Professor Takes Lessons Abroad And To New Britain Streets


Maria Basileo

Dr. Aram Ayalon speaks with students after an Education Foundation class.

Maria Basileo, Staff Writer

Dr. Aram Ayalon pressed play on a video on his laptop as a face of a young Iranian teenager flashed in an otherwise dark shot.

“We were sitting in a cafe and he showed me a video of how he smuggled himself from Greece to Italy in a ferry,” Ayalon explained.

The two met at a temporary refugee camp for unaccompanied boys on the island of Lesvos in Greece when Ayalon and his wife Michal traveled there in June 2016 as volunteers to teach English.

Ayalon has been an education professor at Central Connecticut since 2001 and has helped aspiring teachers learn more about curriculums and instruction in order to make their own classrooms successful.

“I like [teacher preparation] because you prepare one teacher, and the teacher affects thousands of kids,“ Ayalon said, who first majored in animal science before switching to education while earning his master’s degree at the University of Arizona.

When he’s not heading a classroom as a professor, he holds many other titles like volunteer, drill sergeant and New Britain aldermen.

Back in April 2016, Michal, who works as a senior lecturer at Trinity College, attended a talk there by Roger Benham and Heather Shepeard. The two were emergency medical professionals who had volunteered to travel to Greece to give medical aid to asylum seekers who were coming to shore.

“She came home and said, ‘That was really inspiring. Maybe we should go,’” Ayalon recalled. “We were going to go to Portugal or something and have a vacation, but we said, ‘Why don’t we do something more meaningful?’”

After reaching out to Save the Children, a nonprofit organization whose primary focus is on providing relief and aid to children in developing countries, the two booked their trip.

The unaccompanied boys had been removed from the main camp on the island over safety concerns due to a spike in violence. Ayalon was tasked with teaching and mentoring the boys who had come from countries like Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iran and Syria, while Michal worked to clean the beaches of debris from boats and life vests.

Most boys Ayalon worked with were speaking languages like Farsi, Dari and Arabic, and some even knew very little English.

“It was all a matter of creating a relationship,” Ayalon said about his methods in teaching at the camp. “We did simple things like Simon Says. I taught them handball [and] basketball. Many of them didn’t know [these activities].”

Originally from Israel, Ayalon served the mandatory three-year military service for all 18-year-old males. At the start of his service, he was a footsoldier working in basic training, but soon volunteered to command tanks after the October War, otherwise known as The Yom Kippur War, in 1973.

When his service had been fulfilled, the then 21-year-old set off on a four-and-a-half month European adventure with friends in a long-standing tradition for Israelis to travel following their time in the military.

“You graduate high school, and boom, you’re in the military. [Military service members] feel like, ‘I need to breathe air. I need to explore something else,’” Ayalon explained.

In November 2017, Ayalon won an alderman seat on the Common Council for his neighborhood, Ward 3. As a Democrat, he received 660 votes, electing him to serve CCSU’s campus and surrounding streets.

His main objective is serving his ward’s needs pertaining to the high number of renters.

“More than 50 percent of people who live in my ward are renters. The apartments they live in are not in good shape,” Ayalon said, vowing to serve low-income and Latino populations. “[They have] absentee landlords and landlords that aren’t treating their renters well. That’s my number one priority.”