For physics and math teacher Malak Faour, teaching physics is more than just a job.
She loves it. Her inspiration comes from her high school physics teacher in Lebanon.
“From that time, she made me like physics,” she said. “I wish to be that inspiring person for my students. I like physics. I like being a teacher. I like to see the sparkling eyes of my little kiddos,” Faour said.
In 2019, she graduated from Lebanese University with a doctorate in physics education. She also has a master’s in education and teaching diploma from the same university.
Faour taught in Lebanon for 12 years at multiple secondary schools and at Shouf National College. Her favorite part of her physics classes was doing labs and hands-on activities.
In 2021 after Lebanon’s bank failure, she left for Sacramento, where she has relatives.
Faour, her husband Nabil Abou Zaki, her children — Country Day freshman Cezar Abou Zaki and sixth-grader Ryan Abou Zaki — left behind Faour’s other family members, including her ill father.
Faour’s father’s health continued to deteriorate and she returned to Lebanon for a short period.
“Unfortunately, I lost him in April,” she said.
In Sacramento, she was interviewed by Head of High School Brooke Wells, chemistry teacher Victoria Conner and biology teacher Kellie Whited.
“She was head and shoulders above the other applicants. She had a really strong understanding of high level physics and teaching as a craft,” Wells said.
“There are few people who know high level physics and fewer who know how to teach it. She does both.”
As part of the interviewing process, Faour did a demo lesson on Zoom last year for freshman physics.
Sophomore Kasmer Conner, a student in her demo lesson, said Faour answered all his questions easily and explained all the answers as easily.
Faour stood out as a candidate because of the way she brought students into the conversation on Zoom, Whited said.
“She was really good at complimenting students, even if they got the question wrong,” Whited said. “I felt like she’s the right person for the job. We felt as though she’d be the person who’d stay here for many years.”
When Faour heard she got the job, she immediately started looking for an affordable apartment, as she had been staying in a hotel with her family.
Unfortunately, she and her family found few options. The first apartment they toured left them with a horrible feeling.
“We were frustrated and disappointed,” she said. “We stayed in the hotel for six days. We found a very tiny apartment.”
Faour is starting her freshman physics class with electrical circuits because she believes labs and hands-on experiments are the best ways to learn physics and studying circuits involves a lot of hands-on work.
Wyatt Hall, a freshman in Faour’s physics class, said it was fun to see what he was learning about right in front of him.
“In my class, we will go for concepts, not algebra,” Faour said.
Senior Jesus Aispuro, who takes Advanced Placement Physics C, said Faour is very energetic and loud, making the class really exciting despite having lots of material to cover.
In her childhood, Malak Faour spent more time playing with her friends in the woods and on the streets than in her home. She only ever came home to sleep.
“I spent most of my childhood in the street,” Faour said. She made houses out of mud and wandered the forest with her friends at age six.
Faour and her friends would go from house to house to gather more kids to play with, some of which she didn’t know. They visited each other in the morning every day.
She was the eldest of three sisters and a brother. She was responsible for taking care of her siblings and helping them.
“I was very spoiled since I was the eldest child,” Faour said. Her family threw big celebrations for her birthdays.
“Because you are the eldest, it’s like your family sees you and only you,” Faour said.
“They bought me lots of books and movies when I was a kid. Every two weeks I’d get a new movie, I’d invite all the kids in my neighborhood to watch the movie with me.”
Despite playing outdoors with friends in Lebanon, she didn’t play any sports, choosing to focus on her education.
—By Ishaan Sekhon
Originally published in the Sept 21 edition of the Octagon.