Q & A With UC’s Excellence in Teaching award and Midwestern Association of Graduate Schools Excellence in Teaching Award Recipient Mariam Elgefy
by Jenna Rice, BA Communication 2021, Deaf Studies & PR Certificate
How did you start teaching?
Growing up, I got to see my parents first-hand influencing many students as my mother is an educator and my father a professor of mechanical engineering. I started volunteering at my mother’s tutoring center as a teen, and declared Education as one of my majors, alongside of Communication and a minor in Political science when I entered the University of Cincinnati. I student taught in many Cincinnati and Dayton school districts throughout my undergrad and was blessed to be able to continue teaching throughout my graduate degree as a Public Speaking and Business Communication instructor in the Department of Communication on UC’s campus.
What is your favorite part of teaching? Or what do you like best?
No doubt, my favorite part of teaching is getting to know my students, hearing their stories, and watching them excel personally, academically, emotionally, and professionally. I learn a lot about my students through their speeches, assignments, and discussions, which allows me to cater and accommodate my lessons to their needs and interests. I don’t just learn about my students but learn from them as they share their experiences and paths. Watching students find their voice on topics that affect them personally is my favorite aspect of teaching public speaking, as students become their own advocates and realize the importance of using their voice as a tool to enact change.
What is your basic teaching philosophy?
My teaching philosophy is embedded in empathy, inclusion, respect, and innovation. I believe the role of an educator is to equip students with knowledge and hands-on experiences to assist students in their future endeavors and to become impactful members of society. Educators must become resources for students along that path. The role of an educator is to give students the platform to discuss issues that pertain to their identity, while assisting them in effectively voicing their opinion. When students feel respected and valued in the classroom, their work mirrors these emotions and their relationship with education is heightened. Finally, I believe that the role of educators is to advocate for students, from academic experiences to accessibility of mental health resources and technological innovation beyond the classroom. Higher education institutions play a large role in giving students opportunities to grow personally, socially, and academically.
What do you think makes a good teacher?
The qualities of effective educators include firm content knowledge in the subject area, ability to relate content to our lives and society, a connector to opportunities and resources, and most of all: an instructor who prioritizes empathy and student growth. If we can center a few qualities around effective educators it would be: authenticity, empathy, knowledge, and firm belief in students capabilities and future.
What does this teaching award mean to you personally and/or professionally?
I am beyond honored to receive the MAGS Outstanding Teaching Award and UC’s Excellence in Teaching award! Personally, this is a testament to my students who have inspired me with their words and advocacy throughout my graduate school experience. Grad students who work and volunteer along with being students realize the difficulty of finding balance. I could not have done this without my students who reaffirmed to me that I was on the right path, as well as my mother, father, brother, and friends who have supported and empowered me in all ways along this journey. Professionally, I am humbled to represent UC at the Mid-Western level and I’m certain many Bearcats will continue to walk this path for years to come.
Where do you go from here? More education – like a PhD program?
Post-masters, I plan to work/engage in a fellowship experience for 1-2 years before entering Law school. Educational advocacy and policymaking must center the voice of educators; therefore, we must advocate to include and implement the voices of educators in the educational policymaking field. Both educators and students need advocates at the local, state, and federal level who have been in the educational field and recognizes the needs of students and educators.
Is teaching a part of your future career path plans?
Teaching is most definitely in my future career path! My heart belongs in the classroom and any time away from the classroom will be to equip me to become a better educator, resource, and connector for my students. Students bring much diversity, knowledge, and passion to the classroom and the educator must be able to mirror these qualities.