REC Seminars & Presentations

Teaching Religious Literacy: Teacher Panel

Wednesday, January 10, 2024 — 3:30pm ET

Join three secondary religion teachers for a conversation about how they teach about religion in their different contexts. They will share examples from their classrooms and discuss the challenges of teaching about religion in today’s educational climate. 

Featured Panelists

Image of Kelly O'Riley

Kelly O'Riley

Kelly O’Riley currently teaches world history (AP and gen-ed) and “Influences of the Bible” at Fern Creek High School in Louisville, KY. Previously, she has taught classes in English language arts, world geography, and U.S. history at the middle school level; political science and AP Human Geography at the high school level; and an introductory course in world religions at the undergraduate level. She earned BA and MA degrees in Religious Studies from Georgia State University in 2008 and 2011. She also received a MAT from the University of Louisville in 2013 and earned National Board certification in 2017, which she renewed in 2021. She remains actively involved in the academic study of religion, both as a student and an educator. She has participated in several professional development trainings related to religion and education, and she is the assistant director for a nationwide K-12 education workshop on Indic religious literacy, which is sponsored by the Uberoi Foundation for Religious Studies. She also served on the standards writing committee for Kentucky’s first religious studies high school elective course, “Historical and Cultural Influences of the Bible," which she has taught since 2020.

Mitchell Joy

Mitchell Joy is a high school educator who has been a teacher for 29 years. He is currently imparting knowledge at Walter Johnson High School in Bethesda, Maryland. In his instructional role, he guides students through Comparative Religions, Advanced Placement Modern World History, and Advanced Placement Comparative Government and Politics. Driven by a profound passion for religious understanding, Mitchell extends his impact beyond the classroom. Over the years, he has dedicated himself to enhancing religious literacy among educators in Montgomery County, Maryland. Originally launching as intensive two-day boot camps, these workshops have evolved into a transformative week-long experience for educators. In a groundbreaking partnership with the Kaur Foundation and collaboration with Kate Soules from the Religion & Education Collaborative, Mitchell orchestrated the expansion of the Religious Literacy for Educators program in the summer of 2023. This immersive experience capitalizes on the rich tapestry of diverse houses of worship in Maryland and Washington, DC, offering educators an invaluable opportunity to deepen their understanding of religion.

Rebecca Cooper

Rebecca Cooper is currently the Religion Department Chair at St. Stephen’s and St. Agnes School, a college preparatory Episcopal Church School located in Alexandria, Virginia. In this role, she oversees the department and teaches a mandatory sixth-grade global religions course, along with sixth-grade history. With a career spanning over 25 years, Rebecca's teaching experience includes classes on Buddhism, Hebrew Scriptures, and New Testament at the upper school level. She initially began her teaching career as a third-grade teacher. Rebecca holds a Bachelor of Arts in Anthropology from the University of Virginia and a Master of Theological Studies (MTS) degree from Virginia Theological Seminary. She has been an active presenter at various conferences, such as the National Association of Episcopal Schools, the Parliament of the World’s Religions, and the Religious Freedom Center of the Freedom Forum. Additionally, Rebecca served as a teacher in residence with the “Teaching Asian Religions” project at the National Museum of Asian Art. Passionate about promoting religious literacy education, Rebecca focuses on affirming student identity, fostering cultural competency, and addressing the growing issue of religious intolerance. Her dedication to education extends beyond the classroom, contributing to a broader dialogue on these critical issues through her conference presentations and collaborations.

Headshots of three teachers, two women and one man, superimposed on the image of a chalkboard with the title Teaching Religious Literacy: Teacher Panel. Text on the chalkboard says Wednesday, January 10, 2024 3:30pm (ET)

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