UW-Stout News Story

Online student reaches out to classmates after Tunisia attacks

November 7, 2012

Alan Block is teaching an online master’s education course this fall at University of Wisconsin-Stout. In cyberspace, it’s challenging for Block and his students to get to know each other.

Class members received a message from in mid-September, however, that helped them and Block make an immediate connection with one student:

Dear Alan: I was hoping I could post this link for members of our class to view. It is a link to a video that one of our pre-k teachers made showing our school, ACST (Tunis) before and after the arson, looting, and vandalism that happened on September 14th. There is also a link to follow if anyone would like to donate to the rebuilding of our elementary block. Here is the link:

Thanks, Beth Miceli-Cooper, Tunis, Tunisia (Reading Support/Literacy)


Beth Miceli-Cooper and familyIf Miceli-Cooper’s cyber classmates watched the video, they got an eyeful. It showed the school before and after it was ransacked and partially burned. School buses were set on fire. The 10,000 books in the library were destroyed. Computers, science equipment and musical instruments were stolen. Damage was estimated at $8 million, of which insurance covers only about 20 percent.

The touching video, set to the song “I’ll Stand By You,” also shows teachers and others pulling together to reopen the school days later. Miceli-Cooper is one of those teachers, a reading specialist.

The American Cooperative School in Tunis, Tunisia, was attacked by Muslim rioters four days after the attacks on the U.S. Embassy in Benghazi, Libya, that killed Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans.

The school is across the highway from the U.S. Embassy, where the rioting began in Tunis. Three protesters died. Violence then spread to the school. The attack went on for about five hours before Tunisian security forces moved in.

Fortunately the school’s staff and students were OK. The school closed early because protests were expected after morning prayers. “We were so close we needed to be careful. People weren't really shocked about the size of the protests, but they were shocked that the government seemingly allowed it all to happen.”

Seven weeks later life at the school for Miceli-Cooper, her colleagues and the 650 students mostly has returned to normal, with much tighter government security around the building and temporary classrooms for elementary students.

The nonprofit school has students from 70 countries, but it is American-run, has mostly American teachers and follows an American curriculum, Miceli-Cooper said.

Miceli-Cooper, a native of Breckenridge, Colo., and her husband have two children at the school. They have been teaching there since 2008 and plan to stay at least another year, unless the situation worsens.

She has been teaching since 1989, mostly overseas in places like Ethiopia, Pakistan, China and Russia. They were in Ethiopia during a revolution.

“We came here because we wanted somewhere that was safer. A lot of people get down on the Tunisians because they looted the school, but a lot of Tunisians stop you on the street and say that’s not really Tunisia. It was a minority,” said Miceli-Cooper, saying the extremist Salafist sect of Muslims led the attack.

Tunisians in general are not anti-American, she said. “Since the Arab Spring, security has been a lot worse. You just have to be more careful here. There are a lot more opportunists. People are more worried about what’s going to happen to the country.”

Miceli-Cooper is working on a Master of Science in education through UW-Stout. The 30-credit program can be completed online. She is taking two classes this semester. She also completed a reading certificate online at UW-Stout last year.

UW-Stout Online

National Distance Education Week is Nov. 5-9.

The number of online courses at UW-Stout has nearly tripled since 2008 to almost 700, according to Doug Stevens, director of UW-Stout Online.

Of the 40 distance education programs UW-Stout offers, 30 are completely online. For more information go here.

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