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UNH Teaching Grad Hopes to be Role Model to Inner City Students

Release Date:
8/8/2014 11:52 AM

Aug. 6, 2014

Kareem Cutler, features Kareem Cutler '13

WEST HAVEN, CONN. -- On his first day as a teaching intern in the University of New Haven’s education program, Kareem Cutler found himself in charge of several classes of math students at the Metropolitan Business Academy on Water Street in New Haven.

“I was extremely nervous,” he says. “But my mentor teacher left me great lesson plans and scripted out the day.  Once I stood in front of the classes, I calmed down.”

The UNH Initial Certification Teacher Education program requires students to serve as teaching interns by day and to attend classes in the evenings. The school district covers the tuition in return for students’ work as substitute teachers. The 15-month program provides the students with both teaching certification and a master’s degree in education.

“When I first took over the classes, the students were tremendously disengaged,” Cutler says. “It took me a few weeks to encourage them and demonstrate that I cared.  I wanted them to know that I would ensure they will learn something with me.”

The results began to show, he says, as students began coming to class more frequently and “I started seeing positive results reflected in their work.”

By mid-year, he said, he was feeling comfortable, was developing his own lesson plans and had learned strategies to help children learn.

“I learned the kids’ names right away. “When you call them by name, they see you care,” he said.  He also learned to develop tough standards and was able to observe other teachers and incorporate and adapt their teaching methods into his own teaching.

Cutler, who received a B.A. in math from UNH in 2013, grew up in Boston and attended Charlestown High School.  He knew he wanted to teach because he was interested in giving back to the community.

“I knew I could be a role model for others,” he says.

The UNH program was intense, although he enrolled thinking “How hard can it be?”  But the work load proved a challenge.   

“This year had multiple challenges that created extreme stress for me. I had to handle piles of assignments nightly from my graduate classes, as well as the task of being a temporary teacher of geometry and pre-calculus during the day,” he says. 

“I learned to balance my life, shorten my social activities outside school and give my studies a heightened focus. The professors at UNH were greatly supportive and I had an amazing group of classmates. That encouraged me through the tough times.”

Despite the demands of his schedule, Cutler enjoyed his internship and says he learned time management skills, appropriate classroom structure, and that positive relationships with the students are essential.       

“The day I expressed to the students I was leaving they all emotionally sighed and asked why numerous times. I did not want to leave them either, and it was tough to swallow. I still see the students and they have a great teacher who has replaced me, but they make me feel good when they tell me they miss me in the classroom.”

This fall, Cutler will be back. He will teach 10th grade geometry and 11th grade pre-calculus at the academy.

“I have witnessed passionate teachers dedicate their lives to make sure a child, such as myself, succeeds past his or her limitations,” he says. “I believe it is my opportunity to show inner-city students it is possible to prevail through hardship. I am committed to being a positive role model and plan to support, care, encourage, and enhance students’ lives one child at a time.”  

The University of New Haven is a private, top-tier comprehensive institution recognized as a national leader in experiential education. Founded in 1920 the university enrolls approximately 1,800 graduate students and more than 4,600 undergraduates.