Tragedy to Triumph – Farid Giahi

Setting goals and creating an action plan can be comforting and generate good habits. But sometimes life does not go according to plan, and that requires flexibility and adaptability.

Farid Giahi, a WGU alum and returning student, has been taught that lesson a few times over.

Farid grew up in Tehran, Iran, speaking Persian before moving to Rapid City, South Dakota in his teens. He completed his associate’s degree in Minnesota, and then moved to southern California, where he began working for a car rental company in 1984 as a car washer. It was not the plan, nor did he expect the job to lead to a long-term career. But success came quickly as he worked his way up to a supervisor position. He met his wife, a co-worker, around the same time.

The company sent Farid and his family to Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, where he stayed for 12 years before returning to Southern California to manage a branch there. The job responsibilities were big, but he was paid well. Farid managed 700 employees and received a brand-new car every six months. However, after working for the company for 14 years, he found there was no more room for growth and his career turned into “just another job.” He remained in management and worked for a coffee shop, but when his wife became pregnant they moved to Georgia. Fred was able to maintain job stability and good pay when he found work as a furniture salesman with the largest furniture company in the United States.

Life was good and he was making a six-figure income, but his whole world flipped in the blink of an eye after he unexpectedly lost his job on the same day that his wife passed away, three-and-a-half years ago.

As a single father of twins with special needs, just a few months old at the time, Farid found himself back at the drawing board. Allowing strangers to raise them was out of the question, so his mother and brother suggested he consider a new career in teaching which would give him weekends and summers off with the boys. He took their advice to heart, did some soul-searching, and decided to pursue his love for mathematics and science.

Flexibility and affordability were top criteria for Farid in his search for a degree program because being active in his children’s lives was his number one priority. He enrolled in WGU’s B.A. Mathematics program.

 “WGU was a good fit for me because I was able to complete my courses on my own schedule and still give full attention to my boys,” Farid said. “The courses were very applicable to me, covering diversity and inclusion for special-needs children. I was actually accepted to a local university, but WGU’s model was better suited for me and my situation.”

Becoming a teacher would allow Farid to spend his evenings and weekends focused on his children, and WGU’s competency-based learning model gave him the flexibility he needed to get there. Once he began student teaching, however, he became more invested in his children’s education – not as a parent, but as an educator.  During student teaching he became involved with the school’s special-needs program and received a confirmation that teaching was what he was meant to do.

He discovered that a lot of skills he had obtained through work and life experiences up to this point in his life, such as conflict resolution, could be transferred to the classroom. As a manager, Farid was successful in motivating his employees to improve sales, and he knew he could use that ability to help children succeed and find value in an education.

WGU was a good fit for Farid, but attending school as a full-time father certainly came with challenges. Not only was he a single father, student, and struggling with English as his second language, but events from the past few years finally caught up to him. Farid began attending grief counseling while he pushed through with his studies. He had to explain to his boys that their mom wasn’t coming back.

“By changing my career to teaching, I’ll be able to take a skill set I’ve acquired over 30 years and use it toward making a difference in people’s lives–not just to earn a pay check,” Farid explained.

Obtaining a bachelor’s degree will put Farid in elementary and middle schools, but he plans to expand his opportunities and continue his education with WGU. Completing the M.A. Mathematics Education (5-12) program will qualify him to teach all grades–accomplishing his end goal of working as a high school math teacher. As he begins his master’s program this month, Farid will also begin his first teaching job as a ninth-grade algebra teacher at his boys’ school. Hired right on the spot!

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