|27 Sep 2023
|2023 Finalists Global Teacher Prize
Hari Krishna Patcharu teaches English to Grades 6 through 10 at his co-educational school where he has demonstrated consistent dedication and commitment to work in his community to bring about positive change. Entering the profession 20 years ago, he was deeply moved by how his students coped with underprivileged living conditions and parental illiteracy, vowing to bring about change and a better life for the next generation. This drove him to explore innovative classroom activities to overcome longstanding student fears of the English language, brought about by limited exposure to it. While most teachers in the region use the dominant regional language Telugu when teach English classes, this often results in difficulties for the students to express their thoughts in English freely.
A chance sighting of a post on Facebook transformed his teaching philosophy, as it described a cross-cultural session between students of two American states. Hari Krishna latched on to the idea of starting similar sessions with his own students to drive away the fear of English from their minds and give them a new experience. He began the uphill struggle of persuading and coaxing fellow educators globally to meet his students virtually, slowly winning their confidence with constant progress in organizing sessions, toiling to build a large network of educators, now 400-strong from all continents. Six years of Zoom sessions with them have paid off with his students shunning their fears, expressing their views clearly, improving their communication skills and gaining valuable knowledge about the wider world.
Hari Krishna also reached out to a range of philanthropists and school alumni to fund a classroom makeover, enabling a remodelling of the room with many pictures representing India’s culture and traditions, together with new chairs, transforming a normal room into a world-class classroom. While providing these cross-cultural activities, he also focused on student written and spoken English skills, even organizing online classes from his home. Although most students did not have smartphones, he convinced their parents to buy these devices so they could access online content, a mix of cross-cultural events and subject-related sessions. Nowadays, due to their confidence in their language skills, his students can ask questions and clear up any doubts, accessing a range of topic experts across the globe, covering culture to science and geography to fashion. Hari Krishna has organized sessions with more than 120 educators from countries including Mongolia, Brazil, U.S.A. and the Netherlands. He has also organized a pen pal program across 12 countries, with letters exchanged by post, an expensive exercise but enjoyed, particularly as it helps his students improve their written skills.
His networking skills worldwide means he has also been able to gain financial support from a Swedish English teacher for one of his poorest students to help fund their higher education. He is organizing professional development sessions for his region and state teaching community, with more than 2,000 of them able to meet reputed teachers and professors across the world. He has managed to gain access to experts in robotics, coding and STEM subjects for his student community and his reputation is such that his state education department even sought his help in revising the state syllabus.