While the hustle and bustle in a high school cafeteria can be a chaotic time, it’s Mohamad Maarouf’s favorite part of the day. During this time, the KIPP Houston High School Dean greets students, gives out hugs, and builds relationships.
“I greet the kids in the morning every day in the cafeteria – that’s one of my favorite parts of the day. I also really enjoy lunch. Even though it’s a duty, it’s fun because I get to hang out with the kids and sit down to tutor them or talk to them.”
The relationships with his students ultimately drew him back to KHHS after a year hiatus traveling abroad. In the middle of his trip – which included time in Africa, Europe, Central America, and the US – Mr. Maarouf came back to visit his kids at KHHS, which was a turning point for him.
“Just walking through the doors felt so comfortable,” Mr. Maarouf says. “It felt like I was walking back home. Seeing the kids again made me realize how much I wanted to be back at KHHS. They all ran up and hugged me and were so excited to see me. It was apparent I was having a great impact and should be here.”
That impact has been profoundly felt by his students, even in moments Mr. Maarouf was perhaps unaware.
“In 9th grade, I wasn’t focused on school,” says Moshood, now one of Mr. Maarouf’s seniors. “I didn’t know how to conduct myself as a young man.”
Moshood said following a parent-teacher conference, he and his father ran into Mr. Maarouf and in that moment, he realized he needed to improve.
“I wanted to live up to what he saw in me and live up to that potential,” Moshood says.
Now one of Maarouf’s AP Statistics students, Moshood sees his teacher work tirelessly every day to ensure his students understand the content.
“You can see he’s thinking – ‘how do I get these kids to get this?’ It’s like his sport – he wants to win.” Moshood says
The relationship between teacher and student culminated recently one Friday evening at the school’s senior basketball game.
“I was SGA adviser and long story short, he asked me to be his family member at the KIPP senior basketball game. He talked a lot about how I’ve been his adult figure and the person he looks up to and reaches out to when he needs anything. That was an immediate sign I’ve impacted him in one of the more special ways,” Maarouf says.
Moshood said the pair shares a love of basketball and Mr. Maarouf can frequently be seen courtside at many of the KHHS games. And while they bond over the sport, Moshood says the biggest impact Mr. Maarouf makes is in the classroom.
“One night we had a close game and we came back and won by one point,” he says. “The next day in class, he gave me that nod that was like ‘yeah, now bring that intensity to class.’”
With only a few months to go before Moshood’s graduation, Maarouf is once again preparing to watch his students leave and start their adult lives.
“Graduation is one of my favorite KHHS memories,” Mr. Maarouf says. “The graduation ceremony – just that familial feel and the atmosphere and how special it is. You could have someone who taught the kids maybe 8 years ago be the commencement speaker. Those things are so personal and special.”
While Moshood is excited to take the next steps and begin college, he knows that the relationship he’s built with his teacher will have a lasting impact.
“This is the guy who will keep pushing me long after high school,” Moshood says. “I’ll always talk to Mr. Maarouf no matter where I go.”