On eve of Teachers’ Day, senior English professors taught by 77-year-old K. Chellappan released documentary on his career and innovative methods

Seventy seven-year-old K. Chellapan has a unique trait — the ability to bring together all his students, mostly heads of English departments and professors of literature in various colleges in the State.

“His memory is what astonishes me. Even at this age, he remembers all that we did as students. He is still the same when it comes to English poetry — passionate and dramatic,” said R. Vedavalli, head of department of English at Presidency College, who did her M.Phil and PhD under Dr. Chellappan.

On the eve on Teachers’ Day on Wednesday, students of Prof. Chellappan released a documentary on his teaching career and methods. ‘Inspiring Teachers’ is a celebration of teaching, and of an older generation of teachers that was immensely passionate and sincere about teaching, the students said.

Prof. Chellappan was instrumental in making sure bridge courses were conducted for thousands of students that entered university after finishing school in Tamil mediums, his students said.

“He was a first-generation learner, from the Tamil medium. He empathised with the students, and understood their struggles. Because he was also prolific in Tamil literature, he would make analogies and comparisons from literary texts,” said Elango, head of humanities department at Anna University. “Prof. Chellappan’s story tells us what it takes to be a great teacher,” he said.

Fondly known as Dr. KC, Prof. Chellappan, a senior professor of English, hails from Chettinad and has worked in many government colleges in the State, and taught hundreds of students for over four decades. He has tutored 200 teachers of English, including 120 M.Phil candidates and 50 PhDs.

Another area Prof. Chellapan specialised in was breaking the barrier between literature and language teaching, his students said. “That was a time when language teachers were looked down upon and literature teachers were considered far removed from the real world. Prof. Chellapan used literature to teach language. His students found it meaningful and functional,” said T.N. Ramani, former professor of English at Loyola College.

Prof. Chellappan’s contributions to comparative literature enjoy their place in Indian academics today. His ‘Shakespeare and Ilango as tragedians: a comparative study’ is still a subject of discussion among scholars of comparative literature, and so are his many translations, his students said.

Prof. Chellappan said a teacher never stopped growing and learning. “I began the first lecture of my life saying, ‘I dreamt a dream and thought that life was a beauty; I woke up and found that life is a duty.’ That became the motto of my life,” he said.

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