What would we do without teachers?. It’s a question many parents have asked themselves during the last couple of pandemic years. It’s been an incredibly difficult time and teachers have shown, time and again, their passion for their students and their resilience in the face of challenge after challenge.

Overcoming adversities themselves and enabling their students to overcome them as well in the last two years has been no less than a battle for many educators. Recognizing the need to celebrate such educators, the theme of Learning Matters’ Star Educator Awards 2021 was ‘Overcoming Adversity’.

This year, the Star Educator Awards witnessed hundreds of nominations across the globe for 10 categories. We were joyously overwhelmed to see the manner in which people came out to support educators - be it their current or past teachers, colleagues, mentors, or the teachers in their children’s lives.

The virtual awards function was an inspiring evening graced by the talented and passionate winners as well as the guest of honour Dr. Malvika Iyer, a bomb-blast survivor and winner of India’s Nari Shakti Puraskar award.

The ten winners shared their unique thoughts on a spectrum of issues ranging from what motivated them to take up the teaching profession to how they have successfully managed to cope with challenges. Here’s a look at these incredibly inspiring individuals.

Presenting...the winners of the Star Educator Awards 2021!

Winner: Excellence in Inclusive Leadership

Ms. Zulekha Siddiqui,
Anjuman - I - Islam's A. A. Khatkhatay English Secondary School,
Navi Mumbai, Maharashtra

Ms. Zulekha Siddiqui is the principal of Anjuman school since 2008. On receiving the award, Ms. Zulekha shared that the best part of being a teacher is being connected with the younger generation and to always have the opportunity to learn. With regard to the testing times for teachers during the pandemic, she said “The difficult times made teachers emerge stronger than ever and I always believe, there will always be a solution to a problem”.

Winner: Excellence in teaching Languages

Mr. Srinivas Arroji,
Nishitha Degree College,
Nizamabad, Telangana

Mr. Srinivas Arroji is the HOD of English in Nishita Degree College. Mr. Arroji shared his secret to the happiness of being a teacher and said, “Being a teacher, you will always have something new to learn and it is exciting. Teachers have the biggest responsibility of moulding the future generation. Thus, it’s important to keep learning as we teach”.

Winner: Excellence in teaching Mathematics

Dr. Pradeep Agashe,
Math trainer, Lend-A-Hand India,
Pune, Maharashtra

Dr. Pradeep Agashe is a veteran with 40+ years of teaching experience who has dedicated his life to mentoring and promoting mathematics. Dr. Agashe spoke about the need to eliminate fear for the subject mathematics and said, “There is a lot of fear among children about math which is created by the way adults talk about math. If we consciously change the way we talk about math and make it fun, we can encourage children to pursue the subject with interest.”

Winner: Excellence in Creative Teaching

Ms. Tasneem Saiffuddin Shibaam,
M.S.B Education Institute,
Mumbai, Maharashtra

A science teacher with 28 years of experience in teaching, Ms. Shibaam shared her experience of getting through the seismic shift in teaching and learning and said, “One doesn’t require hi-fi lab or apparatus to teach science and I have experienced this when I was using commonly found things at home for experiments to teach children. The strong desire to teach children is pivotal to teaching effectively and efficiently”. 

Winner: Excellence in teaching Social Studies/Humanities

Ms. N.S Lakshmi Sengupta,
Bombay Scottish School,
Mumbai, Maharashtra

Ms. Sengupta shared her way of encouraging students in these tough times - leading by example. She further added, “There were times when I wanted to call it quits but the next day, a single smile from a student was enough to remind me why I chose this profession and helped me to keep going”.

Winner: Excellence in teaching Children with Special Needs

Ms. Sandhya Ukkalkar,
Jai Vakeel Foundation Autism Center,
Mumbai, Maharashtra

Ms. Ukkalkar dedicated the award to her son Rohan and said,”It is said that a child gives birth to the mother but my child has given birth to a mother and a teacher. He is my biggest motivation to be in the field of Special Education. The journey during this has taught me that every challenge has come with an opportunity to transform us. I totally agree that my challenge to train my child has been possible due to the right training at Jai Vakeel Foundation's Mind's College of Special Education that I received along with the right tools to achieve the destination. This award is in its true sense a recognition to my son and me in society.” 

Winner: Outstanding Institution

Pune, Maharashtra

Ummeed is a community centre started by young students with the aim to provide holistic development of underprivileged children. The organisation is working on different sectors such as education, social awareness, developing leadership quality, and building confidence among economically-poor children. The students actively participate in programs of donating books to the needy, conducting short term courses, engaging in extracurricular activities and many more to impart education at every level possible.

Ms. Ketaki from Umeed spoke of working on holistic development of children and shared her motivation to teach, “The kids who I teach are my biggest motivation to keep going despite the challenges. The positive energy they bring is immense”.

Winner: Champion of Education

Ms. Maitri Sivaraman,
Effective Intervention,
The Gambia, West Africa. 

Ms. Maitri Sivaraman works in Rural Gambia, West Africa, as the National Program Coordinator of Effective Interventions. Ms. Sivaraman spoke about overcoming challenges and said, “Challenge is the best way to propel your best and when you look at the challenges with such an attitude, it becomes interesting”. She further spoke of the significance of training teachers and the need for teachers to have not just content knowledge but the means to implement it and said, “Learning is continuous, if one wants to be part of a teaching profession”.

Winner: Excellence in Digital Innovation

Ms. Bhawna Garg,
Tagore International School - Vasant Vihar,
New Delhi

Ms. Bhawna Garg is a passionate educator from New Delhi. On receiving the award Ms. Garg shared her main reason for taking up teaching, which is to mould young minds for a better future. Speaking about the use of technology, she said, “Technology is one thing; where benefits and risks go hand in hand and one needs to use it with caution”. Furthermore, congratulated the teaching fraternity for coming out victorious in these tough times and acing the use of technology in the classroom.

Winner: Excellence in teaching Science

Ms. Sucheeta Pall,
St. Columba's School,
New Delhi

Ms. Sucheeta Pall has over 22 years of diverse teaching experience. Ms. Pall expressed her joy over winning the award and shared, “Working with students, I feel young at heart and energized. Each batch is so different, pedagogy is changing, and a new flavour is added to a school. There is no scope for monotony or stagnation. In fact, there’s never a dull moment!” She further shared her mantra during the pandemic, “new normal calls for new learning”.

The Star Educator Awards Gala was an evening filled with unadulterated inspiration. From our key speaker Dr. Iyer to our honourable winners, everyone shared their mantras for accepting change, overcoming challenges and emerging victorious.

Do check out the highlights of our SEA gala 2021 for motivation to keep going... no matter what.