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Bozeman elementary students learn about culture thanks to exchange program

Posted at 4:22 PM, Sep 28, 2018
and last updated 2018-09-28 18:57:27-04

BOZEMAN – Irving Elementary School students have a special teacher this year.

Sayed Keliey is a teacher from Egypt who will be spending his year in Bozeman teaching fourth and fifth graders how to speak and write Arabic, along with teaching about his culture.

It’s part of an exchange Teachers of Critical Languages Program from the department of state. Keliey usually teaches high school students but is enjoying elementary age kids.

“So far they look very excited about learning Arabic, they’re showing great interest to learn more about Arabic and Arabic culture and they are fascinated by the Arabic writing,” Keliey said.

The principal of Irving Elementary School, Jennifer Westphal said: “They are just sponges, they just love it. Just the other day in the hallway a student said hello to me in Arabic.”

These students aren’t the only ones being exposed to a new culture, this is Keliey’s first time in the United States.

“So far so awesome,” he said. “I like being here, although it looks like I’m going to have a cold winter. But I’m surrounded by very warm feelings from the people around me so I can avoid the coldness of winter with the warming of meeting people here.”

Being able to expose these kids to diversity and a different culture is something that is very important to the Irving School.

“For us, it was a perfect fit,” Westphal said. “Our community embraced it, our community thought it was a great idea because as you know Bozeman is not necessarily very diverse in within itself, it is growing rapidly but our students don’t always have those opportunities for all of the cultural enrichment and learning other languages that some other communities have.”

Sharing his culture with these kids is important to Keliey, though he has also enjoyed learning about American culture.

“Although we have some differences, we are still friends. We can do together, we can cooperate together and apply good ideas from both sides. I like some ideas here in American society, American schools and American culture. I like to convey this whole message the whole picture to my Egyptian culture as well,” Keliey said.

Irving Elementary School is the only school in Bozeman that has an international teacher apart of this exchange program.

Reporting by Emma Hamilton for MTN News