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Riz Farooqi ’94 - Riz Rocks
By Sonya Xu

First grade at HKIS rocks and rolls to the beat of beloved teacher, Riz Farooqi.  His energy and passion for teaching emanates from his love of music, kids, and thinking outside the box. Entering his colorful classroom where neat little boxes
with mealworms decorate the shelves (Fyi, the class will learn about the lifecycle of the mealworm, which looks like a worm, but is really the larva stage of a beetle!), it’s easy to see why there’s such a buzz around him. The children love his enthusiasm and the feeling is mutual.

Born into a traditional Pakistani family, Riz knew he was different from their world early on. He entered HKIS in Grade 1 and stayed until he graduated from high school in 1994. Although he had his difficult moments in adolescence, he felt very
comfortable at HKIS and relished its diversity and inclusiveness. His parents wanted him to study business, so after high school he attended the University of Massachusetts at Amherst where he got a degree in marketing, but his heart was not in the
business world. His first love was music, the electric guitar, so after college he combined his love of music with his studies and struggled to make it as an intern in the music industry in New York City. As Riz recalls, “I subsisted on a foot long sub a day for 6-7 months.” Realizing this was not the right path, he headed back home to Hong Kong to figure out his future. Riz took a more traditional job in public relations with a hotel, but quickly felt unfulfilled. He saw an advertisement at HKIS for Alumni Coordinator and got the job. Jim Handrich, former Head of School whom Riz first remembers as principal in the Primary School, supported and encouraged him, despite his initial shock that one of his more rambunctious students would end up back where he started. Riz thinks of Mr. Handrich with happiness and gratitude, “he steered me well.”

Fortuitously for HKIS and Riz, Lower Primary advertised a Teaching Assistant position while he was working at the school and he decided to give it a try. Within the first day, he realized what a huge impact he could make on children and found his profession. After working as a Teaching Assistant for a few years, he got his teaching degree and hasn’t looked back since. He loves helping the children develop their self-esteem and confidence and watching them grow throughout the year.

HKIS instilled in Riz a desire to follow his passions. He has belonged to a band for years, called King Ly Chee. The band travels to China every month and coupled with his self taught Cantonese and Mandarin skills, he relishes being able to reach out to local kids with the band’s English and Mandarin songs.

Riz is now married and has a beautiful baby daughter. His story is truly one of coming full circle and the realization that what he was looking for was nearby all along. Some travel far and wide to reach their goals, while others realize that they can reach their goals from the very foundation that nurtured them. Perhaps Riz sometimes sees his younger self, peering out from around the corner as he goes through his day in Lower Primary. He has not forgotten what it feels like to be a kid and HKIS is very proud to have been an important part of Riz’s growth from student to teacher.

Source:  DragonTales Winter 2012 / 2013