LOS ANGELES – Being a math teacher takes great dedication, and Mrs. Itani, an L.A. based educator, enjoys every minute of it.
However, as an Arab Muslim woman who left Lebanon for a better life in the United States, she says she has often felt misunderstood, both inside and outside of the classroom.
“In grocery stores, I would be leaving after grocery shopping, someone would scream out of no where like, 'Go back to your country, you Hezbollah, you Osama Bin Laden.' My son was at school was called Osama Bin Laden many times,” she explained.
But despite her and her family’s negative experiences, Mrs. Itani refuses to remove her hijab.
As a teacher in L.A. County, she has found a sense of community and purpose serving her students.
“I am known to be the mother of the school, if kids are hungry, they approach Itani, if they need supplies, they come to my class, they know that I am a resource for them,” she said.
That’s why she was shocked when one of her students left her a painful note, perpetuating a stereotype too often seen.
“A message was left on one of the test dividers, ‘Itani is a terrorist, watch out,’” she said.
While the note is being investigated, Mrs. Itani says when these things happen to her and her family, it actually motivates them to serve the community even more. In addition to constantly providing support for her students beyond the classroom, she is even teaching them more about her language and culture. She encourages her own children to do the same.
“I always push my kids, like you know, give back to the community, maybe it will change the way they perceive us one day,” Itani said.