A Portland teacher who credits Ellen DeGeneres with helping her learn English and graduate from college was featured on the talk show Thursday.
Ekhlas Ahmed was 12 when her family fled the genocide in Sudan. Ahmed and her family eventually moved to Maine, but she did not know a word of English.
Ahmed told DeGeneres she rushed home every day to watch the talk show as a way to help her learn the language. She said she wrote down and memorized the words DeGeneres said on each show and eventually wrote a letter to the talk-show host.
“I was thinking, besides my parents, who was the person that helped me get here? And I couldn’t think of anybody except for you! So I decided to write you a letter,” Ahmed said on the show.
Ahmed eventually graduated from Casco Bay High School in 2009 and went on to earn a bachelor’s degree from the University of Southern Maine. She is currently working on her master’s degree and is an English teacher at Casco Bay High School. According to a news release from the Portland School Department, Ahmed is the school’s first alumni staff member.
DeGeneres surprised Ahmed by presenting her with a $22,000 check to pay off her student loans. Ahmed also described a calendar that she created with her students.
“The calendar is called ‘Celebrating Africa,’ and my students wanted to do something special and unique and different,” Ahmed said.
DeGeneres said she will sell Ahmed’s calendar in The Ellen Shop.
Video is courtesy of the Ellen Show on Youtube.