Klodiana Alabaku set her sights on coming to the United States back in 2005, and years later, she found herself a career in teaching, and she hasn’t looked back ever since. She faced the challenges of meeting new people and educating herself while having limited English, she persevered and managed to not only excel amongst her college classmates, but she began tutoring them, which is what led her to discovering her passion for teaching at Winthrop High School.
Please tell us about your background.
I was born and raised in a small town in Albania, a country in southeastern Europe. I moved to the United Stated in 2005. At that time I was married, and the mother of two wonderful kids. The first few years here were difficult for us, due to our limited ability to understand and speak English. In 2006, I started taking some English classes at Bunker Hill Community College. After one year of ESL classes, I decided to pursue my degree in Mathematics. In 2009, I went to Suffolk University, where I got my Bachelor of Science in Mathematics with a minor in Computer Science. My first job as a teacher in the United Stated was at Russian School of Mathematics, which is in Lexington. The next academic year, I was hired as a Math teacher at the Pioneer Charter School of Science, in Everett, where I taught for three years. Teaching there was a great learning and unforgettable experience for me. It was my first position as a teacher in a public school setting. When a math teacher position became available in Winthrop, I decided to go for it. In 2016, I received my Masters of Science in Mathematics from Salem State University.
When did you realize you wanted to be a teacher?
Becoming a teacher in the United States never crossed my mind until I attended Bunker Hill Community College as an ESL student. I used to spend hours at the school library working on improving my English communication skills. During those study hours, I met different people who were working as hard as I was. I became friends with some of them. We created this study group and decided to meet every day to complete our homework assignments and work on other school projects. Without even noticing it, I had become the math tutor of the group. I tutored students with my broken English, and I was enjoying it. That was the moment where I realized that becoming a math teacher was my next goal.
What do you love about teaching in the Winthrop School District?
Winthrop has been my hometown since I came to the United States. It is the only town I know. My kids grew up here. As a parent, I have walked the halls and I have been in the classrooms of every school in Winthrop. I have been amazed by the dedication and the hard work of the staff members. I will never forget Ms. Fitzpatrick, the very first teacher my son had. She taught English not just to him, but to me as well. Working in Winthrop, teaching mathematics to students from Winthrop, and helping them succeed is my way of saying thank you. It is my way of giving back to the town that gave so much to me.
If you weren’t a teacher, what other profession could you see yourself doing?
Back in Albania I used to work at a savings bank in my hometown. I believe that if I weren’t a teacher, I would have been a banker or maybe an accountant, or something else that has to do with numbers. I love numbers. After I graduated from Suffolk University and before I started applying for a job, I volunteered at Newcomers Academy, a program of Boston International High School. I took advantage of that opportunity to see if teaching was what I wanted to do. Even though the beginning of my career as a teacher in the United States was difficult, it was clear to me that teaching was the right profession for me.
Is there someone who inspired you to teach?
During my high school years and college, I had teachers and professors who taught their subjects with so much passion. I will never forget Mr. Field, who gave up his career as a Mechanical Engineer to become a Physics professor. I admired his enthusiasm for teaching, and I try to find that passion in myself.
My family has been a great inspiration as well. I would have never achieved what I have without the great support of my husband and my kids. They have been with me every step of the way.
Why did you choose math?
Ever since I can remember, math has been my “friend.” It is not that it came easy to me but I just got so much satisfaction from solving math problems. I used to spend hours working every single problem in the textbook and I never got tired of it.
Do your students inspire you?
Absolutely. My students inspire me every day. It is the hard work of my students and their determination that inspires me more than an easily achieved goal. I hear my students saying, “I am never going to use this type of math in my life,” or “math has never been my thing.” Believe or not, these sayings inspire me to work harder and use different teaching practices to make math more interesting for my students.