Interview with Rookie of the Year Nidhi Singh: Advice for First-Year Teachers

In March 2012 Nidhi Singh quit her job as an auditor. Now, two years later, she’s a graduate of the Master of Arts in Teaching program at USC Rossier. Earlier this year, she was named a Rookie of the Year by Fort Bend Independent School District, an honor awarded to the best new teachers in the district. Nidhi just started teaching first grade at Quail Valley Elementary School in Missouri City, Texas, and we thought we’d pick her brain to get the real story on what it is like to change careers and dive into teaching. Here’s what she had to say:

How did you find your teaching position at Quail Valley Elementary?

Funny story: I attended career fairs like nobody’s business and called every contact I knew. At the last minute, I found out that the job fair for my district was during the same week as USC’s graduation in Los Angeles, California! Believe it or not, I flew down for the career fair in the middle of my trip and flew back in time for graduation. Boy, am I glad I did that now because that’s how I got my interview!

What’s your most motivating teaching moment thus far?

I love the fact that we are responsible for students’ beginning to read! It seems like a simple deal, but reading strategies are something even we, as adults, utilize every day. As a first grade teacher, I have the honor of helping my students take that amazing leap!

Why did you become a teacher?

I worked as an auditor for two years, which, of course, had its perks. But, it was missing the most important one — FULFILLMENT. I know waking up early is tough on everyone, but the fact that I am accountable to these children makes me want to go back every day. I don’t like imagining their disappointment when a stranger, rather than their teacher, shows up to help them that day.

What was the most challenging part of transitioning from student to teacher?

It was initially challenging for a lot of veteran teachers and leaders to take me seriously because I look like such a college student, but my advice to others is to admit your weaknesses and never let other people overpower your strengths. Just because you’re unfamiliar with the environment doesn’t mean you shouldn’t bring your thoughts to the table. Their faces will surprise you when they see your confident attitude!

How did USC Rossier prepare you for success?

The guided practice of the MAT program was the most helpful experience for me because I did not begin my first year blind. My professors were able to offer me constructive criticism before it really counted against my career. I am truly grateful that I chose this program because it gave me the confidence I needed and taught me what kind of teacher I wanted to be.

What is your favorite USC Rossier memory? Do you still keep in contact with other alumni?

Graduation! I loved finally meeting all my friends from across the country/world in person. The entire vibe of the event was just oozing with excitement and pride that we finally made it! I am still in touch with some amazing teachers who helped me through the great times and the tough times. I owe them everything.

What advice would you give to first-year teachers just starting out?

No matter what your background is, academically, professionally or culturally, you can ALWAYS bring something to the table. Do not let others sell you short!

What do you do in your free time?

I like to swim, work out, travel and play poker!