Robotics in Teach for America via Teacher Faiza Qazi

HOUSTON: As a first-year teacher, Faiza Qazi wanted to inspire and challenge her middle school students at Hartman Middle School in Houston Independent School District. Without any prior knowledge or experience, she set out to create a curriculum that focused on robotics and science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) – the first of its kind at the school.

“I wanted to impart the importance of problem-solving to my students and teach it to them in a fun and engaging way,” said Faiza.

Faiza knew she would need to find a way to provide tools and resources for her students to actively participate in the lessons, so she took it upon herself to raise money through crowdfunding to obtain iPads for all of her robotics classes.

“Every student deserves access to the resources they need to obtain a quality education. The iPads gave every one of my students the chance to be successful in our robotics and STEM classes,” she said.

This philosophy of transforming outcomes for underserved students is something Faiza has learned as a corps member of Teach For America Houston, a local nonprofit organization that works to confront educational inequity to ensure all students have the opportunity to not only survive but thrive in the classroom and beyond. Members of the corps program commit to teaching for at least two years in disenfranchised communities and then become alumni with a commitment to advocate for change in the public school system – whether that be in teaching or in a different profession.

“I’m fortunate to be part of the Teach For America Houston network, especially since this is my first-year teaching. I would have been lost without them,” said Faiza. “Being a part of this program provides me with the opportunity to connect with teachers from a wide variety of backgrounds and experiences.”

With roots in Pakistan, Faiza is grateful for her family’s support of her endeavors and the full-ride scholarship she received from Colby College, a top-ranking liberal arts college in Waterville, Maine. Her original aspiration was to go into medicine, but when a teacher demonstrated a belief in Faiza and her abilities, she changed her mind and decided to pursue a career in education.

“I wanted to give back to the community that gave so much to me,” she said.