Find Your Support System: Ahmad Tirhi’s Story

Image of  Ahmad Tirhi

Grow Your Own Educator teaching 8th grade history at Sacajawea Middle School in Federal Way

What convinced you to pursue teaching as a career?

I had just finished college when I decided to give teaching a try by working as a substitute. The more time I spent in classrooms with kids, teaching them, learning from them, talking to coworkers who’d been teaching for years, hearing how much they loved their jobs, I realized I’d found my calling.

How did you get certified?

I went to the University of Washington’s Accelerated Certification for Teachers program. I earned my teaching credential the first year, and my master’s the second year.

How did you pay for it?

All throughout college, I worked about 35 hours a week as a valet and saved up enough to cover most of my tuition. Then I worked full-time as a teacher in training while earning my credential and master’s. It was intense. But every time I had a really good day, every second of hard work felt 100% worth it.

What sources of support helped you make it through the tough days?

I had an immense amount of support. My principal was very invested in me. Early on, she told me ‘I’ll work with you. I’ll turn you into a great teacher.’ My coworkers across the hallway, I told them from the beginning, ‘I don’t know what I’m doing. I’m going to reach out for help.’ My mom, my brothers, my wife … they all listened to me vent after the hard days and encouraged me to keep at it. Without all that support, from so many people, I’m not sure how I would’ve gotten through it.

A lot of people think teachers are overworked and underpaid. What’s your take?

OK, your first-year paycheck is nothing to brag about, but as soon as I got my master’s my pay went from OK to pretty good. After three years of teaching, I’m earning enough that my wife and I are looking to buy a house. I make a good living — better here in Washington than a lot of states. After eight years, K-12 teachers in Washington make around $80,000. Retirement stability is another big advantage.

Any advice for future educators just starting out?

Be very open about your needs. Make it clear, ‘This is what I want. Can you help me get there?’ Don’t feel like you have to take 100% of the advice you get. You don’t have to do what everyone else does. Take what works for you and try it out. And if taking advice is difficult for you, this is probably  not the right career for you. There will be days where you go through the ringer and things won’t make sense, and you need to be open to taking advice and figuring out your own unique style of teaching.

Learn more about Ahmad

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.