Early in his college career, senior Iskander Kapkayev, a Macaulay Honors student at Brooklyn College, faced a conundrum. He loved math but the typical careers associated with it—computer programmer, engineer— not so much. Eventually he decided he’d become a math teacher because he could stay true to his intellectual bent, but also work with people.
In February, he found out that he had landed a very prestigious Woodrow Wilson Teaching Fellowship, which would give him a $30,000 stipend, admission to a master’s degree program, and lots of support and mentoring along the way to becoming a teacher.
Then last month, he was also accepted into the Math For America Fellowship, which includes full tuition for a master’s degree program, up to $100,000 in stipends in addition to a full-time teacher’s salary, and the usual mentoring and job search support.
Talk about an embarrassment of riches.
“I started jumping around in my bedroom,” says Kapkayev just hours after finding out he was selected for the Math For America Fellowship, the one he accepted, mostly because it allows him to stay put. He would have headed to New Jersey for the former fellowship.
“I was absolutely ecstatic,” he says. “Getting into this fellowship means that I can finally do what I want, which is teaching, in the place that I love most, New York City.”
Kapkayev, who was born in Uzbekistan, said he always figured he’d end up at “some Google type of job” until his junior year, when he began tutoring GED candidates at an organization called The HOPE Program, which provides vocational, educational, and social services to New Yorkers who either grew up in poverty, made some bad choices that lead to jail time, or otherwise are going through a rough patch in their lives.
“I’ve seen a lot of the things that these people have experienced,” says Kapkayev, who grew up in Carey Gardens, a housing project in Coney Island. “I know that people go through tough times and it doesn’t always mean that they are bad people. Sometimes good people make bad choices. I love being a part of helping them out.”
His experiences there led him to realize that teaching is his calling. With the fellowship, Kapkayev will attend CUNY’s City College next year for a master’s degree in secondary mathematics education that is specifically designed for the program’s fellows. He will then spend the next four years teaching in a city public school, working with a mentor, and attending professional development workshops and conferences.
Contact: Ernesto Mora / 718-951-6377 / email@example.com