Mehreen Tejani is a secondary religious education teacher at His Highness Shia Ismaili Council for the United States of America in Houston, TX. She has been teaching for three years.
When other children in my class wanted to be astronauts and doctors, I wanted to be a teacher. My favorite American history teacher, Miss Dupriest, made me an American. As an immigrant from Pakistan, I became fascinated by the men and women who fought for freedom, wherever that fight happened to be. I was inspired by their actions, courage and willingness to stand up for what they believed. Since the 5th grade, I wanted to teach everyone not only their stories but the stories of other individuals who made an impact in the world.
After I graduated from the UTeach-Liberal Arts program at University of Texas, I continued my studies on a full scholarship to the Institute of Ismaili Studies and Institute of Education in London. This unique opportunity allowed me to integrate my love for stories about individuals and my faith. For the last three years, I have taught religious education to students within my own community, the Shia Ismaili Muslim community.
Once a week, either on a weekday or Saturday, students come to my class to engage with various topics. Most recently, our students discussed Muslim history, which included a multitude of stories about the men and women during early Muslim history that shaped our foundations. We then connected it to personal struggles of being Muslim in America.
Thus, when I teach, my goal is for the students to be comfortable and confident articulating their dual identity.
I believe to my core that I must always strive to be a great teacher, not simply a teacher. Here are my criteria, my yardstick:
- A great teacher is efficient with her/his time and effective at reaching all students.
- A great teacher is inspirational and makes her/his students want to continue learning outside the classroom.
- A great teacher sets high expectations of all her/his students and ensures they meet them.
- A great teacher discovers and then practices and repeats the cycle.
- A great teacher builds relationships and bridges the classroom and the home.
- A great teacher exists within all teachers who work towards being effective teachers.
I know that I am not yet the great teacher that I aspire to be, but that is my ambition in life. For me, teaching is not a job but an art that I want to perfect.