A teacher in Qatar

NEWS ARTICLE from The Chronicle Telegram, 7-26-04, By Tony Lombardo

``Avon woman is teacher in tiny kingdom of Qatar

America has plenty of kindergartners. It doesn't, however have a Highness, a Persian Gulf Beach or dune-riding.

Margaret Gigliotti's risk-taking attitude and love of travel have led her outside of America for teaching work and across the globe. She's taught in Bogotá, Columbia, and, most recently, in a kindergarten classroom in the Middle East.

Now home with her parents in Avon, Gigliotti is relaxing on her summer break. At the end of August she will return to Qatar, a small country bordered by Saudi Arabia and the Persian Gulf.

At Qatar Academy, where teachers are occasionally rewarded with lavish Persian Gulf beach parties, life is good. All living expenses are paid, and any teaching supplies she needs are covered. Quite a difference from teaching in the United States, where Gigliotti said she often had to buy supplies out of her own pocket.

On one occasion, Gigliotti needed to build a set for a small kindergarten play she was putting together. The niece of the country's ruler took it upon herself to get the set made. Soon, carpenters and set directors from London arrived to build a set rivaling Broadway, Gigliotti said.

The country may be small, but it has a successful economy thanks to a booming oil market and recently discovered natural gas.

Though close to Iraq, the war was hardly noticeable from Qatar, other than the occasional visiting officers on some R&R.

"We didn't feel a thing during the Iraq War," Gigliotti said. Gigliotti, 45, grew up in Amherst and graduated from Elyria Catholic in 1977. While teaching near Columbus after graduation, some international recruiters came to town with tales of working out of the states. "I got on a mission to go and find out how other people lived," Gigliotti said.

This led her on a five-year teaching gig in South America, then back to the States to teach Texans in San Antonio. Three years later she got her first taste of Middle East teaching in Abu Dhabi.

After Sept. 11, a job opened up in Qatar after a teacher decided to return home. Gigliotti, a self-described "risk-taker," agreed to fill the spot and started in November 2001.

The ruler's wife, Her Highness Sheikha Moza Bint Nasser Al Misnad, works as the leader of education there, Gigliotti said.

Gigliotti's classroom includes American, Iranian, Canadian, and, of course, Qatari students. Everyone in the country, from kindergartners to cab drivers, speaks at least some English, Gigliotti said, although plenty speak Arabic.

Gigliotti said she teaches her students things everyone across the globe can relate to. Everywhere in the world has insects, for instance. These "mini-beasts" are everywhere, she said, so everyone needs to protect the environment to keep them there. That's something both American and Qatari students can recognize.

Thanks to the school's large budget, there are plenty of field trips. Wherever they want to go, they go, Gigliotti said.

Among the 800 students at Qatar Academy are the rulers' children. Gigliotti said it's interesting to see when "His Highness" arrives at school vs. the times "dad" arrives. One involves an entourage and the Qatar-equivalent of the secret service, she said, and the other doesn't.

For recreation in Qatar, Gigliotti sometimes goes dune-riding with an SUV. Typically people cruise up and down the dunes in 4-wheel drive then have a barbeque, she said. "I get car sick, then I do it again. Then I get sick, and I do it again," Gigliotti said.

For teacher appreciation day, His Highness' niece throws a beach party. This includes belly dancers, parasailing and a tent that blasts air conditioning straight outside on the beach for comfortable living ...''

Avon Sketches -- Top -- Home -- What's New