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Alumni Feature

Each quarter we will feature a story about our Parchment alumni here.

By Dave Person

Her high school teachers probably knew she was destined to follow in their footsteps.

And once she became a teacher, her peers and her students undoubtedly couldn't imagine her anywhere else but in front of a classroom.

But it took Carol Bouabdellaoui a while to figure out what she was going to do with her life, and she insists the decision to become an educator wasn't one she came up with on her own.

Carol Bouabdellaoui - Panther Press Alumni Feature "I didn't feel a calling," says Bouabdellaoui, who taught Spanish for 22 years at Parchment High School, from which she graduated in 1979.

Although she retired from Parchment in 2013, Bouabdellaoui, 56, continues to teach Spanish at the Barclay Hills Education Center in Parchment, and English to international students at Western Michigan University. She also occasionally teaches Spanish at Kalamazoo Valley Community College, and last year she returned to Parchment to teach part time when the need arose for someone to teach a Spanish class.

"I retired mostly because there was a job open (at WMU) and because I wanted the college (teaching) experience," she says.

So if she didn't feel a calling, how is it that Bouabdellaoui ended up teaching for 35 years?

She says it happened after she graduated from PHS, then tested out of Spanish and French classes at WMU, where she was a language major, enabling her to finish college in three years.

During that time she faced the pressure of determining what she wanted to do with her future.

"The secondary education kind of kicked in when I had to declare a major," she says.

Her first assignment, as a student teacher, was at Gull Lake High School, which is where Bouabdellaoui finally accepted her fate.

"This is the job I'll have; I'll be a teacher," she says she decided, and since then she has continued to instruct and entertain - most would agree that is a fitting description - students from the front of the classroom.

Bouabdellaoui says her first hurdle was just to find a job. There were few openings in her profession in Michigan at that time.

"If you wanted to teach you had to leave the state," she says.

So, for her first job she went to Globe, Arizona.

"It was a small town in the mountains with a lot of kids from the San Carlos Apache Reservation," she says. She taught Spanish there for two years, until 1984.
Then, with her application in to join the Peace Corps, Bouabdellaoui returned to Michigan and spent a year teaching in Wayland, after which she moved to Mexico City to teach English.

Finally, she received her Peace Corps assignment - Morocco - and it was off to that African country for three years, teaching English to high school students in Errachidia, a town of 30,000 people without so much as a stop light, but with plenty of donkeys making their way through the streets.

Her teaching supplies were meager.

"You were given a textbook, a few laminated visuals and some chalk," she says.

Many of the students were unable to afford their own textbook, so those who could shared with those who couldn't, resulting in seven or eight students sharing the same book.

In Morocco, Arabic is the official language. However, the educated people also speak French. In addition, the tribal language of Berber is spoken.

Bouabdellaoui says her students were serious about learning English, either as a prerequisite for going to college or to communicate with English-speaking tourists.

"They wanted English; they wanted it badly," Bouabdellaoui recalls.

In 1989, Bouabdellaoui returned to Michigan, along with her Moroccan husband at the time, and earned a master's degree in teaching English to speakers of other languages from Michigan State University.

In 1991, while she was still in Lansing, her daughter, Leila, was born. Leila graduated from Parchment High School in 2009 and is currently living and working in Pittsburgh, Pa.

That also was the year the Parchment schools contacted Bouabdellaoui in need of a Spanish teacher.

"The Parchment job fell in my lap," she says. "I had no plans to do that; I had been all over the world and I ended up back in Parchment."

The strange part, she says, is that she was among the ranks of people who were at one time her teachers, but now she was calling them by their first names.

"Several of my former teachers were my colleagues, but I was honored to be among their ranks," she says.

"My years in high school from the other side of the desk were a lot of fun."

She also returned to WMU once she was back at Parchment and earned a master's degree in Spanish.

In 1994, her son, Jamal, was born. A 2013 graduate of Parchment High School, he has a daughter, Mia, 2, and continues to live in Parchment.

Carol Bouabdellaoui was the youngest of Dick and Shirley Kishpaugh's three children. Dick, who died in 2000, was a well-known historian, particularly when it came to Michigan high school and college sports, and even more so when it involved the Parchment community and its schools' sports.

"I inherited some of his memory for people's names," Bouabdellaoui says, which is just part of the recall that her father displayed. "He could remember everything about everyone," she says.

That was because of "his curiosity about people." which, she says, also rubbed off on her. She treasures the one-on-one time she has had with her students.

"When you have the time to talk to people, that's what I really like," she says of her high school teaching experiences. "I miss that a lot, the extra conversations."

That is one of the reasons she has taken on yet another part-time job, as a nurse's assistant on weekends and in the evenings, at Borgess Gardens nursing home.

"I like working with older people; I enjoy hearing their stories," she says.

Bouabdellaoui's respect for all her teachers when she was in high school no doubt gave them an early indication that she would join them in the profession someday.

"I liked all my teachers a lot," she says. "Each teacher I had taught me something because I've embraced this profession for 35 years."

"I remember especially Bernie Conklin (her health teacher); he had great stories."

George MacLeod, her biology teacher, "made me see what it's like to have a passion for your subject matter," she says. She learned that even though students might not have the same feelings for the subject, their teacher must sustain his or her own passion.

She remembers Dan Tindall, in math, "for his calm approach and his subtle sense of humor."

Probably most important were her language classes, because as Bouabdellaoui admits, she has a "brain wired for languages."

"I got an excellent start in languages from George Malley in French and, of course, Ruth Moser in Spanish," she says.

She learned from her teachers that you can be effective as a serious teacher or someone who is more whimsical, which is the approach she has taken. "Humor worked for me," she says.

The bottom line, according to Bouabdellaoui:

"Your students have to be comfortable in your classroom."