Teacher of the Week

After graduating from the University of Illinois in 2003 with a degree in political science, Farhanah Faruque began a career in education policy research. Working behind a desk, though, didn’t sit well with her.

Faruque decided to change her career, taking a job as a pre-kindergarten teacher.

“I absolutely loved the feeling of walking into my classroom every morning, being greeted by my students and looking forward to whatever the day would bring,” she said.

In 2021, Faruque took a job as an instructional aide at South Side Elementary School in Champaign and is now working on her master’s in elementary and special education, which she’s set to complete next year.

“Farhanah is always willing to go the extra mile whenever additional support is needed,” said Samantha Turner, principal at Dr. Howard Elementary, who worked with Faruque this year at summer school. “She has strong relationships with students and enjoys working in small groups to support students’ academic needs.”

I find my work important because ... I am given the opportunity to shape the minds of the students I work with and foster positive growth within them. My biggest goal working with any student is to empower them by providing them with the tools they need to navigate the world. Educators are so important in helping students become informed, critical thinkers who can make informed decisions and contribute meaningfully to society.

I became a teacher because ... I have always had a profound passion for inspiring others through education. Witnessing the transformative power of learning in my own life, I felt a strong calling to guide and nurture students on their own journeys of discovery. The opportunity to make a positive and lasting impact on young minds, helping them develop not only academically but also as well-rounded individuals, deeply resonated with me. My own experiences with exceptional teachers showed me the incredible influence a dedicated educator can have, and I wanted to put that forward to the next generation.

My favorite/most unique lesson that I teach is ... well, in my current position, I am usually reteaching lessons to students that were presented by their classroom teacher. My favorite lesson to reteach would be math. I try to restructure the lesson and present it in a way that is more approachable and at their level of understanding. This includes creating lots of games where students are motivated to learn challenging concepts so they can successfully participate. A lot of these games are timed and test your level of skill by computing short equations in your head. We review lots of strategies in how to do this so students can implement them during our games. I really enjoy teaching students how to be detectives when solving word problems and using tricks to compute double- and triple-digit multiplication problems in a more efficient way.

My most fulfilling moments on the job are ... when students overcome challenging obstacles. When I’m working with students and they’re having a difficult time mastering a skill, it is tough not to feel frustrated. However, I have worked with some really great kids who are incredibly patient and work very hard, and then the concept finally clicks! The look of satisfaction and sense of accomplishment they have is incredible.

I keep students engaged by ... building relationships! Making sure I build relationships with students will always be my number-one priority. Students will not respect you or want to learn from you if they think you don’t care about them. I strive to get to know them past their academic skills and learn about their interests and important people in their life. I’ve found building these relationships helps with engagement because even if they get frustrated and disgruntled, they trust me enough to show me that side of them, and I can help them get back to baseline. By being interested in who they are as people, it makes students feel more valued, and it allows them to be more invested in their own success.

Something else I’m passionate about is ... reading! I know, it sounds like your typical educator answer, but I really do love reading. Short stories, award-winning novels, random listicles — you name it, I’ll read it. I wish I had more time these days to read, but whenever I have the time, I like reading to explore other worlds, people’s perspectives or just learn about something or someone I knew very little about. It relaxes me and helps me stay open minded about the world around me.

My favorite teacher and subject to study in school was ... Mr. Steve Foug at Palo Alto High School in Palo Alto, Calif. He was my history and government teacher during my junior year. He was so engaging and funny and made me really care about government and politics. Thank you, Mr. Foug!

If I weren’t a teacher, I would be ... working in politics. I have a background in political science and do love how different systems within the federal and state government work. I’d love to work on another campaign (maybe) or perhaps work with other lawmakers to influence policy!