The slender halls of Jawahar Navodaya Vidyalaya – a Girls’ Senior School in Karnataka reverberate with excitement as Geetha and her brood of STEM champions present their new invention to the technical experts from Vikram A Sarabhai Community Science Centre, Ahmedabad. ‘The Smart Chair’ – designed by this crew – is an intuitive new tech, that integrates sensors within the chair, to caution users on their poor posture.

Impressing the experts, Geetha claims ‘I want to encourage girls and revolutionize their perception of STEM education’. Teaching by doing, Geetha has come a long way from the not-so-distant past, when the STEM resources available at her disposal, left her more perplexed than excited.

A physics teacher at the Jawahar Navodaya Vidyalaya (JNV), Karnataka, Geetha is a veteran at her job. But, with the onset of COVID, Geetha’s meticulous teaching techniques, like for so many others, came undone.

COVID was a great teacher! It revealed incredible hidden vulnerabilities of the education systems around the world and taught educators the urgent need to unlearn rote pedagogical tools and learn how to teach using technology.

Enter AIF!

Navigating this transforming education ecosystem, AIF also reflected on the support teachers need to fully deploy their talent and vocation. The need to reskill and upskill our educators became painfully evident.

This is when AIF in partnership with IBM, the Department of Science and Technology, and Navodaya Vidyalaya Samiti (Government of India) further strengthened the Vigyan Jyoti Initiative. With a special focus on girls, Vigyan Jyoti not only offers C-STEM (Curriculum-based STEM) sessions, complete with hands-on activities, experiments, and engaging games for students but also trains the teachers to adopt technology as a pedagogy.

Under the Government of India’s Atal Innovation Mission, Geetha’s school was the lucky recipient of the Atal Tinkering Lab (ATL) – a tech hub designed to germinate young thinkers and innovators in the classrooms. While she received the resources through the Lab, Geetha lacked the requisite training to maximize these resources.

Delving deeper into the challenges that plague teachers, it became evident that many teachers like Geetha were unfamiliar with certain fundamental STEM concepts in the ATL modules. Hence commenced a workshop spread over 6 days, to capacitate them with tech-forward teaching methodologies.

Vigyan Jyoti and ATL workshops allowed Geetha to learn the fundamentals of electronics, circuit designing, sensors and actuators, artificial intelligence, coding, 3D printing, and so much more. The training helped her recognize technology as a problem-solving and critical-thinking tool, to encourage girls toward a STEM education.

Following the successful workshop, a series of engagement activities were designed for attending teachers like Geetha to provide ongoing support for fully operational Atal Tinkering Labs (ATLs) in their respective schools.

Her dedication and exceptional performance soon earned Geetha the badge of Master Trainer for advanced ATL training. Her resilience has not just encouraged her students to adopt STEM learning, but equipped them with the confidence to navigate the vagaries that might confront them in the future.

She is not just my teacher. She is my Guru, mentor, advocate, and confidante. She makes me believe everything is possible – said – Bhavani Desai, Geetha’s 12th grade protégé.

Today, we wish Geetha a happy and glorious teachers’ day.
May she light the path for all future educators.
May the age-old Guru-Shishya tradition live on.

Shreya comes with thirteen years of experience in the field of communication, management, business development, marketing and advocacy, across development and private sectors. As a Board Member looking after Communication and Strategy for “Reach Out & Pass It On Foundation”, she has been a proponent of improved access to opportunities in the field of education and livelihood to the under-served communities over the last decade. She has her Masters in English Literature as well as Entrepreneurship Management and has represented her organization among cohorts of Policy and Communications leaders from across the world.

As a Dot Connector, her work experience as a communications and advocacy lead has led her to gainfully collaborate with government bodies and international organizations/entities like USAID, Houses of Parliament of the United Kingdom, Atlas Network and WWF, employing a compelling mix of theoretical insights and analytical tools, poised to deliver critical application of communication mediation in the new media ecology.

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