Moroccan math teacher’s skills could really add up

In a picture-book contest, everybody wins. (Courtesy of American School of Tangier)

Souad Belcaid had hated rote learning when she was a schoolgirl. As a teacher, she vowed never to rely on it.

At the American School in Tangier, where Belcaid teaches today, her math class involves visualization, role playing and other activities. Her students look forward to math, she said.

When the school faced behavior problems, Belcaid had her students organize a campaign against bullying. “If you change one kid’s life, you have done your job,” she said. Her students changed a lot of minds. They made posters, presented anti-bullying lessons to lower-grade students and wrote related essays. One bullying victim’s essay won a prize in an international competition.

(Courtesy of Souad Belcaid)

Belcaid also tries to instill compassion for less-privileged people and respect for other cultures. She arranges field trips to other neighborhoods. Recently, the students enjoyed visiting a Jewish foundation in Tangier’s old quarter.

Through her teaching, she herself has learned something about how wide the world is. Years ago, Belcaid left her native Morocco for France, where she studied psychology. After that, she participated in a teacher-exchange program and taught U.S. students in the state of Massachusetts.

In her French immersion classes in the Massachusetts school, Belcaid had her students set up a bazaar with real spices and create a painting of Mont Saint-Michel, the scenic French island topped by a medieval monastery. She enjoyed the experiences almost as much as  the students.

While teaching in the U.S., Belcaid noted the involvement of American parents in their children’s educations.

When she returned to Morocco three years ago, she reached out to parents there and they responded generously, offering their professional and personal skills as resources available to her classes.

Belcaid is one of the 50 finalists in the 2015 edition of the $1 million Global Teacher Prize for an outstanding teacher. Often referred to as the Nobel Prize for teaching, it is open to teachers in every school in every country of the world.