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My Unexpected Path to Teaching

When Bora Tarimcilar (Tufts ‘19, B.A. Civil Engineering) stepped onto campus as a freshman at Tufts University, he hadn’t imagined that in just a few years he would be working in New York City as a seventh-grade lead math teacher; Bora was a civil engineering major with an interest in architecture as a career. Here, Bora walks us through what led to his current vocation — and points out some of the unexpected overlap he’s discovered between teaching and the passions he pursued while at Tufts.

One thing that I took to heart at Tufts was the idea that you should keep your mind open to new experiences and opportunities. I loved my civil engineering major — especially the problem solving aspect of it — but I had plenty of other interests to follow as well. I like to express myself, perform, and put myself out there, and I like collaborating with dynamic, energized people. So, while the data analysis and research aspect of my major kept me busy and interested, I knew that I wouldn’t turn down a chance to try my hand at any job that had driven and determined coworkers and that challenged me, even beyond calculations and analysis.

I ended up attending — and winning! — a trivia night hosted by Success Academy Charter Schools. My dad was an academic, so I’d always had an appreciation and love for the education sphere. When I found myself having fun in a roomful of other young people interested in supporting education reform, I decided to jump into teaching. 

At Tufts, I had a particular calculus professor who blew me away by how much he prioritized establishing connections with his students. I’ve often thought back to his classroom environment and used that as a model for my own. Students really learn best when they love their teachers! But what’s also great about teaching at Success is that I get to continue analyzing data. We use data to assess ourselves and drive better instruction. We also use it to ensure that every student gets the support they need to exceed. There’s a healthy competitive spirit to the job that I appreciate — it felt good when my classroom ranked first across the network for the Semester Final — but it’s not just about the numbers. It’s really about analysis and using key indicators to identify problems and create solutions to benefit the class. 

From a career growth standpoint, the data also helps measure how far I’ve come as a new teacher. I’m proud to have moved into my lead teacher position in a relatively short time, but what makes me most proud is, of course, my students. My favorite moments are when the kids surprise themselves with what they can achieve. You work with a student who is struggling on a particular subject for weeks, and they put in the time and effort to try and keep trying. And then one day they pass their exam or participate brilliantly in class and they just get so genuinely fired up. Being a part of that excitement feels great.

I don’t know what the future holds in terms of where I go from here — and that’s exciting. I’m keeping all the doors open. Teaching has helped me lean into important skills that I’m sure will help me in any next step: emotional intelligence, organization, dedication, grit, flexibility, intellectual preparation, and collaboration. For anyone approaching the end of their time at Tufts and wondering what comes next, my advice is to remember that you don’t have to stay in the same lane for the rest of your life. There’s a lot of value to having a broad range of experiences. Pursuing what feels right, rather than simply following a set path, can lead to some really great achievements. 



Written by Bora Tarimcilar February 7, 2022

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