Hometown: I was originally born in Kabul Afghanistan and lived there the first nine years of my life. My family migrated to United States in 1980 when Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan. My family sought political asylum and was accepted by United States. I grew up in New York where I became a Fashion Designer. I married my husband in 1994 and had our first child in 1998. This was a turning point in my life that eventually led me to change careers from the fashion industry to early childhood education.
Current Location: I have lived and continue to reside in Oregon for about seventeen years.
Job Title: Sr.Child Development Specialist and Mentor Teacher
Degrees/Education: Bachelor’s Degree in Fashion Design, from Fashion Institute of Technology, NYC; Master’s Degree in Curriculum and Instruction in ECE, from PSU
How long have you been working with children? Do you have children?
About 17 years. Yes, I have two girls 18 and 12.
What is the story of what first drew you to work with children?
When my daughter Nadia turned three we enrolled her in preschool. I couldn’t bear to be apart from her and decided to volunteer in her class. I absolutely loved being with my daughter and around children. I began to read and study about child development. The school hired me to be the lead teacher; they thought I was a natural. Both my mom and dad were educators and I began to feel the same passion and decided to continue in their footsteps. I began my educational journey by acquiring my CDA and taking classes at PSU.
Is this your calling?
It is definitely my calling. I love my career and can’t imagine doing anything else.
Do you feel fulfilled in this work?
Yes and no. I feel fulfilled in my actual work with children and absolutely love the people I work with BUT it is extremely frustrating that our field is devalued and Early Childhood Educators do not make a living wage and are viewed as baby sitters.
Tell us about the trajectory of your career. Who was helpful along the way?
I have had two mentors who inspired and mentored me along the way and a third person who never gave up on me. Mona Hizawi introduced me to the field and encouraged me to continue my education. Mona was so kind and patient with me. Hadiyah Miller has been and continues to be my mentor. She is a passionate, sincere, compassionate and a powerful educator who advocates for children, families and educators. My husband has been my rock. He supported me both spiritually, emotionally and financially.
How do you feel like having your own children influenced your career decisions, aspirations, understanding, etc?
My children were entirely the reason I entered this field and changed careers. Seeing the impact educators have on children’s lives, through the lens of a mother, is what keeps me passionate about working with young children.
Tell us what your hopes for the future are. Where do you hope to be in ten years? Twenty?
My hopes for the future are that every child can attend a quality preschool class where teachers are educated and paid as such. In ten years I hope to own my own business and earn a living wage. In twenty years I hope to expand my business and actually pay teachers the wages they deserve.
What is the bigger picture for you? How do you see early childhood education acting on the world?
The bigger picture for me is a future where early childhood educators are recognized and valued same as public school teachers.
I want to know more about this idea… Some would say that public school teachers are also undervalued. Would this look like equal pay? A more thorough federal system for early childhood? What would value look like to you specifically?
I thoroughly understand the uphill battle of public school teachers and their struggles. Yes they certainly are undervalued. Sadly early childhood educators are not even close to the level of public school teachers. We are still viewed as babysitters. No matter what our education level or experience we are grossly underpaid. It truly breaks my heart to see early childhood educator’s being paid as little as 10$ an hour resulting in being forced out of the field because they earn below poverty level. Value to me, first begins with being acknowledged in society as a teacher, and that translates to how much we earn. Then the conversation can begin about equity and equal pay for teachers in general. This Summer my daughter applied for her first job ever, at Target, with no work experience and she is paid more than what we offer early childhood educators with education and experience. Quite honestly it makes me angry that I have a master’s degree and almost two decades of experience and I still have to depend on my spouse to support me financially.
Describe your work with children in your 20s, 30s, and 40s.
When I was in my early to mid-20s children were invisible to me but everything changed when I had my daughter in my late 20s. I began to fall in love with my child of course but I also began to see children with new eyes.
I’m so curious about this. What did you see in children that you had never seen before, after you had your own? Why do you think they were “invisible” to you beforehand?
I guess as I reflect on why children were invisible to me I realized that many social experiences and observations I made growing up devalued children. For example when invited to parties or important events, children were considered a disruption, a nuisance, and a burden. We say in our society that we value children but taking a closer look at our social rules and institutional policies that relate to children, one can see that we prefer children to be invisible. The value of early childhood educators in our society is a reflection of our value and our image of children as a society.
In my thirties I began to shift careers from the fashion industry to early childhood education; initially with the goal of learning to be a better mom. In my 40s I realized that early childhood education and social justice work is my calling. I decided to pursue a master’s degree in early childhood education and began to teach diversity classes when I graduated in spring of 2016.
What did this change look like?
The change was drastic for me. Being in the fashion industry, I was very materialistic and consumed with my career. The second the doctor handed me my baby girl I was at awe of this new life that I had the honor of being part of. I began to learn and continue to learn from my children, as they grow I grow both intellectually and emotionally. Being a mom is the best job I have ever had.
What is on your plate for this school year?
I am a mentor teacher in the PCC child development center lab. I will be co-teaching a diversity class in both fall and winter term. I am also involved in community work that relates to social justice work.
Can you tell us more about what you do as a mentor?
I am the lead teacher in a preschool classroom as well as a mentor teacher to practicum students who are working on a certificate or a degree in ECE and have to complete lab hours as part of their degree requirements in our classroom.
What does the diversity class center around?
● To learn how the United States history has impacted the inter-relationships of diverse communities.
● To develop an awareness of how personal experiences, belief systems and values impact our work with children and families.
● To examine and analyze the impact of cultural, linguistic, race, gender, sexual orientation, religion and class identities on the United States society.
● To apply techniques for incorporating others peoples’ histories, values and belief systems into culturally appropriate practices.
● Understand the complexities of oppression in the United States
● Identify the cultural, linguistic, race, different ability, gender, sexual orientation, class and religion influences on self-identity
● Recognize others’ identities as the product of cultural, linguistic, different ability, gender, sexual orientation, race, class and religion
● Critically evaluate an institutional system for meeting the needs of diverse communities
● To understand and develop the role as an ally
What is your advice to young/burgeoning teachers?
I would advise young teachers to pursue their education. Education is extremely important and empowering.
How do you help yourself relax/unwind after a long day of working with children?
I’d like to say I curl up with a good book but the truth is that what really relaxes me is 15-20 minutes of video game playing. Not just any video game but video games from the 80s (Pac man, ladybug…)
What helps you feel healthy and taken care of?
I try to exercise for an hour every day.
Non- educational practices/hobbies that are important to you?
I love to cook with my husband and garden.
Can you talk about a sacrifice or setback that you have tackled?
A sacrifice that I have tackled would definitely be focusing on my education, balancing my family responsibilities AND dealing with the financial burdens of paying for school.