Tucked in a mini-wing, just beyond the stairwells on the first floor, is math teacher Mr. Anwar Akkari’s learning sphere. After joining the Haverford community in Fall 2020, Mr. Akkari has decided to pursue a doctorate in philosophy next year at the University of Virginia.
Despite his short time at the school, Mr. Akkari has learned much about teaching, as he joined after recently obtaining a bachelor’s degree at Yale University. But he also added how the pandemic made it difficult for him to engage with the community as much as he wanted.
“When I was hired, I wasn’t able to meet people and visit the campus because of COVID. It was weird, and at first, it was hard. But I adapted and got much support from the math department, which is such a close group of people. It was also super complicated with getting involved around this year. I wanted to coach,” Mr. Akkari said.
Regardless, Mr. Akkari is grateful to have had the opportunity to work at Haverford and teach his students.
“I enjoy teaching and have loved every bit of it. This community is special. I saw the smiles through the masks and warm faces every day,” he said.
His experience has taught him, among other things, how to handle some of the difficulties of teaching and how the pandemic has complicated pedagogy.
Mr. Akkari said, “I’ve learned about dealing with the amount of stress that you have as a teacher. It’s just been hard to teach in person and teach virtually, and I’ve been trying to keep the [classroom] community together.”
In his math classes, he has made the effort to create an exciting spirit every day.
“Sometimes you have to provide the energy to get it back,” Mr. Akkari said.
As things returned to some sense of normalcy nearing the end of the year, and as classes rounded to an end twice in the third and fourth quarter, he was able to engage with his students as a friend.
“I will remember the “two last days of school,” when I brought the boys outside to play dodgeball and kickball. I really felt that my students were identifying with me as the youngest teacher at school. It was all more friendly and more relaxed, and it just warms your heart,” Mr. Akkari said.
At the beginning of the year, Mr. Akkari certainly did not expect to stay for just one year. In fact, after the first day, he saw himself staying at Haverford for a long time. But, with the difficulties of hiring in the pandemic, the school was searching for a teacher who could teach both biology and math.
“I could teach other sciences—physics, chemistry, or whatever—but not biology. I wanted to be competent with teaching my classes, so I declined,” he said.
“Take this year and don’t think bad about it. Think about all the things you’ve learned. It feels like it’s been a tough year for students, but I know they will grow to be one of the most resilient generations.”Mr. Anwar Akkari
At the University of Virginia, Mr. Akkari will also conduct research in aerospace engineering and continue to help students in the classroom as a teaching assistant. In a message to the students, he encouraged them to look at this past year with a bright mindset.
“Take this year and don’t think bad about it,” Mr. Akkari said. “Think about all the things you’ve learned. It feels like it’s been a tough year for students, but I know they will grow to be one of the most resilient generations.”