Like any student, Dr Janaki Shah admits she is only human and has had days when she struggles to be at her best. But the finalist of the President’s Award for Teachers reminds herself that there are others around her.
“I’m very mindful of the fact that if I don’t give my best in class then I’m wasting a day of my life, but I’m also wasting a day in 25 students’ lives,” Dr Janaki said.
The Award recognises excellent educators for their dedication and hard work, and over 3,800 individuals were nominated this year. RP Senior Lecturer Ella Siu was among the seven Award winners this year.
A genetics and structural biology teacher, Dr Janaki tries different ways to engage students, including telling them personal stories or stories of rare diseases, or talking about animals, which students look up cute pictures of. But the 39-year-old downplays what she has done.
“Honestly, I think a lot of lecturers do it, and I think throughout this journey I think both Ella and I have had this conversation with each other a lot that I don’t think what I do is that special, I think everybody does it,” Dr Janaki said.
Dr Janaki said she was flattered to know that a few students nominated her for the Award. But she feels the nomination is a representation of her department in the School of Applied Science. “It’s so much bigger than you… the people around you are also winning even if your name is up there,” she said.
Dr Janaki first started teaching part-time at RP in 2009, but become a full-time staff in 2011. One thing she enjoys about teaching is that she is also learning at the same time. “One thing I can tell you I really enjoy about teaching is how much teaching is also about learning. It’s both – you teach, but every day you teach you also learn,” she said.
Dr Janaki counts returning alumni who recall what has been taught previously as a memorable moment in her teaching career. “On a more day to day basis, it’s also just when my students get it, because you know I teach fairly difficult topics so if my students have been struggling all day and at the end of the day they’re like, ‘Yeah I get it’, then that makes me happy,” she said.