Although Arabic is the third most spoken language in Denver public schools, Moghazy’s program in North is currently the only one in the district.
This semester, Moghazy teaches four sections and is ready to move into the third level of Arabic Language and Arabic Language Arts next year. He tapes most of his lessons, hoping one day to connect with other teachers who might also want to start their own Arabic programs.
For him, classes are a way to help students learn a language, reconnect with families and discover parts of their identity that they may not have had the chance to learn before.
“Maybe they can talk at home but haven’t learned to write or read, so when they see someone doing it, they get motivated,” Moghazy said. “Maybe they were hiding their identity because there is a misunderstanding between Arabic and Islam.”
Its students also include native English or Spanish speakers who want to learn about other cultures.
One day a week, her classes focus on culture more than language: learning a new dance, drinking and tasting Arabic coffee, comparing how Arabic can sound different in different regions, or learning about tattoos. henna and compare their meaning to tattoos used in other cultures.
Today, Moghazy has a vision to expand its Arabic language program following in the footsteps of the Northern Spanish language arts program which is the most developed in the district. He likes the idea of preparing students to take a translation or interpreting certificate and obtain university credits.
And Moghazy is an enthusiastic proponent of the benefits of learning Arabic, pointing out that it is the official language of 22 countries, one of the six official languages of the United Nations and spoken by 500 million people in the world.
“It opens up more opportunities for them,” Moghazy said, referring to students taking his classes. “It is important for children to learn more than one language.”
The Spanish Language Arts Journey Serves as Inspiration
As Moghazy seeks to expand his curriculum, he’s using North’s Spanish language arts program — the only one in the district that has a new partnership with Metropolitan State University — as a model.
Inmaculada teacher Martín Hernández organized the Spanish language program so that students would earn a biliteracy seal on their high school diploma and be ready and on the verge of earning a certificate to become translators. Those who transfer to Metro also have all the necessary credits for a college minor in Spanish.
The Spanish Language Arts programs in the district were started to help students identified as English language learners, as having a language arts course in their native language helps their learning in other content courses, Hernandez said.
Because Hernández has a doctorate, a doctorate in literature, she is able to teach more advanced concurrent enrollment courses that provide students with college credit. Moghazy also already has a doctorate in education in learning design, so he is also able to offer college credit in his courses.
“Spanish speakers struggle to go to college, but once they have the opportunity to pass, they realize they can take Spanish classes,” Hernández said, “and it’s like gateway for them”.
District leaders said they are working to expand Spanish classes throughout the district and have just rolled out a common curriculum that teachers can use instead of creating their own. Some courses are offered online so that students can benefit from them even if the qualified teacher for the course is not at their school. The number of native Spanish speakers taking Spanish classes in the district rose from 1,863 to 2,196 last year.
Spanish Language Arts is also part of the Consent Decree Agreement mandated by the District Court to serve Spanish-speaking learners. The agreement provides many specific services for English learners whose native language is Spanish, but does not impose the same requirements on the district for students of other native languages.
In most cases, language arts courses that are not in English count as optional or language credits, not as language arts courses. District leaders want to work with the state to change that, but there are a few things to understand first, including how that would change the requirements for teachers to deliver the classes.
It has been difficult to maintain similar programs in other languages, say district leaders, in part because few qualified teachers. Denver used to have Arabic language programs at other schools, including South High School, where the district is home to a program for new immigrant students.
But when teachers leave, the program often disappears with them.
“When it comes to building these programs, all the desire is there and we know we have the students to support it,” said Andrea Caulfield, district world language program specialist.
Spokespersons for the Aurora and Adams 12 school districts, two districts with a large portion of refugee students, said they were not aware of any Arabic language programs in their schools.
Students cite many reasons for wanting to learn Arabic
In addition to teaching Arabic and planning the expansion of the program, Moghazy also mentors a handful of new immigrant students who speak Arabic. Teachers from other content classes send him assignments that he translates for students so they can participate.
It’s a lot of work, but he said, “I’m happy to do this. I was once in the same position and it was hard.
Sophie Kruzel, 14, is another student in the Arabic language program. Her family is also from Lebanon and she said her family was delighted to hear her learn the language.
Some students tell Moghazy that they dream of traveling to Dubai or working with the United Nations. Both Sophie and Rachel have said they plan to pursue careers with refugees. Besides the joy of connecting with families, they hope learning Arabic will also help them in this future work.
“It’s really important work for me,” said Sophie. “There should be more classes like this.”
Moghazy said his job is also to connect with families.
While doing outreach to start the class, for example, he met a woman whose family had just arrived here from Libya. The woman, a mother, said she was worried about how her children would adjust to the new country and the start of high school. She was considering not sending her children to school, she told Moghazy.
Even though the family was not within the attendance limit to attend North High School, the woman opted to send her children to North after speaking to Moghazy and learning that her students would have the opportunity to take classes in Arabic and to have a teacher there who could understand them.
“In the Middle East, parents don’t have a voice,” Moghazy said. “When I talk to them, when I tell them, you have a voice, they can’t believe it. They feel safe.
Yesenia Robles is a reporter for Chalkbeat Colorado, covering K-12 school districts and multilingual education. Contact Yesenia at email@example.com.
chalk beat is a non-profit news site covering educational changes in public schools.