My Why - Ahmad Tirhi: “I Can Be a Mirror for Students”

Image of Ahmad Tirhi,  8th grade history teacher at Sacajawea Middle School in Federal Way

Ahmad Tirhi teaches 8th grade history at Sacajawea Middle School in Federal Way

Teaching, representing, inspiring students of color

Ahmad Tirhi grew up in Federal Way, the son of immigrants, proud of his Palestinian heritage, fluent in Arabic. He never had any teachers who looked like him until college.

“As a person of Middle Eastern descent, I never felt that I was represented in any other ways than negative ones that were shown in the media. I decided from an early age that I would become the representation that I wanted the future generation to see.”

He knew he wanted to make an impact, but wasn’t sure how — until he spent some time working as a substitute teacher. As one of only a few non-white teachers in the school where he taught, he thought back to his childhood and decided he wanted to become the teacher he never had.

“Students of color see their diversity reflected in me. If I can be a mirror for students — even if it’s just one kid at my school — then I’ve done something positive.”

“Teachers of color are an essential part of the equation, not an extra. Our presence in the classroom makes the foundation of our education system stronger for all students.”

— Ahmad Tirhi, 8th grade history teacher, Sacajawea Middle School, Federal Way

Learn more about Ahmad’s pathway to teaching.

Are you interested in starting your teaching career as a substitute?

To get certified as a substitute teacher in Washington state, you’ll need a bachelor's degree and either:

  • A certificate from a state-approved teacher training program, or
  • An emergency substitute certificate, requested by the school district that you’d work for, which does not require a teacher training program.

Here’s more information about other types of “limited certificates.”

There’s a lot of information out there, and it can be challenging to sift through it all. We’re here to help! Go to our Becoming an Educator tool to connect with an Educator Pathway Navigator who can respond to questions specific to your situation.