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New partnership to connect Arabic teachers from across Chicago

Northwestern hosts Arabic Teachers’ Council to support K-12 educators

EVANSTON - Northwestern University and Qatar Foundation International (QFI) are partnering in an Arabic teachers’ council that connects university-level educators with K-12 and private school teachers through a community of support and collaboration.

All Chicago-area Arabic teachers are invited to attend the kickoff conference, “Classroom Practices and Teaching Strategies,” on Dec. 17 on Northwestern’s Evanston campus. For more information, visit the council website, or register here.

With a home in Northwestern’s Middle East and North African Studies Program (MENA), the Chicago Arabic Teachers’ Council will strengthen Arabic education across Chicago by providing a forum for teachers to network and share innovative approaches to teaching through conferences, professional development, other language-pedagogy and cultural events.

“As a University program committed both to Arabic language education and public outreach to the Chicago area, MENA is thrilled to have been selected to host the Chicago Arabic Teachers’ Council,” said council chair Brian Edwards, the Crown Professor in Middle East Studies and director of Northwestern’s MENA Program.

Faculty members will share what they have learned about teaching methods and tools through the council.

“Teaching a foreign language like Arabic is a challenging task. The language itself is complex and not as commonly taught as many other languages,” said Fadia Antabli, assistant professor of instruction in Arabic at Northwestern. “Arabic language educators are often left feeling isolated with limited resources to support their teaching.”

Antabli, who will serve as council coordinator, credits her own success as an educator to the MENA community and hopes fellow Arabic teachers have access to such support.

“The rich cultural backgrounds and language skills of the different instructors in the MENA program helped me look at other learning and teaching styles and helped me become the teacher I am today,” Antabli said.

The Qatar Foundation International has supported Arabic Teachers’ Councils in major metropolitan areas including Washington, D.C., Los Angeles, Chicago and New York. The purpose of the councils is to strengthen Arabic education, from elementary to university-level programs by providing a forum for Arabic teachers to work together.

“We look forward to Northwestern University continuing the active teacher participation of the past three years with member-driven program activities,” said QFI Executive Director Maggie Mitchell Salem.

At Northwestern, undergraduates have been taking Arabic language classes since 1970. The Arabic language program — now housed within MENA, along with Hebrew, Persian and Turkish — offers Modern Standard Arabic to the fifth year level, as well as dedicated courses in three regional dialects and media Arabic.

Edwards said the council hopes to draw on and extend the accomplishments of Chicago Public Schools (CPS), now providing Arabic instruction to more than 3,000 students in seven elementary schools and four high schools, and the Center for Arabic Language and Culture, which serves K-12 Arabic teachers and students and the Chicago community.

“MENA is thrilled to work with the dedicated and talented teachers from CPS and Chicago’s private and weekend schools to help facilitate the best classroom practices and dynamic new approaches to language instruction,” Edwards said. “Together we hope to think of Arabic education as reaching from kindergarten through elementary and high school and beyond.”