CCA teacher, class connect with students in Afghanistan

Timothy Stiven's students Zoomed with students in Afghanistan.
Timothy Stiven’s students Zoomed with students in Afghanistan.

A Canyon Crest Academy teacher hosted a Zoom meeting shortly after school opened in August to connect his class with students in Afghanistan, who described what life is like in the immediate aftermath of the U.S. withdrawal.

“It is just amazing how similar these kids are, and at the same time what a different world they live in,” said Timothy Stiven, who teaches history. “I’m in my car and I connect my phone to the car, and then I’m getting a message from a student in Kabul, Afghanistan, and my car is reading the text and I’m responding to the text (by voice) while I’m driving on the 5 freeway. It’s just mind blowing.”

So far in class, the students have learned about the origins of ancient Afghan history. Stiven said that since the pandemic has started, he’s become adept at using Zoom to its fullest educational purposes. As the executive secretary of the San Diego International Cities Association, he has inroads to connecting virtually with people in locations all over the world to bring his lessons to life.

“I’m in regular communication with three of them,” Stiven said. “If they have electricity and wifi, it’s no different than talking to them if they were across town. It’s been amazing. The same with Zoom — if you can establish a solid connection, you wouldn’t know that they were 10,000 miles away. And the irony is that sometimes we would have trouble connecting on our side, so we’re all in the same boat.”

The students found other similarities too.

“Our first conversation was about COVID and what it was like to be under quarantine,” Stiven said. “Their stories were identical to ours, and it really did resonate with our students.”

But the students in Afghanistan still face uncertainty about what the future of the country’s education system will be under Taliban rule.

Stiven also contacted the offices of local congressional representatives about immigration forms, and has been working with the UN Refugee Agency. One of his students, sophomore Jack Shi, wrote a guest commentary in the Sept. 2 issue of this newspaper to describe the brief moments they had with the students in Afghanistan.

“Just before the video ended, one of my classmates asked the Afghanistan school what they would like the students of America to know,” Shi wrote. “They told us to appreciate the opportunities we are privileged to have in a democratic country and use the fullest extent of our knowledge to help others. The Taliban might have the power to oppress these students for now, but they can never take away the knowledge they have worked for.”