“Two worlds put together”: Rabia Marjan’s path to the educational field as a muslim minority


Photo provided by Arlina Yang

Rabia Marjan (center) poses with 2022′-2023 Amador Valley DECA Co-Presidents Andrea Yang (’23) and Pallavi Shankar (’23).

AV CTE teacher Rabia Marjan grew up with a dream of becoming a teacher–a dream and a pathway that her parents discouraged her from pursuing. As an Afghan Muslim American in the educational field, Marjan found herself mixing her two passions: business and teaching. 

“I grew up around business and actually started helping my dad from the age of nine. I would wake up at 5am and go to the flea market and resell items that he bought from garage sales. I would help him set up, fix and clean the items, and help customers, as he needed me there due to the language barrier,” said Marjan.

Fleeing from the war with the Soviet Union in Afghanistan, Marjan immigrated to the U.S. with her parents at the age of three. With her parents knowing little to no English, she had little to no guidance in her high school journey. 

Having grown up in a business environment, Marjan followed through with a bachelors in business administration along with many of her friends.

“Growing up, I wanted to be a teacher, but my mother would discourage me from it. She was a teacher in Afghanistan, but she was forced in that path. She always wanted to go to University, but her father would not allow it because it was Co-Ed,” said Marjan.

Yet, after starting a family of her own, Marjan’s dreams of becoming a teacher bloomed again.

“I taught math for four years in CA (one year in FAME – a charter school in San Leandro, two years in San Lorenzo High School, one year in Alvarado middle school). Then I took a math teaching position in Abu Dhabi at a vocational school for four years, as I wanted to experience life abroad and give that opportunity to my kids,” said Marjan.

Marjan quickly realized the difference between the educational fields in Abu Dhabi and the U.S. as she was forced to teach without curriculum or support. Without room for growth in her role as a teacher, Marjan took a break from teaching for two years following the disappearance of her school department. 

“I felt that my hijab was more of an issue on the job in the UAE than here. In the UAE, when they hire an American or native English speaker, they expect you to have blond hair and blue eyes. When they see tan skin and the cover, they assume you are not as qualified or don’t really consider you American,” said Marjan.

She returned to her entrepreneurial roots with her own e-Commerce business in the UAE a few years before she moved back to the U.S. last October. In search of new opportunities and connection with her family in California, Marjan found herself taking on substitute jobs in PUSD. 

“I started to do some substitute teaching in Pleasanton District and ended up loving Amador and its students…so I would take substitute jobs at Amador more than other schools,” said Marjan.

Originally applying for a math position, Marjan instead took on the position teaching business and fostering DECA (Distributive Education Clubs of America) members interested in business. 

While Marjan only started to wear her hijab after her first year of teaching, her practice is not always welcomed.

“At the other middle school in Union City, I did have a student incident, where the student put a cloth over their head and started to imitate me. The admin did take it seriously and suspended him and did not let him play in the football game that weekend,” said Marjan.

Marjan also cites a barrier: the specific times that she must wash up and pray. 

“I have gone to the library a few times looking for a quiet place to do my daily prayers. The staff has been so welcoming and even told me that I was setting a good example for other Muslim students.” said Marjan.  

From the start of Marjan’s teaching journey in Amador, she remembers many pleasant experiences with other teachers and students. 

“People, who I don’t even know, will approach me just to tell me how beautiful my outfit is. They’d ask me questions, wanting to learn more about the cover and my background,” said Marjan

Marjan looks forward to her future back into the educational field as she now teaches multiple periods of business CTE classes: integrated marketing communications and economics of business ownership, along with advising AV DECA with more than 120 members.

“I always knew that I wanted to help people and do something meaningful. I’ve always been told that one of my greatest strengths is patience and you need that in teaching,” said Marjan.