When it rains it pours I guess. After years of great work being done in relative obscurity some of Ruby Bridges Elementary’s best assets are coming to light. First with the recognition of super star teacher leader Mandie Cline and now with a nice piece in the Alameda Magazine about Noor Hezam, a teacher’s aide, at Ruby Bridges.
But to just call her a teacher’s aid is to minimize the outsized role that Mrs. Noor plays at Ruby Bridges. Given the very large English Language Learner population at Ruby Bridges she often works as the communication outlet between staff and families, particularly for the larger Arabic speaking community at Ruby Bridges.
From the piece:
“Noor is a superstar,” says Claudia Medina, the Alameda Unified School District’s coordinator for family involvement and community engagement. “She has helped us do outreach and support to our Arabic-speaking community. … She goes out of her way to make personal connections, pay out of pocket to create experiences for families, stay late to help translate for a family in need.”
The West End’s Ruby Bridges Elementary is one of the district’s most diverse schools, with nearly one-third of the school’s more than 550-plus children learning English as a second language. The school’s 54 Arabic-speaking children come from Egypt, Tunisia, Iraq, and Algeria, but the majority, says Hezam, are from Yemen like her. Most of the Arabic-speaking mothers (there are about 150 Arabic-speaking students districtwide) have little or no formal education and limited or no English, making it difficult for them to communicate with teachers or other staff, to understand how schools operate, and to support their children’s learning. Children’s fathers more often do speak English, says Hezam, but many work long hours to support their families. And in keeping with her religious upbringing, Hezam is not comfortable speaking to men. “I keep my culture,” she says. She recently worked with the office manager to build a list of Arabic-speaking mothers, and so now, when the school uses the auto-dialer to call home with announcements, she records the message in Arabic, and it goes directly to the mom’s cellphone numbers.
“[Former Ruby Bridges Elementary principal] Ms. Goodman gave me a nickname, ‘The Bridge’,” she says. “The moms call me and I go and translate or make an appointment with the teacher or email the teacher, back and forth, back and forth, between the teachers the office and the moms.” Hezam says she is helping others do what she did when she first came to the United States, learning how to support her five children in schools in an unfamiliar culture and language.