“Thirty years ago when one opted for a course in physical education, they were dubbed as ‘No brains, all brawn,’ as they did not realise P.E. is more than playing and exercises,” recalls Z.K. Shahuna, retired physical director of Sacred Heart Matriculation Higher Secondary School, Church Park.

Love for being outdoors took the Senior Cambridge student to the Lakshmibai College of Physical Education, Gwalior, the only degree college for P.E. in those days, to pursue Bachelors of Physical Education.

It is 37 years since she has been in the field. Today at 65, the teacher continues to give inputs on P.E. She tells Liffy Thomas that one learns more about life on playgrounds than in classrooms.

After a six-year stint in a school in Mumbai, her husband’s transfer brought Z.K. Shahuna to Chennai. The teacher started her journey with Sacred Heart Matriculation Higher Secondary School in 1972, where she moulded girls (studying in classes VI to XII) for 31 years till her retirement .

“The punishment for not doing homework was no games period, which I fought against,” says Ms. Shahuna, who is known for her sternness, discipline and outright attitude. Nevertheless, she is popular among students. Proof is some of the student blogs that sing paeans about the teacher who taught them to “stand tall and proud even in defeat”. She recalls the jubilee celebrations of the school where her former student and now Rajya Sabha member M. Kanimozhi pointing at her said, “I can still picture Mrs. Shahuna saying “Left-right-left… who is the donkey with two left legs.” Reading books and finding A.J. De Souza of Don Bosco Athletic Club as guide were some of the ways she evolved as teacher.

Post-retirement she has become a consultant for TI Matriculation Higher Secondary School, Ambattur. Ms. Shahuna is also president of the Madras Parsi Association.

Talking about importance of P.E. in schools, where space is limited, she says, “Where there is a will, there is a way.” So, what’s P.E.? “Physical education is all-round development of the child – physically, spiritually and mentally. It must be the most important subject on your timetable,” Ms. Shahuna concludes.