Nour Jandali writes in Arabic from right to left on a chalkboard in `a classroom at Cholla High Magnet School and loudly repeats phrases with a guttural tone.
The 40-year-old, a native of Syria, goes over some of the 28 characters and six vowels in the Arabic alphabet.
Her students answer questions fluently in Arabic at the Southwest Side school that offers a magnet program in ambassadorial studies.
"They are like sponges. They are really good. They love it. They want to learn," said Jandali, describing her students' progress while they studied a lesson through a computer program.
Jandali is teaching Modern Standard Arabic, the official Arabic language, to the teens, who practice speaking Arabic among themselves.
Jandali said the teens are learning about the opportunities for translators in the public and private sectors.
"If you are serving overseas as a translator for the U.S. government, and you are fluent in English and Arabic, you can earn up to $184,000 a year," she said.
Some of the teens chat in Arabic with exchange students and friends on the Internet.
Sophomore Luis David Sotelo, 15, said he is fluent in English and Spanish, and wanted to try his hand at learning Arabic.
"I think the language is cool. It's a different alphabet and I just wanted to learn Arabic," said Sotelo who converses in Arabic with his classmate and friend, Sammer Miqbel.
Miqbel, who was born in the United States, said he grew up speaking English and Arabic at home. His parents are Palestinian.
Classmate Stephanie Medina describes the Arabic culture and language as "awesome" and is finding it a challenge to learn how to write the language.
Medina, who is fluent in English and Spanish, said she is teaching her mother and aunt what she is learning in class. She said they, too, want to learn to speak Arabic.
Jandali said the majority of her students are enrolled in honors classes, and in the upcoming school year she will teach two Arabic classes at Cholla.
Jandali said she became a U.S. citizen about 10 years ago. In addition to teaching math and Arabic for the Tucson Unified School District, she serves as a translator for the district.
She and her husband, Edward Jandali, a county engineer, have raised their two children, Joanna, 9, and Norris, 8, speaking English and Arabic.
"Students in the United States need to learn different languages," said Jandali, who worked as an attorney in family practice with her father in Damascus before moving to the United States.
"In Europe and the Middle East, it is a requirement that students from kindergarten on up study two languages besides their native tongue.
"The new generation needs to compete in a global market and will face challenges," she said. "By learning foreign languages, they will be able to open doors in different parts of the world."
AN ARABIC EDUCATION'S VALUE
Cholla High Magnet School, 2001 W. Starr Pass Blvd., offers Arabic among its foreign languages in an effort to prepare students to compete in a global economy. In a search of the Internet, Arabic translators who speak English can earn yearly incomes ranging from $129,000 to $184,000.