Education Programs for Teachers

Teachers exploring American Buddhism at the Chogyesa Zen Temple of New York

If America’s K-12 students are to become truly educated, engaged citizens of their multicultural democracy, they need to understand its rich religious diversity.  But unfortunately too many teachers in our public, private, and parochial schools are unprepared to teach effectively and appropriately about contemporary religious diversity.  As a result, too many students learn little more than the basic facts, dates, and doctrines of major religious traditions — a superficial form of religious literacy that does not prepare them to participate in American civic life.

Our students do need to learn about the history and beliefs of major world religions, but much more than that they need to learn about the religious lives of their diverse neighbors.  The Interfaith Center’s professional development programs for teachers help committed educators move beyond a pedagogy of “dates and doctrines,” to richer discussions of American religious life.  Classroom by classroom, the teachers we work with are transforming the study of religion in K-12 schools, and empowering a new generation of Americans to bridge the divides between their religious communities.

ICNY’s flagship course for teachers is the Religious Worlds of New York summer institute, an intensive three-week program developed in partnership with Union Theological Seminary, and with support from the National Endowment for the Humanities.  The Religious Worlds institute brings teachers from throughout the United States to New York City, where they work with leading scholars of religion, meet with diverse religious leaders, visit local houses of worship, explore the religious life of the city, and develop their own religious diversity curriculum projects.  This combination of classroom and community-based education introduces teachers to American religious diversity, helps them distinguish between academic and devotional approaches to the study of religion, and gives them the pedagogic tools they need to teach about contemporary lived religion.

You can click here for more information about the Religious Worlds institute, including a selection from the overwhelmingly positive participant evaluations of our previous institutes, and a wide range of resources for teaching on religious diversity.

In addition to the Religious Worlds institute, ICNY has developed a range of professional development programs tailored to meet the needs of teachers in local schools.  These programs can explore the religious diversity of a specific school community, and/or the pedagogic issues surrounding the study of religion in public, private, or parochial schools.  For more information about our programs for teachers, please contact ICNY’s Director of Programs, Dr. Henry Goldschmidt, at or 212-870-3514.