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Neema Patel ′09

Major: Math (education minor)
Hometown: Memphis
Something Special! Neema excels at math, but she most enjoys tutoring children to pass on her passion.

What made you decide to come to Rhodes?
I’m from Memphis, and I wanted to stay close to home. When I visited Rhodes, the people were very welcoming. Originally, I was pre-med, and I came to Rhodes because of the excellent science program here. But when I was little, I always wanted to be a teacher, and now I’m pursuing that.

How has your involvement in RICE (Rhodes Indian Cultural Exchange) been rewarding?
My dad came to the United States from India for college. After he graduated, he went back and brought my mom to this country. Now, as president of RICE, I’m raising awareness about Indian culture. This is my third year as a member and first year as president. RICE allows students to know about Indian culture and opens the campus to celebrations like Diwali, an Indian celebration of lights. RICE has really taught me leadership skills and has shown me the amount of work behind those skills. It’s one way to show diversity and to learn about what it takes to be a leader.

Which professors further encouraged you to pursue your passion of teaching?
I really loved Professor Mark Smith’s education class and his teaching methods. He’s helped me a lot with attaining my education minor. I also enjoyed a psychology class from Professor Janet Panter because it was less about reading books and more about what you interpret and learn. Professors Smith and Panter were very encouraging and it helped knowing they were there to guide me. All of my math professors have been very helpful at answering my questions. I’ve always enjoyed math and numbers, and math teachers are very much needed.

What do you enjoy about tutoring children at Kumon and Kipp Academy?
At Kipp I like to see the children get excited about math. At Kumon, a learning center, I work on math and reading with students from age two to 18, making sure they know what they’re doing, helping them if they need it. The children are learning on their own; we just guide. Aside from getting to know the kids, it feels good that I can help someone. I love seeing the kids excel.

Have the children you tutor taught you anything?
I’ve learned a lot about myself and what I know or don’t know. Children make me realize qualities about myself that I didn’t realize I had. Helping children has shown me that I can be a teacher and a friend. Teaching these children—showing them five different ways to do one math problem without getting frustrated—proves that I can make a difference. Even if it is just one life, that’s still one life I helped change.

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