"A worthwhile outlet for my ceaseless wanderlust": Q&A with Fulbright Scholar Leila Nabizadeh ’14

Leila Nabizadeh ’14 graduated with a M.S.T. in Adolescence English. She is also one of two GSE Fulbright Scholars this year, along with Kyle Shook. Leila recently discussed her Fordham undergraduate experience, her time at GSE, and the Fulbright program. 

 Congratulations, Leila!

Leila Nabizadeh ’14

Can you describe your academic background?

I attended undergraduate at Fordham University in the Bronx and studied Comparative Literature, Anthropology and German. My primary major was Comparative Literature and in 2013 I wrote my senior thesis on linguistic diversity in the novels: Sea of Poppies by Indian author Amitav Ghosh, and This Earth of Mankind by Indonesian author Pramoedya Ananta Toer.

I chose to study anthropology after my first day of Introduction to Cultural Anthropology in my freshman year of college. I had no idea what anthropology was, but I was sold after the first lecture. Anthropology ultimately became a most cherished course of study in my undergraduate career, as the classes I took in anthropology were the ones I loved and grew from the most, both as a scholar and as an individual.

I had studied German from 7th-12th grade, which is why I chose to extend my exploration of the language in college and eventually earned a minor in the subject area.

This past May, I earned my Masters of Science in Teaching from GSE. In earning my M.S.T., I have also earned my New York State Teaching Certificate, which gives me the license to teach middle and high school English in public schools across the country.

What are your academic areas of expertise and interest?

Academically, I am interested in primarily in: cultural anthropology, linguistics and literature. In my undergraduate career I tried to intertwine these fields as much as I possibly could in order to study these topics in relation to each other. As such, my senior thesis served as a template through which I linked all three of the above topics.

In terms of teaching, I have wanted to be a teacher since I was 16 years old and over the course of my undergraduate career, the methodology and philosophy behind teaching became of interest to me as well. When I was a sophomore in college I started tutoring students at a local social work organization in the Bronx, at which time I developed a more empirical fascination with the art of teaching.

Can you describe your fieldwork experiences at GSE?

Each semester in the Curriculum and Teaching program at the Graduate School of Education requires ongoing fieldwork and research.

This past year, I conducted case studies focusing on literacy skills, learning disabilities, and behavioral performance in three separate students.

The fieldwork that I conducted in order to complete my degree included three years of tutoring at the Pelham Family Center in the Bronx, tutoring at Fannie Lou Hamer Freedom High School in the Bronx, part-time student teaching 9-12th grade English at the NYC iSchool in Manhattan, and full-time student teaching 8th grade English at P.S. 126 in Manhattan.

What motivated you to apply for the Fulbright scholarship?

I feel as though the Fulbright process, for me, was like an epic saga. My sophomore year of college I was part of a small honors society called the Matteo Ricci Seminar, which supported and encouraged us to apply for prestigious fellowships and scholarships such as the Rhodes, Truman, Gates, and Fulbright.

I remember thinking at the time that a Fulbright fellowship would suit my interests the most, but feeling discouraged by my suffering grade point average that year. As time went on, the Fulbright disappeared further and further into the depths of woefully unrealistic possibilities, or so it seemed.

The next thing I knew, I was sitting in a summer institute seminar for the Graduate School of Education in July of 2013 and all I could think about was being somewhere outside of the United States. I felt claustrophobic and I needed to find a pathway to a breath of fresh air. The pathway I chose was the Fulbright program.

I felt motivated to apply for the Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship to Malaysia because it was an extension of my literary and cultural studies in undergrad, an extension of my teaching experience in graduate school, and worthwhile outlet for my ceaseless wanderlust.

Can you describe the work you will be doing with the Fulbright program?

For my Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship to Malaysia, I will be working with an English teacher in a Malaysian school on enriching the students’ English language studies. As a native speaker, my primary responsibility in the classroom will be to enhance students’ confidence in actually speaking English.

I will be focusing on teaching students about the culture in the United States and connecting their study of the English language with its practical use elsewhere in the world.

Additionally, Fulbright ETAs are encouraged to do after school activities with students such as sports, arts, and clubs. This is a facet of the program that I am especially excited about, as it will give us the opportunity to interact with students outside the invisible pressure of the classroom.

What advice do you have for future GSE students?

For future GSE students, I encourage them to think of their coursework and fieldwork as foundational elements of their careers instead of required checkpoints they need to complete in order to earn their degree.

The work that you are asked to do is generally very purposeful and will prove to have a direction connection to your experience in the classroom both in student teaching and in future teaching. Although I felt as though GSE prepares you best for entering the urban, NYC public school system, I encourage students in GSE to consider other outlets for teaching as there is need all over the country and all over the world.

I also encourage future GSE students to take advantage of as much “down time” as possible, as the program is very demanding. All of that being said, I congratulate every future student for making the outstanding choice of joining the GSE cohort and the wonderful world of teaching!

Is there anything else you want to add?

I am thrilled to be able to start my teaching career overseas and I am very excited to see how this experience in Malaysia will influence and inspire future teaching when my career brings me back to the States.

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