called Parker, Arizona. I moved to the valley over a decade ago to attend Arizona State University, and then Grand Canyon University. I earned both my bachelor’s and master’s degrees at Grand Canyon University. I am an active member of my school community and continue to seek opportunities to perfect my teaching craft and support my diverse learners. I am also a proud member of the Arizona Geographic Alliance. I was a part of the 2020 STEMSS Cohort and then became a Teacher Lead in the Summer of 2021. I am extremely passionate about multicultural education and representation in the classroom!

Dr. Margarita Jimenez-Silva

External Evaluator

Dr. Margarita Jimenez-Silva is Associate Professor and Chair of Teacher Education at the University of California, Davis, and co-founder of Sisterhood for Equity Consulting. Prior to entering higher education, Professor Jimenez-Silva worked with newcomer students as a middle-school math and science. Her research focuses on preparing and supporting teachers to work with culturally and linguistically diverse learners. She has coordinated curriculum and programs addressing the needs of emergent bilinguals in the U.S. and internationally. Dr. Jimenez-Silva has evaluated numerous federally-funded projects. Her most recent work focuses on developing pipelines of future bilingual teachers in ways that honor and build on their cultural and linguistic capital. Her research has been published by journals such as Harvard Educational Review, Multicultural Perspectives, and the Journal of Research on Childhood Education.

Yá'át'ééh! My name is Melissa Mercado and I am an Indigenous matriarch from the Diné (Navajo) Nation. I am a proud Arizona State University alumni, graduating with a degree in Elementary Education with an emphasis in Bilingual Education. Currently, I am at the end of my third year teaching at Cesar E.Chavez Leadership Academy in South Phoenix, Arizona, where I teach science to fifth and sixth graders. In the last seven years, I have had the opportunity to participate in various organizations that allowed me to present my experiences and knowledge at numerous local and national conferences, giving a voice to indigenous voices. As an indigenous person, I am constantly working to decolonize my way of life and advocate and create opportunities for indigenous youth to reclaim and sustain language and culture. For this reason, during the summer I host a day camp to provide space and learning for Diné kids to connect to their culture, language, and other kids. I find joy in dancing salsa, bachata, cha cha cha, and merengue, spending time with my siblings and family, learning Spanish and human anatomy and physiology, crafting, and sewing.


Melissa Mercado

Cesar E.Chavez Leadership Academy



Niccole Villa Cerveny


Niccole Villa Cerveny is a professor of Geography and Sustainability at Mesa Community College (MCC) in Arizona. Her interests in GeoCivics center around the importance of GeoHeritage and methods for understanding how "Place" is integral to our deeper understanding of our shared human heritage. Teaching at MCC for over 20 years, her research interests are in Physical Geography, Rock Decay and Landform Evolution, Heritage Management, GeoHeritage, and Geoscience Education - including undergraduate research. She is also a member of the US National Committee on Geosciences.

In a nutshell . . . I love teaching, am a life-long learner, and a self-proclaimed “geography fanatic.” My teaching career spans 34 years and has run the gamut from Pre-School to Elementary, Junior High, High School, and even Adult Education for Senior Citizens. The past six years, I have taught Pre-AP World History/Geography, Holocaust Studies, and AP Human Geography at Red Mountain HS in Mesa, Arizona. Beyond the classroom, I connect with students via campus clubs as the Model United Nations Sponsor, Native American Club Co-Sponsor and Cultural Ambassadors Club Co-Sponsor. Prior to teaching at RMHS, I taught junior high Social Studies (grades 7-8-9) for 23 years, including on-level and Honors classes.

As a professional, I am actively involved in Social Studies Education, taking on leadership roles as a Board Member of the Arizona Council for the Social Studies (ACSS) and as a Teacher Consultant for the Arizona Geographic Alliance (AzGA), as well as planning and presenting at workshops/conferences sponsored by both organizations. I am an avid curriculum writer with published Geography and History lessons on websites such as PBS Learning Media, Arizona Geographic Alliance, University of Arizona’s Center for Middle Eastern Studies, Fred T Korematsu Institute, and the educator journal, “The Geography Teacher.”
My undeniable passion is to convey to students the importance of examining US and world history, global issues, world cultures, and current events with a critical eye and an open mind. I have studied and traveled extensively in Japan, Mexico, South Korea, Sri Lanka, Morocco, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, Bahrain, UAE, Qatar, and Indonesia enabling me to share authentic cultural experiences and history in the classroom. I am dedicated to helping students attain the critical 21st century skills and knowledge they will need to be responsible stewards of both our nation and planet. 

As an individual who has chosen to be a teacher, I am fulfilled with a purpose and mission that will far outlast my life on this planet. I am inspired by the words of Nelson Mandela, “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”

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Jeannine Kuropatkin
Red Mountain High School


Samuel D Francés Vázquez, Pensar Academy
STEM Coach and Mentor


My name is Samuel D Francés Vázquez, son, brother, uncle, and proud teacher. For the past 7 years, I have worked as the STEM Director at Pensar Academy, but more importantly, I’ve taught STEM subjects to amazing students. I am a native of Puerto Rico where I was born, raised, and educated on the land once inhabited by my ancestors the Taínos. True to my heritage, my ancestral DNA includes European, African, and Taínos markers that exemplify the history of colonialism, slavery, and survival of Puerto Ricans. I moved to Arizona 16 years ago to complete my Master in Education in Curriculum and Instruction in Secondary Education at Arizona State University supported by a fellowship from the National Science Foundation - Bridge to Teaching. I have called Arizona my second home ever since and I have built a chosen family who made me feel loved and that I belong. It is that sense of belonging and love that I strive to provide to students in my classroom. I want them to know that they belong and that they are worthy of a world-class education. As an educator and educational leader, I strive to provide students with opportunities to learn and pursue their dreams knowing they are capable and worthy. I want them to hear loud and clear "Si se puede/Yes we can." I am a Big with the Big Brothers Big Sisters of Arizona in which I have had the distinct honor of mentoring a little for almost 2 years. I am always looking for opportunities to improve my professional and personal capacity and ultimately better impact my contribution to the lives of those I serve; the GeoCivics Academy seems like a great opportunity to improve my capacities!

Greetings, my name is Elizabeth Fuiava and I have 24 years of experience in educating young minds through various capacities. I’ve taught for a combination of 19 years as a classroom teacher in American Samoa, Washington, and Arizona for levels K, 1st , 2nd, 3rd, 6th, 7th, and 8th grade. I earned my bachelor’s degree in elementary education through the University of Hawaii at Manoa in the fall of 2010 and a master’s in science for special education from Western Governors University in the fall of 2020. In 2017, I gained my Washington teacher residency certificate while working one year as a paraeducator, one year as a site director for the YMCA, and two years as a certified substitute teacher. I moved to Arizona in 2018 to help my husband start another church ministry branch for the First Samoan Full Gospel Pentecostal Church in which I’ve been actively involved in since 1996 as a leader for children’s choir and Bible ministry.


Elizabeth Fuiava 
Saddleback Elementary MUSD | 

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