CTK Teacher's Journey Out of Africa to CTK

Born, raised, and educated in Ghana, Africa, current CTK teacher, David Kajah won a lottery allowing him to fulfill his dream of immigrating to the US. He had entered the annual immigration lottery for 10 years before his name was finally drawn in 2004. He jumped at the opportunity to pursue a better life in the US, although it required him to leave his friends and family, and uproot his wife and two young children.

It wasn’t the first time he had needed to leave his family for a better opportunity. Born into a farming family in a rural area of northern Ghana, David was the first in his family to go to school when he was six years old. He attended schools run by the Catholic missionary priests starting near his home at the equivalent of elementary school (called Basic), and advancing to high school, pre-college, and eventually University. He was selected by a priest to go to a private boarding high school about 100 miles from his home. Despite not being Christian or speaking English, his parents supported his pursuit of a better education and employment opportunities other than farming. In school, David learned English, the Catholic catechism, and developed a love of math and physics. He got his college degree in mining and meteorological engineering, which was in high demand at the time. When gold prices crashed, local mining companies closed, and he shifted to high school teaching, something he had done while he was pursuing his degree. He taught math and physics at two different Catholic high schools in Ghana for about 9 years. Teaching was primarily lecture style with 40 focused and attentive students in each classroom. His wife was also a teacher, concentrating in English and Social Studies at the Basic level.

In filling out their immigration forms, the Kajah family selected Chicago as their destination at the suggestion of a former classmate. They had never been to the US, and what they knew about it came from watching TV shows and movies.  Living and working in America proved to be a difficult transition for the new immigrants as they weren’t able to work in their chosen fields. David took a job at the Peninsula hotel to help pay the bills, which included sending his now three children to Catholic schools. He worked in the laundry and customer service departments at the Peninsula for several years. His wife became a Certified Nursing Assistant and worked different hours than her husband to help cover childcare. David eventually earned a graduate degree in Applied Statistics at Loyola University, which enabled him to land more fulfilling and better paying work as a Data Scientist. He was employed at Here Technologies for 7 years, followed by Caterpillar, until Covid hit, and his position was eliminated.

His son, now a software engineer, encouraged him to return to teaching, something he had loved doing while in Ghana. His first application for a high school teaching position was to Christ the King Jesuit. He felt most comfortable teaching in a Catholic high school, again, and leveraging his knowledge of math and physics. While there were some parallels to his time teaching in Ghana, he faced some initial struggles in the CTK classroom in getting his new students to listen and understand the material. He is grateful for the assistance and guidance of several experienced CTK teachers, namely Jimmy Bajner, Vickie Fultz, David Kim, and Michael Laughlin for helping him through his early struggles. He says, “The best part of working at CTK is the sense of community and collaboration with other staff members. If I have an issue, others teachers are willing to step up to help me.” David cites his strong Catholic faith as being the key to helping him and his family through any difficult times. They are actively involved in their local parish, St. Jerome, and David plans to engage in more of CTK’s campus ministry and service activities in the months ahead, We are thankful that David’s journey has led him to CTK!