About 20 years ago, Syreeta Harada was a community college student at Cosumnes River College. She wanted to be a journalist, but everything changed when she enrolled in a political theory class at Sacramento State. Harada says the course helped her form a new understanding of politics.
“The class inspired me to take a step back from the way the media was covering politics and government,” Harada says. “It really provided a more analytical framework.”
Harada, 37, has been teaching for approximately 11 years. She teaches political science at City College, as well as Sierra College, and also advises the City College political science club.
Harada’s desire to teach came from her own community college experience. She loves the small classroom sizes and the environment of a community college. She says she started teaching because she wanted to give back.
“I wanted to return to teach at community college to inspire students, like my teachers did,” says Harada.
Born and raised in Sacramento by a hard-working father and a stay-at-home mom, she was expected to have her homework done before her fun. Harada says she uses what she learned from her family and her upbringing to strengthen her teaching skills.
The hardest thing about teaching is covering the textbook and trying not to leave anything out, she says. She has learned, though, that teaching is about quality, not quantity.
“Syreeta’s best quality as a professor would be her strong will to connect and teach her students,” says student Anna Delgado, 19.
When handling conflict in the classroom, Harada says she likes to try and understand where students are coming from. She tries to not be confrontational.
“Students’ inputs are front and center,” Harada says. “I give the students the benefit of the doubt.”
Although Harada sees herself as a liberal democrat and left of center, she tries to balance out her teaching method and not influence the class discussion too much.
“I like how she is very interactive with the class,” says student Zephyr Gonzalez, 18. “It gives everyone a chance to participate and give their thoughts.”
Harada says over the years, she has become less strict and more flexible.
“Students know they have certain parameters,” says Harada. “I try to create a flexible classroom environment. I don’t feel like I need to assert authority. I try to create a more collaborative environment. I want students to feel comfortable enough to share their opinions. I don’t want students to feel like it’s one-way communication where I’m just talking to them.”
Harada says she has her family to help maintain a healthy balance when life gets stressful. She also likes to volunteer at her son’s school. In addition, she likes to exercise to help reduce the stress of teaching.
“My responsibility is to help students learn,” Harada says.