It is aptly said that teachers are god-incarnate as they are the potential force to maneuver pupil’s life. Mentoring and shaping their future is their prime objective and a moral obligation, too. However, everything is not hunky-dory as it seems as some of them have to fight their way through the personal tragedies and afflictions. Meet- Shashank Shukla, a ‘Rashtrapati Alankaran’ recipient and an accomplished teacher at Government excellence school, making a mark in spite of disability. Struck by ‘Polio, he suffered huge setbacks in life nevertheless it did not deter him to succeed and march ahead. He moves proudly in his tri-motorcycle designed for especially-able people, marshalling young students alongside him for various noble causes. Recently, Free Press had a delightful conversation with this charismatic personality where he opened up on many counts vis-à-vis students development and growth.
(Excerpts from the interview)

Can you please take us through your journey as a teacher?

Well, early on in my childhood when I was barely 3-year-old, suffered through typhoid and later, Polio crippled me. My father was quite distraught as my future seemed in doldrums. He wondered how I would pursue my education. Life sprung many obstacles in my course but I continued my journey uncomplainingly. Though it was very painful yet I persisted believing that whatever happens, happens for the best. My school life got over soon and then I pursued my graduation and post graduation and later on appointed as govt. teacher in Government school for excellence.
How did you get ‘Rashtrapati award’? Briefly tell us what are its criteria?
It so happened that one day my colleagues were discussing about the submission of nomination for district-level best teachers awards. They asked if I had submitted my entry for the same. Since I did not do it, I immediately followed suit and kept my fingers crossed zealously. Later on, I was informed that my nomination is not going for district but for state level. It was an overwhelming delight for me. I was totally oblivious to the fact that what was going unfold would be even more delightful. Afterwards, my application got upgraded from state level to national level for this coveted honour. Eventually, I was conferred with ‘Rashtraparti Award’ by then President of India honorable Pranab Mukharji in year 2016. Besides this, I was even conferred with ‘Madhya Pradesh Governor Award’ by former Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan in 2017.
As for criterion, every year 350 awardees are bestowed with this recognition in honour of their distinguished and exemplary work. One male and one female teacher each from primary, middle and higher secondary school across the country are chosen and scrutinized for the entitlement of felicitation.
Given the modern amenities meant for students how excellence school is different from other government schools or any private institution?
Considering everything, our school is no less than any other school in the city. Facilities have become incredibly amazing thanks to the present and previous governments’ ceaseless efforts. We have well-furnished class rooms and well-equipped labs. Not only this, even pure R.O drinking water and enormous playing field for kids is some of the salient features of our school. In last two years only, 26 smart classes have been developed inside school premises. Besides this, aspirants have to appear in a state-level exam in order to enroll themselves into various courses of school. On coming March 10th, this exam is going to be conducted for which we have received about 2800 application from Ujjain alone. In addition to this, scholarships are even available for general category students. So facilities and selection criteria is very qualitative and meticulously planned.
How do you encourage and motivate students for noble causes?
I being a nature-lover always urge and exhort them for environment conservation and protection. Usually I take them on river banks and others area of city regularly to plant seeds, saplings and trees. In my journeys, I generally carry seeds and keep throwing them en route so that it can sprout and turn into a big tree one day. Such is my affection towards nature. I have also devised a unique method to sensitize my students. My punishment is often in terms of conservation of environment which includes cleaning up littered school ground and planting trees. We have also made dozens of pits where we compress this garbage which later turns into wormy-compost and serves as manure for trees.
A lot of students are to face board exams….Any message or tip?
Don’t be stressed and be relaxed. Write your exams calmly and peacefully. Given the time scarcity, try to consolidate the previous concepts rather than memorizing new ones. Have faith and work hard.