Born in Albania, Ardit Marku ’17 lived on a small farm with an outhouse for a bathroom until he was eight.
When his family arrived in New York and settled in Brooklyn, he knew no English. His first day at P.S. 186 was St. Patrick’s Day, and as his teacher passed out bright green cupcakes, Marku couldn’t believe he was getting free food at school.
Soon enough, he was excelling in English and getting high grades across the board. He went on to Mark Twain and Brooklyn Tech, both highly selective public schools. His parents did well too: his father, a skilled carpenter, founded a construction company, and his mother, who never finished high school in Albania, finally earned her diploma, got a college degree, and is now a pharmacy technician at NYU Langone.
Though Marku had hoped to attend college outside the city and was offered partial scholarships by SUNY schools, those schools were still too expensive. He was considering a career in medicine, and of all the CUNY campuses, Hunter—with its excellent reputation in the sciences—as his first choice.
Early on, Hunter had an unexpected effect on his plans for the future. Marku took a wonderful English literature class that required a lot of writing and brought a life-changing jolt of self-discovery. “I said to myself, ‘I love English. I love writing. This is what I want to do!’” he recalls.
So he majored in English, and as a member of Hunter’s triumphant Model UN team, used his writing skills and extensive research to draft and present a proposal for ending world hunger for the international 2016 Model UN conference.
Two semesters of linguistics with Hunter faculty member Chaya Nove led to new insights. Marku found himself fascinated by the subject, and says Nove’s passion for teaching “inspired me to teach as well.” It became clear that while he wouldn’t be serving humanity in a health-care setting, he could play an equally important role in a classroom.
Since then, he has translated that realization into resolute action.
As a volunteer with Junior Achievement of New York, he has taught math, science and personal budgeting to kindergarteners and other elementary school students. He has also gone back to P.S. 186 to tutor children after school.
Since graduating from Hunter, he has taught on Staten Island in the New York Public Library’s Adult Learning Center. He is an official student mentor to hundreds of immigrants studying English in conversation classes, and has also taught computer and citizenship classes. His students include Syrian refugees and others from the Middle East, along with immigrants from Colombia, Venezuela, and countries across Africa and Europe—including his native Albania.
Beginning this July, Marku will spend his Fulbright year in South Korea teaching English and living with a host family. He is thinking of staying in South Korea and finding another teaching post once the Fulbright year ends.
He’s also considering the option of returning to Albania, where he could teach on the university level.
If he comes right back to New York, he’ll pursue a master’s in TESOL (teaching English to speakers of other languages). He’s open to teaching any subject at any level.
“Kindergarten kids, adults, people from any country—I feel I could teach anyone,” he says.