Grant Union High School teacher Kadhir Rajagopal, a graduate of Sacramento State’s Educational Leadership Doctorate program, has been named a California Teacher of the Year for 2011.
Rajagopal was one of five instructors honored by State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O’Connell. Each teacher serves as an education ambassador, outlining ideas on issues and challenges in writing, at public events and with the media.
Rajagopal is in his fifth year at Grant and teaches Algebra to freshmen, sophomores and juniors who are at extreme risk – such as those who are in foster homes or whose parents are in jail,
Previously he taught history in Oakland and Berkeley, and views his profession as a tool. “Teaching is an avenue to reach these students,” Rajagopal says. In fact, he switched from history to Algebra because an education official had reported that failure in algebra is the number one trigger of dropping out. “If you can get kids through math, it can change their life. They feel they can do anything,” Rajagopal says.
Instead of rushing through the textbook, Rajagopal prefers to make sure the students master a few key concepts. One way he does this is by relating concepts to something the students will understand. In an equation, he may compare x to a dog and the equal sign to a gate that protects the dog’s neighborhood. Another equation might be compared to a route run by former wide receiver Jerry Rice.
Rajagopal also motivates the students by using a class scoreboard marking their progress and assigns them a test at the end of each session to make sure they have learned that day’s lessons.
He participated in Sacramento State’s educational doctorate program 2007-2010, where he learned how to hone his educational model and discover it could be replicated in other subjects.
Now he hopes to generate national interest in his teaching model. He’s written a book outlining his program called Create Success: Unlocking the Potential of Urban Students, which will be published in February by the Association of Supervision and Curriculum Development.
And he views the Teacher of the Year Award as another means to get his program out to others, and thereby to more students. “I’ve always wanted to make an impact for student populations labeled ‘at risk,’” Rajagopal says. “The relationships you make with them can save their lives.”
For more information on the Teacher of the Year Award, visit www.cde.ca.gov/ta/sr/ct/index.asp. For media assistance, call Sacramento State’s Public Affairs office at (916) 278-6156.