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Nari Souleiman’s 6,000-Mile JourneyTo the White Pony

Some White Pony teachers begin working here directly out of college. Some have worked at other schools, or even in other fields, before discovering our school. Few, however, have arrived via a route as circuitous, or long, as that taken by Room 2 teacher Narimen (“Nari”) Souleiman. Nari’s journey began 6,230 miles away, in northern Africa, and included a year in France and three careers, including management positions at two popular Walnut Creek patisseries.

Nari (pronounced like Mary) was born in Algeria to an Algerian mother and a Palestinian father. After graduating from the National Veterinary School of Algiers, she spent a year as the chief doctor at a poultry company. She then worked as a representative for a pharmaceutical company for four years. It was in that role that she met her husband, Houssem (“Sam”), a fellow Algerian who was teaching high school math and physics in France. After they married, they stayed in France for a year.

Then, four years ago, Nari and Sam emigrated to the United States. A cousin who lives in Santa Clara inspired her to move to the Bay Area. Unable to work as a veterinarian in the U.S. without additional classwork and passing the California licensing exam, she took a job as a supervisor at Cocola Bakery in Walnut Creek. From there she was hired as manager of Brioche de Paris French bakery, also in Walnut Creek.

(Though not trained as a pastry chef, Nari loves baking. She made bradj, an Algerian seminola and date cookie, for her class as a “welcome to spring” treat in March.)

At Brioche, one of her favorite customers, a woman she calls “my angel,” asked if she had ever considered teaching and suggested that she apply at the White Pony. Though she didn’t have any formal training in early childhood education, Nari loves children and had helped raise her five nieces and nephews. She applied and was hired in June 2021.

Nari hopes to return to veterinary medicine again someday. For now, though, “I like being here. I love being with kids and playing with them. The kids and the parents and the staff – it’s a wonderful place. It makes me happy to be here.”

Room 2 teacher Katie Ulmer says Nari “is naturally a very loving teacher – it’s obvious how much she enjoys the children. She treats them as if they were children in her home. She forms positive bonds with them so they do as she asks. She also teaches the children some French and brings them fun special trains to play with!”

Nari and Sam are expecting their first child in January.


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