SANTA MARIA, Calif. - Central Coast students are meeting new teachers as they go back to school and one new local teacher is looking to have a towering, positive influence on his students with his life story.
There's a new big man on campus at Santa Maria's Fairlawn Elementary School.
Standing at 6-feet 11-inches tall, physical education instructor Ibrahim Mouzaoui is eager to get started in his new job.
"I am ready to share my story with the kids", Mouzaoui said about his new job and the life path he's been on that led him to Santa Maria.
Mouzaoui was born and raised in what he says was a rough part of town in Algiers, the capital of Algeria in northern Africa. At age 15, he became a member of the Algerian National basketball team.
Mouzaoui traveled the world, had a brief, professional playing career in France and considered the possibility of playing in the NBA.
When he was 20, Mouzaoui decided to come to the United States.
"I showed up to Chicago without any language skills", Mouzaoui said. "I feel like it will be a little bit of a connection with the kids in Santa Maria."
Mouzaoui enrolled and played basketball in NCAA Division III powerhouse North Park University outside of Chicago earning a degree in physical education and health along the way.
When his NBA dream faded, Mouzaoui earned his teaching credential and started a new career as a teacher.
He says he was drawn to the Santa Maria-Bonita School District by the job opportunity and the Mediterranean climate that reminds him of his former home in Algeria.
Mouzaoui said he wants to use his role as full-time physical education instructor at Fairlawn School to inspire his students to embrace their education and their dreams as he did.
"Get them to attain an efficient level of physical literacy, connect with them, mentor some of them", Mouzaoui said. "No matter what the social or economic factors, there is absolutely no excuse to not make it, if you really want to attain a certain objective, you will, just put the effort that it needs in and it will get easier everyday."
Mouzaoui, who speaks Arabic and French and now English, said he's looking forward to learning Spanish to more effectively connect with his students.
"The kids are just an amazing source of happiness", Mouzaoui said, "I would not change that with any other career in the world."