MNPS Voices: Audrey Sika Mvibudulu-Feruzi

#MNPS Voices: Audrey Sika Mvibudulu-Feruzi, EL teacher at Henry C. Maxwell Elementary School
Posted on 02/03/2022
Audrey Sika Mvibudulu-Feruz

After 15 years as an immigrant in the United States, Audrey Sika Mvibudulu-Feruzi, an English Learners teacher at Henry C. Maxwell Elementary School, considers Nashville home. She was born in Geneva, Switzerland, and moved to Montreal, Canada, with her family when she was seven years old. At 14, she migrated with her family to the U.S. and settled in Nashville. Audrey SIKA MVIBUDULU-FERUZI

“When I moved to this country, things were different compared to the idea I had formed in my mind of what the U.S. would be like because of what I saw on television as a child,” she said. “The first few months of school were challenging, to say the least, but I had a hunger for learning, and I already knew that I wanted to become a teacher.”

Mvibudulu-Feruzi believes being the oldest of five children and being born into a family of educators played big parts in that decision.

“Ever since I was young, I had always innately taken the role of educator or tutor. From babysitting cousins and siblings to teaching Bible class at church to kindergartners as a high schooler, I always felt at ease in that role.”

Mvibudulu-Feruzi is an MNPS alumna. She attended Antioch High School's Freshman Academy for her freshman year and completed grades 10 through 12 at Cane Ridge High School as a member of the school’s first graduating class.

Knowing that earning a college degree was going to be expensive for her as a second-generation immigrant, Mvibudulu-Feruzi was determined to prove she would be a good candidate for scholarships and grants. She had to take more challenging classes than what was offered to her. She also had to learn English fast, because she only knew a few words when she and her family crossed the border from Canada – where she primarily spoke French – to start a new life.

The hard work paid off. After one year of being in the English as a Second Language program, she began to take regular and honors classes. By the time Mvibudulu-Feruzi was a senior at Cane Ridge, she had been admitted into the National Honor Society and was college-bound with grants and scholarships.

She attended Freed-Hardeman University, a small Christian university in West Tennessee, and then taught in Whiteville, Tenn. She began teaching in MNPS in August 2016 as a general education teacher at Alex Green Elementary.

“At Alex Green I met some of the most devoted teachers, who worked hard to help their scholars receive the most out of their school experience. I learned that a genuine relationship with parents and families helps with building a trusting relationship with the students you serve,” she said.

Mvibudulu-Feruzi then taught at John F. Kennedy Middle School, where many educators, if not all, “are monumental personalities in students’ lives and the community. They taught me that middle schoolers will trust a teacher who is authentic with them about life over a teacher who sugarcoats things. That was a game-changer in my career because I was able to be more personable, and students trusted that I had their best interest at heart when I would challenge their thinking and give them life advice.”

At Maxwell Elementary, Mvibudulu-Feruzi said, “I have been able to blossom and evolve even more as an educator. I am very content and grateful to teach here.”

As a teacher of English Learners, Mvibudulu-Feruzi has learned to be flexible and open. She experiences countless fulfilling moments as an EL teacher.

“Whether it is helping a young teenager feel more confident in her abilities and herself as the school year goes by to helping a second-grader reach the reading level of a fifth-grader and enter the Gifted and Talented Education program by the time he moves up to third grade; whether it is also helping a young kindergarten student fall in love with playing chess to helping an EL student who did not know how to speak English when school commenced, present his poem loudly and proudly to his attentive classmates, these small moments make me feel so proud of my students and make me shed tears of joy.”

Outside of her busy school life and advocacy work, Mvibudulu-Feruzi enjoys time with friends and family, going to new places with loved ones and trying new restaurants. She has a passion for traveling and learning about new cultures. Backpacking through Europe is on her bucket list. As a proud thrill seeker, she has enjoyed skydiving and ultimately wants to go bungee jumping. She also loves helping at church and volunteering.

teacher and students in classWhen asked about any advice she could provide for students and families going through loss because of the pandemic, Mvibudulu-Feruzi said, “Be kind to yourself. Healing takes time, and it looks different for everyone affected. You are human, which means that feeling a wide range of emotions is normal. Do not feel timid or ashamed to feel and show your emotions. Also, never be afraid to seek help, and make sure you have a good, safe and trustworthy shoulder to cry on and to pour your heart out to. Remember that every day is a new day. You got this!”

Tips for New Teachers

For those who are new in the district aiming at a successful teaching career, Audrey Sika Mvibudulu-Feruzi offers the following advice:

  • Teaching is not a profession where you get to clock out and leave work at work. Many teachers go home thinking about their students and preparing for the next day. Whether it is thinking about the well-being of students or trying to find new ways to reteach a lesson, educators rarely leave work at work, but the reward is more than one can think of. Teachers educate the next generation.
  • Every teacher ought to walk or drive around the neighborhood where their students live. It’s important to be aware of the environment and lives of pupils who look up to you for knowledge and guidance. Walk a mile in their shoes, and you will understand and empathize with them, which in turn will help you become a better teacher for them.
  • Don’t be afraid to take initiative at your school. Share new ideas and your talents with your school administration. “I always had very supportive principals and assistant principals, who encouraged every idea I had to elevate the school experience for students and teachers. This helped me grow as an educator. They allowed me to learn with trial and error,” she said.
  • Finally, rest. Your health matters. Take time to recharge.
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MNPS Voices,Team MNPS