BETHEL — Ali El Moustakim's knowledge of Arabic, French and English has led him from his home country of Morocco to serving as a news director in Qatar to teaching at Bethel High School.
"I am the result, the outcome of languages," he said.
Now, the high school French teacher hopes to open up similar opportunities for students by teaching Arabic.
The school board has approved adding an Arabic course at the high school next year, contingent on the passage of the proposed budget, which includes money for another world language teacher.
El Moustakim would continue teaching French, but would add one Arabic class to his roster.
"(El Moustakim's) done such a great job of building up our French program that this is only going to enhance our world language program," Principal Chris Troetti said.
The high school used to offer Italian, but now only offers Spanish and French.
"That is not enough," said Andreia Dovale, head of the world language department, who said she has made it her goal to increase the school's language options.
Since El Moustakim is a native Arabic speaker, Dovale said she knew bringing that language to the school would be ideal. A study found 36 students in eighth through 10th grade would want to take the class, she said.
"We thought that was great interest," Dovale said.
Few high schools in the state offer Arabic, but the U.S. Department of State has encouraged students to pursue the language through its Critical Language Scholarship program. The state department says Arabic is critical to the country's success and national security.
"Arabic is in great demand right now," Dovale said.
El Moustakim's native language is Arabic, but he learned French at a young age in school, where subjects like math and science were taught in that language. Soon, speaking French was natural, he said.
"You grew up with it," he said. "You became used to it."
In college, El Moustakim learned English, while still studying Arabic and French. He worked as a television news director in Morocco before getting a job at the BBC in France. He then earned a Hubert H. Humphrey fellowship to study at Syracuse University in New York and got an internship reporting in Washington, D.C.
He later served as a news director in Qatar for Al Jazeera, but the pressures of the business got to be too much and he moved to the United States, where he worked at News12 Connecticut before becoming a teacher, he said.
He taught at Danbury High School for 13 years before coming to Bethel, where he has taught for two years. He is also an adjunct professor for the social sciences department at Western Connecticut State University.
Education has now become his passion.
"You can help, you can share, you can bring ideas and optimism and possibility that we can create a better world," he said. "That's the belief—that we are so powerful we can create a better world through our education systems. Through education, we can become agents of change."
He said schools need to focus on global studies, noting Bethel would do that by adding Arabic.
El Moustakim said it is important students learn another language not just to understand the sounds and the words, but because it connects them to other people and cultures.
"It makes you part of everything else in the world," he said.