And students who continue to express their gratitude years after leaving school

G.P. Navamani (57), a physical education teacher now serving as an Assistant Headmaster of a government-aided private school here, is set to retire from service on August 31, five days before Teachers’ Day on September 5.

The most cherished moment in his career spanning over three decades was not when he received the State government’s Dr. Radhakrishnan Best Teacher award in 2010.

It was when one of his old students recognised him at a public place.

“That day, I had gone to a railway station in Chennai to board a train to Madurai. Suddenly, a smart policeman in uniform stood in front of me at attention and saluted me, with a thunderous stomp of his boot.

“People around us in the railway station were taken aback and probably thought I was a VIP. But little did they know that I too was equally surprised and perplexed to see the policeman saluting me, an ordinary teacher.

“It was only after he introduced himself as Sevalpandi, my student some 10 years ago, that I recognised him. I had seen him last as a timid schoolboy, but on that day I saw a grown-up man with thick moustache and broad shoulders,” the teacher recalled.

The policeman treated his former teacher to a sumptuous breakfast and saw him off at the station.

He is among a band of schoolteachers who take pride in seeing their students shine in their chosen careers and feel elated when their students remember them despite losing contact for years.

“No other profession can make you feel proud to see others succeed in life,” Mr. Navamani points out sagely.

Concurring with him, K. Alagesan, also an Assistant Headmaster, says that many of his old students still fondly remember him as their favourite chemistry teacher and continue to lend a helping hand whenever he seeks their support for welfare activities at the school.

One of his students, J. Paul Murugan, son of a farmer from Thenpazhanchi near here, was at a crossroads when he completed his Class XII examinations and emerged as a school topper in 1998.

He wanted to pursue an engineering course but did not have the means.

“Those days, obtaining an educational loan was not an easy task. Yet, I took Paul Murugan to a bank manager and convinced the latter to grant him the loan. The manager was pleased to see a teacher taking pains to get a loan sanctioned for his student and agreed to grant it,” the teacher recalls.

The boy got the money, pursued a mechanical engineering course and is now a scientist at the Indian Space Research Organisation.

After joining ISRO in 2004, he pursued his M.Tech programme at the Indian Institute of Technology- Madras and completed the course in 2010.

The teacher felt honoured when his former student insisted that he select a bride for him.

Furthermore, the student pays for the education of five poor students identified by his former teacher.

Talking over phone from Thiruvananthapuram, Mr. Paul Murugan says: “I was blessed to have teachers like Alagesan Sir who recognised my potential and took chemistry tuition free of cost during my school days. That generosity helped me score full marks in the Plus Two examinations.”

Mr. Murugan says he does not forget his past and remembers the role played by his teachers in making him who he is today.

M. Vetrichelvan is another brilliant student whose achievements have made Mr. Alagesan proud. “He studied in our school between 1988 and 1992. I was his chemistry teacher. After schooling, he completed his bachelor’s as well as master’s degree in chemistry.

“In 1998, he obtained a scholarship and did his doctorate at the National University of Singapore. He also did his post-doctoral studies at the University of Houston at Texas. At my request, he recently donated Rs.10,000 for purchasing a generator for our school,” Mr. Alagesan points out.

Mr. Vetrichelvan, for his part, says nothing could have been possible without a strong foundation laid at school.

“Every educated person spends 12 years of his life at a school and that is where he gets transformed from a child into an adult.

“Those who stand witness to this transformation are the teachers who leave an indelible mark on the life of every student. I firmly believe that every school student would have been influenced or greatly impressed by at least one teacher in his lifetime.”

Mr. Vetrichelvan speaks for all students when he says that teachers should be celebrated all through life, not just on Teachers’ Day.

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