Jashu Vekaria MBE
“Can you imagine, my passion is my job and I was being rewarded for a job I love? It was one of my proudest moments!”
Winner, the Award for Teacher of the Year in a Primary School, 2016
Currently Deputy Headteacher Uxendon Manor Primary School
It was wonderful receiving the award as it felt I was the voice for all teachers. As you can imagine winning such a prestigious award makes you feel both humble and elated. My career began in the London Borough of Harrow in 2002, 16 years later I won the teaching awards while working in the London Borough of Brent. My passion for teaching remains strong and the award was a wonderful affirmation on rewarding me for a job that I simply love to do.
Following on from the award I was given many opportunities to be on TV, radio, newspapers and even written my own articles. Achievements and experiences beyond my wildest dreams and personal precious moments; these privileges would never have had happened without this award. My career has taken an upward turn as I have reflected even more as a practitioner and have now completed my National Professional Qualification for Headship (NPQH).
Teaching for learning is in my blood and the experience does make you question the impact you are having on every single learner. Striving for excellence for all pupils has always been my aim. Every child does matter and the many roles as a teacher, carer, nurse, counsellor, negotiator and investigator highlights what a diverse and rewarding career I have the honour to be part of.
Furthermore, this year I was shortlisted for the Asian Woman of Achievement awards for teaching. During the awards ceremony I received a high commendation. This was truly a wow moment too as it showed how far teaching has come. It felt like a corporate event in a very corporate world so to represent the teaching profession was fantastic.
THE JOB, CHANGES AND CHALLENGES
Teaching is my vocation. It is the very essence of me and I have always wanted to be a teacher from a very young age. However, it was my first head teacher who noticed my potential when I was a newly qualified teacher. She really encouraged me and focused her energy on the quiet, shy person I was back then. Her praise and care, allowed me to blossom and my self-confidence as a teacher grew. Shortly afterwards, I became an Advanced Skills Teacher (AST) and my role within the school developed, as did my role in the borough – this is when I started in-reach and out-reach work.
My teaching style has adapted to the numerous changes the government throws our way. I have always had a friendly, relaxed approach with my pupils. Learning should be fun yet at the same time, progress needs to occur in every single lesson. This has always been my motivation.
Pastoral care is as old as time in teaching. This is the heart of teaching. Of course learners need to learn the academics, however, if a child has come to school without breakfast – we feed them. He or she has a dirty jumper – we clothe them. If a child is thirsty or hurt physically or emotionally we take care of them. If these things are not in place – how can a learner learn? It is part of the job, however it is more than a job – it is my life.
Everybody has an opinion on teaching – whether it is positive or negative. Social media just feeds their ideas – both positive and negative. Linking back to the teaching awards, this was extremely beneficial because it connected me to the world at large. The sense of achievement felt profound because I felt inspired by all the comments from around the world. Being Asian, my community (and the wider world) really supported and encouraged me. Also, being a woman, I feel I have now inspired others. In life you have to give and take and I believe I education reflects this.
My most memorable experience in teaching is taking a child with special educational needs to a 5 day residential. This child (because of his needs) needed to bring his parents. So that his parents could be part of this amazing, once in a life time experience, I needed to vacate my teacher room and be placed in a hut in the back of the woods (no electricity or running water but extra spiders for special measure)! However, the look of pure joy both on this child’s face and the parents will be eternally etched in my memory.
My most memorable moment in teaching has to be dancing with Strictly Come Dancing dancer – Brendan Cole! As a ‘treat’ for winning the Teaching Award, the news was broken to me with a surprise guest. My heart was pounding like an African drum. Strictly is the best show ever! However, underpinning this was the emotion I felt as my career flashed before my very eyes… Can you imagine, my passion is my job and I was being rewarded for a job I love? It was one of my proudest moments!
Many pupils come back and visit me and say I made their educational experience exciting and that they remember me. I am always so touched and honoured when this happens.
Be positive! Seek advice! Have fun! It can be a lonely once you start your career as everybody seems to know what they are doing! However, there are such wonderful teachers out there who want to coach and mentor as well as take these young teachers under their wings so that eventually they can fly. This is what happened to me at my school in Harrow and I will be forever grateful for this.
THE TEACHING PROFESSION
Teaching has been recycled over the years – it is like fashion. If it’s topical to state children cannot read, then there is a big push on reading. If writing is not good enough, then there is a big push on grammar. If we are being compared to China and Singapore, then it’s our maths which needs to change. We can either embrace the change or we can be negative and despondent with our attitude. Personally, I will always embrace change as we are all evolving. Nothing is stagnant – not just in teaching but in life too.
I love teaching! It keeps you young and the children are the heart of it all. The feel good factor of getting up daily for a job you love – nothing can beat it! Realising that you are living your dream is an indescribable feeling. Knowing that you are teaching the future generation will always give you a natural high.
Ultimately, you need to love this job and you have to want to be here. It can be hard when a child is hurting emotionally. It can affect family life when you are in school for 14 hours a day. So to encourage others to stay is a tricky question to answer. Why would you encourage somebody if they do not want to stay? I can advise them, coach them, mentor them but at the end of the day it will be their decision.