By Elizabeth Ballinger
Akrem Rebhi never planned on being a teacher.
This year, however, Rebhi is hosted by BCC as their seventh annual International Scholar-in-Residence. Rebhi will spend a year on campus assisting Arabic teachers in their classrooms, conducting his own conversation class in the language, and tutoring students.
The Fulbright Program, sponsored by the U.S Department of State, is an exchange program that sends teachers, scholars, and graduate students to teach language and culture in foreign elementary and secondary schools. Of BCC’s International scholars, six have been Fulbrighters, from Brazil, Nigeria, Morocco, Oman, Argentina, and now Tunisia.
“The program further develops the college’s mission to prepare students to live and work in an interdependent, multi-cultural world,” said Star Rush, Director of the Center for Liberal Arts, who worked to keep the Scholar-in-Residence program at BCC.
After finding an ad in a Tunisian newspaper this spring for bi-lingual people to teach Arabic in the United States, Rebhi applied for the International Scholar opening. Following numerous interviews, he was accepted along with 119 other Arabic speakers.
“This sounded like a great way to practice English,” said Rebhi.
Rebhi, whose native languages are Arabic and French, received his Masters Degree in English at the University of Carthage in 2004. He worked thereafter for several private and public companies as an interpreter.
Much of Rebhi’s family work is in education; his two sisters are both teachers and his father is the dean of a primary school in Tunisia. Rebhi said that being surrounded by teachers, he had not considered the vocation for himself.
However, talking to students in Arabic and honing their conversation skills, said Rebhi, is his favorite part of teaching. He occasionally brings Arabic music with recently learned vocabulary to Arabic teacher Sherling Miller’s class and shares with students knowledge of Tunisian culture.
“He tells us about regional accents and explains how they’ve developed from history,” said Asma Abdulrahman, a student in one of Miller’s classes. Abdulrahman said that Rebhi’s help made the material much more interesting.
Rebhi has received several offers from colleges in California, the Middle East, and France to teach Arabic. Following his year at BCC, Rebhi said he has yet to decide whether he will return to Tunisia or continue to teach abroad.