Muslim teacher focuses on students, not religion

9:07 PM, Sep 8, 2010   |    comments
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Nour Elmohd
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Tampa, Florida - While many people react to a Gainesville pastor's plans to burn hundreds of Qurans on the anniversary of 9-11, some Muslims prefer to remain quiet.

22-year-old Nour Elmohd is in the third week of her teaching career. She wears her traditional hijab, a head scarf worn by some Muslim women. Elmohd says in class she's just Miss Elmohd.

"It's a lot of work when you are with the kids. Forget about everything else, you are there helping them learn. They are excited about school and that makes all the difference," says Elmohd.

Students and staff at McFarlane Park Elementary are diverse. They represent different cultures, ethnicities and faiths, but in the classroom all are seen as one.

On the first day of school, Elmohd says none of the kids asked about her head scarf. "That's the beauty of it; these kids so innocently take you for who you are," says Elmohd.

Growing up as an American Muslim, Nour says people made remarks about her headwear and faith. Her parents are Palestinian who moved from Kuwait to America during the first Persian Gulf War.

"My parents taught me to uphold myself strongly and walk confidently, that's all I did," says Elmohd. She adds, "That's how I grew up to see everyone for their differences, but respect them. That's the example I try to uphold."

McFarlane Park Elementary has an International Baccalaureate program where kids follow a rigorous curriculum and learn how to be a global citizen.

"Just because you look different doesn't mean you can't be someone's friend," says second grader Destiny Evans.

Elmohd chooses not to talk about controversial issues such as the Qurans burning in Gainesville this Saturday or about politics. She says as a teacher, her job is to remain neutral and focus on her students' needs.

She says, "We don't focus on religion. We focus on cultures as a whole, other people's differences and how we are all the same even with all the differences that we have."

MacFarlane Park Elementary's principal says it took only one job interview with Elmohd earlier this summer to realize she has the teaching qualities she'd been looking for in a new teacher.

Isabel Mascarenas

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