On January 3rd, on her 121st birth anniversary, India fondly remembered its first woman teacher, Savitribai Phule, a social reformer, educationalist, and poet, who first introduced the concept of women’s education. At a time when women’s rights were not even a matter of concern, Savitribai brought in a wave of change in British ruled India, by starting the first ever woman’s school in 1848. Her school taught women, irrespective of the castes they belonged to, raging several communities that harassed her for years, trying to cease her efforts. Savitribai and her husband, ran 18 schools for women, despite all the backlash and hindrances. She also worked actively, to prevent female infanticides, killing of widows, and Sati. India owes it to Savitribai, for making education a norm for women.
Savitribai’s story goes on to show, that the right teacher cannot just impact lives, but change societies, nations, and make history too. If there is one profession, that holds the power of creating every other profession there is, it’s teaching. From doctors to engineers, scientists to law makers, teaching provides every career the strong foundation and support it requires. Beyond classes and syllabus, career plans and tuitions, what makes teaching a noble profession, is that it doesn’t just hold the power to influence the course of someone’s professional lives, but their minds, ideas, principles, values, and life in general. It is no wonder then that the ancient Indian texts recommend respecting teachers, as much as one respects their parents and God.
We may all have a favorite teacher we still think about long after we left school, or someone who shaped our choices and paths in life, right from an early age. Spread across the nation, are several such amazing teachers, who with their grit, determination, passion and warmth, continue to touch the lives of several students. We bring to you 30 such teachers, who with their noble approaches, prove that teachers are indeed divine beings.
Hailing from Farrukhabad, UP, Aditya Kumar is the epitome of Mahatma Gandhi’s words “You must be the change you wish to see in the world.” At the age of 13, Aditya Kumar ran away from home, with the desire to pursue an education that extreme poverty didn’t let him have. When he managed to get an education eventually, as most would have, he didn’t use the experience to chase a better lifestyle or luxuries. Instead, he made it his life’s mission, to help several others like him, who do not get to go to school. With just a cycle, and a few books in hand, Aditya set out on his journey. He travels across slums in different states, gathers slum children and starts teaching them. He also teaches Spoken English to people from poor backgrounds, who fail to get jobs due to the language. Who would have thought revolutionary changes can begin with such a simple step. Aditya holds the credit of teaching more than 6000 underprivileged children in India.
The teacher who gave up his life for change
In a village marred with political crimes, rapes, and murders, Barun Biswas was the brave heart who stood against a system run by the goons. Barun took it upon himself, to ensure that poor farmer’s children got the rightful education, which would eventually help them get out of the chaos they were being brought up in. He was also involved with the campaign against flooding of certain rivers, and gang rapes in his village. Unfortunately, his efforts were put to an end when he was shot to death in 2012. Barun was bestowed with the National Bravery Award in 2013. While he may be gone, the lives he touched, continue to flourish.
Rajesh Kumar Sharma
School under the bridge
When Rajesh Kumar, a college drop put who owns a general store, went to catch a glimpse of the Delhi Metro work in progress, he couldn’t help but notice the state of slum children around the area. Determined to bring about a change, he started a school under the bridge, where he, and other teachers, teach basics of English, Hindi, Science, Mathematics, History, and Geography. The school has no building, no walls, and no benches per say, but it functions with the intention of educating children who would otherwise go astray. Around 200 slum children attend this school in two batches, from 9 am to 2 pm.
A teacher who replaced the idea of learning with fun
In a world where students are expected to by-heart textbooks, pretend to understand concepts they don’t, and study only for the sake of examinations, Arvind Gupta brings a fresh new perspective on learning. He creates toys from waste, while also explaining the scientific aspects of the toy. His website www.arvindguptatoys.com is an excellent reservoir of practical science projects, learning activities, information and knowledge, that can be easily practiced at home with everyday objects. His selfless efforts of bringing learning a click away, all for free while adding a fun, inexpensive spin to it, is truly commendable.
Teaching life skills
While teacher professional development may seem like a task taken up by modern schools, Swaroop Rawal brought it to the schools of rural Gujarat. A training session that she held in 2014 through satellite link, brought about major, evident changes in teachers across rural Gujarat. Swaroop also serves as the Non-Government Special Member on the Central Advisory Board of Education.
Youngest headmaster in the world
Driven by the passion of learning and education, Babar Ali did not wait for the right time to pursue his dream. While in school himself, Barbar started his own school at the age of 16, in Murshidabad. West Bengal. What makes the school even more special, is that it is tuition free, making it affordable for the economically poor students that it caters to. This outdoor school is run by 10 teachers, all volunteers, and caters to over 800 children. Barbar ensured that the school got recognized by local authorities, so that the students get their share of free rice at the end of the month, as per a government scheme. Babar was termed by BBC, as 'youngest headmaster in the world'. Babar is 24 today, and his work continues to be recognized and accoladed.
Youngest headmistress in the world
Just like Babar, Bharti Kumari started teaching at a very young age, at the age of 12 to be precise. An abandoned girl child, Bharti did not let her roots come in the way of her efforts. She teaches about 50 students under the shade of a mango tree, every morning and evening, before and after attending school. She teaches Maths, Hindi and English in the poverty stricken village of Kusumbhara, near Patna, where children have no other source of education. To say that Bharti’s efforts could well be the change of a new wave in the village, would be an understatement.
The teacher who swims to work
Abdul Malik, a 42 year old mathematics teacher, teaches at the Muslim Lower Primary School at Padinjattumuri in Malappuram, Kerala. Refusing to let the 24 km commute get in his way of teaching, Abdul swims to work and back, and has been doing so from the last 20 years. If that isn’t appreciable enough, what makes this teacher stand out further, is that he has never missed a class. A staunch environmentalist, he often takes his students swimming, who help him remove garbage and filth from the river surface.
Making syllabus interesting
Kamlesh Zapadiya, a primary school teacher, found a fun way to make learning interesting to students who seemed to be having a mechanical approach towards it. With is friends, he developed the website “Edusafar”, that converts the entire syllabus from Class 1 to 10, in quiz formats. The syllabus can be downloaded for free from the site. What makes the effort even more commendable, is that Kamlesh who lives in an orchard, travels about 20 kms everyday, to be able to connect his laptop and phone. In the future, he plans to develop an app for competitive exams preparation.
Head Teacher, Primary School, Gamdidgaon
Madhulika Thapiyal, assisted by Pavitra Rawat, teaches five classes of all subjects, in a remote village in the hills of Garhwal. Facing difficult weather conditions and commute, she begins her day at 4 am, to reach the school on time. Such is her dedication towards teaching, that in the last 11 years, she has managed to build a profound relationship with the community that she influences with her teaching.
Headmaster, Government High Primary School, Kothanur
When Usha Rani was appointed as the headmaster in the Kothanur Government Higher Primary School in Bengaluru, she took it upon herself, to change the sorry state of the school’s infrastructure. Inviting alumni, NGOs and donors, helped Usha renovate the school, and also bring computers to the school, for both teachers and students. She also mobilises funds for students who leave the school after 10th.
Teaching after retirement
While most dream of kicking back and relaxing after retirement, Vimla Kaul and her late husband, decided to use their time after retirement, for social good. Around 20 years ago, they set up their school “Guldasta” in a tiny four room apartment, where children of maids, drivers, and several such working class parents, are taught. Students are taught English, Science, Math and Environment. The school has a computer, and offers extra-curricular activities like yoga, dance and drill. At the age of 81, Vimla Kaul still continues this mission to educate the underprivileged in her school.
Government Girls Senior Secondary School, Delhi
Hailing from a humble background, Arti is well aware of the challenges children from economically poor families face. Arti is an English language teacher in a government school, but her efforts go far beyond the walls of the classroom. She is an ardent advocate of children’s right to education, and actively works against child labor, discrimination against women, abuse, and lack of knowledge on health. Arti’s efforts steer towards ensuring children do not miss out on education due to child marriages, abuse, misconceptions on menstruation, social taboos, and child labour. Arti uses immersive learning and role play, to help students get out of their conditioned shells and not just share their stories of abuse and other issues, but also develop new skills, and compete rightfully.
A foresighted headmaster
Headmaster at the Nandikkara Government HSS, Thrissur, Rajan Thalore started a professional training center for swimming and disaster rescue in the secondary school in 2017. Owing to this training, all 150 students of his institution were able to swim through the strong currents of the Kurumali River during the Kerala floods. To say teachers save lives, becomes a literal translation as witnessed in this case. Rajan had earlier set up a Panchavadyam training center, leading children of a tiny school to win the second prize in the state level completion.
The professor who begged to fund schools
What lengths would you go to, to bring about a change? A former marine engineer and academician, Professor Sandeep Desai, went to the extent of begging on local trains, to start a rural English medium schools across villages in Maharashtra, Rajasthan and Bihar.
Panchaksharaiah B Mudholmath
No Bag Day
The increasing competition and robotic structure of learning in schools, worried this teacher of Government Higher Primary School in Gadag so much, that he came up with an innovative way to take some stress off students’ shoulders, literally! He introduced the “No Bag Day” in his school. Every Saturday, students come to school without their bags. It’s a day dedicated to extra curricular activities like seminars, folk games and quizzes. With this new approach, he was not just able to take the physical load, but mental load off too, bringing in a positive perspective about schools for students.
Shri Basruddin Khan
Headmaster, Government Middle School, Tappan village, Mewat, Haryana
In Mewat, a village located in one of the most backward districts of India, the importance of education was hard to be understood by locals, resulting in vacant classrooms, and poor attendance. Shri Basruddin Khan got in touch with the locals, and helped increase the enrollments in his school, and also brought about a decrease in the drop put rates. He also collaborated with the NGO Udaan, to ensure that girls didn’t drop put midway. He has so far worked in schools in three villages, successfully increasing the enrollment in all schools that he worked in.
Science Teacher, Government Model Higher Primary School, Bengaluru
It is teachers who don’t just understand subjects, but their students too, that truly make the difference. Susheela is one such teacher, who is on a mission to get rid of her students’ fears of numbers and fractions, before she retires. Using unconventional teaching methods through ordinary objects, 3-dimensional models, flashcards and audio-visual guides, Susheela explains complex mathematical concepts to students. Her efforts have been helpful to make Mathematics far less intimidating to her students.
Teaching children of sex slaves
Robin Chaurasiya, a former US Air Force lieutenant, runs the school “Kranti”, that doesn’t just provide education to children of sex slaves, but is also a home to them. Many of these children have themselves been victims of abuse. Robin’s school follows a curriculum and also includes extra-curricular activities like singing, dancing, writing, meditation, travel, theatre and pop-culture.
Motiur Rahman Khan
Teaches students for the IPS, IAS and the IRS for a guru dakshina of ₹11
In a country where coaching centers and schools compete to make most money out of education, there are people like Motiur Rahman Khan, who reinstate faith in the profession. Popularly known as ‘Guru Rahman’, this teacher coaches students for IAS, IRS, and IPS exams, for a mere fees of ₹ 11.
The only teacher of a tribal school
Usha Kumari faces a difficult commute ahead of her each day, as she begins from home for school. Her commute involves riding a scooty, rowing a boat, and trekking uphill using a stick, all to reach a primary school in a tribal school in Kottoor, Kerala. Not only is she the only teacher at school, she also coordinates with a group in a nearby college, to fund breakfast for the children. She also takes care of every school need, and ensures students get to participate in extracurricular activities as well, apart from learning the regular subjects. Usha indeed, is the epitome of the term one-woman army.
Teaching classes on Youtube
Where there’s a will, there’s a way, and Roshni’s YouTube channel “ExamFear Education” goes on to prove just that. Roshni didn’t need a school or infrastructure to help students learn. She runs a YouTube channel, through which she provides free education. As quoted from one of her speeches, good education does not require money.
Special Needs Teacher
It’s an unfortunate truth, that when it comes to education, children with disabilities are not given as many opportunity as the others. The economically poor ones at that, are further at disadvantage, owing to the misconceptions their families have about their disability. Having noticed this, Sonalee, a former journalist, started the “Urmi Foundation”, that works with special needs children from economically poor localities. The foundation uses art, and ideas and concepts from real life, to help educate these children.
Teaches over 1200 students for free
Beena Rao, a lecturer from Sardar Vallabhbhai National Institute of Technology, provides free education to over 1200 slum children. Beena who also teaches blind students, started “Prayas Free coaching classes”. College students volunteer as teachers from 6pm to 8pm, in these classes. These teachers don’t just stick to a schedule, but also use innovative approaches to keep students engaged.
India's first school for agriculture for girls
Ashita and her husband started the “Good Harvest School” in Pashchim Gaon, 50 kms from Lucknow. In the village that is predominantly occupied by small and marginal farmers, the school aims at providing practical education that would encourage children of farmers to come to school. The school consists of curriculum related to farming, bringing about a modern approach to the practice. The syllabus also includes relevant topics that would help the girls.
The impactful teacher who students didn’t want to let go of
G Bhagwan is an English teacher who teaches high school students. While working in the Government High School in Tiruvallur, Chennai, Bhagwan was transferred to a different school. However, on the day of his leaving, over 100 students protested his departure, physically stalling him, refusing to let him go. Such was Bhagwan’s impact in the school, that several parents of students also joined the protest, even reaching out to the local MLA to cancel the transfer. Bhagwan’s transfer had to be delayed for 10 days, owing to the emotional reactions of the lives he touched.
Head Teacher, Primary School, Gyansu, Uttarakhand
Rameshwari was awarded the Rajya Shikshak Puraskar in 2015, for the impact she had over the students of her school in Gyansu. Rajeshwari juggles between her commitments at home and school, to bring about a difference in the lives of her students. A fine example of her contributions - When a colleague and Rameshwari brought uniforms for students of low income families, with their own money. Rameshwari believes in the concept of Continuous Comprehensive Evaluation, and keeps a close observation on all her students.
The teacher who started a little school, that went on to receive the recognition of an inter college
Keshav Saran began teaching a few children in the village of Chaupal. His work became so popular by word of mouth, that with the increasing number of students, he decided to start a school, on the 4 acres of agricultural land he owned, back in 1975. Today, 1320 students are enrolled in the school, which even received the recognition of an inter college.
The educator who donates apps
A lot is said about digitizing education, but Imran Khan, a Sanskrit teacher from Alwar, takes his contribution to the movement, to the next level. He has donated over 52 educational apps to the HRD Ministry for free. His apps get more than four crore screen viewings per day.
Dr. K. Mohana
Principal, Modern Senior Secondary School, TN
Dr. K. Mohana is the Principal of Modern Senior Secondary School, Tamil Nadu. This Principal uses ICT tools for every day teaching. Apart from developing the curriculum material for CBSE Standard XI, she has several publications and articles to her credit. Her work has been recognized several times over the years, as evident by the awards and recognition she holds.
EdSense takes a bow to all these remarkable teachers, and several such teachers across the country, who change lives and societies, with their selfless determination.
- Jiji Tharayil