Alabama Prison Arts + Education Project

Passion for education

Stevens knew Banu was the perfect fit to teach for APAEP when her response to instructing in a men’s facility was “Oh, that’s OK. I just love teaching.”

“And that was that,” Stevens says. “Both of these students have such heart and passion for education and teaching.”

Banu’s passion for education — seen in her commitment to every one of her students at both Auburn and Elmore Correctional — is undeniable as she describes why she applied to teach a course with APAEP.

“I wanted to do this because I believe in the power of education,” she says. “I believe in the power of reading and being informed. I believe in second chances. I knew this was something I wanted to participate in.”

Having already assisted graduate-level labs and courses in Auburn’s Department of Mechanical Engineering, Banu had an idea of how to run a class. This time, though, she backed up her introduction of engineering concepts to the beginning, explaining the various fields and disciplines of engineering, and describing to her students what an engineer generally does.

“I talk about how a main part of being an engineer is being able to work in a team, because the students had to do a lot of group projects,” she says. “We talked about what it means to be a member of a team; how each person has his own role and has to help other members to fulfill the team’s goal.”

In lessons about vectors, velocity, acceleration, forces and equilibrium, Banu put the students’ lesson on teamwork to the test as they constructed bridges made of straws and built towers made of pasta to demonstrate engineering design. “I think they enjoyed the competition,” she says.

Many of Banu’s students are in trade school through the prison, but as she explains, the students’ levels of experience vary in the same way they would in any other classroom. Every student’s prior knowledge and experiences differ from the student next to them in some way, with some students even having a background in engineering. One student showed Banu his CAD drawings he made in trade school.

“This material is hard, and they tell me how hard it is,” Banu says. “They tell me they are struggling, so I try and help them as much as I can. They’ve made amazing progress. It puts a big smile on my face. I have students who are learning and getting excited about understanding something.”

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