TOMAH, Wis. (WKBT) - Students in the Tomah School District are getting the chance to learn something they've never had the opportunity to learn before.
Federal grant money is making it possible for the district to offer courses in Arabic this year, and thanks to the Teachers of Critical Languages program, they'll have a native speaker teaching the classes. Members of the district and the community officially welcomed Mr. Mohamed Fawzy Ali at an event Sunday.
Mr. Ali is from Egypt, where he taught English. He's one of only eight teachers from Egypt to teach American students Arabic through the program this year. However, he won't just be teaching the language – he'll also be educating students on Arabic culture. He also expects to learn from his students, too.
"I think it's a good chance to give an idea to people, especially young students, about my country and my language, and this means that we will have something to help understand and appreciate the culture of each other," said Ali.
Tomah School District Superintendent Cindy Zahrte says the program will give Tomah students a leg up on their peers.
"We live in a global economy, and it's so important our students are ready for the 21st century and are able to be out there competing," said Zahrte. "We really feel like we're giving kids an upper edge in terms of competition with students from other school districts who may not have this opportunity."
Zahrte also expects the experience to make the world a smaller place for students – in a good way.
"I think having a teacher from Egypt here in our community helps shrink our world. We know when we get to know people, it's much more difficult to dislike them or to think they're different or strange," said Zahrte.
"If we're going to have the peace in this world that we often talk about, it takes these types of exchanges for people to get to know others from different cultures, so that we can understand we're much more alike than we are different."
Mr. Ali has only been in the area for about 10 days, and says he's already enjoying it.
"Here in Wisconsin, it's fantastic," said Ali. "I'm a nature lover. I enjoy every moment here. When I saw the Mississippi, I remembered the Nile."
He expects his time in the Coulee Region to also be memorable.
"I think when I go back to my country, I will tell them a lot about my experience here," said Ali. "I'll tell my children, and when I grow older and become a grandfather, I'll tell my grandchildren everything about my experience."
Zahrte says Ali's time in Wisconsin will be a good experience for the community as a whole, not just for students in the school district.
"We feel very strongly that, as a community, we're going to be able to learn a lot from Mr. Ali," said Zahrte. "The exposure of having someone in our community from Egypt, I think, will expand all of our understanding about Egypt, the culture and that part of the world."
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