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Razia Khan

College: Queens College
Awards: ,

Making the Numbers Work

When Razia Khan arrived at Queens College, she planned on going into pharmacy, but then she began studying mathematics. When she got a job tutoring math at the Renaissance Charter School in Jackson Heights, “I enjoyed every moment of it. I didn’t feel as if I was going to work. I began to see my presence making an impact on my students’ lives and decided that teaching was for me.”

Khan (Queens College, B.A. in applied mathematics in the science track, minor in computer information technology, 2013) is one of only 17 students from across the country to receive a $100,000 Math for America (MƒA) Fellowship.

This highly selective program trains outstanding mathematics students to teach in New York City’s public secondary schools. The stipend starts with the three-semester master’s degree in secondary mathematics education at The City College of New York and continues over the first four years of teaching. The stipend supplements the regular salary as an incentive to persevere during the early years, when new teachers are most likely to quit.

MƒA, which also offers continuing mentoring and professional development, operates in seven U.S. cities. The 2013 New York winners include Josué C. Cordones of Lehman College, along with graduates of Brown, Columbia, Georgetown, Haverford, the University of California-Berkeley and other leading colleges and universities.

Khan’s family emmigrated from Bangladesh when she was 1. She attended the private Al-Iman School in Jamaica, Queens, the first pre-K-through-12 Islamic school in America. She married Tanveer Khan after high school, took three years off and then enrolled at Queens College, where she won the Mitarotonda Scholarship Endowment for Science and Business.

“It is due to my family’s support that I have made it so far,” she says. In addition, “I have had superb math professors. I would find myself at the front of the classroom, wide-eyed, waiting for the amazing magic of numbers to unfold before me.”

Alan Sultan, Fern Sisser, Steven Kahan, Kenneth Kramer and Al-Karim Gangji are just a few of the math instructors “who inspired my decision to be an educator. Their passion for teaching is translucent and simply contagious.”

Even as Khan became entranced with mathematics, her experience in a polyglot public university expanded her contact with and understanding of the broader world.

“The way I was brought up, I hung out primarily with Muslim students,” she says.

But as a freshman, she encountered CERRU, the college’s Center for Ethnic, Racial and Religious Understanding, where students address difficult issues through dialogue and interaction.

Now, “I am more open to being close to people from diverse backgrounds,” she says. “As a participant and facilitator, I have listened to people from different cultural and religious backgrounds about their views and their experiences. We have more in common than we think. Instead of feeding off of the media and stereotypes, we can learn so much more by simply communicating with another on an individual basis. This is the key to improving our society, locally and globally. I hope to take this set of skills to my classrooms and teach a thing or two to my students – and learn a thing or two from them.”

CERRU awarded Khan its Uncommon Courage Award, which reflects efforts to combat intolerance, overcoming stereotypes and promoting understanding. Khan declines to discuss the award. “I’m not deserving of it,” she says.

As for the MƒA fellowship, she says that “it’s a blessing from God.”