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Community Reflections

Read what past institute participants have to say!

The 2021 Reverence for Words was by far the most successful remote program I have ever participated in. The facilitation was engaging, warm, and so organized. The guests were incredibly knowledgeable and dynamic and each brought something truly distinct to the experience. The content presented during the institute gave me tools to better connect with and support my students in a variety of ways. For example, I was able to loan the DK Islam Book to a student who asked to learn more about Islamic history beyond what was presented in his textbook. When Ramadan came around ,I felt more empowered and informed while supporting our learners through their fasts. When I met a student who shared a name with a classical Persian poet, I was able to engage in a conversation about his namesake.


— Eli Hetko, School Librarian, New York, 2021


Every presenter I wanted to hear more, frustrated that they were “cut short.” But at the same time, this whets the appetite for me to follow up and learn more, which is what a good program should do.

— Patrick Connelly, high school world religion teacher, 2018

Everything was interesting and valuable. The topics covered a wide range of information from Islamic history to poetry to art, dance, and the diversity within Muslim culture. The days were very well organized. Readings for the day and materials for the lessons were provided in advance and were helpful in understanding the seminars and workshops.

— Danielle Black, English, California, 2021

This was an amazing institute. The experiences were so enlightening and enjoyable throughout. I have so much material to review over the next year to dive deeper into all that was presented to us. For the first time in my life I am feeling like I can understand and appreciate poetry and I am so grateful for that. I have ordered collections of poets we discussed this week and I have a list of more to order after I finish these. I actually have two lesson plans I am currently creating to incorporate ghazals into my elementary school music classes. I also have a list of five other specific lessons I will developing as a direct result of this institute. Additionally, I am so excited to have so many musical resources to incorporate into already existing lessons. I am sure as I dive into these resources they will spur new lessons ideas as well.

— Jessica Kwasny, Music, Illinois, 2021

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Attending the Institute was one of the most enriching experiences I have ever had. The effect will be profound: it has affected me personally, emotinally and intellectually, and I feel I have gained a hugely "widened" understanding. I will be continuing to research and study these topics and designing many lessons that will widen and enrich my students' understanding and appreciation of Islamic cultures and arts.


— Sarah Monnerat, Spanish, Washington D.C., 2021

This was an outstanding experience. Given the complexity of Muslim cultures, in some ways a couple weeks of work is only scratching the surface. But we were given an outstanding selection of reading materials, media, activities, speakers and experiences to found later exploration and study as we integrate elements of what we learned into our curriculum. I feel that I was given a wealth of diverse material to seed the development of any unit or elective study that would focus specifically on Muslim cultures, and, just as important, I'll never feel at a loss of integrating material representative of Muslim cultures when I'm trying to diversity cultural materials in any unit. Bottom line, I left wanting to learn more and feeling confident that I could do so. The strong selection of students was also extremely helpful.

—Anonymous, 2016

This institute was WONDERFUL! One of the best professional development opportunities I've had in my 26 years as a teacher. The experts were clear and focused; the activities were engaging and joyful; and I came away with a profound recognition of how much more I have to learn! Because I now have this repository of ideas, I can start incorporating more Muslim art, literature, music, etc., into my classroom. What I won't be doing is a unit "on Islam," which I think can sometimes make Islam (or any religion / culture) seem even MORE othered. What I will be doing is incorporating Muslim poetry in my already established poetry unit, playing more Islamic music and giving kids information on it, bringing in Muslim stories and songs where they fit in the curriculum... not a "unit," but an integral part of the classroom, the way I bring in other traditions. I just didn't know enough to do this before–but this institute helped me get started on my learning journey about Islam!

—Theresa Lambe, 9-12th English, North Carolina, 2021


The translation activity was an eye-opener and helped resolve my anxiety about teaching poetry in translation. ..Right now I’m pretty certain that Darwish will fit perfectly into what I’m planning to teach in the fall. I’m getting three of his books from the library tonight.

— Fred Daly, high school English teacher

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