My name is Rahim Graham, Principal of Calvin Coolidge Elementary School. I am of product of Calvin Coolidge Elementary School and graduated in 1984. Moving to Hillside from Newark, NJ, I quickly acclimated myself to the rigors of the Hillside Public School curriculum and my new community. Along with my mother's high expectations to do well in school, Calvin Coolidge helped me develop my interest in education and the discipline needed to succeed in life. I remember the teachers placed great emphasis in developing a love of learning and building good character. When I got to Hillside High School in September of 1984, a strong work ethic and a love for learning was already instilled in me. My freshman year was a smooth transition from elementary school. At Hillside High School, I juggled football, basketball, and baseball with academics. I learned a great deal of life lessons playing sports such as teamwork, accountability, work ethic, and perseverance. I graduated Hillside High School in 1988.
I attended Kean University formerly known as Kean College from 1988 to 1993. During my first year, I just concentrated on academics but something was missing. Kean College was a small college but I did not feel I was a part of the school's fabric. I decided to play football my second year. Football reminded me that no one was going to give you anything in life, you have to go out an earn it. Listening to my mother's wishes, I tried to get a degree in Accounting. I tried very hard to please her but it wasn't for me. In 1992, I changed my major to Business Administration. My last semester in college I decided to become a substitute teacher in the Hillside Public School system. Being around the students, I discovered my true passion, teaching. It was a tough job but it fulfilled me in ways I couldn't imagine. As soon as I graduated in May of 1993, I continued to substitute teach and became a football and basketball coach. I was in heaven because I was molding young people. This made me comfortable in where I was at in life. After two years, I took on the position of In-School Suspension Aide at Hillside High School. This was my first job with benefits. Near the end of that year, the superintendent told me I could not do In-suspension anymore and could not coach. The superintendent felt I had more to offer. She provided me with the ultimatum of passing the Praxis in Elementary Education to become a teacher or not coach in Hillside anymore. The superintendent felt I settled and felt I would be a great teacher. In the meantime, I did not want to lose my benefits so I took a security job at the high school for a year. For a full year, I studied for the Praxis whenever I had free time and passed. I did not become a teacher the traditional way, I took an alternative route. Dr. Hiroko Miyakawa, Superintendent of Hillside Public Schools, offered me a Kindergarten position in September of 1997. She often stopped by the Saybrook School to give me a thumbs up or gave me a small token of appreciation.
I worked for ten years as a Kindergarten, 1st, and 2nd grade teacher before I became an administrator in Hillside. I am very proud of my tenure as a teacher servicing my friends' children and solidifying the reputation that I have established in the community. As administrator, I have a much bigger role in the community. I have been an administrator for eight years ranging from Athletic Director, Vice Principal, and Principal in the Hillside District. I look back at my life experiences in Hillside and can truly appreciate the journey.