Class Act: Chemistry teacher Mahmoud Abdalrahman

Chloe Zhao and Rahul Lal

Grace Randall
Get to know chemistry teacher Mahmoud Abdalrahman!

During his childhood years in the rural areas of the Gaza Strip, Mahmoud Abdalrahman built wooden toys with tools smuggled from his grandfather’s workshop

Although Abdalrahman was born in Egypt, he attended 12 different schools on four continents. He moved to Gaza before starting second grade and finished his junior and senior year abroad at the United World College of the Adriatic in Italy. 

After high school, Abdalrahman initially pursued a degree in biology and the premedical track but later studied chemistry. After his sophomore year of college, Abdalrahaman got his first job at a Clark University lab, where he published three lab reports. 

To improve his research skills and earn his Ph.D., Abdalrahman pursued inorganic chemistry in graduate school. It was there that he realized his love for teaching undergraduate organic chemistry, inspiring him to pursue a career in education. A temporary job at Phillips Exeter Academy was his first step in this direction.

“Teaching there was enriching,” Abdalrahman said. “I was surprised by the facilities they had available for high school. I was able to perform experiments with the students there that I had performed with my undergraduate students.” 

During his time at Exeter, Abdalrahman developed an affinity for teaching high school students, leading him to apply to St. John’s. One of the things Abdalrahman appreciated on the first day of classes at SJS was his students’ enthusiasm for learning and their sense of humor. 

“The first day of classes went smoothly,” Abdalrahman said. “We managed to break the ice quickly and get to know each other.” 

Abdalrahman keeps the class on track through his discussion-based teaching methods.

“His unique approach to teaching us is definitely different and in some aspects better than the way we have been traditionally taught with lectures,” sophomore Ananya Agrawal said. “It’s nice that we are more active during class rather than just sitting and writing notes.”  

During class, Abdalrahman occasionally cracks jokes to engage students in the material.

“He has a perfect balance of seriousness and comedy, which keeps the class on track but light,” sophomore Alex Aitken said.

Abdalrahman has enjoyed his first year at St. John’s. 

“The sense of community within the staff and faculty is what stands out the most to me,” Abdalrahman said.