Saudi Arabian Teachers Visit Arizona

Brook Bowman, editor in chief

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Cactus Shadows welcomes teachers from the kingdom of Saudi Arabia to come and expand their knowledge on American education. In hopes of improving and innovating Saudi Arabia’s schools, Building Leadership for Change Through School Immersion, the program that helped the teachers come here, partnered up with ASU’s Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College and sent 52 Saudi educators, 2 of which are at Cactus Shadows.
“When this program came up, I just thought it was a very good idea to go outside in other education systems to see how stuff really work in America since the education in America is known to be something so huge,” said Aala Alarabi, one of the Saudi teachers at Cactus Shadows.
Alarabi, a teacher of 10 years to an all girls school, observed the students at Cactus Shadows for the past eight months and commented about the differences with Cactus Shadows and the schools back in Saudi Arabia. Back in Saudi Arabia, schools are separated by gender. Alarabi helps out her teacher Kathleen Roberson and helps the kids understand the lessons everyday. In the short time of her being at Cactus Shadows, some of the kids have even started interacting with her in Arabic.
“It’s such a short time and I wish it was longer and that they could give us permission to teach but we don’t have the permission since we don’t have the United States certificate. This is something I love to do even if this stuff is easy to teach, it is still hard to explain in English,“ she said.
Abdulelah Alotaibi is also another Saudi teacher here at Cactus Shadows. He has also been here for 8 months and is new. He helps his teacher Kelsey Garner by grading papers, interacting with the student and discuss with them, and helping out students that have questions. He came through this program in hopes of improving his english, improving his leadership skills, and experience the life of America through schools. Some of the differences that he noticed is that there is a lot more lesson planning, students are aware of expectations, they are guided through each lesson, and the teaching is not based on lectors, which is the case back in Saudi Arabia. He also noticed the amount of technology that is used by the students and teachers.
“I keep learning everyday, things that we aren’t practicing back home when it comes to teaching methods, so I’m learning new stuff from her [Garner] and other teachers since I’ll go to other english classes,” he said. “I have been here before as a University teacher, at the University of Maine in 2014-15, but it’s really different working there and here because here you have a lot more interaction with the teachers and student.”
The program has 4 goals to achieve; for participants to develop better english speaking skills, be guided in the immersion field experience, become professional developed course workers, and and go through the action research capstone project. Each educator that goes through the program attends workshops, develop teacher learning skills through communication, create problem-based lesson and solution,(etc.) Each Saudi educator is required to take notes on the different ways the US education system is compared to theirs and try to come up with ideas to improve the Saudi education system.
“We at Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College pride ourselves in supporting the scholars to meet the objectives of the project but also to support their social and emotional well-being. Many of the scholars have brought their families with them, and they are experiencing new ways of life in school, shopping, transportation, housing etc. — we try to support them as they face these challenges and miss the comforts of home,” said the Ruhi Khan, the program’s director for Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College.
The crowned prince and chairman of the council of Economics and development affairs, Mohammad bin Salman bin Abdulaziz announced Saudi Arabia’s new biggest project, Vision 2030. Vision 2030 is a new direction that Saudi Arabia is taking, where they will be focusing on other ways to bring income and shift away from their oil dependency.
“Our ambition is for the long term. It goes beyond replenishing sources of income that have weakened or preserving what we have already achieved. We are determined to build a thriving country in which all citizens can fulfill their dreams, hopes and ambitions. Therefore, we will not rest until our nation is a leader in providing opportunities for all through education and training, and high quality services such as employment initiatives, health, housing, and entertainment,” said his Royal Highness Prince Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdulaziz.
Cactus Shadows will be receiving more Saudi teachers in the upcoming months.

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