Somali teacher at home in Princeton

Rasin Gani says this photo is of him playing soccer with friends and classmates, which was likely in Kenya where he had fled with his family as a refugee from Somalia.

A St. Cloud State University student who just completed student teaching at Princeton High School, spent much of his youth in a refugee camp in Kenya after fleeing his homeland of war-Rasin Ganitorn Somalia.

The student is Rasin Gani, an easy-smiling 28-year-old who loves soccer and whose academic specialty is science. He taught human biology under the guidance of PHS science instructor Amanda Buss. He taught both grade 10 and special ed students.

Somalia has been full of turmoil in the past 21 years. It began with a civil war in 1991 that has left the country without a central government in the past two decades.

As the civil war took hold, the country also experienced deep famine, which caused the United Nations and the United States to get involved in a humanitarian effort to bring in food. The U.S. entered Somalia on Dec. 8, 1992, and Somalis initially welcomed the soldiers in the mission called Operation Restore Hope, which did stem the famine.

But not long after, the troops were increasingly caught in enemy fire by warring Somali clans. The popular 2001 movie, “Black Hawk Down,” based on the book by that name, is about the Battle of Mogadishu that broke out. American forces withdrew by the end of 1994 amidst what appeared to be a no-win situation.


Gani flees the chaos

Gani was seven when the humanitarian mission was put together in 1992. It was then that he and his family fled from the Somalian capital of Mogadishu, to Kenya, located west of the southern end of Somalia. He stayed in a refugee camp in Kenya for nearly 14 years (see separate story) and then he and some family members moved to Minnesota. He says his father Mahamed and some of his five siblings remain at the refugee camp. A sister lives in Faribault and a brother lives in Fargo, attending North Dakota State University. His mother lives in Minneapolis.

Gani’s first 2 1/2 years in Minnesota were in Minneapolis, and then he moved to St. Cloud, where he still lives.

During certain days of his student teaching at PHS he rode back and forth between St. Cloud and Princeton with PHS Principal Pete Olson. Olson said he enjoyed those trips, telling how Gani played CDs in the car of music from his homeland.

Gani earned a BS degree in life science at St. Cloud State University for teaching grades 5-12. His student teaching at PHS went from January 18 to March 16. He spent all but about the last two weeks of that time doing actual teaching. He spent the last two weeks observing how various PHS teachers teach.

Gani already had some background in student teaching, having completed eight weeks of that at a middle school in Sartell last school year, and a quarter of student teaching at St. Cloud Tech High School.

“This will actually prepare me to be a teacher, hopefully,” Gani said near the end of his student teaching here. Among the lessons he gained, he said, was on troubleshooting problems and addressing discipline issues. Student teaching is “challenging” and “worthwhile,” he said, explaining that it gives a person one last chance to see if teaching is really the right profession for them.

One of the areas where PHS instructor Buss helped Gani was in communication, since the pronunciation can be different of words. Buss said that she would sometimes explain to him what a student was trying to say, and also sometimes explain to a student what he was saying.

Buss, who is in her first year of teaching, said that having him as a student teacher in her classroom went well and the experience added to her teaching skills.

One of the challenges, Gani said, was learning the names of all the students in such a short time.

But Gani left no doubt that he will continue in the profession. “I love teaching,” he said. “It is a special calling. It is not a job for everyone.” One potential challenge, he added, is if “society doesn’t value teachers.”

Gani says he is hoping to get a full-time teaching job this coming school year somewhere in Minnesota, but is also willing to move elsewhere if needed.