“As a Fulbrighter, I feel that there is a lot of knowledge I have gained that I need to share with my country.” This was the mindset Nada Almonthery brought back to Iraq from the six-week Fulbright Teaching Excellence and Achievement program she attended in the United States in 2020. Unfortunately, COVID-19 struck the world soon after her return to Baghdad, leaving schools closed and little opportunity for her to apply the teaching skills she developed overseas.
After the world started opening up again in 2021, Nada attended a virtual global teaching dialogue where she was introduced to Global Nomads Group. By then Nada was teaching English again, this time at the Al Mutamayzeen High School for Distinguished Boys in Baghdad. Her 15 and 16-year-old students were learning high-level science and mathematics taught in English. Nada’s task was to help them better master the written and spoken language outside of these technical fields.
Traditional Iraq teaching methods didn’t often engage students. “We used to stand up just like a tutor at university and just give a lecture,” Nada says. “We realized that this does not work with language learning; we needed to change our mentality and the way that we deal with our students.”
Nada decided a more engaged approach would allow students to immerse themselves in new thoughts and concepts in English. “We moved to a communicative approach with new material, where we are teaching our students in a real-life context.”
Global Nomads Group’s Student to World program fit this new approach perfectly. In October her students were given a choice of topic – such as art in action, sports, and women’s rights – and wrote a series of personal essays exploring that topic from a personal perspective, a community perspective, and a global perspective. Finally, the students presented a problem related to their chosen theme and wrote about possible solutions based on what they learned.
The program Nada led was so successful that the US State Department recognized its impact. On February 11, 2022, U.S. Embassy Public Affairs Officer Daniel Ernst presented certificates to alumni of the “Student to World” creative writing course at a ceremony in Baghdad.
Certificates and awards are certainly impressive, but ultimately Global Nomads Group’s goal is to broaden students’ perspectives and challenge the assumptions they hold about one another. Nada thinks we achieved that.
“For this semester my students would like to write about overcoming bias and mental health. These issues are more complex than the first group,” Nada says, beaming with pride. “I feel that my students now have high critical thinking issues that they would like to write about. When we talk about these two topics, this is something huge for teenagers, especially in Iraq!”