Mahamed’s Story: Part 1 (Phoenix, Ariz.)

Date: May 26, 2011

Guest blogger:  Maryann Moll, Teacher, Ombudsman Arizona Charter East

In August 2006, we enrolled a student named Mahamed.

Mahamed was 20 years old, born in Somalia and an immigrant to the United States. He knew little English and had little more than a basic education. Due to the violence in his native country, he was raised in refugee camps in Kenya.

We looked at each other on that first day and sized each other up. I work with English learners and he was in need of intensive English instruction in order to pursue his required courses toward his diploma.

And so it began.

I sat cutting pictures out of mail order catalogs in the evenings of furniture, clothing items; you name it, and glue sticking them onto paper. Then, I used post-it notes to name the item and his assignment was to match words and pictures. He loved it.

We did activities on the solar system, plants, animals, foods and other things that people observe and experience, no matter where we are born in or what language we speak. Little by little, his English skills improved.  It also helped that he had a job at the airport and was interacting with others.

Two months later, it was time for our students to take the writing and reading portions of the AIMS standardized tests, which all Arizona students must pass in order to graduate.

Mahamed took the tests, and I noticed he was always irritable at testing time. These tests were more than he could stand. The scores came back.

He did not pass the writing portion but he did pass the reading portion. I looked at his score, looked again, and I began to cry. And when I showed him his results, he began to cry.

I stood in awe of this young man in wonderment of his ability.

Read Mahamed’s Story: Part 2

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