Mohammad Ali came to Winthrop, and America, as part of an international group of teachers doing an annual exchange. He came from Bangladesh to learn, and teach, and share. This man with almost the same name as the most famous boxer in history got all that, and more.
Mohammad Ali found out during his visit that he has cancer.
“The same day I saw the first snowfall of my life – I am from a hot country – I had a swelling in my neck,” Ali said.
A doctor’s visit resulted in tests that showed non-Hodgkins lymphoma. Ali, 37, a husband and father, went from the Teaching Excellence and Achievement, or TEA, program at Winthrop and site visits at Rock Hill High School to surgery.
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And now he faces chemotherapy starting next week.
“I am trying to be fine,” Ali said.
In just weeks, Ali, who teaches computer science and information technology, became a favorite of many of the Winthrop staff involved with the teaching program.
“Ali is not just a teacher, he is a leader,” said A.J. Angulo, director of the teaching program and a Winthrop education professor. “In a short time, he had a huge impact. He arrived and was a star in our program.”
Marshall Jones, director of graduate studies at Winthrop’s Riley school of education, described Ali as “one of the most optimistic, terrific people I have ever met.”
Ali, after the cancer diagnosis, told Jones: “I am still the most fortunate person in the world to be here.”
In Rock Hill, Ali said he found the students eager and bright, the teachers and colleagues in the Winthrop program gracious and helpful.
“I have so many things, ideas, that I will take back to my country to share with my students,” Ali said. “Teaching is not my profession. It is my passion. It is who I am. I see my students, I see the next president of my country. I see the future of my nation.”
Ali stayed with Angulo this week while recovering from surgery. For the next three weeks, Ali trades in his computer gigabytes for the controlled poison that is chemotherapy and radiation. After that, he will go to India for more recovery because the treatment is better there than in Bangladesh, he said.
But all this unexpected sickness costs big money. Winthrop staff and others associated with the teaching program started a fund at the website youcaring.com to raise money for Ali’s extended stay here, to pay for the parts of the treatment not covered by insurance, and to help get his wife get here from Bangladesh to help him through treatment and recovery. Some donations came from as far as Honduras, from other teaching program participants.
That “ripple effect of international caring,” as Angulo put it, is a direct reflection on the type of man Ali is, and the program he is a part of that seeks to improve teaching and learning worldwide.
Ali has “gone global,” Angulo said.
Ali said Friday as he prepared for chemotherapy: “I am not feeling alone here because so many people here have been so good to me. They are my friends. My family. This is the real America I found: a wonderful place.”