Grad students from Saudi Arabia teach area youth

April 26, 2016
Wijdan Sobahe

PLATTEVILLE, Wis. — Five University of Wisconsin-Platteville School of Education graduate students from Saudi Arabia recently taught a series of classes on Saudi culture and Arabic to approximately 15 Platteville area homeschool students in elementary, middle and high school.

Graduate students who taught the courses included Weam Aldhwihi from Alrass; Salha Alharthi from Riyadh; Ashraf Alshehri and Eshraq Alshehri, both from Jeddah; and Wijdan Sobahe, from Mecca. All of the students are enrolled in the Masters of Education program in the School of Education at UW-Platteville.

The courses are designed to provide practical teaching experiences for the international graduate students who are completing requirements for Teaching 7880 Graduate Practicum in Education. Faculty advisors for the teaching project include Dr. Daniel Leitch, associate professor of education at UW-Platteville, and Dr. Jennifer Collins, assistant professor of education at UW-Platteville.

“The homeschool families were delighted to have the opportunity to learn about Saudi Arabia first hand. Likewise, the Saudi students expressed sincere gratitude for the chance to share their culture with Americans. Friendships quickly blossomed between graduate students, parents and children,” said Leitch.

“Because UW-Platteville is in a rather insular rural setting, it is so important to tap into the cultural capital that the international students bring to our campus,” said Collins. “Dan and I talked to the students about their ability to be ambassadors and to broaden the Platteville homeschool students’ and parents’ understandings of Saudi Arabia, the Middle East and the Muslim faith. Sadly, we live in a time when a lot of what we know about Muslims is through the news and that viewpoint isn’t always complimentary or additive in nature.”

Collins said the graduate students were eager to share presentations to help the homeschool students mitigate misconceptions about their culture – and they had fun doing it. She said it also allowed the graduate students an opportunity to ask questions of parents about homeschooling and the homeschool culture, which was a new concept for them.

“It was a new experience for me,” said Eshraq Alshehri. “I didn’t teach in Saudi Arabia, but I really enjoyed working with the kids on this project. I liked sharing about my culture and the students and the moms liked it too. We don’t have homeschooling in Saudi Arabia but I like this idea. I think we need more of this type of learning.”

“I want to thank Dr. Daniel and Dr. Jennifer for allowing me to participate in educating these children,” said Sobahe. “We all had a great time with the children and their mothers. It was truly an amazing experience and I feel very fortunate that I could be a part of it. It was a great experience and different for me. I taught children numbers, letters and some important topics in Saudi Arabia. I was very happy to see the kids involved in learning and it pleased me as well to see their desire to learn more. Although these children have not learned in the schools because they are homeschooled, I liked the way used by their mothers in their education and there is nothing impossible for them. I’ve gained more good friends, more good memories and good experience with these children. This experience added a lot to me and I hope that I can do it again in the future.”

“This class was a good experience for the children to learn about Saudi Arabia first hand, without having to actually travel,” said Ellen Wiegman, mother of one of the homeschool students. “They were able to hear the Arabic language, talk with people from another country and even eat food from that country.”

As UW-Platteville pursues its vision of being recognized as the leading student-focused university for its success in achieving excellence, creating opportunities, and empowering each individual, it is guided by four strategic planning priorities. The teaching experience aligns with the priorities of providing an outstanding education, fostering a community of achievement and respect, and enriching the tri-states.

Written by: Laurie Hamer, College of Liberal Arts and Education, 608-342-6191, hamerl@uwplatt.edu

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