Olive Team Zoom Meeting

A zoom photo of the Olive project members: Jari Kontkanen, Montaser Al-Halabi, Mervi Asikainen, Teemu Valtonen, Abdallah Bsharat, Hille Janhonen-Abruquah, Ali Nassar, Hanna Posti-Ahokas, Ahmad Aljanazrah, Refa Ramahi, Ali Abuzaid, Hazem Sakeek, Ahmad Fteiha, Salem Mwafy and Atta Darwesh


The Olive project has professional experience both from Finnish and Palestinian universities. 

Hille Janhonen-Abruquah coordinates Olive Project. She holds PhD and title of Docent at the Faculty of Educational Sciences at University of Helsinki and has a long experience in international academic collaboration. Most recently she co-ordinated two continious North-South-South/CIMO projects 2012-2014 and 2014-2016 Culturally Responsive Teacher Education with three African universities and two Finnish universities. In 2019, Hille worked as an educational advisor in Ramallah, Palestine in a Finn Church Aid, FCA / Teachers without Border’s TwB school development and in-service teacher education project.

See Hille's research profile 

Montaser S. Al-Halabi works for Al-Azhar University-Gaza where his current position is the director of practicum department at the faculty of education. In addition to some other development work, he has multi discipline experiences and degrees, with a degree in education, a degree in electronics and a master degree in Information technology. He has a combination with which he tries to introduce new methods in education that utilize the critical thinking and creativity.

He has initiated the Olive project at Al-Azhar University-Gaza and he has also been assigned to coordinate the project at his university. He will work hard to make every possible success of the project by introducing the learning beyond walls, and integrating the STEM learning components into their curricula.

Dr. Osama S. Hamdouna is the Dean and Assistant Professor of Psychology at the Faculty of Education at the Al Azhar University-Gaza. He has a strong background in project management and he has coordinated the National Teacher Development Centre (NTDC), as well as the “Improving Education in Primary Schools in Gaza” project. In addition to his practical experience, he has published several papers in the field of psychology of education and inclusive education. 

With his team, they hope to bring new methods and technologies to their teacher education programs in the Olive project, hoping that those methods will make them better prepared not only for the current challenges but to the future.

Dr. Hazem Falah Sakeek obtained his BSc in physics and mathematics in 1987 from UAE university, MSc in Optoelectronics in 1988 and PhD in 1991 from Queen’s university of Belfast and was appointed as postdoctoral at Queen’s university until the end of year 1992

He stated working in Al-Azhar University-Gaza in 1993 as physics lecturer. During his career he has been appointed for several administrative positions such as head of the physics department, dean of administration and registration, head of ITU and dean of Intermediate studies.

He  has given several face-to-face and online training courses in using  the most popular computer software such as Microsoft office, Photoshop and CorelDraw. He has also supervised many activities of the physics students such as the yearly physics exhibition and the physics days at the university.

His contribution to teaching physics to the Arab world was recognized through his Physics education website, established in 2001, to include physics articles in the form of how stuff works. He has also translated many books, articles and scientific papers all published in his website.

He established the Physics Academy website in 2009, based on MOOC methodology with more than 500 physics lectures all recorded and published by himself to implement the flipped class-room in teaching physics. 

Recently, Dr. Sakeek was selected by AKS Education Awards to be the winner of the global teacher award for the year 2020.

Dr. Ahmed Issa is an assistant professor of Mechatronics, obtained his PhD degree in Mechanical and Manufacturing Engineering (Lasers Micromachining) from Dublin City University – Ireland in the year 2007. He joined Al Azhar University – Gaza (AUG) in the year 2009. He is currently the Assistant Vice President for Academic Affairs. He is the former Deputy Dean for Quality Affairs, the former head of Engineering Department at the Faculty of Engineering and Information Technology (EIT), and the former director of the continued education and society service center.

He is currently the director of an Erasmus+ Capacity Building in Higher Education - EAC/A03/2016 project, entitled “Increasing the Conformance of Academia towards Rehabilitation Engineering (i-CARE)”. This project aims to introduce and promote rehabilitation engineering education and practices in Palestine with European standards. The partner institutions’ staff, students as well as health service sector professionals will receive training on the implementation of rehabilitation engineering to enhance their skills relevance to the labour market and society needs. He is the conference chairman of “2020 International Conference on Rehabilitation and Assistive Technologies (iCareTech2020)” approved by IEEE. He is also the national contact for Palestine at the Global Assistive Technology Information Network – EASTIN.

Dr. Issa is also a board member of the higher council for innovation and excellence – Palestine. He is the member- and former member of a handful of national committees for enhancing engineering education, equalization of non-Palestinian certificates, judging innovative projects for incubation. He is mentor of the Institute of Mechanical Engineers (ImechE) student branch at Al Azhar University – Gaza.

Dr. Issa is a member in several national and international research teams in the fields of e-learning and teaching systems, advanced materials processing technologies, solar cells fabrication, biogas production, supervisory control and automation. He supervised and co-supervised a number of graduate projects in the fields of mechatronics, reverse engineering, rapid prototyping, robotics, disability assistive tools and technology. Several of his graduate student projects won national and international awards. He is the editorial board member and reviewer of several international scientific journals.

Prof. Atta H Darwish, got the  BA from King AbdulAziz University in Jeddah in Science. He got the Master in Science  from UPM Dahran KSA, also He got MA degree  from King College of London KCL UK. PH.D from Ein-shams University Egypt in Science Teaching. 

He has been working in Al-Azhar University since 1994. He used to be the  Head of Methodology Department several times. Dr Darwish worked as Dean Assistant in Quality Control Deanship in AUG- 2009-2012.  

He worked with TEIP (World Bank) project to develop Practicum in Faculties of Education in Palestinian universities,  the period between 2012-2019. Through the project, He visited some EU universities.  

He worked with QIF (Quality Improvement Foundation) and Erasmus plus to develop Curricula in Faculties of Education In AUG. UNRWA selected him to be the consultant in Education Dept 2005-2006, through the period of Mr. John King. He worked as consultant with GTZ office in Gaza - in Health Awareness and Solid Waste Project. He worked as visitor lecturer in Pennsylvania University USA in 2007-2008.  

Dr. Ali M. Nassar obtained his BA from The Faculty of Education, Alexandria University, Egypt in methodology, and mathematical teaching, and his MA. and PHD. from Valencia University Spain in methodology, and mathematical teaching. He has been working with UNRWA since 1981 to 2004 as mathematics teacher. He started working at Al-Azhar University-Gaza in 2004 as mathematics teacher and methodology lecturer, where he has used several new methods in education that utilize the critical thinking and creativity. During his career he has been appointed for several administrative positions such as head of methodology department. 2010-2012, at education faculty. He is  the deputy head of the union at the university.

He has also supervised and discussed many of the MA's theses in mathematical teaching. He has worked with AMEDEAST MSN Program 2010. In addition, he has worked with the TEIP project to develop practicum in faculties of education in Palestine between 2012-2019. He has also worked with Erasmus plus project to develop curricula in faculties of education. Currently he is assigned as Olive team member at the university and in this project he will work hard to make every possible success of the project. One of his goals is to have the STEM learning components integrated into their curricula.

Ameera is currently a PhD researcher at the University of Helsinki at the Faculty of Educational Sciences. Her research interests focus on issues related to social justice and education. She graduated with a Master’s degree in Education and Globalization.

Prior to that she has worked with various NGOs where she was responsible for the implementation of local and regional development projects related to education, marginalized youth and women empowerment, and vocational training, in the Palestinian context specifically and the MENA region in general.

As a Palestinian living in Finland, being part of OLIVE is something close to her heart. She is excited to see what we can build throughout this project with the various stakeholders involved, and the mutual learning environment that this project will foster. She is a strong believer that societies are built throughout education. Not only through ensuring the equal participation of all groups in society through education, but also by enhancing educational methods and practices, and learning from the previous ineffective methods.There is still a lot of work that needs to be done.

She hopes that this project we will be able to take a step forward towards building better practices, highlighting lessons to be learned, and future needs.

See Ameera's research profile

Antti works as a university teacher at the School of Education Sciences and Psychology, University of Eastern Finland (UEF). He holds a Master’s degree in Education and is working on his doctoral thesis. Primary interests in the field of research are connected to pedagogical use of ICT in education and digital learning environments.

Antti has prior experience of working in the Palestinian region having been involved in project Raising the Quality of Teacher Training Programmes in Palestine Through Technology Enhanced Learning Teaching and Assessment (RQTEPP-TELTA) project (2015-2018) as a Work Package Coordinator. Other notable work experience include Flipped Learning -project at the UEF, during which digitally enhanced pedagogical practices were implemented among academic staff.

Antti’s aim in the Olive Project is to help the project to reach its goals and thus contribute to the work for developing better education for the Palestinian youth. Teamwork and learning from each other is the key to success.

See Antti's research pofile

Mikko Kesonen is a post-doc researcher at the Department of Physics and Mathematics. He has PhD in Physics Education Research, and currently he is working as STEM-coordinator in the University of Eastern Finland. Besides, Mikko is running special courses intended for physics teacher-students covering topics such as research-based physics teaching and practical work.

In Olive, he is inspired by the opportunities to support the development of STEM-education in Palestinian region.

See Mikko's research profile

Abdallah Bsharat is currently a faculty member at Curriculum and Instruction department of  College of Education at Birzeit University. He is holding Ph.D in science education and research  methodology  and design from OSU. He teaches graduate courses (MA level), such as quantitative research methodology,  survey and research methods (for Applied statistics students) and qualitative research method. 

He provided  local coordination and consulting services for a project funded by the World Bank aiming at imrpving the skills and competencies of Palestinian teachers (grades 1-4) and to build an accredited pre-service teacher education program focused on improving practicum experiences at local universities in the West Bank and Gaza.

He served as a National Research Coordinator (Palestine) on a project funded by the World Bank and UNICEF aiming at designing a tool to measure seventh graders' life skills and citizenship education in Palestine, Tunisia and Egypt.

He provided local coordination and consulting service for UNICEF to implement a field trial of a tool measuring life skills and civil education (LSCE) that Palestinian 7th grade students have. He was responsible on training schools’ coordinators, test administrators and data entry personals.

Also, he supported Roehampton university on data analyses of the communication skills component related to LSCE. 

Hanna’s interests are related to internationalization and global cooperation in higher education. Her main tasks as a senior lecturer and an adjunct professor at the University of Helsinki are linked to a new International Master’s Programme in Changing Education. Hanna contributes to the work of the Olive team in the areas of pedagogical mentoring and quality assurance of the cooperation. 

She has experience in research collaboration and developing teacher education programmes in different contexts, including Eritrea, Tanzania, Ghana, South Africa and Somalia. Hanna’s research includes studies on education and development and on higher education pedagogy, with particular focus on gender, diversities and interculturality. 

See Hanna's research profile

Mervi is a senior university lecturer at the UEF Department of Physics and Mathematics. She leads the UEF physics and mathematics education research group and the LUMA Centre of the University of Eastern Finland. Her current field of interest include teacher knowledge of mathematics and physics teachers, teaching and learning of physics in higher and secondary education, and research-based development of STEM education.

She hopes her previous experiences benefit the Olive project.

See Mervi's research profile

Dr. Refa’ Ramahi is currently the director of Academic Development Unit in Vice-president Office, and the Director of Master Program at College of Education at Birzeit University.   She was the former chairperson of curriculum and Instruction Department at Faculty of Education of from 2015-2017.  She is an assistant professor of Mathematics Education. She holds an MA in Mathematics Education from Birzeit University, and PhD in Mathematics Curricula and Instruction from Jordan University. She served as an academic council member and on a many of university and community committees. She obtained a distinguished instructor award at birzeit University   of the year 2014/2015. She has published a number of educational researches in Arabic and English journals. Her research interests lie  in PCK, Special Education and Quality of learning and teaching researches.

Dr. Ahmad Fteiha, Chairperson of the Curriculum and Instruction Department at Birzeit University in Palestine. Dr. Fteiha lives in Jerusalem. He holds a PhD in Educational Administration and Leadership. He is a researcher in the field of Educational Administration and Leadership, in addition to the fields of Inclusive Education, Special Education, and the specific issue of Education in Jerusalem. He has published various research papers in these fields. Moreover, he is the Chief Editor of Al Karma Educational Magazine, of which 11 issues have been published so far. Dr. Fteiha has been an evaluator, a trainer, and an advisor in various educational fields for more than twenty years. He has participated in many Arab and International Educational Conferences, and does not cease to represent the university in various educational projects.

Teemu Valtonen works as associate professor in the University of Eastern Finland at the School of Applied Educational Science and Teacher Education. His research interests lie in the use of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) in education, targeting especially on pre-service teachers’ skills and readiness to use ICT in education, mainly within Technological Pedagogical Content Knowledge (TPACK) and Theory of Planned Behavior (TPB) frameworks. 

See Teemu's research profile 

Ahmad Aljanazrah is the dean of faculty of education at Birzeit University (BZU). 

He earned his Ph.D. in the field of Chemistry Education at Goethe University in Frankfurt am Main in 2005 and did his Postdoc research on the use of Web 2.0 Technology in Chemistry Education at the Technical University of Berlin in Germany in 2013. During his work at BZU, he worked a director of Ibn Rushd Unit for Educational Development and as a Program Officer in UNESCO Office in Ramallah-Palestine. 

His research interests lie in the area of using Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) in Science- and Higher Education, more specifically digital habits of students and teachers, flipped classroom and the use of virtual labs in physics and chemistry education.

Jani is currently a project researcher working with OLIVE project at University of Eastern Finland. He has years of experience in teaching pedagogical studies to future teachers and he’s in the process of doing his PhD in educational sciences. His professional interests are in teaching and learning with technology. In his opinion his strengths are in coming up with ideas and making ideas into plans and into practice.

Regarding OLIVE he wishes the project will make a real difference in people’s lives and bring some of the ideas and plans in the project into fruition.

See Jani's research profile

Elina Lehtomäki holds the Title of Docent from the University of Helsinki and Ph.D. in Education Sciences from the University of Jyväskylä. She is Professor of Global Education at the University of Oulu, Finland and leads the international research team Education, diversity, globalisation and ethics (EDGE). 

Elina’s research interests include global education and learning, social meaning of education, equity and inclusion in and through education, cross-cultural collaboration, and internationalization in higher education. She has long-term experience in international collaboration for education development. 

In Olive, Elina’s task is to advice in quality assurance and research-informed development of teacher education. 

Justus currently works as a university teacher at the Department of Physics and Mathematics at the University of Eastern Finland. After graduating as a physics teacher (M.Sc.), he has been designing virtual laboratory experiments and working as an instructor in a course of Basic Laboratory Practice in Physics.

Primary interests are physics education and physics education research, the integration of ICT to physics education, and challenges related to the processes of engaging students to learn from lab experiments.

In Olive-project, Justus desires to support the development of laboratory practices in order to help students create more versatile connections between the reality and formal physics knowledge.

Mar’e A Hafez Sous was a teacher for 10 years after which he moved to the National Institute for Educational Training NIET. As the Head of training for 10 years, he led various programs, such as teachers' professional diploma, SSP program, and LTD program. Since 2018 he has been the Director of training at directorate of supervision and qualification DSQ, where he is leading all the training programs .

He is happy to be the focal person at the ministry level in olive program.   He has an MA in science education methods and BA in chemistry ,

Marianna’s postdoctoral research focus is on hybrid online pedagogy. Her work draws from the theory of narratology, metaphor theory, the new materialist thinking and feminist studies. She is interested in policies and practices for sustainable university future-oriented pedagogies and the imaginaries that emerge with the use of digital technologies.   

Marianna has studied digital storytelling and its integration for pedagogical purposes in school and university virtual and real-life environments, and has published extensively in the area. Along with the academic interests, Marianna has developed experience in research collaboration for technology-based teaching methods and pedagogical approaches in a variety of contexts, mainly in Finland, Greece and China. In OLIVE, one of the main areas of her work includes pedagogical mentoring with a focus on technology as a tool that opens up new spaces and possibilities for research and teaching. 

Tapio Lahtero (Ph.D., Title of Docent) has been making his career both in the education departments of municipalities and at the universities. He made his doctoral theses at the University of Jyväskylä in 2011 with the topic “Leadership culture at schools”. eMBA exam in Leadership in the public management he finished in 2015 at the University of Tampere.  

Tapio Lahtero has worked for over fifteen years as a principal, as a regional principal and as the head of the comprehensive schools in the education department in City Vantaa. Since 2015 he is the Administrative Principal of both Teacher Training Schools of the University of Helsinki – Viikki Teacher Training School and Helsinki Normallyceum.  

Tapio Lahtero has been educating principals and leaders of education departments of municipalities at the Universities of Jyväskylä, Turku and Helsinki. He has published several research articles about leadership culture, strategic leadership and pedagogical leadership.

Laura is working as an International Project Officer at the Faculty of Educational Sciences at the University of Helsinki. She is interested in developing the various form of international collaboration at the university. Laura is specifically interested in working with the development cooperation projects developing teacher education since her educational background is in subject teaching. 

In this project, Laura's main responsibilites include organizing both the internal and external communication but she is also very excited to be part of the other activities as well.

Dr. Salem Mwafy works as an Associate Professor of Physiology and head of Biology department at Al Azhar University-Gaza and he has previously worked at the university as a Deputy Dean at the  Faculty of Science. He has participated in many international and local conferences and workshops in the fields of biological and biomedical sciences and has many scientific and technical papers published in international journals. He has worked as a referee for several international scientific journals. He has supervised several master's theses at Palestinian universities and been an external examiner for master dissertations at the Palestinian universities. His research interests are in oxidative stress and antioxidant therapy, diabetes and metabolic syndrome, vitamin B12 and iron deficiency anemia and physiologic effects of thyroid hormones. He is looking forward to extending his knowledge and developing his research skills in order to achieve his goal to reduce the usage of synthetic antidiabetic drugs.

Recently, Dr. Mwafy was selected by AKS Education Awards to be the winner of the global faculty award for the year 2020.

Abuzaid is a Professor of statistics in the Department of Mathematics at Al-Azhar University- Gaza, Palestine. He holds a PhD and MSc in Statistics from the University of Malaya, (Malaysia). He is interested in the development of outliers-detection procedures in different types of data and its applications on real data.

Currently, he is a member in the advisory council of the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics, as well as the Higher Education Thematic Working Group, Ministry of Higher Education.

Abuzaid was the dean of planning and quality assurance at Al-Azhar University- Gaza (2016-2019), where he was actively involved in the accreditation and evaluation of university academic programs, and the development of the university strategic plan. He was the coordinator of the "Rooting Development in the Palestinian Context".

In the Olive project, he is the representative of Mathematics department to develop the Mathematics Teacher Education Program to adopt STEM approach.

Maija Heikkilä works as a teacher trainer and teacher at Helsinki University Viikki Teacher Training School where she teaches English in secondary and upper secondary levels. She also works as a teacher training coordinator for the English department at Viikki.  She has MA in English language and has minored in teaching. Maija was awarded Fulbright Distinguished Awards in Teaching in 2016 which she completed at Indiana University in Bloomington, IN, USA. Her Fulbright inquiry project focused on student-centered teaching and blended learning.  

In OLIVE Maija concentrates on School Collaboration and developing teacher training.