Be open to opportunities: alumnus feeds his soul and finds joy in teaching
When Zyaire KahNah (M.A. '22, elementary education) moved from the east side of Michigan to the west in 2020 to get a change of scenery, he knew being near nature and serving a purpose was for his highest good; hence, he was open to how that would reveal itself. KahNah settled in St.
Joseph, Michigan where he could watch the sun rise and set over Lake Michigan every day from his apartment, and not too long after, he began teaching first grade in the Benton Harbor Area Public Schools (BHAPS); which were remote at the time due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Eventually, BHAPS switched back to in-person and KahNah was approached by one of the administrators at the school about the Urban Teachers Residency Program (UTRP); a master’s program through Western Michigan University that partnered with several school districts including BHAPS. “She said I have a teacher’s heart and am organized,” explained KahNah. While he was open to the opportunity and looked further into the program, KahNah felt it would help him “feed his soul” and allow him to reach his ultimate goal of helping others achieve their highest good. KahNah wasted no time and immediately applied!
During his year with UTRP, KahNah taught Kindergarten and Young 5s with BHAPS and Coloma Community Schools. The program helped him confirm two forms of acceptance: 1) accepting others as they are, and 2) accepting the growth process of others. “It doesn’t matter if it’s a student, parent or teacher – you have to meet them where they are, give them the tools or information they need to be successful, and monitor and track their progress to adjust as needed over time,” he explained.
KahNah also conducted a research project as part of his Master’s program titled, “How can schools meet the promise of continuous improvement?” He found that schools can succeed in meeting this promise by effectively and efficiently committing to people (talent), process (guidelines), and policy (expectations).
Throughout the course of his UTRP year, KahNah kept in touch with his former school, the French School of Detroit, and the leadership there agreed that the skills he was learning in his master’s program were priming him to take on more of a leadership role, pending his return. KahNah is now an English teacher and Program Director at the French School of Detroit. He teaches two classes of Petite and Moyenne sections (a mixture of preschool and Pre-K) in the mornings and conducts building and office work in the afternoon. “We have new French teachers this year and I am in charge of onboarding them as well as developing the curriculum pacing guide,” he said.
KahNah loves the creative process of being a teacher and enjoys working with students, parents and other teachers. “Regardless of where I go, my life's mission remains the same: to help show others that beautiful things exist and that they are loved,” said KahNah.
“I would recommend the UTRP to someone because, in the best of ways, it pushes you outside of your comfortable zone and helps you become a holistic educator – shows you how to work with others from different backgrounds and connect with them to provide tools for them to be successful,” shared KahNah.
“Two years ago, I had no idea my life would be what it is. I did not know I would move to the west coast of Michigan, be identified for a master’s program, and then hold a leadership position while technically working for France’s Ministry of Education. Take time to practice gratitude for the people and opportunities in your life.”
If you are interested in earning a master’s in elementary education while getting certified to teach, please visit the Urban Teacher Residency Program webpage for more information!