An exemplary teacher, devoted to inclusiveness is what defines our guest speak – Ms.Neena Jacob. She personifies acceptance, inclusiveness and compassion. Lead by example is her motto. She is currently one of the trustees at The Sethu Foundation, Goa. The core focus of The Sethu Foundation is to bring many more children into the mainstream education. A trained architect at the J J School of Art, Neena chose education as her profession. She has impacted the lives of ~ 45,000 students over the last 30 years. Prior to joining The Sethu Foundation, she was the Principal (Primary) at Fr. Agnel School, Navi Mumbai, where she championed and practiced inclusive education for all.
Transition From Architecture to Teaching
Neena talks about how ‘Atlas Shrugged’ by Ayn Rand was the inspiration to take up Architecture. The quickly realised her heart lay in education. Her family had some reservations about her foray into education. After all she was armed with an Architecture degree from one of the best institutions in India. She mentions about how Architecture is the best blend of any field that brings together arts, science, mathematics, history. It was the best thing that has happened to her. Neena was drawn back to her early interest in education. She received her Trained Teachers Certification from the Anglo Indian curriculum of the ICSE Board.
Starting & Operationalizing ‘Inclusive Education’
Neena was a part of the initiative of ‘Inclusive Education’ at Fr. Agnel School, started at the behest of the school Principal. She ploughed through the difficult process, unconvinced, but following the mandate of the authorities. It was only when a conference speaker, a teacher from Bangladesh talked about inclusion, that Neena completely bought into the idea of inclusion. She observed how teachers could tap into the concept of Gardner’s Multiple Intelligences in classes with children with special needs. Music, movement, inquiry and colors influenced the children’s learning ability and benefited all the children in the class. The presence of a differently abled child helped bring out natural empathy and caring in the class, and assist the teacher in the social and academic inclusion.
Sensitizing and working with parents
Many times parents find it difficult to acknowledge and accept their child’s difference and seek remediation. IN her working with parents, Neena used innovative methods along with embracing technology. This has been a game changer leading to wider parental acceptance. Neena has seen the transition from Braille to software applications such as JAWS which truly democratised education. She mentions how the child should be given an exposure to all walks of life including daily chores, wherein the realize the value of every activity, no matter how minor . This exposure helps them take conscious career choices, enabling them to enjoy what they do.
Early detection leads to early remediation – Neena Jacob
Post Retirement – continuing the ‘Inclusive Education’ journey
Neena retired after 33 years with a mainstream school in Mumbai. She and her husband moved to Goa. She wants to share her learning and help society. As a Trustee for Sethu she is in the perfect position to share her experience and conviction. Neena, is a key resource person in our teacher education and Government primary school project.
She is a keen bird watcher and doodler in her spare time! She also writes a parenting column in NavHind Times, Goa. Some of the columns can be read here: https://www.navhindtimes.in/2021/11/19/magazines/kuriocity/show-the-love/
Neena does a thirty minute conversation with Deepa, talking about her journey from an unsure teacher to a staunch supporter and powerful practitioner of inclusive education.