NEW BRITAIN – It was not a typical Friday for HALS Academy science teacher Manjit Khosla, who officially became an American citizen this week. Her fellow teachers and students surprised her with a celebratory party.
“I was taken by complete surprise,” Khosla aid. “No one said anything about it. I had no idea. They really kept the secret well.”
Khosla moved to the US in 2003 from India, where she was also a middle school teacher. When she came to the land of opportunity, Khosla said she knew she wanted to continue to teach and began her American teaching career at Pulaski Middle School. She finally became a citizen Monday, which is the culmination of a long and challenging process.
“This is just such a humbling experience,” she said, gesturing the students and teachers around her. “Everyone has been so good and caring here. I just feel very humbled to be a part of the HALS family.”
The school gym burst with energy as students piled in from six classes. There were about 50 in-person students, which is roughly half the usual student population. They each received a mini-American flag and waved it cheerfully as Khosla entered the gym. The exultant shouts were deafening, some students dressed up as the Statue of Liberty and Uncle Sam, and the event was kicked off by a performance by Haylee Rivera, 12, who sang the National Anthem and Aydin Mohamed, 13, who played “America the Beautiful” on saxophone, both accompanied by music teacher Kevin Hebert on piano.
Leona Clerkin, principal of HALS Academy, said with everything that has been happening in the world, she hopes this celebratory moment will help heal everyone’s hearts.
“I hope this will bring us further together as a school,” she said. “Manjit has been such an incredible teacher and team player and we all witnessed the long process of her getting here today, so we’re just so glad to be able to celebrate this moment together.”
Both Haylee and Aydin said Khosla is their favorite teacher and she encouraged them to love science.
“She’s so good at making a situation light for us,” Haylee said. “She also takes the time to converse with us, and I love having her as my science teacher because I also love science.”
Aydin agreed, stating Khosla has been his science teacher since he was in sixth grade.
“I was happy to do something for her,” said the eighth grader. “She’s so nice and always jokes with us.”
Shannon Crooks, a HALS English teacher, has taught in the district for 20 years and said this was a very exciting moment for everyone.
“I’ve worked with Manjit for a while now and watched her go through the process. So I know how much it means to her and how challenging it’s been,” she said. “This is also an important moment for students to witness because it helps validate some of their own experiences. To see this happen in a positive light will make a difference.”
Contact Catherine Shen at firstname.lastname@example.org