Rana Madi: New Dean Reflects Identities and Values of West Students

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Quinn Gilbert

Rana Madi, Niles West Dean

By Quinn Gilbert , Staff Writer

In a school with an abundance of students from different backgrounds, the district has worked to hire adults who mirror the student population. Like many in the Niles West student body, new Dean Rana Madi is a first-generation Arab American. After working in Chicago for ten years and working in education for 15, Madi came to Niles West to work with a more diverse student body.

“I chose Niles West because I wanted to work in a place where the student body was diverse, but also where students had a connection with someone who looked like me,” Madi said. 

Both of Madi’s parents are immigrants. In elementary school, she realized the joy she felt while helping her mom study for the citizenship test. This early experience was the first in a series that led Madi to choose education as a career.

“I did go into education because I saw how impactful it was when my mom actually studied for her U.S. citizenship test. I was 9 years old, I was helping her study, I was helping my mom read for the first time. The pleasure I received in seeing my mom be able to articulate words was the most significant part of why I went into education,” Madi said.  

Many students at West are in similar situations, assisting their families by translating and navigating school systems and other institutions. Madi wants to lend a helping hand to these students and make them feel secure and seen. 

“When I hit seventeen and moved to the suburbs, I didn’t see anybody who looked like me in education. I could connect to so many kids and I could make a difference if kids were able to see a reflection of them in myself and vice versa,” Madi said. 

With a job where reprimanding students is necessary, being a dean isn’t a walk in the park. Madi feels the most challenging part of her job is making students see things from someone else’s point of view. 

“We often have a hard time, human beings in general, not just kids, seeing things from another human being’s perspective. Often we are stuck on how we view things,” Madi said. 

Trying to change the mind of an adolescent who did something wrong can be difficult, but Madi’s connection with students helps her build relationships. In fact, Madi’s favorite part of her job is the students.

 “I met Ms. Madi in the lunch room after she introduced herself as a new dean,” junior Sabrina Islamaj said. “She is able to immediately connect with students and make you feel like you’re talking to a friend. Ms. Madi is an amazing resource for students to go to.”

While Madi doesn’t have the opportunity to work with every student in the school, she still cares about each one of them. While only working at Niles West for a few months, her care for students is already evident.

“I really love talking to kids and building relationships with students. I love how I work with kids, I’m very big on, I could love you to death but I’m still going to hold you accountable,” Madi said. 

Madi has also been quick to earn the respect of her colleagues.

According to dean Larry Waites, “She’s great because she cares about all students.”

“Niles West is really lucky to have Ms. Madi. She is a fierce advocate for students and she is unwilling to give up on any student of the school, and will fight for them,” Literacy Center Assistant Reine Hanna said.

For someone to grow, they need to recognize their mistakes, and in some cases, people won’t recognize their missteps unless without guidance. West can count itself lucky to have Madi as a guide.