HCS Changemaker: Mrs. Maha Arafat
Congratulations to Mrs. Maha Arafat, a third-grade teacher at Farley Elementary, who has been selected as this week’s HCS Changemaker!Mrs. Arafat has known that she wanted to be a teacher since she was eight years old. She says that growing up in a big family meant that siblings often relied on one another to help with schoolwork and homework. As the middle child, she was often relied upon to help take care of her younger brothers and sisters. Realizing how much they were learning from her, Mrs. Arafat’s mother began depended on her more and more to help them with school work. Eventually, Mrs. Arafat would even start teaching other kids in the neighborhood. She would keep an eye on their progress and spent a lot of time thinking about what methods would help them raise their grades and pass exams. Mrs. Arafat says, “Every day was like a classroom in our household.”
“Mrs. Arafat is an awesome teacher,” says Farley Principal Dawn Ashley, “she shows a lot of love and support for her students each day.” Students in her classroom are moving around a lot, whether doing small group, whole group, or individual activities. She uses a flexible seating arrangement as well, so students get their pick of bouncy balls, rugs, mats, and even a couch rather than being confined to desks all day. Mrs. Arafat engenders mutual respect among her students and practices something she calls “the power of yet.” According to student Riley Fiorello, “It helps us and encourages us to keep trying, and we know if we don’t have it yet, we’ll soon have it.” Zach Holder says, “She always encourages us to keep trying.”
Outside the classroom, Mrs. Arafat likes to travel and has been to many places around the world, including Europe, Egypt, Dubai, and the Middle East. She likes to spend a lot of time with her family, and they are planning a trip to Jordan this summer. She also loves to cook for friends and family and says that food has the ability to bring people together no matter their language or background. She also loves to shop and hunt for bargains, though most of the time she is shopping for classroom supplies.
Her greatest aspiration for students each year is that they become happy and comfortable in their own skin. She says that a person’s background, skin color, and religion are what makes them unique and special, and she wants her students to stand out rather than fit in. To accomplish that, she spends a lot of time discussing these topics with her students in a way that helps them appreciate each other and their differences. The positive impact she brings to her students can be felt immediately upon entering her classroom – and lasts long after leaving.