J amil Siddiqui has a knack for making those around him feel comfortable — not just with math, the subject he teaches at East Bridgewater
Junior/Senior High School, but with the learning
On National Teacher Day last May, Siddiqui
was named the 2019 Massachusetts Teacher of the
Year — not just because he is an extremely effective
teacher, but because he has the added gift of helping
students fall in love with a subject they never thought
would become their passion.
The students cheered wildly during a surprise
assembly in the school auditorium when they learned
that their popular and dedicated teacher had been
chosen for the award. The honor automatically
makes Siddiqui a candidate to become the next
National Teacher of the Year.
Among those who lined up on stage with Siddiqui
at the assembly were 10 of his former students — all
of whom are currently teaching math at the high
school or college level. Not everyone could make it
that day, but at last count, 15 of his former students
were working as math teachers, Siddiqui said.
Bill Pellegrino, who nominated Siddiqui for the
award, was a student of Siddiqui’s for three years and
later became a colleague, working as an academic
support specialist in East Bridgewater before he
became a math teacher himself at Southeastern
Regional Vocational Technical High School.
Pellegrino said that on his first day in class as
a sophomore, Siddiqui encouraged the students to
“‘Come closer to the knowledge,’” Pellegrino
remembered Siddiqui saying. “And he said it with
a smile on his face,” Pellegrino said. “He was
so genuine. He wasn’t challenging us — he was
encouraging us. I moved to the front, and from then
on I was a front-of-the-room person.”
Pellegrino said he nominated Siddiqui for one
simple reason: “He is the greatest teacher I’ve ever
Siddiqui “taught things in a really different
way,” Pellegrino added. “He never focused on
grades. He never focused on giving tests and quizzes
and homework assignments. That was not what was
important to him.”
Instead, Pellegrino said, Siddiqui’s teaching
“was always about a discussion, and I had never
had anybody teach me math through discussion and
getting at the core idea before. It really changed my
opinion. I fell in love with math.”
Plymouth South High School math teacher
Brad Leal was also a student of Siddiqui’s. At the
assembly, Leal told the students that he was “the
most average student this school had.”
“But Jamil took me in with open arms and he
changed my life,” Leal said. “I had no plans to be a
teacher up until that senior year with him. He really
did it all.”
Siddiqui grew up in Caribou, Maine, in the far
northeast corner of the state. “It was a city where you
knew everyone and they knew you,” he said. That
small-town feel created closeness and a culture of
shared responsibility, a quality that his busy working
mother encouraged in Siddiqui and his brothers.
They came to see working hard in school as holding
up their end of the bargain.
After receiving a bachelor’s degree in
biomedical engineering and a master’s degree in
education from Boston University in the 1990s,
Siddiqui applied for 25 teaching positions around
Massachusetts. He received 24 rejection letters.
Just one district offered encouragement and an
interview: East Bridgewater. In September, he began
his 25th year there as a teacher.
S iddiqui brings his commitment to shared responsibility to his teaching style. “You’ve got to be there to support the kids, both inside
and outside your classroom,” he said.
When he was fairly new to teaching, Siddiqui
decided to delve into school and town activities.
“I wanted to see every event, so I made sure I
went to the sporting events, the marching band events,
the plays, and the school musical. I tried to really see
what the school was all about. The kids noticed me,
and they saw that I was interested in them.”
He said that by being free with his time early on,
he laid the groundwork for mutual respect between
student and teacher.
“Success comes when both sides realize that
they need to work together,” he said. “Once you
establish that relationship, the teaching part is easy.
It’s getting them to buy in and want to do the work
Siddiqui has been the faculty advisor for five
different graduating classes. He coached the math
team for 21 years and acted as the faculty advisor
for the yearbook committee for three years. He is
the school’s student activities coordinator, advises
the Student Senate and is the lead teacher in his
Only in the past year and a half, since the birth
of his son, Jacob, have Siddiqui’s school activities
become somewhat less numerous. Siddiqui’s wife,
Rebecca, is a teacher of U.S. history at the school,
and both are members of the East Bridgewater
Siddiqui said that for years he left the business
of the union to others with more experience. He said
he decided to become more involved when one day
he woke up and realized, “Now, I’m the old man!”
As the school year wrapped up for seniors in
Siddiqui’s AP calculus class last May, Patrick Silva
sat with the other students clustered at the front of
“From the first day you sit down in class, Mr.
Siddiqui prepares you to do well,” Silva said. “He
adapts to our learning styles. He is so friendly and
As the class began, Siddiqui reviewed the year
with his students.
The scope of the discussion ranged from the
relevance of different number bases to scientific
notation, from bank interest to the limitless
applications of math in the natural world. Siddiqui
deftly wove in fractals, including the “Koch
snowflake” and the “Sierpinski triangle,” leaving the
students with a parting gift: the intrinsic beauty of
But as Siddiqui knows well, he’ll see at least
a few of these students again. They will be back to
visit, as so many have in the past. And some may
even decide to make his life’s work theirs as well.
Jamil Siddiqui wrapped up the 2017-2018 school year in May with seniors in his AP calculus
class. Siddiqui brings his commitment to shared responsibility to his teaching style.
Photo by Bob Duffy