Thank You For Being Such A Vital Part Of Our Team, Urvi. We Look Forward To Sharing More About You So Others Can Get To Know You Better!
Urvi, Tell Us A Bit About Your Backstory And What Lead You Down Your Current Life Path.
I originally was an economics major in college, with the intention to study math as much as I could to become an economist. But in the back of my mind, I had always thought that I wanted to explore teaching, especially teaching math. Although I was successful at math, I had always struggled with it, and wanted to be a part of helping students understand it better than I had when I struggled, especially since college-level math was very hard for me. I wanted to help enable future women to do better than I had. So, I decided to pursue teaching instead. I taught high school math and was able to help students learn in a way that felt less like a list of steps to do, and more like a process stemming from true understanding. However, I felt like I needed more experience to understand the educational system to see how I could do more. After experiences at CPS, charter schools, and education non-profits, I ended up where I am now, doing data analysis at National Louis University to help understand how we can serve our students best while earning a degree in curriculum, advocacy, and policy to better serve math students once again.
What or who inspired you to pursue your career?
I am very fortunate to have had a lot of great teachers in my life. In a strange turn of events, it was my social studies teachers who inspired me to be a better math teacher. They taught me that there are more ways to learn than just memorizing facts, and worked to teach me some of the hardest curricula in a way that I was able to show my true talents. I want to bring that innovative spirit to math; just answering a set of problems will not help you understand how math applies to life. But learning math in tandem with the math you see in everyday life, from patterns to using money, can help students get inspired in a subject that normally they hate.
What do you enjoy most about teaching/tutoring?
I love seeing the “lightbulb” moment when someone learns something new – knowing that they’ve made a connection or understood something that was difficult is so rewarding. In my teaching, I seek to make sure that all my students truly understand what they need to know, not just memorize facts; and it’s always great to know when I’ve done my job and the student can then explain it better than I can. My favorite moments are when a student can explain a problem to me in their own words, often much better than I could, and that’s when I know I’ve done my job well.
What do you like to do in your free time, Urvi?
I love to cook and spend time with friends and family (though that’s unfortunately limited these days). But, hopefully, when the pandemic is over I can go back to inviting everyone over for fancy meals, it’s always fun and rewarding to try a recipe and find that my friends love eating it, as a part of a night where we can laugh and just connect more. I also love to travel and read as much as time allows! My goal is to travel as much as I can (hopefully even once a month, even if they’re road trips over the weekend) once I’m vaccinated and it’s safer for others to travel.
Tell about an amazing trip you took. Where did you go and what did you enjoy most?
I am fortunate to have family in so many different places, so visiting them is always fun. One particular trip was with my family to visit some distant relatives in Norway. We went in the middle of June, so although it was a little cold still, we got to see daylight until about 11 pm every day, it was truly amazing. The night lasted only a few hours. Besides that, it was very fun to see the fjords and natural beauty in the country and learn a little Norwegian from my family (which I have now forgotten, unfortunately.) I would love to go back and explore more with the seemingly endless sunlight, so never in the winter!
Is there something exciting you are working on now? What is it and why did you choose to start it?
I’m very fortunate to be working towards getting my educational doctorate right now. I am in a teaching and learning program with a focus on curriculum, policy, and advocacy, where I’m learning to understand the integration between all three, and how education can empower students when it also addressed the needs beyond just career placement. I am going to focus my dissertation work on understanding how to implement teaching methods that help students understand math on a more logical, intuitive level rather than just completing a set of steps. I won’t be finished for a couple of years still, but in the meantime, I am really enjoying the coursework as it guides the work I do in my full-time job, and helps how well I tutor students.
Is there a particular book that made a significant impact on you? What is it and why did it resonate with you?
So many! I was an avid bookworm as a kid and there are too many books that I still remember vividly that have influenced me and my thinking. But, one in particular that I always remember is the book Bloomability by Sharon Creech. It’s the story of a young girl taken out of her element to go to a boarding school in Switzerland. At first, she’s so upset by the changes but as time goes on and she meets many different people, she learns that home isn’t just where you are most comfortable, but it can be many places that help you grow and learn. The idea of making the most of wherever you’re landed has stuck with me throughout my life.
The road to success is difficult and requires tremendous dedication. as our tutor spotlight this week, what advice would you give to a young person who aspires to follow in your footsteps and emulate your success?
One of the best pieces of advice I can give is to be prepared to do the hard work and do it well. It takes time to learn and plan what you need to do, but taking the time to learn first and act second will mean that you start ahead. I once saw a picture of a sign that former President Barak Obama kept at his desk which said “hard work is hard”, and I think about that from time to time – it is a hard road, and there will be many obstacles. But, don’t let the obstacles define your experience. You are strong and capable of moving beyond any that come if you believe in what you are doing.
Urvi, what are you most passionate about? Can you share a story?
I’ve become very passionate about social justice and utilizing my time and position at work to think about how we can work to ensure that equity reigns in schools. Equity is a tricky goal to achieve, but I strongly believe that in order to deliver on a promise of equity we need to examine the structures that influence schools that remain because they are how things have always been done. Policy decisions, funding sources, and even the structure of schools need to be re-examined because they all influence how we serve our students. We know that current practices do not enable all students to learn and thrive at school, so we need to think differently about how we educate to better serve all. I do not have all the answers, but I am driven to keep working throughout my career to dismantle inequity in the schools I work in.
Is there a person in the world with whom you would love to have a private lunch and why? He/she might just see this! 🙂
The strong women who have worked hard to break barriers in history are the ones who inspire me the most. It’s amazing to see someone achieve greatness despite the struggle, and do it with finesse. I’ve always admired Madeline Albright, who was the first female secretary of state. She gained credibility to be a powerful force within international politics when she served and left an interesting legacy that has allowed her to maintain diplomatic ties and she strives to still work hard to help the globe. She’s someone I admire and I would love the chance to have lunch and pick her brain on politics today.