Arab American Heritage Month: Nourddine Boufekrane
A passion for communicating with others in different languages set Nourddine Boufekrane, a teacher of French language and culture at Bryan Adams High School Leadership Academy, on a journey that led him to dedicate his life to teaching.
Arabic, one of Boufefrane’s native languages, is among the top five languages in the district, with over 300 students who come from homes where the first language is Arabic. Other languages that he speaks include Berber, French, Hebrew, Spanish, English, and Swahili. He can also communicate in Urdu and Hindi, among other languages.
Boufekrane believes that months, such as Arab American Heritage Month, which commemorate heritage and culture are important in order to celebrate each other.
“To me, it is a way to accept and understand one another, but it is important for everyone to not be ashamed of their culture,” he said. “They need to show it and be proud of who they are.”
Prior to moving to the United States in 2008, Boufekrane, a native of Morocco in West Africa, had lived, traveled and worked all over the world. His knowledge of multiple languages opened opportunities for him.
“Because I worked with many associations for the Development of Education in Africa (ADEA), in direct coordination with UNICEF and UNESCO in Africa, I can understand Swahili, Wolof and many dialects,” he said. “I worked in many countries in Europe for many years, especially in France, where I served in many organizations as a translator.”
Boufekrane also worked as a translator in different areas in Asia, Syria and the United Arab Emirates.
His work throughout the world eventually brought him to Dallas. He worked as a warehouse specialist for 12 years, when he decided he wanted to use his language skills and knowledge of world cultures to impact young minds. He went back to school to get certified as a teacher, and obtained his bachelor’s degree in Arabic and French Linguistics Philosophy and Culture from Pennsylvania Western University. He recently completed his master’s degree in this same subject, and was accepted into the doctoral program at the International University Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
As a French teacher, Boufekrane often has the opportunity to use his other languages to bridge the gap of communication with his students that speak different languages.
“Because I have students who speak multiple languages, another topic for my students who are from Africa and the Middle East, and other countries, is to help them integrate into American society. I talk to them about the country, about American food and culture and so on,” he said.
“Sometimes I talk to one of my students in Swahili so he can understand me. I also have students who speak Arabic,” he said. “I want them to fully understand what I’m doing in my French class and the other class that I teach called diversity and culture.”
Boufekrane considers himself to be a lifelong learner and has passion to continue to learn about other languages and cultures.
“I tell my students that ‘if you keep your culture, you are free,” he said.
One of the topics that he covers in his class is about celebration and culture, and believes that learning about the cultures of his students is part of the teaching process.
“I ask my students to share some of the customs from Honduras, Mexico or wherever their cultural heritage is from,” Boufekrane said. “In my class, students show you where they are from and share their ideas. I am learning too. It is an exchange of knowledge, because we are not alone in the world. We are almost 8 billion people on the planet, and we need to know about other people in order to help each other.”