Parkersburg woman teaches in Jordan

AMMAN, Jordan – Becky Daniel of Parkersburg learned that Jordan is trying to remain an oasis of peace in a desert of turmoil in the Middle East.

Daniel, a retired English teacher at Parkersburg South High School, recently spent two weeks in the Arab kingdom of Jordan as a consultant with the College Board’s coaching and mentoring program. At King’s Academy in Madaba, Jordan, she worked with the English, World Language and Arabic Departments in implementing critical-thinking strategies through close reading and writing, she said.

Students in grades 9-12 from various countries attend the King’s Academy. Many attend U.S. colleges after graduation.

Jordan, about the size of Indiana, is bordered by the hot spots of Iraq, Syria and Israel. Despite the death and destruction in the Middle East, Daniel said she felt safe in Jordan.

It was Daniel’s first trip to the Middle East and a life-changing experience for her in a unique part of the world, she said.

“Jordan is a wonderful place, filled with nice people who are hospitable,” Daniel said.

The College Board group’s Palestinian guide would only take the visiting teachers to within 30 miles of the Syrian border. The visitors were taken to the Jordan River where they looked across to Jericho, a city in the West Bank.

The Jordanians were on alert for potential violence and realize the dangers surrounding them, Daniel said. Security measures were evident outside the hotels.

Daniel attended the King’s Academy commencement ceremony on May 26 that featured appearances by King Abdullah II of Jordan and his wife, Queen Rania Al Abdullah.

The king, who had served in the Jordanian army, is trying to maintain stability and peace in his country, Daniel learned. The army in Jordan is watching the kingdom’s borders for potential problems.

Thousands of Syrian refugees are being housed in camps in Jordan.

A mission of the King’s Academy is to teach students to think critically and associate with people from other countries. Daniel was told the academy would someday like to accept Israeli students.

At the fifth annual commencement, attended by 3,000 people, Queen Rania challenged the students to show the world they were peaceful, constructive citizens, Daniel said.

Jordanians told Daniel and others in the College Board group they revered King Abdullah.

The coed King’s Academy in this Arabic country is divided as follows: classrooms on the top level, fellowship area on the second level and separate (a considerable distance apart) dormitories for males and females.

“As I think back on my time in Jordan, I remember the unique places I visited – those of historical and Biblical significance (the ancient ruins at Jerash, the baptism site of Jesus at Bethany) and those where famous movies were made (“Lawrence of Arabia” at Wadi Rum and “Indiana Jones” at Petra),” Daniel said in an email Tuesday.

“I remember the natural beauty, so different from our landscapes in West Virginia: mountains and valleys and deserts in deep hues of gray and brown, black and bronze. But most of all, I remember the people, so hospitable and kind at every place I traveled – especially those at King’s Academy,” Daniel said.

“I marvel at faculty members so passionate about this school where a king of a small country dares to dream of a new generation of Middle Eastern citizens who will have a chance to bring peace to this troubled region. As I watch news reports from the latest conflict in Gaza (just one country away), I am filled with dismay, but then I remember this school, where a very diverse group of young people and the king who created a place for them to be together are growing to know one another, to care about one another,” Daniel said.

“I remember this year’s graduates as Queen Rania challenged them to prove to the world that they are not the stereotype that much of the world perceives. And in the midst of yet another crisis in the Middle East, I feel a small ray of hope,” she said.