A teacher’s journey

Educational Studies
March 29, 2023
The first-year learning curve in any career is bound to be pretty steep, but if you’re a second-grade teacher like Rakeb Girma ’21, the pressure to get it right the first time is exceptionally high. Fortunately, Girma, who teaches in Dallas, had some exceptional teachers whose example she is leaning on.
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“My education classes with Dr. (Karen) Graves and Dr. (Emily) Nemeth are definitely contributing to my success as a first-year teacher,” she says.

For instance, “I learned about the different inequities I would see in my classroom, and how to employ different strategies to help lessen the gaps I see in my own class of second graders.”

She offers some advice for first-year teachers. “I always felt like I was running around like a chicken with its head cut off, because I never felt 100% prepared — and that’s okay! Once you begin to see growth in your students as learners and young people, you will start to see the value in your effort and the impact you have made on them.”

Being open to learning through every experience is one of Girma’s hallmarks. Like many college students, when she first came to campus, Girma had an idea of what she wanted to study that turned out to be totally wrong. In her case, that was computer science. “I was planning to become a software engineer,” she says. That all changed when she entered the classroom of an educational studies course, The U.S. Education System, with professor Graves. She describes it as a “critical moment.”

“Every week I was excited to go to class and learn about how education interacts with the history and contemporary issues in society,” she says. “I changed my major to educational studies and never looked back. My classes really helped strengthen and build my love for and of learning.” Her minor in Spanish also comes in handy in her Dallas school district.

Girma also tutored for the America Reads program in nearby Newark. “Working with children in summer jobs or internships is the best way to know if teaching is something you would enjoy.”

Continuing on her own path as a lifelong learner, Girma will receive her Master of Science in elementary education from Johns Hopkins University this May.

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