“I empower children.” That’s how Steven Surujbali summarizes what he does every day as a sixth-grade math instructor in East New York, Brooklyn. “My job is really about getting students to explore the world outside their comfort zone so that they can succeed.”
Mr. Surujbali didn’t always want to be an educator. After completing his undergraduate degree in economics and global studies, however, he had a change of heart and enrolled in the NYC Teaching Fellows program and The School of Education at St. John’s.
“I wanted to pursue a field where I could be a positive influence on others,” he said. “St. John's had a huge impact on shaping my career.”
Today, Mr. Surujbali also serves as his school’s spelling bee coach, math club coach, talent show coordinator, yearbook coordinator, and Deputy Director of Culture. In the summer, he also works as a teacher development coach for The New Teacher Project, where he mentors first-year teachers who work at high-need schools. “At St. John’s, I gained deep insights into the reality of students in urban schools,” he said. “As educators, we play a critical role in reducing and closing gaps so that our students can achieve social justice and equity.”
Whether he’s motivating sixth graders or coaching rookie teachers, Mr. Surujbali always encourages students to seek out opportunities that gain them exposure and insight to the world. “I want them all to have confidence in themselves,” he said, “and understand that it takes dedication, hard work, community, and patience to make the leaps necessary for success.”