LAND O’ LAKES — Thirty-six Sunlake High students jammed the Advanced Placement human geography class, riveted to Anne Cullison. She recently was one of 50 teachers named a 2019 American Geographical Society Teacher Fellow. It’s a repeat honor for Cullison, who also was a fellow in 2016.
“Mrs. Cullison joins a very exclusive group of the best geography teachers in the United States,” said Dr. John Konarski, CEO of the Geographical Society.
Cullison’s year-long professional development opportunities will include use of opensource mapping in her classroom and access to supplementary resources. She will attend the AGS Fall Symposium Nov. 21-22 at Columbia University in New York City.
Students take Cullison’s classes because of her teaching style and subject relevance.
“The way she lectures clicks with me," said Geoffrey Brown, a 16-year-old junior. "Her classes are a perfect balance of participation and activity.”
Discussing forced migration, Cullison allowed each student to participate in a simulation of being forced to leave a home country. They had to decide on transportation, where to go and how to guard against negative options.
“It’s important to tie together people, cultures and places. I try to engage the kids in real-world conversations and let them see the connections,” Cullison said.
Cullison has been a Pasco County teacher for 15 years, with a few years at Pine View Middle and Rushe Middle schools before arriving at Sunlake High in 2012, with 40 students in a human geography class. She now teaches five Advanced Placement classes with a total of 169 students.
“History is incredibly important for our kids to learn, but the geography piece — the world-centered piece — completes the puzzle for them,” said Cullison.
Cullison earned a bachelor’s degree in political science from the University of Central Florida and a master’s degree in comparative politics from the University of South Florida.
“In college, I was fortunate to participate in an internship at the Near East South Asia Center for Strategic Studies in Washington, D.C.," she said. "We worked with high-level government and military officials in the Middle East and South Asia to inform them on the U.S. policies in those regions. It was after this internship that I realized I wanted to help people understand things.”
Students pepper her with questions about immigration and asylum and follow her answers with an inquiring, “Why?”
Cullison leads students to find their own answers.
“This is the first class many kids take where they get talked to about the world like they are adults,” said Cullison.
Gail Diederich is a retired Pasco County teacher of 32 years. She writes feature stories with an education focus for Pasco and Hernando counties. She can be reached at email@example.com