Celebrating the people that make us

Ardra Balachandran

sheel The greatest learning during her early years of education was that it is not what degrees we achieve or the things we possess but how we live, love, and behave with others that determines the quality of our lives. That’s the reason why Sheel is passionate about helping children learn to learn, and about making learning an enjoyable and exploratory activity that both teachers and children can look forward to. She is also enthusiastic about helping people of all ages and backgrounds to get rid of stress as a committed volunteer and teacher of the Art of Living. It doesn’t come as a surprise at all that Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, which never fails to call up the spirit of sharing and caring for one another, is one of her most favourite pieces of literature. After having undertaken multifaceted roles in organizations like Orient Longman, Globarena, and Spark-India, Sheel now focuses on her PhD from the Dept. of Indian and World Literatures at EFLU, Hyderabad. She authored India’s first Big Book, A Pot of Light, and she hopes to publish her own book of stories soon. – Sheel Parekh

Arun-Elassery Arun considers himself an expert on children – his three children – and also an expert at not working from inside tube-lit offices. He does better things like working on a picture book for children (The Launghing Onion by Eklavya, Bhopal). He is a graduate of IIT Kharagpur who currently works with Wipro Applying Thought In Schools. He is a polyglot with a strong grip on five languages. His grip on the decision to home school Aditi, Srikanth, and Dinkar, his children, is as strong too. Arun firmly believes that the mainstream schooling system, which ruthlessly disallows to focus on specific interests of children, isn’t the best route for education. Arun, his wife Kanti and the children comprise a close knit family which lives in Kuttippuram, a serene town in the Malappuram district of Kerala. There is no pressure of examinations and homework in this household. Learning is a process of self-discovery for all five of them and they have time to spend on things they love to do. – Arun Elassery

Bubla-Basu With early childhood spent in London, most part of education done in Kolkata, and current residence set up in Mumbai, she has indeed come a long way. Bubla is an English language teacher who chose to quit after a quarter century of teaching in schools across India including Rishi Valley. It’s quite surprising that a teacher of her calibre would have the history of being an unenthusiastic student; so much so that she says: “renouncing school is, by far, my biggest achievement”. Intensely passionate about films, she always thought she would direct films and travel to the land of Ingmar Bergman. Teaching was never present on the canvas of ambition and she became not just a teacher, but a teacher trainer! With three published works in the realm of children’s fiction to her credit, she loves the freedom she now has with every day of her life. At this point, all she wants to do is watch Les Miserables at the Barbican in London and settle down in her own little Innisfree with a few needy stray dogs and all her favourite films, books, and music. – Bubla Basu

Aditi-&-Ratnesh For both Aditi and Ratnesh, educational qualification doesn’t matter much although both are postgraduates. But college time is the most beautiful era of their lives because they found each other there. From a couple who started a joint business because they did not want to do separate jobs to a couple who advocate and practise ‘child-led open-learning’, it has been a journey of learning, teaching, and evolving. Their first initiative with children was Genie Kids, an activity based learning centre in Bangalore. When their daughter left school for unschooling, they formed an alternate open learning community – Aarohi. As they emphasize, Aarohi is not a school, but a learning community where having fun is the number one priority. The O Campus at Aarohi openly accepts learners in the age group of 2 to 24 to join the fun. Spontaneous and effervescent, this couple does exactly what the term Aarohi encapsulates – constantly evolve. – Aditi Mathur & Ratnesh Mathur

Sujata-C While brainstorming for the magazine she had to bring out as the Literary Secretary of her college, it dawned upon her that she wanted to write for a living. Leaving behind rat labs and an M.Sc. seat along with the ICAR scholarship, Sujata thus set out on the path of her calling. She is deeply indebted to the Programme Directors at All India Radio for not just giving the rookie a break but also for a free run of the studios. For mentoring and moulding her to be the spirited self that she is, Sujata owes it equally to her brilliant (and whacky) colleagues at the advertising agencies she worked. If there was one key learning from all the places she worked, it would definitely be to face adversity with a smile. Perseverantia Omnia Vincit (Perseverance Conquers All Things), the motto of her alma mater St. George’s Grammar School, Hyderabad, has been her guiding words through this exciting journey. – Sujata C

geetha-iyer While going with the flow of education, Zoology just happened to her; it wasn’t a choice made out of passion. The trip to Kashmir in 1972 as an NCC cadet and the adventures therein are her fondest memories from college; nothing related to the curriculum at all. But call it destiny’s magic, she now plans and devises alternative biology curriculums for schools and is an avid bird watcher and entomologist. However, teaching was a conscious choice. Her first assignment was to teach Hindi to a bunch of homesick boys in a newly formed upper primary boarding school. After a month of just telling them stories (and not ‘teaching’ anything per se) and in a year of relishing the teaching experience, a teacher is all she wanted to be. She bade adieu to three decades of classroom teaching in 2005 and now devotes her time entirely to expand on her doctoral research about a biology curriculum from an ecological perspective. Her dream project (developed under the request of Aurobindo Asram), which envisages a revolution in the way biology lessons are imparted, is ready on papers and she hopes to see it in action soon. Based out of Suchindram, a pilgrim town at the southern tip of India, Geetha is all set to have her second book published – The Weavers: The Curious World of Insects. – Geetha Iyer

Chintan-Girish-Modi Chintan is a truly multi-faceted Mumbai man – a writing coach, researcher, education consultant and workshop facilitator all rolled into one. An M.A. in English and M.Phil in English Language Education from EFLU, Hyderabad, he has had enriching stints across Indian cities with institutions like Shishuvan School, Srishti School of Art, Design and Technology, Regional Resource Centre for Elementary Education, Orient Blackswan, Tata Institute of Social Sciences and South Asian Children’s Cinema Forum. His extensive participation in peace education and conflict transformation programmes makes him the rightful recipient of many a prestigious fellowship from the Foundation for Universal Responsibility of His Holiness the Dalai Lama (Delhi), Seagull Foundation for the Arts (Kolkata), Seeds of Peace (USA), Initiatives of Change (USA), Kulturstudier (Norway), and SIT Graduate Institute (USA). A man who has visited Pakistan four times, he speaks regularly at conferences about using education, arts, storytelling, and digital media to build cross-border friendships. Right now, he is working on two books which will feature voices from India and Pakistan. He also writes a weekly column on life in Mumbai for The Friday Times, Pakistan. – Chintan Girish Modi

geetha-durairajan An alumnus of EFLU Hyderabad, she is now a Professor at the Department of Testing and Evaluation right there. After more than a quarter century of teaching, her key learning is that one never stops learning. By reading and re-reading Pedagogy of the Oppressed by Paulo Freire, she realized that each student comes with a different schema and each one’s approach to every lesson taught is distinctly different. Someone who played a crucial role in getting Cambridge University Press to initiate a separate book series for teacher education in SAARC countries would normally blow her own trumpet; not this woman who wrote the first book of the series and edits the series too. If you ask her about her achievements, she will still ponder if she has any. Visiting ancient temples is a favourite activity for Geetha who is just as passionate about Carnatic music and cooking. Geetha recently discovered she enjoys acting and if given a chance would love to perform on stage. If there’s still a dream to be fulfilled, it’s only to teach as many first generation learners as possible. – Geetha Durairajan

Sheela-Ramakrishnan If it was her English teacher at school who gifted her with love for language and self-esteem, it is Edward De Bono who has inspired her the most. Sheela is the Founder Partner of Edcraft, a firm engaged in the development, manufacture, and distribution of teaching material for pre-primary and primary children and providing services through workshops and educational consultancy. She may not have garnered degrees to her satisfaction, but that has never come in the way of her work or recognition. As a creative educator, she took up De Bono’s Thinking skills course and became the first certified trainer in India for Thinking skills in education. Her work in progress is a book for children who are adopted, and creating a successful platform as a counsellor from where she can reach out to more people who are in need of emotional support. To be a playback singer is the big dream that she nurtures in her heart. – Sheela Ramakrishnan

manaswini Thanks to her father’s job, Manaswini had an eventful childhood with multiple relocations cutting across continents. Her parents did not want to put a 12 year old who returned from the USA back in our country’s rigorous curriculum and they chose to give her home schooling. A member of one of the first MA. English batches at the University of Hyderabad, she also did a course in German at CIEFL simultaneously. Dr. Ganeshan, her teacher at CIEFL, made her fall in love with the language and that led to another Masters! Her unconventional learning path has, for sure, come in handy in her teaching career which had students from first graders to Koreans with no knowledge of English. As a trainer for Linguaphone, she trained 20 teachers from across different corporation zones in Chennai, who in turn trained their students. She also teaches English business communication and German to engineers in IT companies. She dreams of imparting ‘real education’ to her students and not just paper degrees; and for her, education is not just about the ability to write, read, and earn a handsome salary, but about being able to live in total harmony with the people around us and the environment. – Manaswini Sridhar

manju-gupta She loves interacting with children and that’s precisely what made her choose teaching. The journey that started in a British School in Lagos, Nigeria traversed more than 10 institutions and today, she is the Educational Consultant at St. Michael’s School, Secunderabad. An M.A. in English Literature from Madurai Kamaraj University and a B.Ed. from Bombay University, Manju has always believed that children should be exposed to a whole lot of experiences which not only help them to become thinking individuals but also contribute to nurture their innate goodness and compassion. Right from her college days, she has been a successful all-rounder who dabbled with tennis and badminton with the same finesse as elocutions and debates. Even today, she successfully dons the robes of a teacher trainer who regularly conducts workshops, an administrator responsible for her institution’s smooth functioning, and a teacher who makes a difference in the lives of her students. – Manju Gupta

monica-kochar After a Masters in mathematics, she jumped into teaching for that was the only door that opened among all she knocked on. Sometimes, lack of choice lands you at the perfect choice and that is exactly what happened with Monica. Through her 19 years of experience in CBSE, ISC, and International Baccalaureate, her love affair with teaching has only soared. The key idea behind Humane Maths, a unique approach to teaching and learning maths devised by her, is of an inclusive classroom where different capacities and styles in learning are respected and celebrated. In 2011, she sensed the need to shift her focus from teaching children to training adults so that her philosophy would spread exponentially. She currently works as a teacher trainer with CBSE helping young teachers innovate ‘just a little bit’, but with far-reaching results. – Monica Kochar

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