Teach India! Program Draws DC Metro Teachers, Highlights Unique Partnership

Washington, D.C. (August 24, 2015) - Teachers from around the Washington, DC region took part in the three-day Teach India! teacher training workshop organized by the Hindu American Foundation (HAF), California State-University Long Beach, and the Sri Siva Vishnu Temple (SSVT), the first ever program featuring a partnership of this kind.

The workshop, held from Aug. 20-22 at SSVT was led by CSU-Long Beach faculty members - and renowned history educators - Tim Keirn and Dave Neumann, and HAF’s education director Murali Balaji. Keirn is also the chief reader for AP world history, while Neumann is director of the History Project.

The inaugrual program focused on applying historical thinking to teaching approaches. Sessions featured HAF’s well-regarded Hinduism 101 program, discussions on how to read and interpret primary source documents such as the Upanishads, and lectures on Indian history from the Harappan era to modern times. Though the workshop featured lessons on how to better understand Hinduism and Hindu texts, facilitators also highlighted India’s rich cultural and religious history, including the development of Buddhism, Jainism, Sikhism, and the interactions between Dharmic traditions and Abrahamic ones such as Christianity, Judaism, and Islam.

Throughout the workshop, SSVT staff and volunteers provided food and a comprehensive tour of the temple, one of the country’s most prominent Hindu institutions. The teachers also took part in the temple’s celebration of Onam, a Hindu festival originating from the Indian state of Kerala.

Teachers who participated said their perspectives had been transformed by the combination of professional development training and cultural immersion.

"The facilitators had a complementary understanding of India, Hinduism, historical thinking, and pedagogy which made them incredibly well-prepared to answer all our questions, often through multiple lenses,” said one teacher. “The tour of the SSV Temple helped coalesce a more practical understanding of Hinduism within a larger historical context."

“The setting, environment, and hospitality we received at SSVT made the difference,” added another teacher. “This is what made the experience unique from all the other workshops I have done. I will be able to tell all my students about what I experienced before I teach Hinduism. It was an experience I will never forget."

While Teach India! has run in California over the past few years, it was the workshop’s inaugural launch on the East Coast and the first time that the workshop’s host - and chief sponsor - is a temple. Balaji credited the SSVT board for their long-term investment in the workshop, which will add more teachers and expand to one week starting next year.

“This is the best example of how community investment in education can lead to a successful and sustainable program of this kind,” he said. “HAF looks forward to continue collaborating with both Cal State-Long Beach and SSVT to ensure that this becomes a fixture in the region and the first stop for teachers and administrators seeking to transform the way they think and teach about India and Hinduism.”