The Weekly Ringer

The University of Mary Washington Student Newspaper

Alumnus returns to tutor farsi

3 min read

Recent UMW graduate Zeke Kassock has gone above and beyond since leaving Mary Washington. Instead of entering the working world, Kassock remains in the Fredericksburg area, returning to campus a few times a week to teach Farsi to anyone who wants to learn.

His story goes all the way back to the Spring of 2003. Kassock wanted to do an independent study with former UMW philosophy professor Mehdi Aminrazavi, who was teaching Islam that semester. Kassock was just starting to learn Farsi and Aminrazavi helped him by teaching him a few phrases and encouraging him to study hard to be able to read and speak simple sentences.

With this incentive, Kassock spent four hours each day of his summer with intensive reading and came back in the Fall semester being able to slowly read new texts. Aminrazavi verified that Kassock was prepared after a few quizzes but said that four more students were needed for the Independent Study. Kassock advertised with flyers and even had a table outside the Eagle’s Nest. Kassock tutored one student that September.

“It was interesting teaching her because I was learning the process, sure I made some mistakes but that is the way of becoming a teacher, to see what works and what doesn’t,” said Kassock.

The following semester Kassock was tutoring four students and was more in control of the teaching process.

“By the second semester teaching, I knew that I found something that I had liked,” said Kassock. Since then, he has continued teaching Farsi. He even led a petition for a Farsi class at UMW and was able to gather 100 signatures, but it fell through because UMW didn’t have enough money in the budget for a new language. Kassock was able to do the Independent Study, however. He took time outside of class teaching the four other students the alphabet and simple grammar. This was put to practice by Aminrazavi, who used class time to look at children’s stories and poems.

Ever since his Independent Study days, teaching Farsi has been a passion for Kassock, even despite the fact that he has been on his own.

“If the college was not going to offer it as a language, I would do it myself, even if I paid for it out of pocket. I ended up printing lots of handouts over the years, but if that makes for a better education for the people involved then so be it. Where else could you get a Farsi education for free? Now that I graduated in May 2009, I still have the desire to tutor, working on becoming a real teacher,” said Kassock.

So far the only people Kassock has tutored have been UMW students, but this January he will be teaching at the Fredericksburg Community Center. The tutoring has benefitted Kassock, who is only just now approaching fluency in the language.

“Farsi is not my native language. Many students appreciate that their teacher is someone who had to go through the exact process that they are going through, and can explain the little tricks into learning things easier.  Especially with weird sounds that are really hard for English speakers,” said Kassock.

Kassock is willing to tutor anyone who wants to learn. His tutoring style changes to fit the student. Some students start off learning the alphabet and grammar, whereas others just want to speak. Kassock tutors students one-one one, or large study groups comprised of people with the same skill level.

“I design a syllabus that is appropriate to the individual, as everyone learns differently.  Some people are hands on, and can learn with very little English involved.  Some need step by step walkthroughs,” said Kassock.

Kassock currently tutors in the Simpson Library for three to four hours a week in one hour sessions. Students don’t have to sign up at the beginning of the semester to start tutoring- it is possible to start at any time, even late in the semester.

“I’ve done it before in November and had a lot of success.  I’m always ready for the challenge and design a course that is right for them,” said Kassock.

Before starting the tutoring, Kassock asks each student their purpose for learning for Farsi, their prior language background, and how far they want to go with the language. From there, Kassock matches his schedule as best he can to his students to start tutoring. Anyone wishing to learn Farsi can contact Zeke Kassock at