Wahab Ashraf, MA/MAT, is a Part Time Lecturer in the Department of Mathematics and Computer Science at Rutgers-Newark (SAS-N). He was awarded a Presidential Award for Excellence in Teaching by a Part-Time Lecturer in 2022. Ashraf has been an educator for twelve years and teaches math and science subjects at both the secondary and college level. He regularly offers courses in Precalculus, Calculus, Statistics, and in the Algebra course sequence at Rutgers-Newark. He also teaches biology, biochemistry, bioethics, as well as many math subjects at Science Park High School in Newark. Ashraf is also a proud Rutgers-Newark alumnus, achieving a Masters in Molecular Biology from the school in 2013.
Q: How does your research, scholarship or professional experience inspire your teaching?
A: My various teaching experiences inform the way I teach. I would say I hold an extremely unique perspective within the educational field. I have been a part of Rutgers-Newark teaching staff for more than twelve years and I am with students all day, every day. For some students, I get to witness their growth over the course of nearly a decade, teaching them from freshman year in high school to senior year in college. I see their struggles, their joys, their tears, their smiles, their drama, their failures, and their successes. I have had the opportunity to make lifelong connections with them in addition to inspiring them to learn, teach themselves and others, and work in STEM fields. Many of my students keep in touch after graduation and send me updates as they reach milestones in their lives. I’ve received wedding and baby shower invitations from former students! I love being an instrumental part of their lives. It’s one of my primary inspirations.
Q: What is one innovative or unique teaching practice you’d like to share?
A: I like to engage with the students by giving them glimpses of who I am. For example, I’m a dad and I love to crack dad jokes in class to have a little fun. I’m of the opinion that the teacher's personality should be a part of the classroom. It helps students get to know the teacher and feel comfortable being themselves as they reciprocate the gesture. Usually, I tell jokes often enough that students start making them, too.
I’m of the opinion that the teacher's personality should be a part of the classroom.
Q: How does your work advance the university's mission as a publicly-engaged anchor institution?
A: Rutgers-Newark is the most diverse campus in the nation in terms of its students and staff; therefore, it has the best setup to promote public engagement across cultures, race, and ethnicities. Being able to teach here allows me to learn so much and apply all of it in terms of reforming educational practices. With more diversity comes an increased challenge to deliver material in a way that is accessible and understandable to all. There is such joy when it is done successfully! Having multiple departments to reach out to in terms of support services, counseling services, facilities, and student organizations allows us to collectively better prepare our students for the world ahead of them. Collaborating across departments, with student support offices, and with university leaders with other leaders in the institution allows us to design and implement dynamic programs for our students. Having been at Rutgers-Newark for a long time, I can see the bridges we’ve built. Most importantly, the diverse connections that we have here at Rutgers-Newark facilitates our mission to be a leading anchor institution.
This spotlight originally appeared on the Rutgers P3 Collaboratory website.