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The coronavirus pandemic has led to instructors worldwide seeking ways to engage students better through virtual platforms. As the world interacts online, more than ever before, this paper reflects on an educator’s experience with the virtual teaching and learning spaces pre and during the ongoing pandemic. Autoethnography is a research methodology that analyzes a phenomenon through the use of self-narratives, which would otherwise remain private or buried. This paper uses an autoethnographic approach to describe first-hand. the experiences and learnings of an educator at a Western US Public University. This paper describes how first as an international student, a first generation PhD, and then as a professor facing immigration related challenges, the author has had to pivot to online teaching multiple times before. Such virtual interactions with students was atypical at that time. However, lessons learned from those online interactions helped the educator better prepare and pivot to online during the pandemic. These reflections offer insight not only into personal growth strategies for educators, but also shed light onto the troubles and triumphs that international and immigrant teaching professionals bring to the higher education landscape. It is hoped that the paper is useful for administrators as they think about supporting atypical cases to strengthen their infrastructure, since innovation happens most among those pushing boundaries whilst facing challenges.

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© 2022, American Society for Engineering Education, Proceedings of ASEE Annual Conference, New Orleans, Louisiana.