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Entrepreneurial Chaldean Teacher Shows Anyone Can Make A Difference
By Sam Yousif :: Tuesday, March 25, 2008 :: 56771 Views :: Career & Education, Chaldean Education & Career Center

Theresa Sitto, English Language Learners and Reading Recovery teacher at Pleasant Lake Elementary in Walled Lake, Michigan

Michigan, USA - Ask most southeast Michigan residents about Chaldeans and you’re likely to hear that Chaldeans are well known for their creativity, entrepreneurial spirit, intelligence, hard-work ethics, competitive drive, and success.   The influential group of Iraqi immigrants seems to have a special knack of turning lemons into lemonade. 

“We learned from our parents and grandparents to rely on ourselves and to reject being dependant.  Our community struggle taught us not to rely on the government.  Doing so will enslave you and make you weak.  We were taught to work together as a family, help one another, and that each and every Chaldean, no matter where they work or how old they are, must make a difference,” says Renee Hindo of the Chaldean Education and Career Center in Southfield, Michigan.   

Can such a spirit survive in corporations where thinking outside-the-box is reserved only for executives?  Can the Chaldean entrepreneurship gene survive in professional and corporate environment?

Theresa Sitto, an English Language Learners and Reading Recovery teacher at Pleasant Lake Elementary in Walled Lake, Michigan seems to think so.  The 20 year teaching veteran shows that no matter what type of work or profession you do, you can make a difference.

Mrs. Sitto recently received a Refugee Reader grant to give books to refugee children and others new to the U.S. This grant was made possible through the generous contribution of the Teaching Tolerance Magazine through the Southern Poverty Law Center.

Mrs. Sitto holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Teaching with a social studies major from Mercy College of Detroit and a Master’s of Education with a Bilingual Endorsement in Chaldean from Wayne State University , as well as Reading Recovery Certification

Hindo adds that, “In Iraq very few Chaldeans were given the opportunity to be professionals so our people were forced to find creative ways to make a living.  In America, we are given more opportunities than Iraq and you can see from the success of the community how well we have done.  Even the professionals in our community or those that work for big corporations are constantly finding new and creative ways to improve business.”

Sitto’s grant looks to help children who have been cast aside as living causalities of war.  “Their education is stunted, their psyche attacked, and the hope of opportunities fast fade unless loving Chaldeans like Sitto find ways to light a candle of hope for them,” says Hindo.

The war in Iraq has been especially hard on Chaldeans.  Framed as conspirators of western Christians, the Catholic minority group has been systematically targeted.  The fortunate families who have been able to survive and escape to a democratic country like the U.S., are saddled with astonishing challenges.    

Many of the parents faced with a middle school education and without any resources to purchase books or other educational resources.  “Whatever little they do have is spent on food or clothing,” says Hindo.  “Many of the parents are forced to take on two or three laborious jobs to keep the lights on and have little time to spend with their children.  They are still in survival mode.  They don’t have time to play catch and read books.”

Sitto’s project aims to bridge that gap by giving the children books they can take home, as well as adding books that reflect cultural diversity to Pleasant Lake's literacy library so all students can benefit.

Teachers will use the literacy books in designing lessons that would promote cultural awareness and understanding. Pleasant Lake Elementary currently has a significant bilingual population with many of the students from Iraq.

Sitto said, "Pleasant Lake Elementary has a wonderfully diverse student population and a staff that responds to that population with sensitivity and dedication. By giving our refugees books and adding books that encourage and promote diversity, this lends itself to promoting culturally responsive teaching."

Hindo says, “The Chaldean community has hundreds of highly qualified school teachers and hundreds more graduating from universities.  Unfortunately, many of the public schools in southeast Michigan still don’t get-it.  Ten to twenty percent of their student population is Chaldean and yet there are few if any teachers in the building,”  Hindo gallingly adds.  “Not only would Chaldean teachers be able to engage the parents and students more effectively, but having a Chaldean teacher allows the school to tap into that entrepreneurial and competitive business spirit that public schools lack.”


Mother of God Church, MI USA


Mother of God Chaldean Catholic Church
25585 Berg Road
Southfield, MI 48033
Tel: (248) 356-0565
Fax: (248) 356-5235

Founding Pastor:
Msgr. Geroge Garmo in 1972
The current church building
was completed in 1980.

Rev.  Manuel Yousif Boji

Parochial Vicar:
Rev. Wisam Matti

Daily:  10:00 AM Chaldean
Tuesdays:  5:30 PM Chaldean/English 
Saturdays:  Ramsha 4:45-5:20 PM; Mass 5:30 PM Chaldean   
Sundays:  8:30 AM Arabic, 10:00 AM English, 12:00 PM Chaldean

 1st Friday, Sodality Prayers 11 AM – 12 PM
1st Saturday, Immaculate Heart Sodality Prayers 4:00 PM

Mother of God Guardian Angels

Communion & Catechism School
Chaldean Language School
Hall Rental
Wedding Services
Baptism Services
Funeral Services

Monday: Family Bible Study 8:00 P.M. Upper Hall
Friday: Young Adult English Bible Study 7:30 P.M. Lower Hall
Wednesday: Young Adult Arabic Bible Study 7:30 P.M. Lower Hall
Prayer Groups
Our Lady Social
Ur of the Chaldees
Knights of Columbus
Mass Servers
Youth Choir
Adult Choir
Family Fun Friday
Friday Friends
Communications Ministry
Chaldean Teens Coming Together
Performance Ministry
Gift Store
Library and Research
Social Ministry & Support
Chaldean Language Classes
Fishers of Men

 Rev. Manuel Yousif Boji

Fr. Manuel was born in Telkaif in the suburbs of Nineveh, Iraq in 1946.   Reverend Manuel Boji entered the Chaldean Seminary in Mousl in 1958 and was ordained a priest in Baghdad in 1968.  His first assignment was in Telkaif where he served for 19 years.  In July 1987, Fr. Manuel was assigned  to the United States  where he assisted Mar Addai Parish in Oak Park, Michigan for six months.  From March 1988 until April 1990, he was administrator of Sacred Heart Parish in Detroit, Michigan.  Fr. Manuel completed his Masters and Doctorate work from both U of D Mercy and Wayne State University while assigned to the United States.  In May 1990, Fr. Manuel was assigned to Mother of God Parish and is currently serving there as Rector of the Cathedral. 

Parochial Vicar: Rev. Wisam Matti

Fr. Wisam was born in Basrah, Iraq on October 30, 1971. Completing his education in Iraq and serving in the military Fr. Wisam then entered the Chaldean Seminary in Baghdad in 1984.  He was ordained a priest in Karemlees a suburb of Nineveh on July 4th 1997.  His first assignment was in Mosul where he served for five years.  On January 21, 2002, Fr. Wisam was transferred to the Unites States and was assigned to Mother of God Parish where he is currently serving as parochial vicar.  Fr. Wisam, earned his Master in Pastoral Theology on April 28, 2007 from Sacred Heart Major Seminary in Detroit, Michigan.