Student Spotlight: Priyana Kumar

Student Spotlight: Priyana Kumar

By Priyana Kumar

What makes you want to be a teacher or involved in education?

My greatest joys and rewards from teaching come from seeing students’ faces when they finally understand a concept and complete problems with confidence. Teaching, to me, is not about getting students to worry about achieving a good grade, but to practice self-growth. I also LOVED my math/STEM classes growing up and I feel like there is strong animosity toward these subjects, which I would like to change. As long as students can value their growth and progress, I think their animosity/anxiety will shift to an appreciation of math and math learning.

Why did you choose Northwestern University’s MSEd Program?

There are quite a few reasons I have chosen to attend the Northwestern MSEd program, two of which include its genuine and caring faculty and staff, and its priority in connecting theory to practice. Seeing how passionate and caring the MSEd faculty were, I could tell that they educate to create a community of the next great teachers and leaders in education. I also especially love its priority in connecting theory to practice. Coming from Loyola Engineering, a program that has embedded active learning into each course in its curriculum, I know that the MSEd program will continue the active learning I have grown to appreciate as a student and a future educator. I have been anticipating being able to practice teaching while learning, and this program allows me to do so. More importantly, reflecting and learning how to improve from these experiences is something I will value and take with me when teaching. This program also focuses on addressing the social contexts in education and prepares us to educate all learners, which is what I strive to do professionally. When teaching students, it is necessary, to me, that I teach with fairness and empathy, and I know that the curriculum and esteemed professors will help me strengthen these practices. I am a firm believer that anyone and everyone can be a learner and there is absolutely no reason to hinder one’s education or success. 

What were you doing prior to starting at Northwestern?

I attended Loyola University Chicago completing my Bachelor's in Biomedical Engineering with a minor in Math. I was also working as an engineering TA and math tutor and I absolutely loved it.

What are your career goals?

My career goals include teaching secondary math/STEM courses as well as reforming STEM education in the United States. I also plan on completing a PhD in math/STEM education to later advance to teacher education.

Was there a particular teacher or teacher leader who inspired you in school?

Yes, multiple teachers! I have been fortunate enough to have some amazing high school teachers and college professors who have inspired me with their passion of teaching. They really valued me as a human being, rather than just a student in their class, and I will be forever grateful for the connections we have.

How would you describe your Northwestern classes? Your professors?

I ADORE my classes and professors. It truly feels like everyone is equally as passionate as I am about teaching and it is so refreshing being a part of something like this. I can tell that my professors truly value what they do and who we are as individuals, and the classes they teach help us grow as educators and as people. I am amazed at how much I learn each quarter - each quarter has built on each other and I feel like my mind is constantly expanding and evolving!

Are there any particularly memorable moments from within the classroom at Northwestern you would like to share?

Specifically from MSEd 402 (Social Contexts of Education), I remember we had to connect with peers almost immediately, and we bonded immediately, which helped us better learn from each other. The class lends itself well to deeply learning about yourself and others and how our individual selves shape the way we learn and teach. Having taken this class my first quarter positively shaped my perspective of going into teaching and going into the rest of the year.

What are you most excited about for student teaching? What are you most nervous about?

I am thrilled at the chance to finally be in a classroom setting. I've had prior teaching experience as a TA and tutor but never where I was able to take over a whole class like this. I am ready to dive in, learn from and with my students, and help them grow as people and as critical thinkers. I am nervous about the timing of my student teaching; coming out of teaching online during COVID has been hard even on veteran teachers, so I will definitely be learning all that I can and asking for resources and help from them!

Tell us a little bit about your Master’s Project if you are at this stage in your MSEd courses. What are you planning to research and/or what are you interested to learn more about and explore?

I am planning on researching something along the lines of, "How can I reduce animosity/anxiety in math education and thereby increase students’ confidence"? While the question still needs refinement and research, I am deeply interested in the root of students' math anxieties and what I can do as their educator to reduce their anxieties and make them more confident with their math learning.

What advice or insight would you give to an incoming first year in the Northwestern MSEd Program?

Take everything in, learn from everyone around you, enjoy all of the conversations and readings because they truly make you a more holistic educator. I think I've learned more about myself as a person and a future educator more than I could have ever imagined. Best of luck to you and please don't hesitate to reach out or ask questions!

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