Lincoln Educators Honored for Teaching Arabic Language, Culture

Lincoln teachers Mary Stimmell and Hicham Jennane are back-to-back recipients of the Dora Johnson Award, sponsored by the Qatar Foundation International, in recognition of their teaching of the Arabic language and culture.

If the cross-cultural inability to understand one another is what ails our species then the World Language Department at Lincoln High School is working on the cure. And the effort there is spearheaded by not one but two award-winning teachers.

In 2012 the ACTFL named Lincoln’s Hicham Jennane the recipient of the Dora Johnson Award. In late 2013, the winner was his colleague/boss, department head Mary Stimmel.

ACTFL stands for the American Council on Teaching Foreign Languages. The award is named in honor of Dr. Dora Johnson, a 45 year veteran of the Center for Applied Linguistics who promoted world language instruction for K-12 students, especially the teaching of Arabic. The honor is issued annually by the Qatar Foundation International as part of its mission to support advances in curriculum and instruction for Arabic educators and individuals who promote the teaching of Arabic language and culture.

Jennane and Stimmel would never ask what took so long, but just about anyone else could be excused if they did after reviewing their careers.

They’ve been involved with the STARTALK Arabic program from its infancy. STARTALK was part of the National Security Language Initiative (NSLI) announced by former President Bush in January of 2006. It seeks to expand and improve the teaching and learning of strategically important world languages that are not widely taught in the US. STARTALK’s mission is to increase the number of Americans learning, speaking, and teaching critical need foreign languages by offering students (K–16) and teachers of these languages creative and engaging summer experiences that strive to exemplify best practices in language education and language teacher development.

Lincoln’s was the first STARTALK program in Iowa and it’s grown from 50 students to 100 from not only Lincoln but the other DMPS high schools along with West Des Moines Valley, Des Moines Christian, and Dowling Catholic as well.

Stimmel, the program Director, and Jennane, Lead Instructor, have written and received the maximum $100,000 grant from STARTALK in each of the last three years and are awaiting approval of one for $90,000, the new maximum, in anticipation of next summer’s program.

Hicham teaches French in addition to Arabic and has native fluency in English, French, Arabic, Berber, and over 15 dialects. In addition to Lincoln, he also helped to establish Arabic programs at Simpson College and Drake University.

Stimmel is in her 15th year as Chair of the World Language Department at Lincoln.

Ask her about her passion for foreign language teaching and she says, “I could talk your ear off.”

English, Spanish, Portuguese – just pick a flavor and listen up.

The duo has presented multiple times at IWLA (Iowa World Language Association) and STARTALK conferences. In just about any language, they know what they’re talking about. Most importantly, they’ve made it their lives’ work to share what they know.

If you see either or both of them you might offer a hearty “Mabrouk!”

Video of Lincoln’s Arabic Language Class

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