Alumnus Named Knowles Fellow

Alumnus Named Knowles Fellow

Rohan PrakashRohan Prakash

Rohan Prakash (BS17), a high school math teacher in Cupertino, Calif., has received a five-year fellowship from the Knowles Science Teaching Foundation.

Prakash, one of 34 new fellows, joins the Knowles Teaching Fellows Program, a network that is designed to support early-career, high school math and science teachers as they strive to become leaders in the classroom and beyond.

Prakash’s selection marks the fifth time in the last six years that a Northwestern University School of Education and Social Policy student or alumni has received a Knowles. Previous winners include Mason Rocca (2017), Dan Voss (2016), John Holcombe (2014) and Liz Smith (2013).

“My parents always emphasized the value of education and how it can provide access to different opportunities,” said Prakash, who was born in India and came to the U.S. with his family when he was in eighth grade. “I did well in school, but I had to work hard. It seemed to come easier with good teachers - -and that’s when I started liking school more.”

During high school and college, Prakash spent four summers working as a teaching fellow with Breakthrough Silicon Valley in San Jose, a college access program that also prepares students for careers in education.

The experience fueled his interest in teaching, student-centered curriculum and creating equitable learning spaces.

At SESP, Prakash combined education and social policy with a concentration in secondary teaching in math and a French major. He completed his student teaching at Evanston Township High School.

After graduating last year, Prakash landed his “dream job” of teaching at Homestead High School in Cupertino, in the same district where he attended high school.

“Inside a classroom, you’re the leader of a team of students, but you have to decide what style you want to have,” Prakash said. “SESP helped me learn how to shift the power away from the teacher and toward the students to give them more ownership of their education.”

Prakash credits several high school teachers with inspiring him to go into the field, including his Advanced Placement chemistry teacher Ben Lowell and French teachers Lise Gabet and Sarah Finck. Lowell was in his first year of teaching when he told Prakash about the Breakthrough program.

“He made it clear that he valued our learning and understanding over the grades in chemistry, which I think shaped a lot of my thinking as well,” Prakash said. His French teachers, meanwhile, employed him as a teaching assistant, where he practiced creating activities for class and assessments.

Prakash’s overarching goal is to help close the achievement gap. He hopes the five-year Knowles experience, which has a strong mentoring and coaching component, will lay the right foundation.

Though he says he’s surrounded by good teachers at his school, there often isn’t time during the school day to learn from one another.

“The Knowles gives you access to a community of other teachers who are similarly-minded about education and who can help you bring motivation and questioning into the classroom,” he said.


By Julie Deardorff
Last Modified: 5/19/18