Comments from Ahimsa Fellows from Summer Insitutes, 2005-2011



I attended the Center's program on Nonviolence and Social Change in 2005.  The high level of scholarship provided by the presenters is incredibly engaging.  We dove headfirst into the content and then wrestled thoughtfully with how to turn the riches we mined there into meaningful K-12 curriculum.  The Ahimsa Center K-12 teacher education training provided me with an incredible educational opportunity that elevated the standard I have for my own curriculum and pedagogy. This program not only enriched and enlivened my curriculum, it also inspired me and changed my life.

-- Susanna Barkataki, Teacher, Sequoyah School, Pasadena, CA

The 2007 Ahimsa Center institute on Gandhi, Nonviolence, and 21 st Curriculum was a life-changing experience. It was academically rigorous, intellectually challenging, constructive, collegial, and personally inspiring. I continue to find ways to incorporate what I learned into my work, both on a content level and from a personal perspective. I am constantly reflecting on my experience at the institute and remain so very grateful for the opportunity provided by the Ahimsa Center at Cal Poly Pomona.

--Elizabeth Benskin, Educator for School and Teacher Programs, Freer & Sackler Galleries, Smithsonian Institution, Washington D.C

I had the great fortune to participate in the Ahimsa Center Institute on Nonviolence and Social Change. It changed my teaching as well as my personal outlook of the world. Like the shifting of a worldview that comes with foreign travel, this experience expanded my thoughts in a way that generated a completely new paradigm of learning and teaching. Challenged to develop curriculum that approached history from a new perspective, I delved deeply into the standards and found historical parallels which astonished me. I continue to use the iMovie I developed and the play I wrote, as well as the full curriculum in my fifth grade classroom. In addition, the Institute launched my new “technology leadership” role and set me on the path to a Master’s Degree in Multicultural Education.

--Teresa Burke, Teacher, Howe Avenue Elementary, Sacramento, CA

I had an incredible experience at the AHIMSA Institute this summer (2009), Journey's of Nonviolence: Gandhi and King.  The program has spiritually and personally transformed me.  I met many amazing and talented educators who have the same passion that I do for teaching and for being the change that we wish to see in the world.  I feel inspired and refreshed to go back and teach for another ten years!

--Colleen Chan, 2009 Ahimsa Fellow
Teacher, PS 188Q, The Kingsbury School, Bayside, NY

I am deeply grateful for the great fortune of attending the Ahimsa Center's summer institute Journeys of Nonviolence: Gandhi and King. The wholeness of the experience and the humanity of the vision, practices, and community experience of the entire two weeks is a model for how education can rehumanize the world. I came to the Ahimsa Center's institute hoping for strategies to nurture transformative learning and I left feeling transformed. Thank you again for the great gift of the Ahimsa Institute.

 -- Jeanne Cofell, 2009 Ahimsa Fellow
Education Department, College of Saint Benedict/Saint John's University

Upon completion of my first year teaching middle school special education in the South Bronx, I came to the institute disheartened by the violence that my students embodied -- not only on the schoolyard, but also through the language they used towards each other in the classroom.  Beyond offering their empathy, other participants wholeheartedly worked with me to devise solutions that I was able to implement the following year.  I returned to New York rejuvenated by the wisdom and friendships I garnered during my productive participation in the 2007 summer institute.

--Sheri Halpern, 2006 Teach For America Corps Member, NY

In a career that can be so filled with frustrations and challenges, the Ahimsa Institute gave me a framework for understanding nonviolence as a strategy for social change.  What I learned at the Institute is already having an impact on the way I interact with my students and the way I treat myself.  The 2011-12 school year began with a lack of administrative support for several programs I have been trying to build up, and the philosophy of ahimsa has helped me see how I can fight for just causes while caring for the humanity of those making unjust decisions.  Currently one of the most popular elective classes at my school is called The History of War. The curriculum that I developed at the Institute on nonviolence will provide my students a different lens through which to view the world, and will encourage them to imagine more positive possibilities for their own future.

--Caroline Hay, 2011 Ahimsa Fellow
Tualatin High School, Tualatin, OR

The summer institute at the Ahimsa Center gave me the space and inspiration to develop creative lessons on nonviolence--a thread of learning that all children need in this age of global crisis.  I would recommend the Institute to any educator who is committed to quality education and social justice work

--Michael Irwin, Teacher and Arts Academy Coordinator, Chapel Hill High School, NC

Participating in the 2007 Ahimsa Center Summer Institute was a life changing experience for me.  I came away with a greater understanding of Gandhi, his mission, and his influence.  Being with 40 like-minded educators from across the country was energizing and my involvement in this Institute left me with a renewed sense of hope.   I highly recommend participation in this experience.

--Dennis A. Larsen, Teacher, Washington Junior High School, Manitowoc, WI

As a first-year New York public school teacher, I did not have the tools I needed to help my students turn the aggression they brought into the classroom into proactive creative energy. The Ahimsa Insitute turned out to be an ideal place to explore how nonviolent student agency can be built into curriculum. Experts from multiple disciplines provided superb windows through which to reflect on the strategies of Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr. Passionate discussions abounded as fellows delved into the challenge of translating the philosophies of these great men into action in our own lives and our work as teachers. The energy generated and the seeds planted were exactly what I needed and, I think, would prove invaluable  to any educator concerned about violence and youth today.
--Lisa Lindstrom, 2009 Ahimsa Fellow
Teacher, Crossroads Middle School, New York City

I found the Ahimsa Summer Institute to be profoundly enriching and transformative, both professionally and personally. Not only was it an opportunity to delve much more deeply into Gandhi’s life, experiences and philosophies, but the insights I gained provided a paradigm shift in exploring ways to deal with conflict and oppression. The residential portion also resulted in the formation of some very meaningful and lasting friendships. Overwhelmingly the Institute was indeed a life-changing experience!”

--Carol Lukens, Teacher, Wasau School District, WI

What a wonderful opportunity to study Gandhi and King at the 2009 Ahimsa Summer Institute! The speakers were amazing; intellectually stimulating, motivated and motivating. The diverse participants epitomized social justice, intellectual curiosity and the willingness to give back to the community. I will bring back to my students the components of nonviolence including compassion, courage and truth and use the principles of satyagraha in my life.

--Jane C. Moore, East Cobb Middle School Marietta GA

The 2009 Ahimsa Center Institute on Nonviolence: Gandhi and King was an experience of a lifetime for me. The presenters and information presented was rich and always thought provoking. All the professional development I have had as a teacher did not compare to what I took from this Institute. The dialogue with the other participants was as enriching as the information I received. It was a life changing experience and has changed the way I will teach in the future. Many thanks to the Ahimsa Center for giving me the opportunity to grow not only as a teacher but as a person.       

--Laura Mullen, Teacher, Hubert Kindergarten Hudson, MA.

The Ahimsa Summer Institute of 2007 helped me gain a more complete understanding of Gandhi “the man” rather than “the myth,” thus I appreciate his work more deeply.  In creating lesson plans for the institute, I developed the idea of using satyagraha as a template to assist in resolving other political conflicts in the world.  The lessons are quite learner-centered and user friendly, providing for meaningful exploration of possibilities. But I believe the most important truth I brought away from the Institute was the concept of Ahimsa, which offers an approach that is based on Peace as a way of life, not merely a response to violence. I feel very blessed to have been a part of this noble effort.

--Patty Raspino, Teacher, Samuel Clemens High School, Schertz, TX

The 2005 Ahimsa Summer institute on Nonviolence and Social Change reassured me that simple and positive actions can make a world of difference in our everyday lives.  As an educator, I try to show my students that complicating your thinking with negative thoughts will bring about unwanted and predictable outcomes.  We need to reintroduce values in our education system and the summer institute provided plenty of resources to make this change possible.

--Johnny D. Reyes, Math and AVID Teacher, Lakeside High Schoo, Lake Elsinore, CA

Participating in the 2007 Ahimsa Center summer institute on Gandhi was an incredible experience that significantly impacted my philosophy and practice in education.  The program is extremely well organized, features world renown guest speakers, is completely paid for, and earns you graduate credits. In addition, you collaborate with a group of lifelong, passionate and dedicated teachers.

--Vikas Srivastava, Teacher, Canyon Crest Academy, San Diego, CA

The 2009 Ahimsa Institute was hands-down the best teacher-professional development I have received in my whole career.  The seminars were engaging, intellectually stimulating, and led by world-renowned scholars on Gandhi and King.  I found my personal philosophies challenged and my practice refined as I debated these ideas together with the amazing group of educators who took part.   I cannot recommend the Ahimsa Center highly enough.   

--Andrew Terranova, Westchester Highschool, Los Angeles, CA

My experience in the summer institute, Journeys of Nonviolence:  Gandhi and King, was enriching and inspirational.  Rarely do you attend an institute which makes you think deeply and reflect upon your life and place in the world.  We are so bombarded with violence in the news, our history books, movies, video games, and basically everywhere.  That is why we truly need an institute like this- one that focuses on the power, courage, and transformative capabilities of nonviolence.  I am so glad to have been a part of it.    

--Debbie Toran, Alvarado Intermediate,  Rowland Heights, CA

You could not ask for a more academically grounded or inspirational seminar on peace and nonviolence education.  The collegial support and community building that came from my experience in the 2007 Institute on Gandhi, Nonviolence and Twentifirst Century Curriculum is unequaled in all the workshops, seminars, or institutes I have been a part of.  You do not want to miss out on this opportunity.

--Rich Updegrove, Social Studies Teacher, Community of Peace Academy, St. Paul, MN