It was a warm November evening in Saudi Arabia. Dr. Eric Widmer, the founding headmaster of King’s Academy, had come all the way to my hometown of Udhailiyah in the middle of the desert to interview me. We sat in the computer lab in the elementary school wing of my ARAMCO school and he pulled up some photos of King’s. I was amazed at the elegant architecture of the buildings, the beautiful clock tower and the stunning natural landscape surrounding the school.
I listened closely to what Dr. Eric had to say about King’s. He told me about the school’s mission and about His Majesty King Abdullah II’s vision for the school. I was captivated by that vision: to create an academy where young Arabs could grow in their knowledge of the world and become the problem-solvers we so need in the region. Dr. Eric told me that I could become a part of that vision. Reflecting on that statement, as well as on the opportunity to study in my home country and develop my Arabic skills, I took a leap of faith and decided to join the first King’s Academy class. From that moment, my life would never be the same.
Being a student at King’s at the time of the school’s inception was like riding a rollercoaster. In 2007, the student body numbered around 110 students, only in grades 9 and 10, and there were about 30 faculty members. The boys lived in Nihal and the girls lived in Alnilam. There were about 10 full-boarding boys and zero full-boarding girls. Over the next three years we certainly went through some growing pains, but by the time my class, the Class of 2010, graduated, much had changed: the student body numbered about 275, the faculty had grown to about 75, many AP courses were being offered, a variety of conferences were being held, sports tournaments were being won, concerts were being performed, plays were being produced, and last but not least, dorms were being filled. We had made it despite the many doubts that a boarding school in the Middle East could work.
Fast forward four years and here I am back at my alma mater teaching history, the subject I initially became so passionate about after taking AP World History and AP Art History with our very own John Leistler. I owe a huge debt to my teachers and mentors from King’s. The impact they had on me in high school has proved long lasting. They taught me to be bold in my pursuit of knowledge, to go beyond my limits and to strive for excellence in all that I do. To be teaching alongside many of them today is surreal.
Teaching history at King’s has been an absolute privilege. History is everything and everything is history. Through history class, King’s students get the chance to contextualize their existence as global citizens in the modern era. Analyzing the past enables them to better understand the present and become problem-solvers for the future. But beyond getting them to understand facts and historical trends, this past year, I have strived to teach my students how to be curious and how to empathize. I have tried to provide them with the space to make their own observations and formulate their own questions. I have also tried to make them understand that the historical figures we study are not distant memories, but were once living and breathing human beings who experienced the ups and downs of life just like us. My students have impressed me with their ability to meet the challenges that I pose to them. Most of all, I have admired their love of learning and their thirst for knowledge.
When I was a student at King’s, the guiding principles, including “love of learning,” used to be just words that I acknowledged at the start of the school year. But today, as a teacher, I see these principles in a new light. They speak so much truth to me and remind me why I am here. I’m reminded that His Majesty is striving for a new paradigm in the kingdom and in the region. When we begin to apply the guiding principles in our daily lives, with respect at the top, we begin the journey towards a brighter future for Jordan and the Middle East.
Ever since my return to Jordan, I have been so encouraged by the fact that I am not the only alumnus back in the kingdom trying to fulfill His Majesty’s vision for the school. My classmates, including Dana Al-Jawamis, Maria Zabaneh, Dina Shawar, Swara Salih, Mohammad Shdeifat, Moutasem Al-Bitar, Sanad Qarrain, Majd Afaghani, Nadine Sousou, Rinad Salaita, and so many more are back in Jordan serving in a number of fields including education, energy, business, hospitality, tech startups and non-profits. We are back by our own choice and our own sense of loyalty to Jordan. This is truly inspiring to me and I hope that alumni will continue to feel motivated to give back to their school and region in the years to come.
As for me, King’s has started to truly feel like home. I feel at home in my classroom, I feel at home in the history department, I feel at home helping students in after-school activities, I feel at home on the weekends with the boarders, and I feel at home in the dorm. I am honored to have the opportunity to be a teacher here and I look forward to continuing my education in order to better serve my school, my country and my part of the world in the years to come.