Mehwish Khaliq had just finished third grade when she moved to the United States with her parents from Pakistan. “My English was pretty bad,” she recalls.
Her teachers, however, instilled a love for the language throughout her school years. “If it wasn’t for them, I would have never learned English,” she said, because Urdu was spoken in her home. Her teachers encouraged her to write well and offered the books in their classroom libraries for Mehwish to take home to read. She came to enjoy reading and writing so much she majored in English as an undergraduate.
“I wanted to give back to someone else all of the lessons I learned in English,” Mehwish says. “What’s the point of holding on to this knowledge if you can’t pass it on to others who need it?”
This philosophy explains Mehwish’s approach to her professional life, too. She has a PhD in genetics and developmental biology and works full time at a lab at the University of Michigan, where she uses her knowledge about the human body and disease to come up with new therapies for skin cancer.
Began Tutoring as a Graduate Student
She began tutoring adults in English while still a graduate student in Pittsburgh. After she graduated and took a job in Ann Arbor, she reached out to Oakland Literacy Council to continue tutoring adults.
She attended the Council training, which she says gave her a good background and steered her toward online resources to meet her student’s particular needs. For the last year and a half, she’s been matched with an immigrant whose native language is Spanish.
Mehwish admires her student’s dedication. “She’s working two jobs and has two children to raise,” Mehwish says of her student. “It’s really great that she’s able to find time to learn English.”
Finding Time Despite Busy Schedules
Because of their busy schedules, sometimes they meet weeknights; sometimes they have their lessons via Skype over the weekends. “She’s very motivated,” Mehwish says of her student. “Whatever assignment I give her, she’ll always have it done.”
It appears Mehwish is, indeed, encouraging her students as her own teachers inspired her.