I have the distinct pleasure of announcing our November Graider of the Month, Sumaiya Qazi! Sumaiya is a senior at the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) majoring in Teaching of English (Secondary Education) and pursuing additional endorsements to teach middle school and social studies. As one of our “local” Graiders, we invited Sumaiya to our offices this past Friday at 1871 in Chicago’s Merchandise Mart for lunch and an in-person Graider of the Month interview. Getting to meet Sumaiya was an absolute treat for myself and the team. We enjoyed spending the afternoon together talking about all of her experiences thus far as an aspiring educator – from pre-service teaching this past semester to preparing for student teaching and the edTPA next semester, her experiences with The Graide Network, and what she hopes to accomplish in the future.
Sumaiya was chosen as the November Graider of the Month for countless reasons. First, she’s an exceptionally hard worker and has completed over 28 section assignments this past semester. But even more than that, we were blown away by the deep care for student learning that shines through in all of her grading and feedback – and so were our teachers! One of my favorite examples was the ReGeneration interim assessment in October. Sumaiya graded middle school ELA and math assessments and provided rich feedback on class trends and student performance in the post-assessment survey. She was excited for the opportunity to deliver this feedback to the teachers and was thoughtful and detailed in her response. And this wasn’t a one-time thing. On every assignment, Sumaiya actively engages with the teacher she is working with, building personal connections, asking great questions, and gaining valuable mentorship and guidance in the process. We’d recommend this to all of our Graiders!
Another very unique and special thing about Sumaiya – she is just as comfortable teaching math and computer science as she is teaching English, and she enjoys working with children of all ages and abilities. When I asked Sumaiya when and how she knew she wanted to be a teacher, I absolutely loved her response. She can’t pinpoint a specific place or time; rather it was a gradual realization. Over the last few years she saw that no matter what field of study she was considering, it always came back to her passion for teaching and her love of working with children. “I have a lot of varying interests, and I realized that the field of education allows me to pursue all of them; I can work with different grade levels, different subjects, earn more endorsements. There are endless possibilities.”
In the near term, Sumaiya plans to earn her Master’s in Educational Technology. Ed-tech holds a special place in her heart as it “combines my two passions – education and technology. I don’t believe ed-tech exists to make everything automated or digital – this is a big misconception. Rather, using ed-tech in instruction means incorporating it in a way that makes your teaching more effective and more engaging for your students. Ed-tech should help us as teachers improve the efficiency of our teaching – from something as simple as a smart grade book to something as unique as The Graide Network. And I think that being smart about ed-tech also means not over-using it but rather being thoughtful in your application of it.” We couldn’t agree more.
This past semester, Sumaiya was a pre-service teacher at Westinghouse College Prep in Chicago, and next semester she will be student teaching full-time at Jones College Prep. Her biggest “a-ha” moment in the classroom? Realizing how challenging it is to balance all of your responsibilities as a teacher. “I didn’t realize how difficult it is to do everything - grading, lesson planning, classroom management, instruction. I mean I knew, but it was just more eye-opening to go and actually experience it in-person alongside my mentor teacher. I think every teacher educator should be able to experience this early on, rather than, well, face the true reality on their first day of student teaching.” In my favorite quote of the day, Sumaiya compared student teaching to getting your driver’s license. “You know what you’re meant to do in theory, but hitting the open road is a totally different experience.”
When we asked Sumaiya about how The Graide Network has helped prepare her to enter the classroom, we were humbled and excited about her response. To receive her teaching license in Illinois, Sumaiya must successfully complete her edTPA portfolio assessment next Spring (it’s a required part of her teacher prep program). Task 3 of edTPA is all about assessment and feedback – you have to create and deliver a detailed lesson plan and then grade and deliver feedback on an accompanying assignment. You also have to assess the class as a whole, reporting on common trends, areas of strength and areas of weakness. “My Task 3 practice was just like doing the class summaries for The Graide Network. My experience writing those summaries made Task 3 so much easier to complete, and it was the same with the regular grading and feedback. I feel so much more comfortable grading, especially essays, and I can definitely say I now know how to give better, if not more effective, feedback. Unfortunately, I’m sure a number of teacher candidates around the nation will really struggle with this task during student teaching as they’ve only learned about assessment and feedback in theory, and they’ve never really had the chance to apply it in practice with real student work. This is why I’m so glad that The Graide Network is continuing to grow day-by-day, not only assisting our current teachers with assessment but also helping out our future teachers gain the skills they need to be successful leaders for the next generation of our students.
We are so grateful to be able to provide Sumaiya with relevant and meaningful experience in her journey to becoming a teacher. We are confident that when she enters the classroom this January as a student teacher, she will be ready and able to face any challenge foolish enough to face her. As Chicagoans, we are especially grateful that Sumaiya will be teaching in our city, as we know she will make an incredible impact on every student she works with.
Congratulations, Sumaiya, on being our Graider of the Month!