PORTLAND, Maine — A Casco Bay High School English teacher who came to Maine as a Sudanese refugee made a guest appearance this week on a television show that she said helped her learn to speak English.
Ekhlas Ahmed, a huge fan of “The Ellen DeGeneres Show,” told the host that she used the show to help her learn English when she came to America as an adolescent with her family, refugees from the war in Darfur, Sudan, Portland Public Schools spokeswoman Tess Jancelewicz said Thursday in a news release.
Ahmed said she considered DeGeneres an inspirational and positive figure and was thrilled to meet the television star in person.
Ahmed’s guest appearance on the show aired Thursday.
Ellen had Ahmed as a guest on her show this week, calling Ahmed’s life story “so inspiring.”
Ahmed wrote DeGeneres a letter to express her thanks and admiration over the years, and DeGeneres was so touched by the letter that she invited Ahmed on the show.
DeGeneres read Ahmed’s “beautiful” letter aloud during the appearance.
Ahmed said in the letter that she didn’t know a word of English when she arrived in this country 10 years ago and got lost for eight hours when she got off a bus at the wrong stop. After that, Ahmed vowed to learn English and studied hard.
One way she learned the language through watching DeGeneres’ show after school. Ahmed found the show positive and happy and an antidote to the negativity of the world. She helped herself learn English by writing down and memorizing the words DeGeneres said.
Ahmed went on to graduate from Casco Bay High School in 2009, earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of Southern Maine and is now working on a master’s degree.
She teaches English to English language learner students at Casco Bay High, where she is its first alumni staff member. She also is coordinator of the school’s Make It Happen! program, which helps prepare multilingual students for college.
On the show this week, DeGeneres promised to sell in The Ellen DeGeneres Shop a “Celebrating Africa” calendar that Ahmed and her students made to celebrate the beauty and variety of that continent.
Also, Ellen presented Ahmed with a $22,000 check from Shutterfly, a web-based image publishing service, to pay off her student loans.