Celebration of Teaching: Madame Selime Baftiri Ballazhi

By Eliza Buffington — I want to especially thank Selime Baftiri Ballazhi, my high school French teacher, who is not only an incredible foreign language teacher, but someone who makes a difference in our world.

I attended Tinley Park High School, a wonderfully diverse high school in the Chicago suburb of Tinley Park where I had many exceptional teachers that challenged, encouraged, and shaped me.

I was blessed to be in Madame Baftiri’s French class for the first three years of high school. During that time she taught me a new language, about cultures, study habits and strategies, and she even taught me about myself. It wasn’t just what she taught, but how she taught it.

I could reminisce about all the fun, hilarious, and impactful moments I had in her class, but I think the thing that really sets her apart from any other teacher I have loved is the earnestness in her teaching. There is a quote from the novel, On the Road, which goes “The only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn, like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars…” The only addition that needs to be made for Madame Baftiri is “mad to teach”.

If ever there was anyone born to teach, it is Madame Baftiri. She has the passion and desire to give so much of herself to others that it is hard to be in her class without striving to be a better student and person.

In addition to teaching, she also runs Seekers Club which she describes below:

“Seekers Club was created by me in 2000 at Tinley Park H.S. and it has served as an opportunity for our very culturally diverse student body to learn about each other’s backgrounds, as well as world events that affect all of us.  It is my firm belief that through knowledge and acknowledgment and respect for other cultures, we can better understand one another and thus create a more peaceful student body and world.

Some of the activities that we have created and participated in have included cultural presentations on the Laotian, Filipino, Nigerian, Polish, German, Belgian, Pakistani, Jordanian, Palestinian, Albanian, African-American, French, Mexican, Chinese, as well as many other countries from where many of our students come or parents’ have emigrated.

In addition to experiencing culture within our school walls through after school presentations, Seekers has hosted six International Festivals here at Tinley Park High School.  The festivals have included food, dance and art from different cultures, including henna tattoos, as well as poetry (original and classic) read in different languages.”

Here is a clip from the 2009 International Festival: 

Madame Baftiri has dedicated so much of herself to educating my community on the people it is comprised of and the world it finds itself in, which is no small task. She is truly an original and the woman I aspire to be.


Eliza Buffington is majoring in Secondary Education and Mathematics. She will graduate from Marquette University in December of 2013 with a Bachelor of Science Degree. She is a woman of many obsessions- mathematics, moving to New York City, Bob Dylan, Bob Dylan, Bob Dylan.

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