My name is Hakeem Wakil. I am an elementary school educator, pursuing my Masters Degree and Teaching Credential at Chapman University. Since I was little, I always lovedschool and learning. That wasn’t always the case for my younger brother, who often found school to be a challenge that didn’t meet his needs. This led to my desire in wanting to teach, as I hope to work with all types of students to help them attain success in school while also helping them enjoy learning.
Growing up, going to school was one of my favorite things to do. I absolutely loved my teachers, what I was learning, and the environment of the classroom. From Preschool to the end of Kindergarten, I attended a Montessori School in San Diego, CA. I had a very diverse group of teachers and always looked forward to show and tell. In first grade, I attended a public school, but for whatever reason during the middle of the year I was transferred to a different Montessori School nearby. Country Montessori School (CMS) brought about some of my favorite childhood experiences. Montessori schools provide a lot of self-directed and hands on learning, which really increased my desire to learn. Throughout my time at CMS, I read all of the Magic Tree House books, fostered a love for mathematics, and developed a passion for history and nature. During fourth grade, I had experiences painting with Robert Wyland, going on a field trip to Navajo sites and the Grand Canyon, and spending multiple nights on a boat while sailing around Catalina Island. In sixth grade, I was the only student in my class because the school added an additional grade and my parents were the only ones who signed me up. During this year, I learned about the human body by dissecting a cow’s heart and did a big project on the Pharaohs of Ancient Egypt. Everything that I find interesting today is founded on the knowledge I acquired during my Montessori years. Without the environment of CMS, I would not be the hungry learner that I am today.
For grades 7-12, I attended local public schools- a middle school and high school. During these 6 years, my passion for reading dwindled and my passion for learning disappeared. I was no longer given choices in what I was learning and was forced to read whatever the teacher chose. I did not fully read a book during these years for the sake of my own enjoyment, and only read portions of the required books in my reading classes. My AP classes sucked the life out of me, and I spent more time preparing for the SAT and ACT than I did for some of my final exams. I am grateful I survived high school, but upon graduating it was clear to myself that I needed a change of scenery. This was why coming to Chapman was a blessing- learning from professors who cared and being given choices on what I could do completely changed my life. During my junior year at Chapman, I was given freedom in creating a multi-genre project. For this, I read The Autobiography of Malcolm X, which reignited my passion for learning after discovering that he self-educated himself in prison. I have not been the same since that class and have gone on to read several books since then. This was the defining moment where I felt grateful for my Montessori education and hoped to help other children develop a passion for learning as I had.
I know when I start teaching that it will be very different from my childhood experiences. I know that most students aren’t going to enjoy homework like I did. This is why I look forward to exposing children to disciplines that connect to their backgrounds and lived experiences. I also aspire to help my students understand the importance and benefits of seeking knowledge. While I am still learning different ways on how to achieve my goals as an educator, I am looking forward to the challenges that will occur because I know they will help me become a better teacher.
I am very fortunate to work several jobs that continue to prepare me for my career as an educator. Since 2017, I have been working at New Horizon Irvine, a local independent Islamic school. I have been officiating soccer since 2009, refereeing matches for individuals as young as 7 years old to professionals. I also work two on campus jobs- Media Services (IS&T) and Events and Marketing in Leatherby Libraries. To see more details about my work experience, please see my resume by clicking here.