Long before he and his family fled the “most dangerous area of the world,” where bombs and war plagued the landscape of their lives, Dilshad Akrayee was a young boy in his father’s classroom.
It was at that elementary school in southern Kurdistan, situated near the border of Turkey and Iraq, where his father sparked his curiosity in math.
And from that curiosity an unyielding passion grew, carried roughly 6,580 miles from his home country to the first and only home he’s ever known in America — Rome.
Akrayee landed in the U.S. in 1997 and has been here ever since, marrying his wife, Hilbeen, here and raising his 12-year-old daughter Heleen and his 9-year-old son Hari.
“We didn’t see actual peace until we got to Rome,” Akrayee said. “I want to raise my kids in the place of opportunity.”
That opportunity Akrayee wants for his children, he said, is the same American opportunity that has led him to become a senior food engineer at Southeastern Mills, a part-time math instructor at Georgia Highlands College and, most recently, a published author.
Akrayee completed a 10-year goal with the publication of his math book, “Math Light,” this April, after years of working on it bit by bit on weekends. Since middle school he has dreamed of publishing a book, but he didn’t know what form it would take until 2007, when he joined the staff at GHC.
At the time, Akrayee was coming off his graduation from Shorter University with an MBA — he received his bachelor of science degree from the University of Mosul, which he said was the “Harvard of the Middle East.”
“As I began my job at (GHC) … I had the opportunity to be exposed to the full range of math courses, to study students’ abilities and struggles in math,” he said.
His experiences reinforced an urge to put his techniques into a book, where it could promote a general understanding of math, and, more than anything, show that math can actually be fun, Akrayee said. His techniques are the same as the ones he scribbled on chalkboards at a high school in Kurdistan, where there often was only one book for every four kids in a class of 45 students.
Akrayee’s method for teaching math, or “numerical investigation,” as he calls it, is all about engaging students to find fun in calculation and analysis, often times using videos and games as a way of instigating excitement.
However, on many more occasions, Akrayee inspires his students to seek fulfillment in what they do, to find the beauty in life, and to work hard to leave a legacy that, when they are gone, draws acclaim from those left behind.
“Life is a short trip,” Akrayee said he tells his students. “Try to enjoy it as much as you can before the trip is over.”
Akrayee’s book can be found on amazon.com by searching “Math Light” or by entering the ISBN No. 1545170657. He said the book, which has three levels, from beginner to advanced, can be used to study for the following tests: the GED, the SAT, the GRE and the ACT. It can also be used for college algebra.
As Akrayee’s American dream continues to unfold, he said he would like to go on to travel the world and, perhaps, go back to get his doctorate, if he ever gets the money. But in expressing his emotions on all he’s gone through and accomplished, from one continent to another, he offered up a soccer metaphor.
Akrayee’s realization of his American dream is like scoring a game-winning goal, he said.