K-12 Arabic language teachers in the Chicago metropolitan area will benefit from a professional council to be developed by DePaul University's Arabic Studies program under a $50,000 grant from Qatar Foundation International.
"Between DuPage and Cook counties, the Chicago area has one of the largest Arabic populations in the United States," said Nesreen Akhtarkhavari, an assistant professor and director of Arabic Studies at DePaul's College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences. "We are honored to have been given this responsibility, and we are prepared for the challenges and tasks ahead."
The council will be organized to serve the needs of K-12 Arabic language teachers and administrators. It will provide training, professional development and networking opportunities, while supporting teacher certification in Arabic and encouraging others to join the field of teaching Arabic.
DePaul is one of four organizations that received a grant to establish regional teacher councils in major metropolitan areas. The initiative is funded by the Washington, D.C.-based Qatar Foundation International, whose mission is to connect cultures and advance global citizenship through education. Also receiving grants are the National Capital Language Resource Center in Washington, D.C., a consortium that includes George Washington University and Georgetown University; Occidental College in Los Angeles; and the Marhaba! Project in Boston.
The Arabic Studies program at DePaul has been working with several groups on a national level to promote teaching Arabic in the United States. Akhtarkhavari has helped lead an effort to train Arabic teachers locally and nationally. She hopes to develop teachers who will become leaders in the field of teaching Arabic in the United States and strong supporters of study abroad programs.
"One of our main goals is to train teachers so they can teach Arabic language and culture to students in the United States," she said. "DePaul is one of the few universities that offers a bachelor's degree in Arabic Studies. We have helped the Illinois State Board of Education develop a program to help certify Arabic teachers to teach in Chicago high schools."
Chicago Public Schools is one of the largest groups of public schools in the United States that teaches Arabic, noted Akhtarkhavari, who works on a national standards task force for teaching Arabic to elementary and high school students.
"This is a prestigious grant. It helps to promote our Arabic Studies program, highlights our strengths at DePaul and allows us to engage and serve our local community," she said.