Letter from Alumnus from Spring/Fall 2020 Religion Department Newsletter:
After an initial residential teaching position at a small boarding school in the US, Joshua began teaching at India’s oldest IB and international school in Tamil Nadu, South India. He writes:
I have been fortunate in my life to have studied with some of the very best teachers and in many of the finest institutions in the world. Of all of these, I am most proud of my time in the Department of Religion at the University of Illinois. During my two years in the Department’s Master of Arts program, I received world class instruction in the academic study of religion, as well as personal mentorship and supervision as a teaching assistant. In my chosen profession of education, I have utilized the teaching, research and analytical skills I developed as a graduate student at Illinois each day in my classroom, and I am a better teacher, educator and human being because I came to the University of Illinois to study religion.
One cannot know who we are as human beings without studying the religious practices that shape and animate so much of our common life. As I tell my students here in India, to know people, you need to know their religion, and to understand our past and attempt a glimpse into our future, you need to study religion. I came to the Department of Religion at Illinois desiring to know why we believe in what we do, and the ways that our religious practices are shaping the world that we live in today. Religion is not static and bookishly boring, but a living phenomenon that continues to guide how we see ourselves as people, and all of creation.
I am a teacher of humanities in the International Baccalaureate (IB) in Tamil Nadu, India, and I can attest that any teaching career in the IB or at an international school anywhere is deficient without a strong background in the study of religion. Because religion influences so much of a person’s life and the socio-political dynamics of communities, to study and know religion is an important pathway to countless professions where it is necessary to understand people...which describes most jobs in today’s world.
I came to the University of Illinois intending upon a career in education. Receiving my Master of Arts in 2018 was a crucial step in beginning my professional path. But even if a person has no desire at all to work in education, studying religion will complement his or her career and also assist in something far greater: building understanding on oneself and of the world we live in.
Though I am still relatively new to my career in teaching and educational management, I know that the intellectual and social riches that I found in the Department of Religion will benefit me for a long time. Without coming to Illinois, there is no way that I would be teaching in South India in the IB. This is now my second year at my school, and I could not be happier. I hope to progress into educational management after teaching, and because I may never have the opportunity to write this again, I would like to thank my teachers and classmates at Illinois for supporting me in the wonderful career that I began as a Master of Arts student. Thank you all for the memories!
Written with much gratefulness, I am,
Joshua M. Reinke
Class of 2018
Kodaikanal, Tamil Nadu, India