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Sahera Ali

photo of Sahera Ali

Adjunct Math Faculty
S.O.A.R. Tutoring Lab
Richland College

“I grew up in Bangladesh and came to the U.S. after winning a lottery where the prize was a visa to emigrate here. I took a couple of community college courses in Los Angeles and then moved to Texas, where I started at Richland College in 1994. I completed my first two years of college here and took Developmental Math classes.

“I had worked as a math tutor in the Center for Teaching and Learning while I was a Richland student and even after I transferred to UTD, so Richland was like my second home. Before I even finished my bachelor’s degree, I was hired as an engineer at Nortel, but I only worked there for a year before being laid off.

“I had always felt like I could get through to my students when I was tutoring them at Richland, and I realized that what I really wanted to do was teach. I began teaching some classes at Brookhaven and then was hired as an adjunct Math faculty member at Richland, where I’ve been for four years.

“My math classes at Richland were wonderful; all the teachers I had were the best. I had just moved to the U.S., and English was not my first language. I felt invited to go to my teachers and ask questions, and that friendliness was important to me to have the courage to ask for help. I always felt like my instructors paid attention to me and were there when I needed them. I could always call them when I was working on problems to get help.

“All of my instructors were knowledgeable and helpful — being just knowledgeable doesn’t help if you’re not also willing to assist your students. I got all of the help I needed, and I still see some of my original instructors here in the hallways at Richland as my colleagues!

“It gives me the best feeling in the world when I see my students understand something I’m trying to teach them — that’s what I’m looking for, to get through to them. It’s not just that you have to have math for your education; it’s part of your everyday life, and I try to relate math to my students’ personal lives. I tell them that even if they don’t think they need math, they use it every day — from shopping at the grocery store, to buying gas for their car, to figuring out the tip in a restaurant. Every time you buy something, you have to use math.

“And as for taking Developmental Math courses, sometimes my students will feel like they’re not good at math and not smart. But I tell them that no matter the circumstances that have kept them from understanding math before, if they pay attention now, they’ll be fine. You’re just trying something new, and sometimes that takes a while to learn.”

Sahera Ali completed her first two years of college at Richland College before transferring to the University of Texas at Dallas to earn a bachelor’s degree in computer science.

Project S.O.A.R. (Student Opportunities and Academic Rewards) is a TRIO Student Support Services program at Richland College that provides a variety of academic support services to students who are first-generation to college, meet low income guidelines or are physically challenged or learning disabled. These free services include academic advisement, tutoring, peer counseling, assistance in financial aid application, transfer assistance, career planning, mentoring programs and cultural enrichment opportunities. For more information, call Richland College’s TRIO/Upward Bound Office at 972-238-3739.