Teaching with Heart and Humor

It is a joy to introduce you to a teacher whose name comes up time and again with the Gashora alumnae, Teacher Anastase Nshimiryayo.  He is known for his humor and laughter but mostly for caring about his students, going above and beyond each day, and making math fun and relatable. He was also selected as one of the 2022-2023 Microsoft Innovative Education Experts. Enjoy meeting this incredible math teacher, and before you all run to sign up, his classes are full. 

Would you please introduce yourself? 

My name is NSHIMIRYAYO Anastase. I graduated from the University of Rwanda, College of Education, in December 2011, with a bachelor's degree in science with education. I have worked at GGAST for seven years as an S6 Mathematics teacher. Before coming to Gashora, I worked at Nyagatare Secondary School and Wellspring Academy, a school offering a Cambridge curriculum. I am married, and I am the father of two children. I play football, jog, or listen to music in my leisure time.

What brought you to GGAST? 

I came to GGAST to contribute to education, especially to girls, by equipping them with skills in mathematics that will enable them to succeed in the 21st century. I was curious to work at Gashora because it is a STEM school that understands the importance of mathematics as a subject that supports students' knowledge in their science subjects

Nard Mutayomba Keza, GGAST '19
Hendrix College, Computer Science

"Teacher Anastase made math interesting and helped me fall in love with math again. Even when concepts were hard, he had a way of shifting you from "failures" to "lessons." His constant commitment to each of his students is what helped me. I am a math minor in college, and I don't think I would have taken it if I hadn't encountered him."

What or who inspired you to become a teacher?

Many primary and secondary teachers have inspired me and positively impacted my life. My love for learning and my desire to make a difference is where my passion for teaching comes from. I want to be the teacher that students remember for the rest of their life. Teachers working closely with their students can help shape their future.

What is your favorite part about your job?

I love the personal and professional growth my job provides; there are always new technologies and strategies to learn. I also love the people I work with, they are all talented and creative, and it's always a pleasure to collaborate with them. Another favorite part of my job is showing students how to observe mathematical processes in everyday life, where they can see formulas and equations we teach them coming back into the real world, which motivates students to look at mathematics as an applicable subject.

Alice Kangabe, GGAST '19
Georgetown University Qatar, Economics

"I always remember his facial reactions whenever something was surprising, unexpected, and shocking. He would stand, put his hand on his mouth and then say, "Iyi case ni ubwa mbere nyibonye!", meaning "This is my first time witnessing such an incident." I don't know how to express this in writing, but it was so surreal and fun every time! I still remember how every class used to laugh whenever he reacted like that! I miss his classes so much!"

Your name often comes up with alumnae as a teacher that inspired them. How do you make math fun? What is your “secret” of success?

In my class, I provide opportunities for students to learn collaboratively by forming heterogeneous groups; as a teacher, I assign them tasks and facilitate discussion. In their groups, students learn together, and those with a strong understanding help those struggling while also learning empathy and leadership. When students learn collaboratively, they will strengthen their communication skills, decision-making, and leadership skills will be developed. I also encourage my students to continue generating, connecting, and elaborating new ideas until they feel they have a good representation of their understanding. I promote divergent and convergent thinking and cater to individual differences. I also give as many assessments as possible, focusing on identifying misconceptions and diagnosing learning issues students encounter when learning mathematics. At the core, I focus on behavioral, relational, and cognitive engagement to reach the expected outcomes. Every day, I ensure that all my students learn a new mathematical concept to enhance their critical thinking and problem-solving skills.

Do you support any clubs and extracurriculars at Gashora?

Here at Gashora, I mentor the WE FOR THEM club under community service. The club aims to help people in nearby places. Club members collect materials and money from their fellow students and donate them to people in the Gashora community. Also, every Saturday, our club members go for tutoring, assisting primary students from neighboring schools with revising the learned lessons of mathematics and English. Students participating in our club activities can learn essential skills like teamwork or leadership. 

I am also the Coach of the jogging team. In this sport, we teach our students the importance of doing sports such as improving lung function, increasing confidence, reducing stress, and improving mental health. They do different physical activities which help them to be physically fit and relax after a long day of classes.

Marie Josee Tumukunde, GGAST 21.
University of Global Health Equity

"I always looked forward to Teacher Nshimiryayo classes. I loved how he humorously taught Math, and surprisingly in the middle of the jokes, everything became understandable. I can confidently say that he made learning enjoyable and not tiring at all. He is just an amazing teacher."

You have made quite an impact nationally as well. Tell us about that.

In 2014, the Government of Rwanda decided to review the curriculum of primary and secondary schools, shifting from an objective and knowledge-based to a competency-based curriculum. I was selected to take part in designing and developing a new mathematics curriculum for secondary schools. The new curriculum aims to guide the interaction between teachers and students in the learning process. It provides opportunities for learners to develop different competencies, including critical thinking, creativity and innovation, research, communication, and cooperation skills. It was one of the best experiences I have ever had to have worked on new mathematics syllabus currently used in Rwandan secondary schools.

I have also been marking advanced-level mathematics for the Rwandan national exams since 2012. It is an excellent opportunity for me to be chosen as a national examiner because, while harmonizing the marking guide, teachers share experiences. We learn many things in that discussion, like techniques students should use while answering different questions. Since becoming a national marker, my students have benefited because I share with them techniques, explaining common mistakes that students encounter, and how to handle those errors ahead of time. 

Lastly, I have been involved in the Educational Resilience Program that trains teachers from across Rwanda in education technology, student-centered teaching, and life skills.  This program was created in partnership with Gashora Girls Academy, Agohoso Shalom Youth Village, Ministry of Education Rwanda, and the MasterCard Foundation. It was an excellent experience to support other teachers from different secondary schools nationwide in integrating technology in education. Between 2021 and 2023 the program will have trained more than 500 teachers and 167 administrators and given 75,000 students access to digital and critical thinking skills.  It has been an honor and privilege to be one of the trainers. 

Y. Nyiridandi Teta, GGAST '17
Economia Tor Vergata, Global Governance 2021
Sapienza Universita di Roma, Masters in Health Economics 2023

"Professor Anastase was one of my favorite teachers at Gashora and my favorite math teacher in my entire school life! He made learning so fun, regardless of how complex we all know math is, and he was very patient, understanding, and approachable. I wasn’t his best student at all, and I admit I was a stubborn student, but not once did he judge me in that manner, but helped me learn. I’ve honestly never met a math teacher like him!"

Who has been your biggest inspiration?

My biggest inspiration comes from my parents. They spent every day working hard so that they could get my school fees and school materials. They taught me the value of a good reputation. I remember my mother used to tell me to work hard in my studies, respect everyone and never give up in life. My parents supported me and believed in me in all possible ways. In my education journey, I was not alone, and today I am who I am because of their motivational words.

What do you believe makes Gashora so special?

Gashora is full of opportunities for students and teachers, but what I love the most about Gashora is how teachers and students interact in the classes. In most schools, students fear their teachers. You meet them in class, and that it's all. Even if a student has a question in a particular subject, they don't feel free to go and ask those questions to their subject teachers. But here at GGAST, students and teachers meet in the classrooms, sports and clubs, extracurricular activities, and in the same dining hall. Students and all staff members take breakfast, lunch, and dinner in the same place, which makes Gashora unique, and it is very rare to find this in other schools.

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A Graduates Journey


Part 2: Aline Journey