As a Muslim parent, Karen Keyworth felt that there was a lack of options for Islamic schooling in her hometown of East Lansing, Michigan. So, in 1996, she started the Greater Lansing Islamic School, a school that is still thriving today with 163 students in Kindergarten through 8th grade. Keyworth was the school’s founding principal and, like many Islamic school principals, her duties extended above and beyond the principal’s office. She taught English as a Second Language and Language Arts for first, second and third graders. Karen Keyworth implemented the writing process for all grades, integrated reading and writing across the curriculum, was responsible for assessment, and provided a warm, loving, and engaging classroom for the children. She served as the school’s director-principal for two years.
During her tenure at the Greater Lansing Islamic School, Keyworth recognized the need to connect and share with other Islamic school educators and saw that this network did not exist. Like other trailblazers before, she decided to make her own path. In 1998, at the dawn of the Internet age, Keyworth partnered with Judi Amri of Fairfax, Virginia, and together they founded the Islamic Schools League of America (ISLA), a virtual organization dedicated to networking K-12 private Islamic schools across the United States and Canada. She currently serves as executive director of ISLA.
As a representative of the ISLA, she makes presentations at a wide variety of conferences in communities across the US and Canada and works with educators nation-wide to establish standards and best practices in Islamic education. Keyworth has conducted research on Islamic schools in the US where she has designed and analyzed data collection and written results for the 2007 publication by Georgetown University and the Institute for Social Policy & Understanding (ISPU). Her research on Islamic schools has also been published in the book Educating the Muslims of America, edited by Yvonne Haddad and Farid Senzai. In addition, she has published eight articles for ISNA’s Islamic Horizons Magazine, including one in their most recent issue. Nearly half of these publications were anchor articles for the Horizons Education issues.
Karen Keyworth came to Islamic education having accomplished much already in the wider education field. In 1980, she received her Bachelor’s degree in Linguistics and in 1982 received her Master’s degree in English and Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages, both from Michigan State University. For almost 25 years Keyworth worked as an adjunct professor, first at Jackson Community College and then at Lansing Community College. At the College she taught ESL courses and developmental writing, in which she gave struggling students the extra support they needed. For 8 years throughout her tenure at the College, she held the position of Portfolio Coordinator.
Karen Keyworth and her husband have been married for 36 years and have raised 4 children together. She has long been an active member of her community; she frequently serves as a liaison between the Islamic community and the media, speaking at schools and churches about Islam. Keyworth previously served as the Chair for the Lansing chapter of the American Muslim Council, where she worked to ensure political parity, accessibility and participation for Muslims in the local community as well as in the State of Michigan.
We congratulate and thank Sister Karen for her wonderful contributions to Islamic education.