Get to Know Your Teachers: New Hires


ISD is constantly growing and this year is no exception. We are thrilled to have so many passionate, veteran educators join the ISD community.

We asked our new teachers to answer three questions below so you can get to know them a little better. In the coming weeks, we'll be posting more in depth interviews with our new hires and returning ISD teachers.

Nneka Johnson

Innovation Director

nnekaj@faculty.isd.sn


1. Where are you from originally and where were you before coming to ISD?

I was born in Guyana, I grew up in New York, and for the past 22 years I’ve lived in Atlanta, GA.  Prior to coming to ISD I worked for Woodward Academy, the largest independent school in the continental US.


2. What do you like most about being the Director of Innovation?

I love working with such strong and supportive colleagues.  ISD teachers are extremely willing and excited to try new and innovative ways to engage and teach their students!


3. What is something most colleagues or students don't know about you?

I skipped the 8th grade and started college when I was 16 years old.

Janna Riley

MYP Art

jannar@faculty.isd.sn

1. Where are you from originally and where were you before coming to ISD?

I am originally from Holland, New York. A one stop light town outside of Buffalo, NY. Internationally, I have taught in the Middle East and Venezuela but most recently I was braving the cold in Washington DC. 

2. What do you like most about teaching Art? I really enjoy watching my students grow and create art. Having students excited to come to class makes it all worth it.

3. What has surprised you most about Dakar so far? Any interesting or funny experiences? All things driving related. It is a new experience every single day! I have already been kicked out of a taxi because he couldn’t find the store I wanted to go to. 



Brian HigginsonIB Theater brianr@faculty.isd.sn

1. Where are you from originally and where were you before coming to ISD? I am originally from the UK where I worked in teaching, storytelling and in theater. I moved to the US in 2005 and taught English, Folk Literature and Theater. In 2005 my wife and son and I moved to Myanmar in SE Asia where we stayed for 4 years before coming to Dakar.

2. What do you like most about teaching Theater? I love teaching theater as it is an opportunity to enable students to reflect on what it means to be human and to communicate that in the wonderfully diverse art form of theater.


3. What's something most people don't know about you? One thing most people don't know about me is that when I was 12 my dad took me down the coal mine where he worked and I had to crawl on my hands and knees. Most of my family on both sides worked underground. My siblings and `I were the first to go to college.


Mary GuilianiGuidance Counselor maryg@faculty.isd.sn

1. Where are you from originally and where were you before coming to ISD? I am originally from Missoula, Montana and I was most recently working in Thimphu, Bhutan at Royal Thimphu College where I was the college counselor and taught a course in Social Psychology.

2. What do you like most about working as a Guidance Counselor? My favorite thing about my job is connecting with students, helping them develop their strengths and watching them grow. I also love working with families and helping foster connection within families.

3. Why did you decide to come to ISD?

I chose to come to ISD last year because of a Missoula, MT connection with Kelly and Brad Chumrau. I was the long-term ES Counselor substitute while Shandra Hall was on maternity leave. I chose to return this year because I loved it so much while I was here last year. I've never felt as welcomed into a community as I did when I arrived in Dakar and at ISD. And because of the students, they are incredible!


Vivienne Verschuren

IB Mathematics Teacher

viviennev@faculty.isd.sn



1. Where are you from originally and where were you before coming to ISD?

I am Dutch but grew up overseas, attending international schools across the world.  Before coming to ISD I was in Tanzania at the International School of Tanganyika.  


2. What do you like most about teaching Math?

Clearly math is the best subject in the world.  What I like most is when a student overcomes their fear or dislike of math, and starts enjoying and feeling more confident in the subject.  Yes, that does sometimes happen.    

3. Why did you choose to come to ISD?

I  was looking for a school with a good sense of community and with a diverse international student and teacher body.  I also like the IB program both for myself as a teacher, and for my son as a PYP student.  And the view of the Atlantic Ocean didn't hurt!  What surprised me about the school is how many stairs I climb a day.  


Charles Brondel

IB Psychology

charlesb@faculty.isd.sn


1. Where are you from originally and where were you before coming to ISD?

I am from Cleveland, Ohio. I taught in South Korea for the past eight years before coming to ISD. Before that, I worked in Vermont at a school for students with behavioral challenges. 


2. What do you like most about teaching Psychology?

I love teaching psychology not only because it's a fascinating and constantly evolving subject, but because I think students can quickly see the relevance of what we learn and how it applies to their daily lives. Seeing that spark of connection never gets old. 


3. Why did you choose to come to ISD?

I have wanted to move to Africa for a long time, but I had my sights set a bit more to the east. Talking with Dr. Knobloch and Mr. Bird and doing some research on ISD convinced my wife and I that this school - and Senegal! - would be a good fit for us: people from all over the world, a growing IB program, an interesting city, you name it. In terms of surprises, I was really blown away by the atmosphere of the campus. Everything from the ocean views to the landscaping to the community vibe has been a wonderful surprise. 


Joe Johnson

MYP/IB English

joej@faculty.isd.sn


1. Where are you from originally and where were you before coming to ISD?

I am originally from Tennessee, so a country boy. Before here, I was at Woodward Academy in Atlanta, GA., where I taught 8th grade English and coached basketball, volleyball, and golf.


2. What do you like most about teaching English?

What I enjoy most about teaching is that I get to do what I enjoy, talking with people about literature and poetry and film. How many people are able to do that? I also enjoy playing guitar (quite poorly, I might add), and writing poetry.


3. Why did you choose to come to ISD?

The reason my wife and I chose to come to ISD is because we felt this was a place where we could both thrive as educators and a place that most closely reflected our ideas of education


Aryanna Wetteland

MYP & IB Science

aryannaw@faculty.isd.sn



1. Where are you from originally and where were you before coming to ISD?

I am originally from California and I've spent the last 5 years teaching in Hangzhou, China. 


2. What do you like most about teaching Science? 

I like teaching science because to me it's the most interesting and applicable subject with real life benefits.


3. What is something most people don't know about you?

Most colleagues or students don't know that I love to play video games and dabbled in table top gaming such as DnD. 


Hailey Michelsen

Secondary School PE

haileym@faculty.isd.sn


1. Where are you from originally and where were you before coming to ISD?

I am originally from Seattle, USA! Love the Pacific Northwest and all things there! Previously I was living in Myanmar/ South East Asia. 


2. What do you like most about teaching PE? 

I LOVE teaching PE! Before I was a PE teacher I worked in hospitals in the emergency department and assisted on surgical procedures. I love how the human body moves and its awesome to see students moving, playing, and having fun while learning! 


3. Why did you choose to come to ISD?

I chose to come to ISD because I came to Senegal on a holiday a couple years ago and loved it! The people, the country everything!! I had heard phenomenal things about ISD and SO happy to be here! Everyday is a new surprise or certainly entertaining and I am loving it! 




Michele Bailey

IB French

micheleb@faculty.isd.sn


1. Where are you from originally and where were you before coming to ISD?

I am originally from France but I haven’t lived there since the age of 25. Last year I was on a sabbatical and traveled around Central and South America. My last teaching post was in Manila, Philippines, where I taught for 10 years.


2. What do you like most about teaching French?

I love the language and the francophone culture attached to it. I really enjoy seeing students developing their skills and being able to use their language in real life, which is so useful here in Senegal!


3. Why did you choose to come to ISD?

I was really looking forward to teaching in a small school, where you can get to know the students really well and get a sense of community. It is also the first time for me to teach in a francophone environment and I love hearing so many people speaking French. I have been really touched by the warm welcome I had from the school community in general and from the people I met outside of school: genuine kindness!




Elizabeth Hollister

Elementary ELL

elizabethh@faculty.isd.sn


1. Where are you from originally and where were you before coming to ISD?

I am from New York City. The last place I worked was Myanmar. I am really happy to be back in Africa. I worked in East Africa years ago and now I am excited to experience West Africa!


2. What do you like most about teaching ELL? 

I am a new teacher in the Elementary school teaching ELL. What I like most about teaching ELL at ISD so far is seeing the kids try out language and develop confidence. Their smiles become more frequent and they start to shine once they become comfortable. It makes me happy to have a part in their success and share their joy.

Pick One of the Three to Answer:

3. What has surprised you most about Dakar so far?

So much about Dakar is delightful little surprises! From  the flash of color from crushed tiles ground into the soft sand under my feet to the French or Arabic words popping up all the time in Wolof. I love it all! I am studying Wolof and I like to compare it to a "party in my mouth" as it is full of sweet surprises! 


Keith Bailey

IB Film

keithb@faculty.isd.sn


1. Where are you from originally and where were you before coming to ISD?

I was born in the UK and taught there for a number of years before moving to India for 6 years. I then spent 10 years in Manila teaching Film, Photography and English.


2. What do you like most about teaching Film?

Teaching gives me the opportunity to share my passion for Film and Photography with students. I always hope they will become better filmmakers and photographers than I am.


3. What is something most colleagues or students don't know about you?

Despite my advancing years and sometimes grumpy demeanor, I have a sense of humour and enjoy writing and performing music. I play the harmonica, which was the first musical instrument to be played on a space mission. If you ask me about how  I got the large scar on my arm I'll tell you a story about a shark - but it won't be true. 

The International School of Dakar

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