Posted on: April 15, 2021 Posted by: Glacier Staff Comments: 0

By T’naya Anderson, JRN 111 Student

For Amani Wazwaz, every moment presents another chance to learn–about literature, about the world around her, about life itself.

She brings her lifelong passion for learning into the classroom as a professor of communications and literature, inspiring her students and her colleagues to learn with her. That’s why Wazwaz was named Moraine Valley’s 2021 Master Educator.

“Her delivery is just so warm and authentic that it would be impossible to be in her class and not learn,” said Tom Dow, department chair for Communications, Literature and Languages. “You’d have to try really hard to not learn.”

Her students agree: “She challenges my mind beyond expectations,” said one.

Master Educator is a Moraine Valley honor given to one nominated professor excelling in the areas of learning, teaching, leadership and career development. Nominees make presentations in front of a panel of previous Master Educators and Moraine’s Faculty Development Committee.

Wazwaz, left, with students before the pandemic.
(Photos courtesy of Amani Wazwaz)

Dow believed it was about time Wazwaz won, as he has nominated her three years in a row.

 “We have kind of a standing joke in the department that if we have a course that has low enrollment and doesn’t seem to run, we’d just put Amani’s name on it because then it would,” Dow said. “She’s brilliant…she really is the definition of a Master Educator.”

The two of them met during their time at Loyola University working on their doctorates. Later, Dow was on the hiring team in 2005 when Wazwaz was hired at Moraine.

What makes Wazwaz such an amazing educator is that she is not finished learning yet either.

“Education is not about wasting time; it’s about actually learning,” said Wazwaz.

No longer in traditional school, Wazwaz studies in the school of life to uncover its true meaning, an idea introduced to her early on through her family.

“We love to read; it’s always been with us,” said Wazwaz, surrounded by overflowing bookshelves. She is currently reading about eight different books, one of them being The Street by Ann Petry.

Her love of reading led to creation of the Moraine Reads program, which encourages anyone in the college community to record a video of themselves sharing their favorite books. To date, more than 35 videos have been recorded and shared on the Moraine Valley Community College Library YouTube page.

Professor Amani Wazwaz shares a favorite book as part of the Moraine Reads program, which she leads. Anyone from the college community can share a book.

For Wazwaz, there is something to learn in everything she does–like taking walks through nature to observe the behaviors of its inhabitants and learn from their calm and gentleness.

She has always loved science and wanted to be a scientist growing up. Nature walks allow her time to get back her first love. She also enjoys researching the lives of scientists.

That passion led to the opportunity to work on the project Mosaics: Muslim Voices in America, which engages the college community in learning about Muslim culture through various artistic ideas and interactive lectures. She regards that work as her most fulfilling project yet, and it is part of the reason she was named Master Educator.

“That love for science transferred into the love of the lives of scientists…it’s still there,” said Wazwaz.

For her undergraduate degree, Wazwaz attended Birzeit University. The impact of the students, staffing and learning environment on campus still sticks with her today.

In graduate school at Saint Xavier University, Wazwaz discovered her passion for teaching through an opportunity to become a teaching assistant, and she has been doing it ever since.

“I fell in love with teaching, immediately! I just felt…Oh my God, this! This is where I feel comfortable,” she exclaimed.

I fell in love with teaching, immediately! I just felt…Oh my God, this! This is where I feel comfortable.”

Amani Wazwaz, 2021 Master Educator

A Dr. Amani Wazwaz class is a learning experience for more than the students. Wazwaz leads by example, engaging in discussions, listening to the students’ ideas and encouraging them to learn more. She goes to the extent of implementing games into her lesson plans.

Wazwaz recalls both a second-grade teacher in Jerusalem and a third-grade teacher in Chicago having a big classroom presence. Both women expressed such passion for learning by leading by example, and she credits them with building her teaching foundation.

“I am so grateful for these two amazing women in my life who set the stage for what true education should be like, and I hope to be like them,” she says.

So, what is the meaning of life, according to Amani Wazwaz? Simply put, it’s possibility.

“There are no answers to life,” she said. “We’re constantly trying to grab hold towards an understanding and a meaning that is illusive, but the very fact that we’re in this storytelling process means so much.”