I asked Fawzia Keval to tell us about her many years in the Elk Grove Unified School District (EGUSD). Here is her story:
“I grew up in Kenya, and did my studies at the University of Nairobi. My forefathers went to Kenya from India for commerce and decided to settle there like many other adventurers, as India and Kenya were both colonized by the British.
“I taught French in a high school before I got married and moved to Redwood City, California, to join my husband who was pursuing his studies here. We moved to Sacramento because we wanted a better quality of life – a house with a yard for our children. For 10 years I stayed at home to raise our two sons. To help with the costs I opened a day care program at home offering early childhood education.
“I visited some school districts exploring job opportunities. I remember distinctly coming to the old EGUSD building where I met Elizabeth Pinkerton who was the director for State and Federal Programs. She showed a genuine interest in my two sons who were with me and was very informative. I made my decision then that I would work for EGUSD. We moved to Elk Grove and my children attended EG schools.
“I began my career in EGUSD as a teacher at Union House Elementary in 1994 after receiving my teaching credentials that specialized in multicultural and multilingual education. I was very passionate about educational equity, teaching students from low-income families and students who were immigrants or second language learners as I was. I learned English in kindergarten, and it was my fourth language. It is just the way it was in Kenya, where the national language is different than yours, where the official language is different than the national language, and where your neighbors speak several different languages. I felt empathy for students whose culture, language, and religion were different than the norm. I saw how empowered students felt to see someone who looked like them in a position of power. Teachers can be a very powerful influence over students when they understand the background and needs of their students and adjust their teaching accordingly.
“I served as an administrator at Herman Leimbach, John Ehrhardt, and Prairie elementary schools. I spent nine years as Prairie’s principal. The teachers and I turned that school around into a school where character education and high expectation became the norm and the students performed to those expectations. We were featured in The New York Times as well as the Sacramento Bee. My years at Prairie were my most challenging, and yet the most fulfilling. I loved the Valley Hi community and I came to respect the members who lived there.
“I spent the next eight years as director in the Elementary Education department. I learned a lot working with other departments, and I enjoyed working with our fabulous school principals at the 42 elementary schools. EGUSD has the most dedicated and hard-working staff at all levels. I have always been very impressed with the people who make EGUSD what it is.
“I owe EGUSD a lot! The kind teachers, principals, and district leaders who mentored me made the American Dream a reality for me. From July 1994 to August 2020, I served under four superintendents - Bob Trigg, Dave Gordon, Steve Ladd, and Chris Hoffman. I learned much from each of our leaders. They were very supportive of me. Bob Trigg was very personable. He made sure to talk to every employee he came across. Dave Gordon sent me handwritten notes when I became a citizen and when I became a principal. He went out of his way to help families that I told him about who needed help. I will never forget how such a busy person, a superintendent for one of the largest school districts, took time to take care of people he did not know personally. He also told me to not be afraid to hire people smarter than me. I followed that advice when I became a principal and director when I had to do a lot of hiring. Steve Ladd encouraged me to apply at the district level. I won several awards during his leadership. Chris Hoffman is so humble and smart. He is a true leader. We have been lucky to have such strong leaders in EGUSD.”
Fawzia tells us about her family: “My sons Saqib and Assad attended Union House, James McKee, Joseph Kerr and EGHS before going off to college. Both have successful careers and are also running their own nonprofit organizations.
“My husband Ashraf works for the Department of Water Resources. He loves the outdoors and four-wheeling adventures that seems to run in our family.
“Two months of retirement have gone by and even with COVID, I am as busy as always, spending time with my mom, my mother in law, gardening, volunteering on non-profit boards and helping with elections. I thought I would have time to read all the books that have accumulated at my bedside – but not yet!”
Many thanks to Fawzia for sharing her story. We wish her and her family, especially her EG Supergrad sons, the very best!
BOOKS BY ELIZABETH PINKERTON
History Happened Here, Book 1 – River, Oaks, Gold
History Happened Here, Book 2 – Fields, Farms, Schools
We the People, a Story of Internment in America
All book proceeds go for student scholarships, and I thank the many purchasers who have made possible the 80 scholarships with each one $1,000!
Make your check for books payable to Laguna Publishers and send to me at 9227 Lamprey Drive, Elk Grove, CA 95624. Books are $20 apiece and California sales tax is included. Add $3 for shipping of one book; $5 for 2-3 books. Call me at (916) 685-0606 or email me at email@example.com. Books are also available at the Davis Ranch in Sloughhouse.