Oak Lawn Community High School teachers strive to better understand and engage with their students daily. In an effort to engage with his students from all backgrounds, social studies teacher Ben Reiff applied and was accepted into the Religious Worlds of New York Summer Institute. Ben will 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 curriculum projects to bring back to Oak Lawn Community High School
Ben primarily teaches world history and government and wants to help our students engage in the meaningful study of lived religion. His desire to better understand religion and approach the teaching of it with a scholarly pedagogy has led him to attend professional developments from the Harvard Divinity School. From there, Ben has analyzed the diversity in religions, while also challenging his students’ notions of what religion in action looks like. This has been beneficial particularly in world history courses to help students understand the effect of religion on cultural development.
Social Studies Department Chair Kristin Kuchyt recognizes that what sets Mr. Reiff apart from many teachers is how he goes above and beyond to connect with his students. Ben teaches several EL courses, and due to the additional languages being spoken in his classroom, he is enrolled in Spanish language lessons to better connect with his students. Communicating in students’ languages fosters a strong connection that strengthens rapport between student and teacher. It is this dedication to his students and curriculum that will enhance the social studies department when Mr. Reiff returns to share what he has learned at the Religious Worlds of New York Summer Institute.