Inspiring young lives

Three teachers who have in their own unique way shaped students’ lives

Published - September 04, 2014 07:44 pm IST

P. R. Venkitaraman, career guidance counsellor. Photo: Special Arrangement

P. R. Venkitaraman, career guidance counsellor. Photo: Special Arrangement

The go-to man

A teacher’s success lies in intuiting what his/her student needs and fulfilling that need. It cannot be found between the pages of a textbook, say P. R. Venkitaraman, career guidance counsellor. A teacher (at St. Albert’s College) for more than 30 years, he has spent 22 of those helping shape careers. He stumbled into career guidance and today he is one of the most sought-after in his field.

He appears on Amrita TV’s Vidyabhyasa Vartha; for the last five years he has been appearing regularly (365 days in a year) on All India Radio’s (Cochin) FM channel in ‘Enthupadikkanam Enthakanam’.

Over the years he has seen career options move from the medicine-engineering duo to fashion design and aircraft pilots. He is a go-to person for parents in doubt. “Kerala is the best location to start a career – which is driven by parents. As part of my interactions I have found that parents are concerned about their wards’ careers. They have serious enquiries,” he says.

He likens the career guidance expert’s job to that of a diagnostician. “Listen to the child and the parent carefully – listen to what they want and then suggest an option,” but the answers have to be quick. He advocates the personal touch wherein it becomes important to listen.

His greatest success story as career guidance professional is perhaps is son, Dr. Sriram Venkitaraman who cleared the UPSC exams last year. He doesn’t take credit for his son’s achievements which he attributes to Sriram’s hard work, but he helped him with the preparation for the interview. With all the years of counselling the one word of suggestion he offers is “Diversification. Learn five things and it creates a synergy in your profession.”

Miss Ji

One among the many distinctive characters that give Fort Kochi its cosmopolitan colour is 80-year-old Hindi teacher Yasmin Sylvester fondly called ‘Ji’ miss. Her 40 years’ service as a Hindi teacher was recognised recently by the Rotary International District 3201 and she was presented with a citation of ‘Shrestacharya 2013’.

Ji miss came to the city in 1967 from Bareilly in UP, after her marriage to N. Sylvester, a Malayali working in the Merchant Navy. The Delta Study in Fort Kochi was on the lookout for a Hindi teacher. Yasmin joined in as a substitute and soon became a permanent teacher. She climbed the ranks steadily on the strength of her teaching methods and popularity and became the Head of the Department.

She remembers her initial years, “teaching Hindi was a tough task then. There was little exposure to the language. I began by stressing the need for politeness and asked them to say ‘ji’ before and at the end of a proper noun.

It was done to refine language delivery. Soon I became Ji miss.”

Yasmin’s unique teaching methods are story narration, singing songs and helping children compose poetry. She lays emphasis on right pronunciation, diction and reading.

After she retired in 2012, she was called back to teach at the school. She continues to give Hindi tuitions and one can see a line of kids walking up to the trellised door of her pretty row house on Quirose Street. With Fort Kochi being a tourist hub, Ji miss often finds herself teaching Hindi to tourists. Currently she has two 20- year-old twenty year old British nationals as her students and she proudly shows a card sent to her by her Austrian student Lotte thanking her. It says ‘Namaste ji’ and ‘Dhanyavaad ji’.

The all-rounder

Why is everything spinning? What force causes the moons, planets, stars to spin? Sir, when you put a candle on a spinning turntable, why does the flame point inwards?

For 32 years, Prof. V. J. Antony was engaged in helping students make sense of Physics. And this often went beyond the classroom and the syllabus. Antony was a favourite teacher for a legion of students at The Cochin College. And all the while Antony pursued his interest in counselling. Over the years, his passion for quantum physics turned into a passion for psychology. His initial curiosity about the natural world changed into an interest about the human inner world. “Physics, studies, life itself has no meaning if you are mentally troubled. Being mentally healthy is something everyone needs to give top priority. And after retirement in 2000 family counselling has taken precedence over Physics,” says Antony, who has won a clutch of teaching awards.

Antony is an inventor of sorts who has created several mechanical gadgets such as like the easy Address Finding System, Coconut Tree Climbing Machine, Conical Solar Cooker and numerous instruments that are widely used in school and college laboratories.

He is the first Asian to win the Casme (Centre for the Advancement of Science and Mathematics Education) International Award for his teaching aids. Designing gardens is another of Antony’s interests. He is president of the Magic Society and an active member of the Indian Red Cross Society. With a PhD in Counselling & Psychotherapy, training in counselling and various healing techniques, Antony conducts regular classes, seminars and workshops in India, West Asia and Africa.

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