Three city teachers honoured with Indian National Science Academy Teachers Award - 2012

They hail from different places and teach in different reputed colleges, but they all have one thing in common.

An unflinching faith in science and a love for teaching characterises three city teachers — A. Subbiah Pandi, P. Gautam and Dhamodharan Raghavachari — who have been awarded the INSA Teachers Award - 2012, for consistent and high levels of teaching.

The Indian National Science Academy presents these awards to about ten teachers from colleges, universities and institutions in the country, every year.

Subbiah Pandi who has been teaching physics for the last 29 years, says awards are meant only for encouragement, and are not to be taken very seriously. The Presidency College professor who hails from Courtallam did most of his studies in Alwarkurichi, and has worked in seven government colleges.

He has also been in charge of authoring science text books for school children. “Science has solutions to all our problems and you have to believe in science,” says the 52-year-old, “particularly teachers who have to instil this in children,” he adds.

“First of all rote learning has to stop. Every concept in science has to be explained with practical examples and there should be a fun element in teaching,” he says and smiles, as he substantiates this with a straw and a bottle of orange juice. “Ask a student to drink this placed on a bench, standing. Explain air pressure to him like that,” he says.

The other awardees too echo this philosophy of teaching and follow different techniques to illustrate it.

P. Gowtham who teaches bio-organic chemistry at Anna University has a unique track record – his research projects always have students from undergraduate streams in them.

“Students need mentorship, which is missing these days. Unless you trust them, they won’t have the confidence to build on their interests,” says the 53-year-old. The best thing about receiving the award, says Prof. Raghavachari was that students nominated him. “Otherwise it is always a peer group, a closed group that decides how good a teacher is. I was thrilled when my students asked me if they could nominate me,” he says.

A specialist in the chemistry of macromolecules, Prof. Raghavachari has guided 16 students for their Ph.D. as their sole guide in his 16 years of service at IIT-Madras and is the author of over 120 published pieces.

All three professors feel the shortage of good teachers in colleges is a worrying trend. “It is not true that only good incentives can lure young people into teaching, we need a check on the quality of teaching as well. That has to start from primary education, otherwise we will never be able to fulfil this demand for quality lecturers,” says Prof. Raghavachari.

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