Teacher Appreciation Week is the perfect time to share the inspiring story of Edem Afemeku, a beloved French teacher at Princeton Day School for the past 15 years. His remarks are based on those he shared earlier this year at a student assembly.
"I was born in the city of Kpalimé in Togo, in West Africa. I grew up in the capital city, Lomé, and studied foreign languages at l'Université de Lomé. I worked at the Hans Seidel Foundation and taught German at the prestigious Goethe institute.
"In the 1990s, Togo experienced great social and political unrest. One evening, as I was coming home from work on my beautiful blue Suzuki motorcycle, two men in military fatigues stopped me, pointed a gun at me and told me to give them the key. That's when I knew I had to leave my home.
"When I came to America in 1995, I was granted a 6-month tourist visa. My first job was in a bakery. Initially, my road to becoming a citizen was daunting. Just before my hearing in immigration court, my attorney advised me to ask for a voluntary departure, to go back to Togo. Devastated, I told him, 'with you or without you, I am going to court.' After I shared my story, the judge said, 'Mr. Afemeku, the doors of this country are open for you. Do something with your life.'
"I was able to get a green card, and my wife Beatrice joined me here on July 4th, 2000. I finally became an American citizen in 2003. Fortunately, I was able to find opportunities to put my training to good use as a teacher at schools in upstate New York, Maryland and West Virginia before coming to Princeton Day School in 2004.
"Every day here at PDS comes with its challenges and its rewards. I am proud to be a member of this community that has embraced me. It is an honor to share a space with these distinguished teachers and staff members as my colleagues. I am amazed by the intellectual curiosity of the students here, and I love getting to know those I teach and those I do not teach. When I hear 'Bonjour monsieur' in the hallway, I know I am alive and I am still going and you are awesome!"
Editor's note: In an article about Mr. Afemaku in the most recent issue of the Spokesman student newspaper, Hannah Choe '21 comically argues that Mr. Afemeku's mustache, charm and "iconic sweaters" would make him a force to reckon with in the Hunger Games.
How did you come to Princeton Day School and what does this community mean to you? Tell us your story at firstname.lastname@example.org.