Civic Literacy Fellow
The Foundation for Religious Literacy awarded me a distinguished fellowship starting in January 2020 to explore the revival of a 3Rs project in Utah. The project promotes the civic values that every person has rights, everyone has the responsibility to protect the rights of others and every American citizen is entrusted to respectfully contribute to civic discourse. This civic literacy project uses the lens of the religion clauses of the First Amendment to equip rising citizens with the competency to live successfully in a society with diverse and deep differences. It provides training and educational support to public school teachers and administrators so they can help students develop the important civic competencies of legal literacy, religious literacy, responsibility and respect.
Human Rights Educator
No one in the world should be oppressed for who they are or what they believe. The right of conscience protected in the First Amendment of the United States Constitution is inherent to all humans. The American Bill of Rights heavily influenced the creation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948. This seminal human rights document declares, “Everyone has a right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion.” In collaboration with the NGO Hardwired Global, I have been able to support the human rights training for teachers from Iraq, Morocco, Lebanon, and Jordan. In these human rights trainings, we discuss the concepts of human dignity, equality, non-discrimination, individual rights and freedom of conscience. They in turn shared with me how these concepts play out in their classrooms and in their communities.
I had the pleasure of working with these talented teachers from Jordan and Lebanon who implemented the human rights training with their students.
Learning our nation’s history is critical for good American citizenship. Understanding the past, including the triumphs and injustices, fosters empathy for the complexity of the human experience, enables understanding of present people and societies and generates a shared national identity. In my fifteen-year career, I have especially focused on the achievement of American independence and the creation of the U.S. Constitution. I have wrestled with historical materials to identify patterns and themes that I could synthesize and articulate for a learning audience. I have mostly designed professional development experiences for Social Studies teachers, equipping them with classroom materials and facilitating discussions among their colleagues. I have also provided learning experiences from the undergraduate level to young children.
First Amendment Educator
The soul of our country is most concisely articulated in the First Amendment. As citizens understand and exercise the freedoms of religion, speech, press, assembly and petition, we are more likely to keep our republic. Public schools serve as training grounds for young citizens to engage with the fundamentals of our American experiment. Competency in our first freedom, the freedom of religion or belief, which includes the freedom not to believe, is central to a civic education. This competency includes the sense of responsibility to protect the rights of others, even if we disagree with their choice. In the words of Seamus Hasson, we all have the “right to be wrong.” It is in the expression of the freedom to truly choose and express that choice that we are most human.
In my roles with the Constitutional Sources Project, the American Revolution Institute of the Society of the Cincinnati and the Religious Freedom Center, I have frequently taught the historical context of the freedoms in the First Amendment as well as stories of Americans advocating for these rights, especially when they have been denied. For the Constitutional Sources Project, I taught classes to undergraduate volunteers about the legal meanings of each of the five rights. For the American Revolution Institute, I created classroom materials and facilitated discussions with K-12 teachers about the freedoms of speech and press during the American Revolution. While on the faculty of the Religious Freedom Center, I taught the Foundations of Religious Freedom course to graduate students in which we explored the historical development of religious freedom in the United States from the colonial period to the 1940s, when the Supreme Court incorporated the Free Exercise Clause and the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment. In this role, I also taught undergraduate interns about the petitions of ordinary citizens, which ultimately brought about the passage of Thomas Jefferson’s Bill for Establishing Religious Freedom. As a faculty member (accessible below), I also co-developed a course for school administrators and teachers about the history of religious freedom in the United States.
High School Social Studies Teacher
Teaching high school juniors and seniors at Walden School for Liberal Arts was formative for my approach in teaching. At this public charter school that has fostered an experiential learning culture, I learned the project-based learning method. For each unit, I designed multiple project-based assessments from which the students could choose one to demonstrate their learning. This method builds independence in the students and a sense of ownership for their learning journey. As students learned about the challenges in the history of world civilizations, it inspired them to make connections to challenges in their own communities. It inspired me to further pursue creating learning experiences for learners of all ages.