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Meet the Professors

They make their subjects exciting. They encourage discussion and debate. They are approachable. That’s among the many things that make these individuals among the most respected and loved teachers in the city’s prominent colleges

education Updated: May 11, 2011 09:22 IST

While some classes seem like a drag to get up for in the morning, there are others that wake you right up – for a mix of their inventive teaching methods and their rapport with the students, these teachers are particularly popular in their academic circle. HT Horizons puts together brief profiles of some such professors, to help make your choices clear in the weeks leading up to admissions season.

Gauri Belgaonkar
Professor, English, Ruia College
Teaching for 15 years

Qualifications: MA in English, BEd, pursuing MEd in education
Teaching: English for junior college
Teaching methods: Belgaonkar believes that since English at the junior college level is applicable to all disciplines, it needs to be connected with other subjects as well. For instance, history, sociology and psychology can be incorporated into the lesson when teaching a particular chapter from the text, while other chapters may deal with different aspects. She first gives a background to each chapter from the text with these real-world relations and then goes into the actual textbook. This gives the students relatable context.

With students’ easy access to the internet and thus a lot of information, Belgaonkar thinks that her classes have become more challenging, but also more interesting. “Students know a lot more these days, and it's often enlightening to me as well,” she says. “I expect more from them today than I did 15 years ago, which is why the reverse also holds true.”

Ivan John
Professor, sociology and environmental studies, Sophia College
Teaching for 18 years.

Qualifications: MPhil in sociology and education, MEd. Also certified by the Trinity College of London and the Royal School of Music to teach music.
Teaching: Sociology and environmental education, junior college
Teaching methods: John believes in what he calls the radical lecture method, where time is the only constraint, not the syllabus. “The classroom is my domain,” he says. “I respect that and try to use my creative freedom in a way that best benefits all those that enter it.”

Instead of delivering lectures directly to students, John likes to involve the students into the actual teaching process.

“Students are very creative and constantly surprise me with their intelligence,” says John. “For some topics that can be fleshed out properly, I break the students into groups and have them create skits or discussions. After that, we write a summary of what we've learned on the blackboard. If they have missed something, I take over and explain the rest.”
John also believes that a single dimensional approach is outdated; the teacher must take a multi-disciplinary approach where he or she incorporates the real world into the classroom, even if it doesn't necessaril ly 'fit' within the subject boundary.

Anita Rane Kothare
Head, ancient Indian culture department, St Xavier's College
Teaching for 15 years.

Qualifications: Post-graduation in ancient Indian culture and post-graduate diplomas in Urdu, Sanskrit.
Teaching: Archaeology, museology, art of architecture, heritage conservation. Also serves as visiting faculty at the JJ School of Arts for ceramics.
Teaching Methods: Kothare firmly believes that teaching is more effective outside the classroom, especially for a subject like ancient Indian culture, where it's best to learn the history of a place from the source, whenever possible. For instance, archaeology students are taken to the caves in Elephanta and in Nasik. In Nasik, to teach them epigraphy, Kothare gave the students an on-the-spot assignment – armed with a sheet of what the symbols denote, the students had to try and translate certain inscriptions and draw conclusions about the culture from them.

For her museology students, Kothare organised a drive called 'befriending museums', where they studied the mentality of the people who come to museums and galleries. Then the students went to museums in Mumbai, where they saw a presentation which showed them glimpses of the history and then, questionnaires were given to the students to solve a scavenger hunt of sorts inside the museum.

Kothare also holds voluntary workshops on pottery, conservation as an art, dyeing techniques for all disciplines. “These workshops aren't always related to what we're studying in class,” says Lester Martis, TYBA student. “That's what reflects her passion for the subject. She's always on the move during weekends, discovering new aspects of Indian culture and is full of stories from her own experiences. She's also very open-minded and doesn't take it personally if you aren't in the mood to study sometimes.”

Rita Bose
Professor, biology, Sathaye College
Teaching for 33 years

Qualifications: MSc in zoology, BEd
Teaches: Biology to junior college students
Teaching methods: Bose has a two-point philosophy when it comes to teaching – first, to build an atmosphere in the class such that a student may feel interested in learning, and second, to connect daily events with the topics in the syllabus.

“I tell students on the first day of the academic year itself that I don't believe in one-way classes,” says Bose. “I don’t believe that just because I'm the teacher, I know everything. I encourage them to read, research and come back to class with anything they find interesting and may want to discuss. I too, have learned a lot from my students.”

According to Bose, teaching has become more challenging now, because with technology, students have a greater urge to learn. It becomes important for the teacher to stay updated.

“I like to take real-life scenarios and approach them with a problem-solving method.” For instance, when Raveena Tandon stored her blood from the umbilical cord, in case the baby may need stem cell-related treatment in the future, Bose held a detailed discussion on the pros and cons of the stem cell debate. The class became so involved in the topic that, when a student's aunt was about to deliver, she too, stored her blood from the umbilical cord, on the student's insistence.

“I often break the class into two groups and hold debates on current issues as well,” she says.

Now that the college has LCD projectors in each classroom, Bose also uses the presentation method to explain concepts such as chemical reactions, to the students.

“The classroom is my domain and I try to use my creative freedom in a way that best benefits all those that enter it. I break students into groups and have them create skits or discussions from each group.”
Ivan John, Professor, sociology and environmental studies, Sophia College

“Students are much more aware and well informed these days. They know a lot and as a teacher I expect more from them today than I did fifteen years ago. And this is why the reverse also holds true.”
Gauri Belgaonkar, Professor, English, Ruia College

“Teaching is definitely not confined to the classroom. My methods are not assignment-based but more practical with field trips, workshops and presentations.”
Anita Rane Kothare, Head, ancient Indian culture department, St Xavier’s College