Winning hearts and smiles seem to come naturally to Tejal Amish Kothari, a special education co-ordinator at the SPJ Sadhana School at Breach Candy, Mumbai. Awards, naturally have followed!
Tejal has worked for nearly 25 years in the field of Special Education, 17 of them at SPJ Sadhana, where she has successfully trained and mentored many children with special needs and helped them earn positions as productive and respected members of society.
In November 2019, Tejal received the ‘Excellence Award for Mentally Disabled Education’ at the Global Leaders “Business Award and Summit 2019”. Further recognition came in the form of the Indian Achievers’ Award for ‘Excellence in Education & Social Work’ in May 2021 as a recognition of her “Outstanding Professional Achievement and Inspiring Social Contribution”.
Tejal is married to Amish Sharad Kothari. She is the daughter of Shama and Late Satish Haribhai Jhaveri, and daughter-in-law of Jyotsnaben (Jhula) and Sharad Puranmal Kothari. Late Puranmaldas C Kothari, grandfather of Amish, was private secretary to the then Nawab of Palanpur from the year 1925-26.
Ironically, Tejal says she would never have chosen to be in the teaching profession! “My journey began with a volunteer experience 20-22 years ago. I saw the uniqueness and selfless love of these children with special needs and I was immediately hooked,” she says. I went with a friend to SPJ Sadhana School and from that day onwards, I have been here. It’s become my first, and only home!
Once her heart was set, she went about developing her special skills, acquiring a Diploma in Special Education, pursuing BA in Psychology from Himalayan University and now doing B.Ed. (General) so that she can not only train, teach and mentor her students, but give them a direction and purpose in life. In July 2019, she also received a scholarship from IASE (International Association of Special Education) for a course in Tanzania.
Tejal has also been a participant in ‘Fostering a Global Exchange of Ideas and Information’, an international platform to share and exchange ideas related to special needs. She attended a conference at Perth Australia in 2017 July and many other workshops and conferences to upscale the knowledge in this field, as learning is an ongoing process.
As head of the Intermediate school at SPJ, Tejal implements an inclusive and holistic programme, focused on a mix that encourages academic, social and emotional growth. She leads the team by putting in place multiple modalities based on learning and behavioral strategies.
Tejal’s work has spanned many sub-sets covering students with autism, with different cognitive deficits and students with extreme behavior. She has been involved in academics, as well as played the role of a ‘Job coach’ teaching students the vocational skills needed to help them gain independence. She has also worked towards getting internships at many in sheltered workshops and organizations that are inclusive. Some of those she has trained have found careers in industries such as hospitality, the diamond sector and private consultancies. Tejal has also played a key role in some of the fund-raising initiatives that help raise resources for the institute.
What motivates her? In a recent interview posted by Payal and Bindal Shah on their Artezvous Insta Reels, Tejal said, “The amount of change that a teacher can bring is tremendous.”
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