TEAM OREGON Instructor Aria Minu-Sepehr began teaching motorcycle safety classes for beginner and intermediate riders at TEAM OREGON in 2006. He currently also conducts creative writing workshops and lectures on topics related to Iran and U.S. foreign policy concerning the Middle East. Prior to his move to Oregon, Aria taught world and Middle Eastern literature at Susquehanna University in Pennsylvania, where he founded and directed Forum for Middle East Awareness. His memoir titled We Heard the Heavens Then was published by Simon & Schuster in 2012. He attended the University of California, Irvine and the University of Missouri, Columbia, where he earned degrees in Interdisciplinary Studies and Creative Writing.
What does your job as a TEAM OREGON instructor entail?
“My work at TEAM OREGON is centered on cultivating the right judgment and skills motorcyclists need to ride safely. If there is a hidden agenda, it’s to boost students’ confidence in their newfound skills and in being able to assess and manage the very real dangers we encounter when we go from four wheels to two. As a mentor instructor, I also take part in helping new instructors find a solid footing in their teaching career.”
What do you wish others knew about your job?
“In my pre-hire interview, I was asked if I had ever been a coach. I said yes. Then I was asked to describe successful coaching, which I thought was interesting if not tangential to the interview. As it turns out, it had everything to do with the job. To coach is to instill impersonal qualities without losing sight of the person; it’s to foster growth honestly. In our line of work, these attributes save lives.”
Why did you choose to work at TEAM OREGON?
“Motorcycling demands uncompromising discipline, acuity and reliable skills. These come with practice, education, a community and persistent self-critique. For me, teaching was the step that allowed complete immersion in the subject. Then, you’ve got to ‘walk the talk.’ It’s true that you cannot teach effectively if you don’t abide by your own message.”
What do you enjoy most about your job?
“The institutional culture at TEAM OREGON is truly unique. The ‘team,’ both at an individual and administrative level, constantly makes heartfelt overtures I have rarely seen in other lines of work. It’s not uncommon, for instance, to receive glorious hugs from your coworkers at the start and end of a teaching day. Undiminished pleasure comes, as well, from working with students, who make heavy and often deeply emotional investments in learning to ride or pushing their limits.”
What is the best advice you ever received, and who gave it?
“’Limit your coaching to two seconds.’ Instructor training is a grueling experience, but it leaves you with nuggets you can go back to. At the time I was being trained, I thought two seconds was just enough to say ‘Have a nice day.’ But the advice was sound. At its core are two issues: Saturation and repetition. When you try to explain everything, you run the risk of inundating a student. This same proclivity limits repetition. Doing, as it happens, is the best teacher.”
What is one surprising thing about you that not many people know?
“My father was a fighter pilot and an aerobatic team leader, and I suppose I’ve got some of that in my blood. Anyway, that’s my excuse for spending undue time and resources on radio control airplanes. Imagine a mid-wing aerobat squared at the end of the runway. Now hit the throttle and watch all 10 pounds of it whip past you, then vertical. Hammerhead at 500 feet, swing down, now up to a 45 for a lomcevak. If you catch the exit right, you might even tack on a half Cuban 8.”
What are your favorite activities outside of work?
“Two young ladies, ages 11 and 13, are the best things in my life — and not just because I’m related to them. With one I love to mountain bike. With the other, I could hit a volleyball back and forth all day.”