Pleasant Lake Elementary School principal puts diversity first

WALLED LAKE, Mich. (WXYZ) - You could say diversity is in the fabric of Pleasant Lake Elementary School -  and on the ceiling and on the walls and most doors.

Princial Nayal Maktari puts celebrating differences first.

"I don't look at it as a melting pot where you have to forget who you are. We have to bring your culture, your language, your religion - we are all Americans, what makes us special and unique are our differences, but that we are all in it together."

Along with ABC's and 123's his goal is to make sure students are taught in a way that reflects who they are, reading texts and stories about their own culture and religion, so that they feel apart of the lesson.

And you can tell it feels good. Walk the halls with him for one minute and you can't even count the number of hellos, High 5s and hugs.  

"As a child growing up, I didn't read any books about people that looked like me or came from the part of the world my parents came from, and, really, I reflect back on that and that hurt and I want to make sure our children know that they are special."

For the last 6 years Mr. Maktari has been co--chair of the Walled Lake School Districts Multicultural Committee.

It's focus is to educate teachers in all 19 of their schools on how to bring social justice topics back to the classroom.

This month you can see the impact of social justice pioneer Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s message outside of the classroom.

Along with Co-Chair Alec Bender, Maktari brings in African American community leaders, Imams and even a Holocaust survivor through workshops for the staff, so teachers can feel the perspective and pass it on to students.

"I'll tell you that working with Nayal Maktari, a man who has such a passion about diversity work and social justice work, has brought life into our committee that we've never seen before because he has such a passion from within."

Perhaps because it comes from his home.

Maktari's parents were immigrants to this country, escaping the clutches of an occupied city in Yemen named Aden.

"I look back and think how challenging was it for 2 people who really didn't speak English to just pack up and leave with some young children to come to a country, not knowing anyone, not knowing anything, because they want better for their children and they were successful."

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