"How I teach is a reflection of who I am and who my students are is a reflection of society."
– Obiora N. Anekwe, Class of 2016

Obiora N. Anekwe, MEd, EdD, currently a New York City Teaching Fellow and MST candidate at Pace University School of Education, has a gift for expression. Born in the United States, but reared in Lagos, Nigeria, he moved back to the US when he was in elementary school. After recently completing an MS in Bioethics at Columbia University, he applied for the NYC Teaching Fellows program and is currently seeking an MST in Adolescent Special Education.

His background and upbringing have a lot to do with the path that he chose and his scientist parents exposed him to topics such as philosophy, Cubism and Yoruba art at an early age. In Nigeria, themes like religion and ethnicity are intertwined with daily life, and the many different cultures and languages of the region become foundations for building identity. Reflecting upon this, he states, “In Nigeria, there is a connection to art and how you live. Exposure gives you a different perception of reality. All of this is reflective in my art.”

As a child, Anekwe remembers being looked at as having a disability because English was his second language. His understanding and personal experience as a student helps build strong relationships within his own classroom. “There is a connection between vulnerable populations because we are all vulnerable. We all have challenges.” Although there are challenges that we all need to tackle, Anekwe is a firm believer in the possibility of positive outcomes in the face of adversity. “A child can have challenges and emerge from that and converge into someone who overcomes it and inspires others.”

To say that Obiora N. Anekwe has been busy this past year would be an understatement. Having written several books in post secondary education and bioethics, his first book as a children’s author was published earlier this year. Urged by SOE Professor Kathryn De Lawter, EdD, to expand his research on the topic of  Thomas “Blind Tom” Wiggins into a book, Anekwe chose to write and illustrate The Adventures of Blind Tom himself. The publication focuses on recurring themes of racial identity and facing challenges in a way that younger children can understand and even relate to.

Anekwe credits the Teaching Fellows Program and Pace University School of Education with pushing students toward understanding their true selves and what their true intentions are in teaching. “How I teach is a reflection of who I am and who my students are is a reflection of society.” Through teaching, he feels “my highest purpose is to create legacies for the future. Not what I see as important, but what the universal consciousness calls us to do.”

The name “Obiora” means "close to my heart" in Igbo, and clearly Obiora N. Anekwe chose a profession that reflects this meaning. His advice to current students and pre-service teachers is to “frame your destiny according to your greatest passion. Allow your destiny to be measured by what drives you the most. Don’t choose something based on convenience because what really drives you is your passion. Seek a sense of direction based on your passion and allow that passion to lead you and never assume that that passion won’t lead you to your purpose. Sometimes this will not be what society defines as success, but that is the greatest lesson that anyone can teach.” 

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