First, Happy Father’s Day! Any special plans this year or is there a Father’s Day tradition your family has?
For a change, the kids make me breakfast on fathers’ day.
Can you please tell us a bit about your family?
There is four of us. My daughter Amml is 14 and graduating Steffen Middle this year. She keeps reminding me that she will be driving in 2 years! Don’t know where the time went. My son Hahdi is 10 and starting 5th grade at Wilson next school year. He is a basketball fanatic and is really hoping that Giannis and the team bring it home this year. He is crazy about Giannis and hopes to meet him one day soon. My wife Ayesha keeps it together for the family and makes it all look too easy.
What’s one thing, as a father, you are surprised about yourself?
All the rules and chores that I thought were unfair and unnecessary when my parents said them, became fair and necessary the minute I became a father. Fatherhood had taught me humility and patience. It certainly has strengthened my deep appreciation for all the sacrifices my parents made.
How long have you lived in the area and what made you decide on living in Mequon?
I moved to Milwaukee in 1990 from Kuwait to pursue college. Loved the feel of the area and have made it home for the past 30 years. Moved to Mequon about 10 years ago for the great schools. I also opened a business in Mequon called Kumon Math and Reading Center helping area families/students meet their academic goals.
What is your professional background and what made you decide to invest in a Kumon Learning Center?
Thomson Reuters was my second home – professionally, after graduating UW-Milwaukee with a finance degree. Great firm and wonderful co-workers but, 10 years was about all the time I was going to give the ‘job’. I was a new father in 2006 when I decided to find an alternative that would allow me more time with my family. Education was always a passion of mine but the opportunity never presented itself until I came across Kumon Math and Reading learning franchise. The more I researched, the more excited I became to quitting my job. So, in 2008 I bid farewell to my boss and have never looked back. One of the best decisions of my life. I have loved what I do at Kumon every day for the past 13 years! There’s no better reward than seeing a young mind find their academic confidence. And I get to enjoy that reward almost every week.
How has the Covid-19 pandemic impacted your business and what lessons have you learned that you’ll carry forward into the post-Covid world of owning a small business?
Covid-19 has impacted everyone on this planet. Especially the service industry. Luckily, Kumon -which has always been a traditional pencil-to-paper type of learning method- was able to pivot to a virtual/hybrid model easily. The Mequon Center has had its share of Covid-19 challenges, but things are looking better this summer. We are hoping that everyone who decided to wait and see last summer finds their way back to our door. The pandemic has taught us many lessons. Professionally as a small business owner, it taught me to do more with less. On a personal level, it has highlighted that the significance of everything in life is directly proportional to the quality of your health.
I think a lot of people have realized how precious quality health is, not just physical but mental and emotional. How has your perspective changed over the past year and a half? Is your family approaching life differently in certain areas?
We have intentionally reduced our social circle quite a bit. One thing we used to do which we now realize is healthy for our whole family is exploring the city and its neighborhoods. Once a month, we used to go and explore a neighborhood around Milwaukee and its surrounding cities. We’d eat at a local restaurant and just people watch. It wasn’t a very hot idea for the kids initially, but they came around to it. We have not done that in the last 15 months and are looking forward to resuming this tradition.
Are your children studious and how has Kumon impacted their math and reading proficiency?
Both have their strengths and areas that need improvements, but they are studious. They work hard no matter the result and they are excellent listeners! Both started Kumon at 3.5 years of age and I have never heard either of them say, ‘I don’t understand what my teacher is teaching in class.’ Which is a huge plus. Homework has never been an issue because Kumon challenges them a lot harder than the school.
We keep hearing about the concerns of educators about the impact Covid-19 has had on school-aged children’s academic achievement over the past two school years. As someone on the front lines, what have you seen locally, if anything in terms of slowed progression or falling behind?
Educators’ concerns about the Pandemic’s impact on school-aged children are valid. Growth and progression were, perhaps, slowed due to disruption in routine, but I don’t believe the effects will be long-lasting. Children and their elastic brains are resilient. They will bounce back stronger. Kumon students, however, have been steady and calm throughout the Covid-19 detour.