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Friends Celebrates 10 Years of Teaching Arabic

Friends recently celebrated a decade of being the only independent school in New York to offer Arabic in Grades 5-12 — teaching more than 125 current students and alumni to be proficient in the language. During the School's annual Art of Teaching lecture on December 20, 2018, Friends teachers Nadim Bawalsa, Joseph Sills, Belal Joundeya and Anna Swank Bothwell (former faculty) shared their experiences and motivations in helping build the program.

The evening was also a homecoming for Anna, who is now teaching Arabic in Michigan. Many of her former students attended the lecture to hear how she helped foster the program at Friends in its infancy. She described being attracted to Friends because of the progressiveness and “open mindedness and strength of character” to nurture this program. Nadim added that “there are not many other schools in this world that value peace the way Friends does.” Beyond this, students are truly the core of the program. Joseph detailed the Middle School program in particular noting the “passion, energy and talents they bring” to the classroom each day. Belal, who is in his second year at Friends, added that these “students are the best he’s ever taught in the past 10 years." He said he was pleasantly surprised with their maturity and eagerness to learn Arabic. 

The Arabic program at Friends was born from the desire to build bridges of peace, to explore, appreciate and respect cultural differences, and to teach students to listen with intent and give back in their own ways. The program offers an eclectic curriculum with a focus on real world scenarios that includes poetry, music, games, and past spring break trips to Morocco, Palestine and Israel, marrying rigorous academics with the aesthetic beauty of Arabic culture. 
Friends Seminary — the oldest continuously operated, coeducational school in NYC — serves college-bound day students in Kindergarten-Grade 12.

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