A women from a small town in India had always admired the teaching profession and pursued a life long career in teaching, eventually becoming a multi-disciplinary teacher of many subjects and the recipient of "Teacher of the Year" award in Melbourne, Australia. Achieving this is by all means a great achievement - presenting herewith a conversation with Alka Keshari who have been teaching various subjects in a number of schools over the last 30 years - earlier in Delhi and later in Melbourne, Australia where she is based since last 15+ years.
Tell us something about yourself?
I was born and brought up in Gaya, Bihar. My parents educated me well and were very supportive in whatever I did. They always encouraged me to learn lot of things. I relocated to Delhi with husband for work. Then after almost fourteen years later, we moved to Melbourne. We are here since last sixteen years.
What is your field of work and how did you get started on this career?
I am a school teacher for both primary and secondary level in Melbourne, Australia. I have taught students from nursery, prep to yr. 12. My main subjects are Chemistry, Biology, environmental Science, Science and Maths, but I have taught lot of other subjects. This has made me a multi skilled teacher. At the moment, I also teach Hindi through Victorian School of Languages. They are part of Department of Education and teach 50 languages to about 18,000 students all over the state of Victoria. They employ about 1600 teachers. They are pioneer in the world in the field of teaching languages.
This year (2015) I was awarded “Teacher of the Year Award” in recognition of outstanding achievement as a teacher at the Victorian School of Languages. This award is given to only few teachers once every five years. For Secondary, there were only three recipients and I was one of them.
Ms. Alka Keshari receiving the "Teacher of the Year" award from Consul Corps Secretary Mr. Tent Smyth and associate Professor Mr Bruno Mascitelli
Ms. Alka Keshari with other award winners
Can you elaborate a bit more about your early career?
After completing my B.Sc., about 32 yrs. back, I was requested to help out in the same school, Nazareth Academy, by the Principal of the school. The Principal, Sister Anne George, had taught me for almost four years and knew me very well. All the members of the Staff were very happy with my work. Due to this, I was offered a full time position.
30 years ago in a small town in Bihar, it was very uncommon for girls to work, so many people taunted me and even discouraged me. But it was my Dad, whose values I have a strong influence on, actually encouraged me to take up the job as according to him one should always learn new things to grow. He always used to say that Mrs. Indira Gandhi is such a great person, lot of people say negative things about her but has she stopped working - No. So just keep on going with your good work.
What motivates you at work?
At the end of every class, when I see the feeling of satisfaction on the faces of my students that they have learnt something positive from me, gives me tremendous satisfaction that I have contributed some thing positive in the growth of these lovely young people, motivates me to keep on going with my work. Of course, to do this, the teachings and high morale which I have inherited from my parents and my teachers help me a lot.
What do you like to do in your free time?
I like to do lot of activities during my free time. My first work is to cook delicious and nutritious food for my family as everyone in my family prefers to eat home cooked food. I have one small music system, small T.V., D.V.D. player and real T.V. box in my kitchen cum main work area of my house. Anyone of them is on all the time. It helps me catch with local, national, Indian and world news. Before retiring for the day, I like to organize for my next day’s and if possible organize something extra for myself with other important work.
I do lot of research related to my subjects which helps me to teach my students better. I also like to travel, see new places, see new things and enrich my personality. Most of the time, I keep one book for free time reading. The days I do not work, I prefer to go to local leisure centre for my aqua exercises or gym visits. My visits to leisure centre have given me new life charged with energy to keep on going with life.
How do you balance your personal and professional life?
I am in teaching profession since last 31 yrs. Sometimes, I had to be in and out for family reasons. But up till now, not even a single year has passed that I have been out of this profession totally. I have done 16 years of teaching and tutoring in India. I also worked as a Principal in a primary public school for 2 sessions. In Australia, I have been teaching for more than 15 yrs. Over here, I have taught from Prep to VCE (Grade 12).
In addition to teaching Hindi language for VSL students, I work as visiting teacher to many schools in the city teaching different subjects. The difficult part of the job is the just in time information regarding which school and which subject to teach. However I balance it well with my personal life by keeping evenings and weekends dedicated for family as I have to look after the other responsibilities of the family. This is the time, when my extra organizational work done by me in my free times, helps me to cope up with the work load.
Alka Keshari with her Husband, Son and Daughter Her Son-in law and Grand daughter
What are your lifelong dreams?
I want to keep myself fit and healthy till the last breath of my life and not be a burden on anyone, anytime in my life. I also want to keep on contributing something positive to the society. I want my fit and healthy organs of my body to continue living and giving back something to society even after I die. Due to this reason, I want my family members to donate all my useful body organs to needy people without hesitation by keeping in their mind that this was my last wish.
What was the most difficult period in your life, and how did you deal with it?
When I started working as a teacher, I was just B.Sc. After marriage, I did my B.Ed. and Post Graduate Diploma in Ecology & Environment. At that time, I was working as an Officiating Principal in a primary school. My working hours were very long with hardly any leaves. Then I had to give some break from full time work due to family reasons. But I kept on doing tutoring from home to be in touch with my demanding subjects. Last, I did my full time work at “Bal Bharati Public School” in Delhi, India. Then I decided to do my M.Ed. with two small kids. I was really very difficult for me as my husband’s working hours were very long. I don’t know how I did it but it was pleasing for me and everyone, as I got first class in all of them.
I think that my mind was set to do these, my hard work and my determination helped me to complete them successfully. Of course, my family’s and my well wishers support were always with me.
Describe how you would handle a situation if you were required to finish multiple tasks by the end of the day, and there was no conceivable way that you could finish them
I come across this type of situation most of the time. I usually write them on a piece of paper. Then I keep on completing the work and giving a tick mark after completion. If some work needs to be done in urgent way, I number all of them according to priority. By this, all work gets done well with time and most of the time without hassle.
What does it take for a women to be successful in her chosen career?
Determination, hard work, persistence and support of your loved one’s.
Any advice you would like to career aspiring women?
a. Never ever say no to new challenges which comes across your career, just give it a try.
b. Never under estimate yourself. You must have been gifted with hidden talents which you may not have realized. Take up the job, give your 100% to it and keep on going with true effort. If many things are new, give yourself time for some self study which will improve your efficiency. Sooner or later, you will be rewarded.
c. In this changing world, always be open to learn new things. You can learn new things even form a small child.
d. Of course, your hard work and determination with persistence will count a lot for your success.
" There is no end to success- keep trying"