Telangana: The students of Government Nehru Memorial High School, Malakpet, are using peacock feathers to understand the square root of a spiral, all thanks to Mrs Padma Priya Vummaji. A mathematics teacher at the school, Padma, bagged the National Award for Best Teacher this year for integrating art, informative communication, and technology into her pedagogy. The 47-year old is gaining quick fame for evolving herself and her pedagogy to develop a deeper understanding of the subject.

While she is one of the 47 teachers nationally felicitated with this award, she is the only in Telangana. In her 24 years as a teacher, she has attempted to improve her qualifications at every step. “A teacher should believe in life-long learning. We need to evolve with every generation of students and figure out their problems,” she says.

A graduate from Osmania University, Padma was the second rank holder in triple mathematics degree during her bachelors. She went on to pursue B.Ed from Andhra Mahila Sabha College and returned to OU for a Masters’ in mathematics. She then joined the Government Girls High School, Chaderghat, in 1996 and entered into a profession she says she is profusely passionate for. “My father passed away at a very young age, and I decided to help my mother economically by giving tuitions. It was in class 8th that the first spark for teaching was inculcated in me. Ever since, the passion has only grown,” Padma adds.

The 47-year old further reflects that maths should be taught with art and design wherever possible. A favourite trick of hers is to utilise the artwork of a peacock to explain the square root of a spiral. She says, “I take the help of our school’s art teacher and show a beautiful drawing of a peacock to them. I instill, in its feathers, the concept of a spiral’s square root. The students then try to find the same design in other illustrations- of a crab and even a mermaid.”

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Padma’s student with illustration of a peacock that integrates square root spiral

Through these illustrations, Padma allows her students to be creative. She insists that freedom of creativity is important to help students understand complex formulas.

In 2016, Padma travelled to the USA as part of a teacher exchange programme and engaged in pedagogical discussions with teachers from across the world. She has even hosted three American teachers at the GNMH School, as part of Fulbright’s research programme.

However, a challenge of digital education awaits her and several other teachers who will be conducting online classes for school students September 1 onwards. Padma, with an advanced diploma in software technology, is looking forward to it. “Back in 2001, I used to create powerpoint videos for my students. Since projectors and computers were not available in classrooms then, I recorded those videos on a camera. In groups of 2-3, then, students saw the video through my camera screen,” she adds. Padma says that Information and Communication Technology (ICT) tools should be used for teaching.

Results for the National Awards were declared last week by the Ministry of Home Affairs. Post the announcement, Padma was felicitated by Telangana Education Minister Sabitha Reddy.

Priyali Dhingra

Priyali Dhingra is a post graduate in Communication Studies from Hyderabad Central University. She has previously worked as a photojournalist, editorial, and graphic design intern in The Indian Express, Newslaundry, and NDTV. Reigning from Delhi, she has an avid interest in photojournalism, and all things visual. She has also represented India as a delegate in the JENESYS 2019 Student Exchange Program with the Government of Japan. Having pursued her graduation in history from Delhi University, she was also a part of her college's theatre society. Her primary interests include: photography, poetry & politics.

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