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Beloved Arabic Instructor Mohammad Harba Steps Down from Teaching Position

A crowd of upperclassmen gathers in the lobby of Samuel Phillips Hall for a class picture. Amidst the chatter of his students, Mohammad Harba, Instructor in Arabic, smiles. After the picture, all the students line up to say their last heartfelt goodbyes to their teacher. This bittersweet farewell followed Harba’s announcement this past Friday that he would be stepping down from his position as the Instructor in Arabic. “[At Andover] I was given the opportunity to work with some of the brightest men and women, and I was so impressed with how much they wanted to learn Arabic not only as a language, but also as a culture,” he said. Harba never pictured himself leaving because he built such strong relationships with students and faculty. He said he felt blessed and honored to be a part of the students’ lives. “I really don’t look at what I do here as a job, but more as a service. I understand the urgent need for people to learn the cultures and languages of the Middle East,” Harba continued. Faiyad Ahmad ’10, Student Council President, said, “[Harba was] a colorful person. He was really friendly and loved to meet new people so he could get to know them.” Ahmad described Harba as being a hilarious person. He said, “No matter how tired or sick [Harba] was, he was always smiling. I’m definitely going to miss that about him.” Maggie Law ’10, one of Harba’s students, said, “[He was] one of the most enthusiastic people in the world.” Harba’s enthusiasm and his connections with his students earned him fame on campus. “His enthusiasm was the reason why everyone was so excited to go to Arabic class,” Law said. “It’s why I love Arabic so much.” Harba said, “All the people were an Arabic team and concentrated on family.” “You get a strong sense of community here, so you feel as though you are home,” he continued. Teaching Arabic on campus was Harba’s first job in America after finishing graduate school at the University of Pennsylvania. Harba arrived at Phillips Academy in March 2008, and taught two classes to upperclassmen. “[Teaching that first spring] was one of the most special experiences I’ve had my entire life,” said Harba. Tavie Abell ’10, another one of Harba’s students, said, “I’ve never met someone who cares this much about his students, and everyone for that matter. He is everyone’s mentor and role model. He taught us so much more than just Arabic.” Last year, Harba served as a complimentary house counselor for French House, a Junior boys’ dormitory. According to Harba, some of his fondest memories at Andover were the Thursday nights and weekends he spent at the dormitory. “I was lucky to really get to know [the boys] and be there with them as their house counselor,” said Harba. Harba moved into Foxcroft Hall in 2009, an upperclassmen boys’ dormitory, and became the advisor to all of the incoming Lowers in the dormitory. Rowland Robinson ’12, a Foxcroft resident, said, “I’ve had Mr. Harba as an advisor and a house counselor. He’s always been there when I was down on myself or had problems. He is also just an all around great guy.” Harba said that he viewed every day he spent at Andover as a learning experience, which is why he enjoyed himself so much. According to Harba, it was the students on campus that made his time here worthwhile. He said the students made him the most proud of his work. “I was so proud when I attended the lectures and events held by the students in my class. I was amazed by their professionalism and what they could do,” said Harba. “I was maybe the proudest person in the world when I attended Grasshopper Night and the Indopak show. It was amazing to see what the kids could do as artists,” he continued. Ahmad said, “When I did the call to prayer during the Indopak show, [Harba] was in the audience. I saw him there and could see how proud he looked. I really cherish that moment we shared.” Harba said he hopes that all of his students, and everyone else he has interacted with on campus, will remember him with something positive. “There’s always something positive happening here. I was able to discover student’s dreams and see them come true every single day,” he said. Harba said that he plans to visit Andover in the near future. He also has plans to see this year’s Seniors graduate. “I think that once you become a part of this community, you will always be a part of it,” Harba said. Abell said, “Mr. Harba is the epitome of Non Sibi.” Harba looks at his decision to leave as a continuation of the work he has already done at Andover. “I am not going to stop what I have been doing. I am just going to be doing it in a different place,” he said. “I will miss my students every single day. This is something I really struggle with, but I know that I will keep in touch with them, as I know they will do the same,” Harba added. According to Harba, his students understand his decision and have been his biggest supporters. He said that they stood by him and let him know that they felt he made the right decision. On Saturday, Harba met with a few of his students in Paresky Commons so they could enjoy one last meal together. Harba’s eyes welled with tears as he said, “I feel so blessed when I think of the students here. I have so much respect for them because they have taught me so much about my own life. I think I am a better person because of that. No words can describe my feelings and how grateful I am for this whole experience.”