2021 CATC Arabic Pedagogy Conference

Building an Arabic Language Ecosystem


The Chicago Arabic Teachers Council (CATC) invites you to participate in our annual conference, which will focus on connecting Arabic language classrooms to the wider world. Panel sessions will showcase opportunities for Arabic instructors to collaborate with local and international communities to enrich their teaching. Overall, the conference will ask how we can strengthen the network between Arabic-language classrooms, educational organizations, and the Arabic-speaking world. Attendees will receive certificates of participation and Illinois CPDU credits are available upon request.

Conference Schedule:

Friday, May 21
11:00am – 12:30pm CDT: Keynote lecture by Mohammed Elmeski (Arizona State University)

12:45pm – 1:45pm CDT: Panel Session, “Connecting with Local Communities,” featuring Azar Maluki (Iraqi and American Reconciliation Project), Samira Alhamwi (Syrian Community Network), Sarab Al Ani (Yale University), and moderator Aidan Kaplan (University of Chicago)

Saturday, May 22
10:15am – 11:45am CDT: Panel Session, “Connecting Arabic Students Across Schools,” featuring Tahreem Akhtar (Qatar Foundation International), Fadi Abughoush (Lindblom Math & Science Academy), Iman Hashem (California World Language Project, Occidental College), and moderator Noha Forster (University of Chicago)

12:00pm – 1:30pm CDT: Panel Session, “Connecting with International Communities,” featuring Ronnie Malley (Chicago Public Schools, Global Voices Initiative), Lisa Roberts (STEAMuseum), and moderator Lena Krause (Beacon Academy)

Session Descriptions:

Keynote Lecture: Crossing Boundaries and Building Bridges: The Role of Arabic in the 21st Century by Mohammed Elmeski
Crossing boundaries and building bridges could not be any more pressing for Arabic and Arabic instruction. We are working with the fourth industrial revolution student generation.  The future viability of Arabic is predicated on what we do to provide effective and meaningful learning opportunities that engage these students.
Speaker Bio: Dr. Mohammed Elmeski is a Clinical Associate Professor at Arizona State University. Prior to joining ASU, Mohammed Elmeski was a Senior Researcher at American Institutes for Research and the Co-Chair of the 2020 International Congress for School Effectiveness and Improvement. His professional expertise includes Arabic and English language instruction, the design and implementation of educational reform, operational management, change leadership, monitoring and evaluation, and capacity development. His research interests include community engagement, educational leadership, teacher preparation, social emotional learning, and school transformation in marginalized neighborhoods. Dr. Elmeski earned his PhD in Comparative International Development Education and Program Evaluation from the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities. He has led a diverse career that includes teaching, research, evaluation, technical assistance, and project leadership in USA, Africa, Central America, MENA, and South Asia.

Panel Session, “Connecting with Local Communities”
This session will address the question of how to enmesh Arabic classrooms within their local Arabic-speaking communities and provide students with the opportunity to use their language skills without having to travel abroad. The panel will highlight the work of community-based organizations working with Arabic speakers and brainstorm how educators can collaborate with those organizations to bring language learning beyond the classroom.
– Dr. Azar Maluki is the board chair and interim executive director of the Iraqi and American Reconciliation Project (IARP) in the Twin Cities, MN.
– Samira Alhamwi is the Education Case Manager at the Syrian Community Network (SCN) and has served in this role since 2011. She leads Arabic classes at SCN’s summer program and has taught Arabic to both children and adults in the U.S. for the past 3 years. Previously, she worked as a preschool teacher and graduated in 2012 with a degree in psychology. She is from Syria and has two daughters, Maria and Sireen.
– Sarab Al Ani is a Senior Lector II in Arabic at Yale University where she started her carrier ten years ago. She is an author of reading materials for learners of Arabic as a foreign language. She is a writer and blogger on issues of foreign language pedagogy, theory, and practice. In addition to teacher training, her current professional interests focus on, using technology for language teaching, overcoming challenges that face students of Arabic in the U.S. She also offers online courses on Second Language Teaching and Learning with ViaX. Sarab is an active full certified tester and rater in Arabic with the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages (ACTFL) for both the OPI as well as the AAPLL
– Moderator: Aidan Kaplan is an Assistant Instructional Professor in the Department of Near Eastern Languages & Civilizations at the University of Chicago. As an Arabic teacher, his interests include intercultural communication and the role of language in identity. His activism and volunteer work is focused on food justice, sustainability, transportation, and education. He is excited to be part of this panel that sits at the intersection of language education and grassroots organizing.

Panel Session, “Connecting Arabic Students Across Schools”
This session will showcase successful programs that have connected students of Arabic across different schools and offer insights on how these networks strengthen an overall ‘Arabic Language Ecosystem’ at the district, state, and national levels.
– Tahreem Akhtar
is a Program Associate at Qatar Foundation International overseeing the Arabic Honor Society, the Grants for Schools program, and the Established Arabic Program Support Award. Tahreem holds a BA in Arabic language and International Relations from American University, graduating with a focus on Conflict Resolution and Foreign Policy. She has also completed Arabic coursework at the University of Jordan in Amman, Jordan. She is fluent in Punjabi and Urdu.
Fadi Abughoush (Lindblom Math & Science Academy) has worked in the field of Public Education at Chicago Public Schools (CPS) for the past 13 years. He played a vital role in creating, managing and expanding the World Language curriculum at Lindblom Math & Science Academy. As the department chair, he oversees the Arabic and Chinese language program and is a leader in World Language Education. Since 2008, Fadi has been teaching Arabic as a foreign language to students from grades 8 through 12. In his role he developed and implemented Arabic language curriculum and also takes pride in incorporating aspects of Arab culture throughout his teaching and work with students.
Iman Hashem (California World Language Project, Occidental College) is the 2019 California World Language Teacher of the Year and the California representative to the Southwest Conference on Language Teaching (SWCOLT). She is a classroom teacher at Long Beach and a program director of California World Language Project, Los Angeles Site at Occidental College. As a program director, she is responsible for fostering professional growth opportunities for the region’s World Language teachers throughout their careers. As a classroom teacher she is revered by her students who have provided many testimonials—that through the learning of Arabic language and culture in Mrs. Hashem’s classroom they have acquired the historical and cultural perspectives of the people who speak the language across the Arabic speaking world.
– Moderator: Noha Forster (University of Chicago) has taught Arabic at the University of Chicago Department of Near Eastern Languages & Civilizations (NELC) since 2002 and is Director of the Arabic Program in NELC. She has also taught in the STARTALK program for 10 years is a debate judge for Qatar Debates.

Panel Session, “Connecting with International Communities”
In a rapidly globalizing world, students have the unprecedented opportunity to connect with each other across the world. This panel will discuss the ways that virtual classroom exchange, study abroad, and other international collaborations augment Arabic language education in today’s world.
Ronnie Malley is a multi-instrumentalist musician, actor, composer, sound designer, producer, playwright, and educator. Recent theatre credits include: THE BAND’S VISIT actor/musician/Arabic dialect coach (Broadway, Tony Awards, Grammy Award), AMERICAN GRIOT co-author/composer (Moraine Valley/Silk Road; Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival Citizen Artist Award 2020), MACBETH Hecate/musician (Chicago Shakespeare Theatre; Jeff Award for Best Sound Design), GREAT EXPECTATIONS composer/sound designer (Silk Road Rising/Remy Bumppo; Jeff nominated for Best Original Music), A DISAPPEARING NUMBER musician (Timeline Theatre), ZIRYAB, THE SONGBIRD OF ANDALUSIA author/solo performer (Silk Road Rising), THE SECRET GARDEN musician (Court Theatre), THE JUNGLE BOOK musician/consultant (Disney, Goodman, Huntington), THE WHITE SNAKE co-composer/musician (Oregon Shakespeare Festival, Goodman, Guthrie, Wuzhen Theatre Fest), THE WHO AND THE WHAT composer/co-sound designer (Victory Gardens), THE SULTAN”S DILEMMA associate producer/actor (International Voices Project), and THE ARABIAN NIGHTS musician/actor (Lookingglass, Berkeley Rep, Arena Stage). Recent music producer credits include: Lamajamal, Surabhi Ensemble, East Meets Middle East, Aurad Fathiya, Saazuk Safar, The Andalusian Trail (staged production), Yves Francois and Rocambu Jazz, and The Reminders. Recent film music credits include: At the Gate (Virginia Keller), Modou: The Hang Player (FTS Production), Jon and Davy (Hassan Amejal), and the award winning short film, The New Mother (Eleva Singleton). Ronnie has a degree in Global Music Studies from DePaul University and is a teaching artist with Chicago Public Schools and Global Voices Initiative, a faculty member at Old Town School of Folk Music, an artist researcher with Chicago Arts Partnership in Education, and a guest lecturer at universities. He is an international artist and has performed with the music groups Allos Musica, Apollo’s Fire, Diwan Al-Han, EMME, Lamajamal, Mucca Pazza, Newberry Consort, Surabhi Ensemble, and the U of C Middle East Music Ensemble.
Lisa Roberts is an educator, writer and curator. She is also a project director for the STEAMuseum, a virtual exchange project of the Stevens Initiative initiated by the Chicago/Casablanca Sister City Committee, of which she is co-chair. She received her Ph.D. from the University of Chicago with a research focus on education in museum settings. She’s the former director of Garfield and Lincoln Park Conservatories and previously worked at the Chicago Botanic Garden and the Field Museum of Natural History. In 2005 she was invited to Casablanca, Morocco to program a major public park and subsequently worked on a number of educational and cultural exchanges between Casablanca and Chicago. Since 2006 she has been an independent consultant to museums, gardens, parks and nonprofit organizations.
– Moderator: Lena Krause is an Arabic and French instructor at Beacon Academy, a Montessori high school in Evanston, IL. She began the Arabic program in 2018 which integrates Fusha and Moroccan Darija and includes a year-round exchange with Moroccan students in Tangier. Her current pedagogical experiment is developing a “virtual semester abroad” by teaching the final quarter of the year remotely from Tangier. Outside of work, she is the first Darija translator for the Arabic learning website Playaling.com. Outside of Arabic, she is an avid urban biker and coffee drinker.