Alumni Profile: M. Umar Qureshi '10

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February 19, 2013

When M. Umar Qureshi graduated in 2010 he was ready to begin his professional career as a teacher. Despite an anemic economy, he secured a position upon graduation and began teaching a Grade 4 class at Olive Grove School in Mississauga in the fall of 2010.

In his first year teaching he faced and overcame many challenges including identifying a weakness in a student’s reading comprehension and working with the student, strong parental reaction and administration to chart an appropriate course of action. He infused what he learned from instructors at Medaille and instilled energy, hard work and creativity in his students. Aside from the challenges which were great learning experiences, there were many rewards that made the school year a memorable one.

Q: How would you describe your first year in the class room?

A: From a theoretical point, it is what I expected. For example, if I was analyzing a student’s reading [ability] I knew exactly what to do. The lessons I learned from my professors’ practical experiences helped me quickly think through and solve situations not found in textbooks and be prepared for the first day of school. My first year of teaching was filled with challenges, but I was able to overcome them through my teacher training.

Q: What are the most challenging parts of your profession and the most rewarding?

A: You can have the best lesson plan but if you can’t manage the class you might as well not show up. Classroom management is critical to success. Another challenging aspect is working with so many stakeholders at the school – administrators, parents, boards. It is challenging to juggle and meet the needs of all stakeholders, but the end rewards are amazing!The most rewarding part of teaching is seeing first hand students developing and applying the necessary skills needed to succeed in a progressively changing world.

Q: Was there any one scenario this year or interaction with the students that made you feel like you had chosen the right profession for yourself?

A: The class was read Listen to the Wind, the children’s version of Three Cups of Tea a story about the power of helping. Based on this true story, the students were asked to answer the question: "With the spirit of humanity in mind, what can you do to help others?”

Their task question integrated four subjects and many curriculum objectives. Students were required to present their idea in verbal form (language arts), through a poster and then advertise their idea (media literacy and art) and vote for the best idea to implement at school (social studies). Students dreamed up the most amazing ideas such as mobile hospital clinics, internationally located food banks, hospitals in needy areas and annual clothing drives for disaster stricken areas and people.

In the end, two projects were executed; one was to build water wells in Africa and an Orphan Sponsorship program. As a school we raised $1,500 for the water well project and another $1,500 for the orphans. My Grade 4s organized an assembly, implemented a money collection system, and created a display in the main lobby and so much more! It was by far one of the best memories of the year!

Q: What is the easiest and most difficult subject to teach?

A: I had to substitute for a Grade 2 class and they were doing math. I had to quickly communicate at their Grade 2 level with words and actions they could easily understand. As Dr. Dunkle says, "adapt and overcome,” and that is what I had to do as soon as I walked into the class to ensure I didn’t lose student attention.

You have to think about how you will teach in a way so that twenty-two different minded people understand that one concept. Qureshi credits the success that he saw in his first year teaching to the professors and experience he had at Medaille. "It goes back to all the theories learned in class which were taught with a practical manner, Medaille did an amazing job preparing me,” he explains.

During his journey in the classroom he’s looked to his past professors for guidance. "Each one of my professors has consistently been available for help about challenges and questions I have had or when I needed advice and direction. That’s priceless,” he says. He continues "Every professor modeled what excellence in teaching is and what people should be like. I cannot thank them enough and I intend to carry on their tradition of excellence in my classroom every day. A heartfelt thank you to: Drs. Scura, Dunkle, Batchelor, Conway and Professors Davilia-Ryan, O’Connor, Clarke, Angelo, and Thompson.”

I'm grateful for the education I've received.

The instructors were knowledgeable and welcomed class discussions, with
respect for each student's contribution. I've learned how to be a more
effective leader. My capstone class gave insight on how to combine all
the education learned to operate a business. That's when I realized how
much I had sharpened my knowledge.

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