Inspire a Learner is a recently launched online service offering tutelage in Egyptian colloquial, modern standard Arabic, Quranic Arabic, and Islamic studies. The organization is unique in its emphasis on a personalized learning experience, offering step-by-step instruction to ensure the comfort and success of each student.
Inspire a Learner is managed by a mother-daughter duo with an extensive and impressive CV of teaching experience. Ebtesam Eid has been teaching for 25 years and has carried a deep love for education every step of the way – one she hopes to share with all her new students. Her daughter, Nada Mousa, spent time tutoring Arabic in Washington DC, where she grew into a similar love of education; Muslim Girl is additionally fortunate enough to have her as a part of our writing family!
Both Eid and Mousa bring a unique set of skills and perspective to the world of learning, especially in a time when so much of our education is confined to a set of rigid curricula. Often, we find ourselves favoring a grade over an actual grasp of content and we complete a class without any tangible evidence our understanding. Inspire a Learner seeks to unravel the constraints of formality, instead providing an environment where growth in knowledge at a personalized pace is a marker of academic success.
Ebtesam Eid was kind enough to answer a few of our questions, properly introducing us to the intricacies of Inspire a Learner and what makes it such a wonderful opportunity for aspiring Arabic students of all ages.
Conversation with Ebtesam:
MG: Congratulations on your launch, and kudos to whomever designed your website. It is absolutely beautiful! So, tell us about why you started this business. What inspired you to begin offering a platform like this? (An opportunity to talk up the experience aunty brings to the table and her passion for the job)
EE: When I started teaching 25 years ago, I felt a spark that comes when you know you are doing what is meant for you. My journey has allowed me to work with students from all walks of life. I had a student whose day teachers said he would never be able to speak in complete sentences. But I saw that he needed care and attention. So working with him and understanding him, he could speak to us! That moment filled me with such gratitude and joy. I knew then and there that I have to keep teaching because kids need their teachers to care and to inspire them to be their best. It then felt like destiny for me to start Inspire A Learner. The vision is to find what works for each student and make them learn in a way that’s unique to them.
Tell us about the services you offer. Which one is your favorite and why?
I offer a wide range of services: Quran Classes, Modern Standard Arabic, Egyptian Colloquial, Islamic Studies. We teach native and non-native students who are adults, kids, and students with special needs. It’s so hard to pick a favorite course, since they all bring out a different side of my teaching style. But if I had to pick, I would say Quran reading and Tafseer class. Islam is my religion and helping students build the language skills to connect with the faith is so inspiring for me. I loved helping recent converts who wanted to dive deeper into the Quran, you can see how the eyes light up when a student begins to read the book of their faith.
On your website, you are quoted: “Teaching is my lifeline — if I stop teaching, I stop living.” It is so inspiring that you feel this passionately about teaching. As someone who started teaching 25 years ago, tell us, where does this passion come from? Can you tell us about a key moment in your career that showed you how empowering teaching can be?
Ah yes, teaching is life for me – it’s the air that I breathe. When I go a day or two without teaching, my mood drops. My husband always wonders how I can love a job so much. But that’s the thing – for me it’s not just a job, it’s a life. Truly, it’s my students who keep me going. When I began teaching Islamic Studies and Quran at the grassroots level, I had a student who I had a complex relationship with; but instead of pity and forcing the class on him, I found that his beliefs came from a deeper and more personal place. With that in mind, I found a way to relate to him and empathize.
In our classes, we talked for hours about faith philosophically and we learned together as well. The approach we took allowed me to build a foundation and together we began Islamic and Quran studies from a much more raw and real place. I care about him as if he was my own child. So to your question, it’s my students who give me the drive and commitment to keep teaching. It may not always be pretty, but it’s always rewarding.
How do you feel a platform like Inspire A Learner is important, especially at a time where COVID-19 has required us to keep our distance?
Great question! Inspire A Learner focuses on a student’s needs and we develop classes and lessons based on their ability, needs, and interests. And now, as COVID-19 pushes students and educators to adjust their approach to teaching and learning, I find that we are all looking for a platform and teaching style that helps meet students where they are. My students in particular come from different geographical areas and from different environments and skill levels. Yet, I find a way to make learning adaptable to them. For my younger students, I even dress up as Celopatra and we have class on dress up day. I also love to motivate students with incentive to earn points for books and for fun snacks. Once they reach their goal, I ship them their prize, and if they are close to me, I will drop it off in front of their home and with social-distancing I say hi. I believe that just because we are now remote, we do not have to lose the care and dedication to making learning fun and adaptable.
A direct quote from your website states, “In order to succeed, Inspire A Learner believes that student-centered instruction must consider and address: A student’s emotional state, individual learning style, and cultural/social background. If we want to see our students grow, we must teach every lesson with sensitivity and respect to a student’s life outside the class.” How do you ensure that you stay true to this goal?
Building a lesson tailored for a student is essential to building a foundation for effective learning. That’s not to say that it’s easy. For me, when I meet new students, it doesn’t take long to get talking about their interests and passions inside and outside of the classroom. This brief conversation is essential because now I have an idea of what my students like.
I also keep learning about my students during our classes and I adjust as needed. It’s all about noticing patterns, understanding different learning styles. When classes are structured and tailored to fit the students, I notice there is a greater interest in learning. Often we think we do not understand something until we learn it in a different way. I can’t explain how powerful that is!
What do you believe sets you apart from other platforms?
We see our students as people. That may sound super basic, but it’s true. At Inspire A Learner we focus on our students as people and we know that we need to understand them as a whole. Our approach sets us apart from other learning centers and companies. Our customizable nature isn’t found at many other places. We teach the core concepts like any other center, but it’s how we teach that’s key!
So, while you are the lead educator and founder of Inspire a Learner, your daughter, Nada Mousa, works alongside you as your general manager. How has it been to work with your daughter?
I love my daughter. She is my best friend and now business partner. She has put so much work into taking my vision and making it a reality. She tried not to grow up and become like me, but as life would have it we are so similar! She loves teaching and has taught Arabic at her alma mater American University in DC. Now she works in Education Social Equity. When we work together we disagree, we see things differently, but we always share in the vision and values of Inspire A Learner. She is also more well versed in business planning than I am, so having her is a blessing. I honestly couldn’t be more grateful for her and more proud! That’s my baby girl.
What is it you wish to achieve with this platform?
I want to inspire all learners. My daughter and I are exploring ways we can use our proceeds to give back to our community. I know I want to grow to teach more students from around the world. We are working to launch a new summer institute for 2020 to offer fun summer classes for kids while they are quarantined. Check out our site for more information.
Is there anything else you would like to add?
I wanted to say thank you to all my students and to all those who supported me. I want to make a special shout-out to Ismat and her family. Her daughter is a student of mine and she has so wonderfully supported me as my first investor and our friendship keeps me motivated to teach! Her and my friend Azza who stayed on the phone for hours with me and talked me through some difficult times when I felt I wasn’t ready to start Inspire A Learner. Of course, I also want to thank my husband and children who support their crazy mom. And thank you Muslim Girl Community for taking time out of your day to read my story!
If you would like to learn more about Inspire a Learner and all the great things they do, visit their website: https://www.inspirealearner.com/educational-services