Release Date: 
Tuesday, August 27, 2019

HFC inspired alumna to love and teach math

HFC alumna Amani Hamadi, currently a student at the University of Michigan-Dearborn, would like to return to HFC to teach math.

For most of her life, math was Amani Hamadi’s least favorite subject. She always struggled with it.

Then she came to HFC.

Today, she’s working toward her bachelor’s degree in mathematics at the University of Michigan-Dearborn and aspires to teach high school math. Her ultimate goal is to return to HFC to teach math at the College.

“I always wanted to be a teacher, but I never once thought about teaching math. The teachers here at HFC changed all that,” explained Hamadi, of Dearborn, who earned her associate degree in pre-secondary education from HFC in 2018.

Turning point

A native of Lebanon, Hamadi, who has been married for eight years, immigrated to the United States in 2015. She took classes at HFC to become more proficient in English. In the beginning, she had no intention of taking any math classes, nor was she interested in earning a degree.

“I was new to the community and wanted to communicate better. I was good at reading and writing English, but not speaking it,” said Hamadi, who speaks fluent Arabic and English, as well as conversational French.

Wanting to take more courses at HFC, Hamadi took the math placement test and "did badly on it,” she admits. She ended up in MATH 110: Intermediate Algebra, which was taught by Rama Chidambaram. After completing MATH 110, she moved on to MATH 115: College Algebra, which was taught by Scott Barnett.

“At the end of the semester, (Barnett) told me, ‘You’re good at math,’” she recalled. “I was surprised to hear that! It made me want to take more upper-level math classes.”

Barnett remembers that moment too. “Amani was an excellent student. She demonstrated that to me during her time in my class,” he recalled. He became Hamadi’s mentor during her time in the HFC Honors Program. “She has the skills and mindset to finish her preparations and become a great teacher.”

Doing the math

Both Barnett and Chidambaram made a positive difference in Hamadi’s life. Chidambaram in particular has a reputation of helping students who are “bad” at math become good at math, and even great. HFC President Russ Kavalhuna has called Chidambaram a gifted math instructor.

“Dr. Chidambaram saw me helping my classmate one time, explaining the topic in a very simple way,” recalled Hamadi. “She knew I was majoring in education. She said I should teach math, and we talked at about that at length. I told her I couldn’t see myself teaching math. She told me, ‘Because you weren’t good at math, you can understand their struggle and help them.’ Her way of teaching us, the strategies she used – she made me believe that maybe math isn’t too hard for me. I hope I can become more like her.”

Hamadi wrote the following about Chidambaram on Facebook: “Dr. C is the reason behind my success in mathematics. 3 years ago, when I was admitted to HFC, I was placed at beginning Algebra and I had a negative attitude toward math in general. I had her for intermediate algebra, having in mind that it would be the last math course I’ll ever take. Surprise! She inspired me and made me believe in my abilities, and right now I’m pursuing a degree in Mathematics at the University of Michigan-Dearborn! I want to be an inspiring math teacher, just like her.”

As always, Chidambaram gives credit to the student's effort and dedication. “I enjoyed having Amani in my class. She was an excellent student who did all her work on time and participated in class discussions. She was able to do math with minimum guidance and worked well in groups. She was one of the students in class who helped other students learn and understand math. Amani had a passion for teaching and learning,” said Chidambaram. “When Amani told me she wanted to go into secondary education, we talked about the advantages of getting a bachelor’s degree in math first and then specializing in education. I am so glad that she is planning to teach math. She will make us all at HFC proud. I am very happy for her and wish her the very best.”

Adding it all up

Currently, Hamadi is taking Calculus 3 at UM-Dearborn. She plans to finish her bachelor's degree in 2020 and eventually earn her master’s degree in higher education. Ideally, she wants to teach in the Dearborn Public Schools and at HFC.

According to Hamadi, HFC really was a turning point in her life, and she would like to give back.

“When I first came to HFC, I was in the U.S. for about six months. I was scared to speak English, but the teachers encouraged me to speak and never made me feel like I should be embarrassed. I liked the atmosphere at the College. Everyone was easy-going. The community – students and teachers – were very welcoming. You feel at home. You don’t feel like a stranger. That’s why I want to teach at HFC.”