Teacher Dispels Myths About Islam, Wins National Award

839C Celebrating America’s top teachers on National Teacher Day, Fund for Teachers and its New York City partner, New Visions for Public Schools (NVPS), channeled Ed McMahon today – walking into Corey Pickering’s classroom last month  at Manhattan’s Millennium High School and naming her Fund for Teachers’ national Plank Fellowship Award winner.

Named for Fund for Teachers’ Founder Raymond Plank, the Plank Fellowship Award is given annually to the teacher who made the most of their summer odyssey (which he/she designed and Fund for Teachers made possible) upon returning to the classroom. Pickering is one of 515 teachers, or Fellows, who capitalized on Fund for Teachers grants last summer.

Pickering designed a fellowship empowering her to become immersed in the 97 percent Muslim nation of Turkey to gain knowledge and experience needed to conduct her Islamic Art History course with confidence. Upon spending one month visiting the museums and historical sites of Istanbul, Cappadocia and Selcuk using a camera lens as her primary investigative tool, she returned to her classroom and set about sharing the experiences with her students.

She  created a new curriculum based on her experience in Turkey, culminating with a new final project: a mock summit between seven Muslim majority countries represented by students; founded a Critical Inquiry teacher group that meets every month; accepted the role of department facilitator, guiding the group through conversations about student and teacher work; assumed the role of the school’s photographer; and served on the Fund for Teachers/NVPS committee that selected New York’s 2009 Fellows.

“Intellectually, I knew there was a broad spectrum of belief and fervency within the Muslim world, but my Fund for Teachers fellowship made that knowledge an experience, shifting my deeply ingrained prejudices and misunderstandings,” explained Pickering.

“The fellowship is a catalyst that continues to further my personal and professional growth. Fund for Teachers gave me the freedom, time and tools to explore my subject in-depth and to engage with challenging, uncomfortable questions and materials. This experience strengthened my confidence and renewed my excitement about my subject, making this job even more of a joy than it already is.”

Her student, Samuel Singer, agrees about the fellowship’s impact: “When I look back on how much I really learned in the hands of Ms. Pickering, I can safely say a great deal. I not only learned the general facts and expanded my knowledge of Islam, but I also expanded my mind. Through her teaching, I became a more understanding person.

Whenever I see news about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, I have alternative viewpoints now. I owe that to Ms. Pickering.”


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