How Mrs. Sharma’s standout passion and involvement make her an asset to our school

Liana Dong

Editor-in-Chief

     An ordinary Zoom class with Mrs. Sharma starts with a song. Whether it’s Harry Styles or Taylor Swift, Disney or Celine Dion, she makes sure to start off the day on the right foot. With a good morning greeting and a “how is everyone,” she jumps into the comprehensive lessons and thoughtful interactions that have made her this January’s Nest of Honor Recipient.

     After receiving several responses complimenting Mrs. Sharma’s performance during online learning, Recognition member and 73 Questions host Isha Kansal (11) helped organize and carry out last month’s award.

     “Nest of Honor is basically something that the Recognition Committee for Leadership uses as a way to recognize mostly faculty members and sometimes students across campus . . .  It’s a submission form based thing [where] people usually submit someone who they think is doing a really good job given the circumstances [and] going above and beyond their roles.”

     The notice that she had received the award came as a shock to Mrs. Sharma.

     “I was so humbled, and if my heart could sing, my heart was singing and dancing. I couldn’t believe it because our school is full of such great people. For the students to say that, you feel validated . . . Not that I’ve done it all and I don’t need to improve at all, but that I’m on the right path and I am able to get across or touch base with my students. And that’s important. It’s not like ‘us’ and ‘them,’ it’s ‘we are in it together.’ It felt very validating. Whatever I’m doing is the right thing and I should continue doing it.”

     As a student of Mrs. Sharma for two years, Kansal appreciates the dedication and time Mrs. Sharma puts into her work.

     “She really genuinely wants her students to do well. I think [her extra effort] is really admirable considering that she teaches freshman year bio, AP Biology, and she’s the advisor for two clubs, while being a mom to one high school student and two college students . . . With remote learning, I feel like a lot of teachers want to go the easy way and [just] give assignments, kind of expect students to self learn, but then Mrs. Sharma really wants us to do [well] in the subject rather than [just] pass the subject. . .  It’s really obvious that she likes and understands what she’s teaching.”

     For Biochemistry Club founder and president Sonali Bhattacharjee (12), Mrs. Sharma’s teaching catalyzed her interest in her intended career.

     “I had Mrs. Sharma as my Bio teacher freshman year, and her class is what really got me interested in biology and just like that field [in general]. She was such a great teacher [so] I was like, let me ask her and see if she’d want to be the advisor. Her class is what got me really interested in science– not even just science! A lot of her class [covered] how even technology could be like an important part of science, so it wasn’t really just a Bio class, and that’s what I really liked about it. It was just very interesting to see everything connect like that.”

     Beyond simply teaching, Kansal notes how Mrs. Sharma puts extra care into her interactions with students.

     “She literally is a mom to her students,” Kansal recalls. “I had her in freshman year as well and [on] the first day of school. I remember she [said], ‘if you guys are ever hungry during class, just tell me. I’ll give you something to eat, or if you want lunch just come to my classroom . . . or if you don’t have someone to eat with.’ Now she’s always like, ‘if you guys need an extension on your assignment, just tell me a reason why you need it and I’ll give it to you.’ She understands that we have a lot going on in our lives besides just her class, and she really cares about our well being.”

     This consideration is important to Mrs. Sharma as someone who places emphasis on understanding her students.

     “I really admire all of you in high school because you guys go through so many more stressors than we do as adults, plus we have the coping skills. You guys are developing them. . . There’s much I can’t do, much that is beyond me. But anything I can do at my end, I would love to, and that’s why I try making things as easy as I possibly can. That’s just like a small drop in that big gigantic bucket of stress that you guys carry, but at my end at least I can alleviate them [in] whichever way I can, whether it’s by a candy bar or a hug or a breakfast bar, or just saying, ‘okay, no late penalty!’”

     Having Mrs. Sharma as both a teacher and the freshman class advisor, senator Kiwi Bautista (9) has had a lot of experience with Mrs. Sharma despite having never met her in person.

     “She gets us in a way,” Bautista explains. “If you ask her for an extension, [she’s] willing to give it. If you say that you’re not feeling well, she will allow you to turn your camera off and rest for a little bit. [After] coming back from winter break, I had three huge tests that week. I was super stressed, so I decided to email her and she made sure that I did not have a lot on my hands. . . Not all teachers have that kind of sympathy towards their students.”

     Whether by organizing an escape room activity for an end of semester review or by immersing herself in school activities, Mrs. Sharma values community inside the classroom and out.

     “I think we, at American or at any school, have to be a community. If you feel, whether [as] the adult or the student, [that] we belong, then we approach the situation with positivity and we end up performing better . . . [Our student organizations] try and incorporate so many different activities. If you see the adults participating as well, it makes the students think it’s more authentic, that we are all in it together. It’s not like a divide [where] there are the adults of the school and here are the students, and you do whatever and I’m not involved. To bring that sense of community– it’s important. And that’s how I kind of want my class to be: It’s not that I am the teacher, and you are the student. We are all in it together, and everyone’s success is important.”

     Bhattacharjee, who describes Mrs. Sharma as an crucial figure in her high school career, recalls Mrs. Sharma’s fervor for school spirit as an important part of her identity.

    “She went all out with decorating classrooms and everything, and I think she won the door decorating contest one year,” Bhattacharjee notes. “She would always decorate and dress up every year. Her Halloween costumes– a graduated cylinder! She wore a graduation gown as one of those pun costumes, and it was really funny. She definitely added a lot to the classes.”

      Investing herself in events and activities across the school is a gratifying undertaking for Mrs. Sharma.

     “For me to become a better teacher, I have to understand you, and to understand you, I have to see what all is available for you, where you can succeed because success is not just within the four walls of my room. That’s the best part: when I sit back and I watch the club people or my freshman advisors lead, it is so inspiring. They’re only fourteen to eighteen years old and they can lead an entire meeting, come up with ideas, speak with such confidence. It’s nice to know that side of your students too, beyond the textbook knowledge. As to balancing teaching and that, I think when you love something, it just kind of happens. So you make sure you have time for that.”

     Her approach to her career makes her stand out as a dedicated teacher, advisor, and mother hen who is very deserving of roosting in the January Nest of Honor.

     “Every minute that I spend in my working life [has] absolutely made me a better person. It’s made me more understanding, more empathetic, more flexible in my approach . . . Being an educator, I never feel that I am under the pressure of a job or [feel like] ‘do I have to go to work?’ I have a passion for science, and I love working with students. I just feel fortunate that I was able to combine both of them, and our student body is so respectful. They are so caring for each other and for the teachers to all of the adults in the school. It’s a great community to work in so I love what I do, and then when you love what you do, it doesn’t become hard or a pressure.”

In order to recognize her efforts with going above and beyond, Isha Kansal (11) hosts 73 Questions with Mrs. Sharma on Instagram. “She makes sure she gives enough review practice, she has office hours always open, she’s always creating a welcoming environment so you don’t feel scared to ask her questions,” Kansal shares. “She always makes sure that we’re actually understanding what we’re learning and that we’re not having to rely on self teaching methods, and I think that’s really nice of her.”

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