Posted Oct 09, 2018

In 2013, Imad Ridha immigrated with his family to the U.S. from his home country of Iraq. He is currently a Math Fellow at Prep Academy in Denver, where he works with small groups of students to provide more direct student-teacher time and individualized instruction. He also began using NBA Math Hoops with his students during the 2015–16 season. Imad holds a B.A. in the English Language and an Associates in French from the University of Baghdad/College of Languages, and also studied Information Technology at Cambridge Modules. Below are condensed excerpts from a conversation with Development and Communications Specialist, Sumner Becker.

How did you first get involved with the NBA Math Hoops program?

I’m a lead math fellow at DPS (Denver Public Schools), and there was another math fellow who then worked with the program. She knew that the program was cool, that the kids liked it, and she started contacting others, including my coordinator, who suggested going to the training session. I said, “Yeah definitely, I’d like to go!” That was when I started, three or four years ago. Since then I have been there every year in the program. It’s so important to have more chances for kids to have fun in the classroom, to play games, and also at the end of the year they have the chance to play with other students. Every year this seems like a success.

What was the first year of programming like in your classroom?

It was kind of cool, the kids liked it. The kids keep asking “when can we play the game,” and I told them it was kind of an incentive for them. So I have my exam planned for the [end of the] week, and it should be a five-day exam. But if we finish in four days, I said, “We can reserve Friday for the games, so it’s your choice, guys. Do you want to work hard and do that?” And they were like, “Yeah, we want to do that.” Since then, Friday is my game day. So every time they come to [the end of the week] they say, “it’s game day!”

Describe your experience with the Broncos First & 10 program.

It started last year, and I had four students at the end of the year go to [the] tournament. They really enjoyed; I had many thank-yous from the parents for that great night—we got to play the game, the kids got to tour the [Broncos] stadium and see the locker rooms for the players, the press room; everything was awesome. Everyone really liked it, and the next day, everyone was talking about it…I got a lot of thank-yous.

Tell me about your transition from Iraq to the U.S.

I’m from Iraq, and I moved to the U.S. five years ago. I have a masters degree in the English language, and I was teaching English. I was also a translator for a while, and when I moved here I was taking lessons and family classes. I heard from a teacher that they needed a teacher in one of the elementary schools, [where the candidate] should be bilingual and have experience in teaching. I applied, and I was accepted and that was my first job in the U.S. It was a paraprofessional position. The next year I heard about the math fellows program, and I joined it.

What was the reason for moving your family here?

I was a translator, I worked for the military and for the U.S. Army. And then it became very dangerous, we became targets for terrorists. So it wasn’t safe there for children; it was a war, [there was] kidnapping and execution. So me and my wife decided to move here. I had two kids when I moved here—one was six and one was two. It was hard to imagine that they would be able to grow up in that environment and situation—again it wasn’t safe there—so we decided to move here. We applied to move here in 2010, and three years later we were admitted.

There are a lot of opportunities here, a lot of resources; in our schools, I was telling my students last week: ‘I didn’t have these resources: I didn’t have a cafeteria, a basketball field in my school, I didn’t have the colorful environment, classrooms, and all these resources. You have everything, and all you have to do is set a course for yourself and work hard to achieve that goal. We’ve been in hard circumstances in our situation, we’ve had wars in my country, but still that didn’t stop us from achieving our goal.

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