They say heroes are not born, they are made. 

More than four months ago, Harappa launched a Habit Heroes initiative to celebrate people who walked the extra mile to support others in the early days of the pandemic. A stellar jury selected 10 Habit Heroes from over 400 nominations for their can-do spirit and inspiring stories of community engagement

We then launched the second phase of the Habit Heroes initiative to recognize the spirit of pioneering teachers for embracing change and creating opportunities for their students to learn through these difficult times. More than 2,000 nominations poured in from all parts of the country when we announced it on Teachers’ Day.

Teachers shared their stories of switching to online teaching, many of them for the first time. They talked about how they overcame the challenges during the transition as well as innovative ideas and methodologies they’re using to make their new online classrooms as impactful as the offline ones.

We could only have five pioneering educators as our Habit Heroes, but the resilience and passion of so many more educators and teachers across the country humbled us. We’re thrilled to share 10 more stories that didn’t make the final cut but inspired us with their innovative ideas and zeal for ensuring learning never stops. 

  1. Sumedha Sodhi, Delhi: Sumedha has 13 years of teaching experience. She teaches grades 9 and 10 at Ahlcon International School. She recognized that social distancing and online education were leading to isolation and a disconnect among students. She then upskilled to add socio-interactive elements to her virtual teaching to build a sense of belonging and connectivity. Sumedha introduced peer learning activities, quizzes, personalized diagnostic feedback and virtual group discussions to her lessons. This broke the natural boundaries of online teaching and introduced her students to methodic, flexible and experiential learning.

  2. Hari Krishna Kommi, Tirupati: As soon as the pandemic hit, Hari Krishna started teaching his grade 7 and 8 students at Edify School about COVID-19. He used his science background to teach them about the virus, its spread, impact and the precautions to prevent infection. He got back to the syllabus only after his students felt aware and prepared to tackle the challenging situation the pandemic had imposed. Hari Krishna conducted his classes on Microsoft Teams and encouraged his students to prepare videos of themselves practicing their lessons. He also started a YouTube channel called Physics4Ap where he taught physics, chemistry and biology to his subscribers. He also held live sessions for them to clarify any doubts and answer their questions so they were ready to write their board exams.

  3. Ritika Jain, Udaipur: Having taught grades 9 to 10 for the last decade, Ritika Jain of Seedling Modern Public School has witnessed the shortening attention spans of students. She started a YouTube channel during the lockdown to teach physics to ensure there was no break in learning for her students and subscribers. Her bite-sized videos explain a single concept in five minutes or less. Ritika also introduced timed, online self-assessments for her school’s students to facilitate the shift to virtual teaching.

  4. Cherry Goyal, Jaipur: Cherry’s rich, global teaching experience spanning 15 years helped her introduce innovative and interactive learning through her teaching. She complemented principles of blended learning with flipped classrooms where her students led the learning. She used various technology platforms such as Kahoot and Quizlet to make her teaching interactive. She also helped her school, MGD Girls’ School, host the first virtual inter-school English debate competition that was attended by students, guests and judges from across the country.

  5. Nilesh Panchal, Ahmedabad: Nilesh has been working with specially-abled children through Navjeevan Charitable Trust School for the past 27 years. He works to ensure their training, education and rehabilitation in society. Nilesh started weekly competitions during the lockdown to keep his students engaged and excited about their education. Every day, they host different activities related to art and craft, dance, general knowledge, or yoga. On Saturdays, they host a themed competition. Winners not only get gifts through Paytm but also get to interact with different guests from across the country every week. Nilesh has also been conducting sensitization lessons for parents and other teachers to counsel and guide them through this transition.

  6. Amit Kumar, Chandigarh: Amit has been teaching electronics and communications engineering students for the past eight years, most recently at Punjab’s Chitkara University. When learning went online, he took the opportunity to relearn and adapt himself to his new circumstances using online quizzes, interactive polls and online meeting rooms. These helped him create interactive and collaborative virtual spaces for his students to feel connected with the real world. Amit has also started assigning video submissions instead of written assignments to keep things interesting and help his students become confident in front of the camera. For Amit, the biggest benefit of online teaching is that he continues to learn new things every day in the quest to keep things enjoyable for his students.

  7. Ibrahim Iimran, Kannur: Ibrahim works at Zahra Arts and Science College, and has spent 12 years teaching degree students. He had no experience in conducting online classes. While making the transition to online teaching, Ibrahim wanted to ensure that his students didn’t feel disconnected or isolated in virtual classes. He resolved this by making lessons informative and fun by introducing storytelling and giving each student individualized attention.

  8. Sanjay Sachdeva, Ahmedabad: Sanjay has taught classes 6 to 8 for the last 13 years. In the early days of the lockdown, he started teaching his students at Vansol Sundha Primary School using Microsoft Teams. In a few days, Sanjay realized that many students didn’t have their own phones or access to a TV. To overcome this obstacle, he repurposed an unused wall of a dairy shop into a learning wall. He named it Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam Home Learning Wall. He has been writing new spellings every day on this wall for parents to check and teach their kids back home. Students send their notebooks every week for Sanjay to check their learning progress. Using this innovative idea, he has also been filling the wall with the latest information on precautionary measures against COVID-19.

  9. V Ramadevi, Bhimavaram: Ramadevi has 29 years of teaching experience and is currently a Professor of English at Vishnu Institute of Technology. She also looks after campus recruitment training students. Being at the forefront of placements and training, she observed the immediate impact of the lockdown in the obstacles her students were facing due to low exposure to English outside of the university. To level the playing field for her students, she worked on motivating them to take up online courses by premium educational institutions across the world, and customized instruction to suit individual requirements. These efforts have led to an improvement in communication skills in students, which was reflected in the placements they’ve secured. 

  10. A. Jagan Mohan Reddy, Hyderabad: Jagan Mohan has been teaching for the last 20 years. He currently teaches MBA students at Symbiosis Institute of Business Management. Although switching to online teaching has been a challenge, Jagan believes that teachers can overcome obstacles by preparing their lessons in an innovative and relatable manner. He has spent his preparation time improving his pedagogy and presentation skills to make virtual classes engaging and productive. He has introduced storytelling to replace theory lessons, uses real-world corporate examples, and creates time for reflection. He has also started using features like polls and live chat to create an engaging learning atmosphere during his lessons.

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