Learning to Teach, Teaching to Learn

Prince Steven Annor’s impressive, young career has been guided by a simple yet unconventional approach to learning.

The ethos that in order to truly understand a subject matter, you must be able to teach it, is a guiding philosophy in the colorful journey Prince Steven Annor embarked from his home country in Ghana five years ago as a young bright prospect to landing a job as an Engineering Instructor at NYU Abu Dhabi today.

The Class of 2020 Banner Bearer and Engineering graduate’s young career is punctuated with impressive fellowships at international organizations, recognition and competition awards, technical projects, academic publications, involved internships at some gilt-edge labs, several community involvement and leadership roles, and the pursuit of interests, such as photography, that expand Annor’s professional bedrock of Engineering.

But even before Annor boarded his first ever plane to attend what would be his alma mater and, ultimately, his place of employment, teaching was at the heart of everything he had done.

How can you know something if you cannot teach it?

Prince Steven Annor, Assistant Instructor of Engineering role at NYUAD

“It challenges you; teaching is a humbling experience. Because when you’re preparing to teach anything you are faced with the question of ‘do I really understand a subject?’ and that makes me really try to understand it” said Annor.

His journey at NYUAD to study, and eventually teach, began as it did for so many prospects: at candidate weekend enduring a rollercoaster of emotions peaking at elation and dipping to feelings of self-doubt.

Despite his impressive resume, which included teaching high school students programming and receiving first place at an innovation bootcamp, Annor’s Candidate Weekend was rife with peaks and troughs, emotions of feeling elated at the prospect of being a part of this “unreal” campus contrasted with feelings of inadequacy.

NYU Abu Dhabi Candidate Weekend with NYU President Andrew Hamilton (in a purple shirt). Image was taken pre COVID-19.
NYU Abu Dhabi campus.

“Everyone was so smart, and everyone had traveled so many times. People were talking about living in different countries and working, and I was thinking, ‘I just saw a plane up close for the first time less than 12 hours ago,'” he said.

Even the concept of jetlag was taking him aback, as he almost missed several wake-up calls by oversleeping and dealing with the first-time disruption to his circadian rhythm.

After a high-paced and exciting weekend, he left Abu Dhabi contemplating the last three days and what he misperceived as a missed opportunity. That depression was only momentarily suspended at the thrilling prospect of boarding a plane, an exciting experience for the younger Prince that has now become a dreaded process in the well-traveled academic today.

But his feelings of inadequacy were misplaced, as his impressive CV and his well-spoken and cheerful demeanor had left NYUAD’s admissions office with a positive impression, offering him a seat at the University.

An International Calling

Throughout his fast-paced career, that has seen the Ghanaian work or study in Abu Dhabi, New York, Shanghai, Accra, Karnataka, Mumbai, and Manila, teaching has been his calling before he was even paid to do so.

That driving force has driven his passion for coding and teaching. As a mentor to over 100 different students at various classes and coding workshops in Accra and Abu Dhabi, Annor was eventually awarded the Processing Foundation Fellowship that allowed him to combine his two passions of coding and teaching.

Through the fellowship, Annor designed an automatic grading system and launched a mobile-based coding learning platform to over 700 students in Africa and the diaspora. After graduating with a BSc in Engineering, he was met with a crossroads, of either working for one of the Big Four consultancy firms, going back home to teach at high schools, or pursuing his passion for several genres of photography, including drone photography.

At the heart of his decision for the future, Annor knew he wanted to highlight what he considers pillars to this future: to teach, to have agency, and to stay true to his ethics.

He applied for the Assistant Instructor of Engineering role at NYUAD, and after a competitive interview process he was given the job, where he feels he has satisfied what he wants from his first full-time employment role.

Today, at NYUAD, Annor continues his passion for teaching that leads him to research the fields he is interested in, while also maintaining his teaching role as a mentor back home.

He also serves on the Staff Council as the Vice-Chair of the Academic Staff Committee, and in his free time, he pursues his photography hobby and is one of a few certified drone flyers with permission to fly over the University to take photos of the impressive campus he calls home.