For International Day of Education on Sunday, the Maktab Tarighat Oveyssi, or MTO, Shahmaghsoudi School of Islamic Sufism in Berkeley hosted a virtual roundtable discussion on the meaning of education and teachers’ needs.
The MTO Shahmaghsoudi School of Islamic Sufism is a global nonprofit organization with more than 30 centers, according to discussion host and spokesperson Mina Karimabadi.
Guests at the roundtable included Sean Moffatt, Director II at Alameda County Office of Education and director and principal of the Butler Academic Center and Sweeney Academic Center, Erica Bains, Saint Mary’s College accounting professor, Jilla Behnam, who has taught at UC Berkeley, Charlie Onorati, the restoration education program coordinator for the nonprofit Save the Bay, and Yalda Modabber, founder and executive director of Golestan Education.
After the various participants introduced themselves, Karimabadi began the discussion by asking the panelists what education means to them.
“Education isn’t purely academic, it’s the whole child,” Modabber said during the event. “All the various aspects of their growth, if it’s nurtured from the beginning — that’s the true education.”
Behnam agreed, noting that empowering and engaging students is important to ensure their wellbeing. Onorati added that education allows students to better their lives.
“My first thought was education means to me understanding, helping someone to understand themselves, the world around them,” Onorati said during the event. “The more education you have in the world, the better your life is.”
Karimabadi then asked the educators how they strive to make a difference in their teaching field, and if they are able to teach their desired subject.
Moffatt noted that his current job is to educate and work with educators rather than students directly, and advocated for the enhancement of the “art of teaching.” He added that bringing writing, reading and collaboration into a classroom daily is important for students’ development.
“Specifically with the kids that I have in juvenile hall in Camp Sweeney, there’s a lot that needs to go into the classroom other than ‘read this and answer these three questions,’” Moffatt said during the event.
Behnam said she was able to make a positive difference in the classroom by teaching meditation and stress management classes.
Participants then discussed the role of physical wellness and nutrition for both teachers and students alike.
Bains pointed out that both exercise and nutrition have been proved by various studies to help with students’ concentration.
Although nutrition is important, Moffatt said, it is hard for it to be a central focus in all communities, since not all people have equal access to healthy produce.
“There’s kids in (school) having pain and having trauma,” Moffatt said during the event. “Yes nutrition and mental health, but there’s all these other little things … We’re talking about communities that have been impacted from all the lack of all the things we’re talking about.”