Teaching grad is doing it for the kids
Editor’s note: This is part of a series of profiles for spring 2018 commencement.
Niraj Javia graduated from Georgia Tech with a degree in engineering and quickly found work as a sales engineer at an electric company. Javia traveled to manufacturing plants all over the Southeast U.S., selling equipment to help the plants become more efficient. “I met with thousands of engineering teams and there was no diversity whatsoever,” he said.
During this same time, Javia was volunteering at refugee schools in the Atlanta area. One day, a female student from Somalia who was a senior approached him and asked if there were any girls in automotive engineering because she heard “girls can’t do that.” This conversation was a turning point for Javia.
“These kids don’t know what’s out there for them. They’ve been fed information that minorities, women of color specifically, can’t do engineering,” Javia said. He knew this issue needed to be tackled and he wanted to do it. “My parents came here from India and sacrificed a lot for me. I want to share my story and let these kids know they can do what I did.”
He applied to Arizona State University and was accepted. Javia earned his master's degree in secondary education with a concentration in math. He’s completing his student teaching at Westwood High School and will begin working there full-time in August. Westwood is a school with a diverse population, Javia said, and he’ll be teaching math and engineering. “I hope to help close the gap in minorities and women not in the engineering field.”
Question: What was your “aha” moment, when you realized you wanted to study the field you majored in?
Answer: I always enjoyed mathematics and after volunteering in schools around the area, I realized a lot of students don't enjoy it as much as I do. Therefore, I wanted to become a math teacher and convince students math IS fun and once they learn to appreciate and understand math, life isn't as hard.
Q: What’s something you learned while at ASU — in the classroom or otherwise — that surprised you, that changed your perspective?
A: The different ways to teach math! I was used to direct instruction and my perspective changed when learning the discovery method model that is proven to increase student proficiency.
Q: Why did you choose ASU?
A: Proven track record that produced successful teachers after they have been a part of the corporate world.
Q: What’s the best piece of advice you’d give to those still in school?
A: Do it for the kids! The future of America is waiting to be educated by YOU.
Q: What was your favorite spot on campus, whether for studying, meeting friends or just thinking about life?
A: Sun Devil Fitness Center.
Q: What are your plans after graduation?
A: Teach math and Introduction to Engineering at Westwood High School in Mesa, Arizona.
Q: If someone gave you $40 million to solve one problem on our planet, what would you tackle?
A: Provide/build more schools in (developing) countries! Every student has the right to an education, no matter what background. The ultimate goal is to allow kids to realize they can do ANYTHING and have them hope for a better future, no matter the current situation.
Written by Trista Sobeck