By Evan Henerson
Meeting her class for the first time, Fatema Baldiwala was determined to give her English 101 students an evening that would stimulate their minds as well as their taste buds.
No food was actually served at Baldiwala’s March 12th Zoom event, which she entitled “An Appetite of Significance.” But there were plenty of menus circulated for the presentation that simultaneously tapped into the themes of Women’s History Month and employed Baldiwala’s entrepreneurial mindset regarding her subject.
In focusing on teaching students how to write an argumentative research paper, Baldiwala had her students read the book Eating Animals by Jonathan Safron Foer. She used themes about how food gets to our tables, titling her class “The Conscious Plate” and structuring various assignments around the theme. The students then activated their own creative juices by choosing a famous woman and creating a menu with a recipe for what that woman might eat at a possible moment in history.
“I am adding this element of individuality in which each student takes a concept from the book and transforms it into something that is personalized and unique,” said Baldiwala, who has taught English at Valley College since 2013. “That process is part of the entrepreneurial mindset that I use, and it is critical to college success.”
In every one of her classes, Baldiwala typically has at least one day in which students publicly present their work or engage in a discussion about a larger topic inspired by the class. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Baldiwala is teaching this section of English 101 asynchronously, making the March 12th presentation the first time the class convened at the same time.
For the occasion, Baldiwala brought in a special guest -- Zahra Mallu, creator of the Desi Soul Food Channel on YouTube. In addition to the students, LACCD trustees Andra Hoffman and Nichelle Henderson as well as the LAVC College President Dr. Barry Gribbons attended the presentation.
“Every time I open up a class to the world, I’m always a little nervous because I never know what will happen or where it will go,” Baldiwala said. “The best classes are the ones that have that element of surprise.”