This post is sponsored as part of the Teach for America #BestTeacherEver campaign.
You know how you can trace certain happenings in your life back to specific events in time? The more I think about it, the more I’m sure that I can pinpoint the pivotal time period in my life that was the deciding factor between me taking Path A or Path B. It was circa 1999 and I was a first-year student at the Howard University School of Law. I was both over-the-moon excited and scared to death of this new and ambitious journey ahead of me – after all, for the previous 4 years majoring in Television and Radio Production, I was CERTAIN that I would have been holding a boom mic on somebody’s television set by the fall of 1999. But, there I was, sitting with an amazing class of students who would become my HUSL Family, in a class that I would come to know and love as Torts.
As you might imagine, the study of wrongful acts that lead to injury – sometimes crazy freak accidents – is not at all a glamorous subject, and hardly one that you would call “fun”…that is, unless your Torts professor was Lateef Mtima. Professor Mtima took these ancient cases and brought them to life, and challenged us to analyze the various situations in a critical and precise fashion. What’s more, he was funny and energetic and captured my attention for that entire semester. I ended up getting a CALI Excellence for the Future Award in Torts that first year. When it came time to choose electives, I decided that any class (except for Sales and Secured Transactions! UGH.) taught by Professor Mtima would be worthwhile, and so I signed up for…Computer Law.
And that, my friends, was my first step onto the path that would later become known as the “How/Why On Earth Did You End Up Quitting Your Legal Career to Play On the Internet?!” path.
I instantly fell in love with Computer Law. I already knew that I was interested in Intellectual Property law and the concept of applying those concepts to the burgeoning Web was fascinating to me. I ended up “CALI’ing” Computer Law too, and decided that I would write my case note for my Howard Law Journal requirement on Internet Cookies. This is the part of the story where I lose all my cool points and you realize that I am, in fact, a NERD. Professor Mtima was my Casenote Advisor and he was the perfect mix of guidance and encouragement while pushing me to do the very best I could with this complicated topic. While my case note didn’t get selected for publication, I was so, so proud of it and solid in my love for Internet Law at that point.
Post-law school, I would go on to practice IP litigation with an AM-100 law firm, specializing in The Internets. Three years later, when the opportunity to apply for a consumer protection position with the Federal Trade Commission, with a focus on Internet advertising, I knew that was the job for me. And that, as they say, was all she wrote. After years of investigating and charging deceptive and unfair acts or practices involving: Spyware, Adware, Peer-to-Peer File Sharing, Digital Rights Management, and eventually, Social Media, I can honestly say that I loved what I was doing. Somewhere along the way (around 2006), I was bitten with the blogging bug and my work began imitating my art (or vice-versa!). It was all super cool.
The year that I graduated from HUSL, Professor Mtima co-Founded the Intellectual Property and Social Justice Institute. When he invited me to present at their 8th Annual CLE Conference in 2011, I was both honored and humbled. By the end of that year, I would be ready to embark on my next incredible adventure – becoming a full-time entrepreneur running two digital media companies. Professor Mtima (he insists that I call him Lateef these days, but I can’t bring myself to!) and I keep in touch. In fact, we’ve sat on panels together and I even bumped into him on the Amtrak on the way to New York (where we was in the process of writing a book on IP and Social Justice). I’m not sure if I’ve ever thanked him outright for nurturing my passion for the Internet, so let this be my opportunity to do so.
Thank you Professor Mtima! You’re my #BestTeacherEver.
Me and Mtima: co-panelists at the
42nd Congressional Black Caucus Annual Legislative Conference in 2012
This post was written in partnership with Teach for America. I was compensated for my participation in the #BestTeacherEver campaign, but the story is 100% my own!
Teacher Appreciation Week is more than a series of days where our children bring in flowers, school supplies or chocolate for their teacher. It is a week where each of us remembers the teachers that made a difference in our lives or the lives of our children. It is a week when we say thank you to the
countless teachers who work each day to foster a love of learning in students.
Join Teach For America in honoring teachers everywhere. Submit a photo with your own thank you note honoring your favorite teacher at www.bestteacherever.org.
Whether it’s your parent, your own teacher, your kids’ teacher – or a friend, help thank all the teachers we love for doing the world’s most important job. You will receive a stamped photo in return to share.
The first 5000 people to submit a thank you note honoring your favorite teacher, will be sent a $10 DonorsChoose gift card, sponsored by State Farm®.
With each submission, Teach For America is compiling a video – the world’s biggest thank you for teachers to be shared nationwide with teachers after May 10.
About Teach for America: www.teachforamerica.org Believing that all kids—no matter where they live, how much money their parents make, or what their skin color is – Teach For America believes that all children deserve access to a great education. As a national teachers corps of recent college graduates who commit two years to teach and to effect change in under-resourced urban and rural public areas, TFA hope to build our classrooms today with who will continue to fight for students tomorrow. In the 2013-14 school year, 11,000 corps members will reach more than 750,000 students while 32,000 alumni will continue to deepen their impact as educational leaders and advocates, eliminating educational inequality by developing such leaders.