#BoldAndInspiring South Asian Women Series: Honours Educator Vaishali Patel, founder of Sanskar Teaching. Follow our hashtag, #mminspire for the conversation
Making Gujarati Accessible One Lesson at a Time
Born and raised in Baroda, when Vaishali A. Patel moved from India to the US at age 16, like most teens, she just wanted to fit in—badly. That meant she didn’t want to have anything to do with her Indian side.
Fast forward years later when she became a mother living in San Diego, that perspective changed. As a mom with Gujarati roots, she wanted to give her children a sense of identity.
“I wanted them to feel the connection and pull I had towards our Gujarati/Indian culture,” says Patel. “I wanted them to know, value and respect their roots.”
She wanted her children to learn the Gujarati language and drove for two hours every Sunday, so they could attend a Gujarati school where she taught for many years. After realizing the immense pressure other parents could feel about not having that kind of time to drive kids to classes, she was inspired to do something more.
She thought, what if everyone could learn Gujarati from the comfort of their homes?
“I started teaching my kiddos and some of their friends from my home and the class sizes kept growing. In 2016 I opened up Sanskar Teaching so that Gujarati culture, traditions, rituals and the language could become available to anyone from the comfort of their own homes.”
And she hasn’t looked back since. Growing her educational brand has been quite a journey.
Sanskar Teaching’s mission is to create the understanding behind our cultural traditions and rituals. From simple things like Why do Gujaratis have simple traditions like taking off our shoes, bowing to our elders etc. Sanskar Teaching teaches Gujarati using English allowing students to be more receptive and engaged. Their curriculum incorporates interactive games, fun and easy crafts, projects, stories, songs, prayers and other creative tools to emphasize the verbal and spoken part of the Gujarati language. In culture learning blocks, you get to learn about festivals, traditions, rituals and daily living. All learning tools are online—everything from games with flashcards, lessons, courses and conversational tools for vocabulary.
I have learned in the last 15 years of teaching Gujarati that when the children and young adults understand the reasons behind following a certain ritual or celebrating a certain festival then they value it and willingly want to… Click To Tweet
With so many varying tools under her belt via her inspiring platform, she is most proud of her Essential Gujarati Online video course which allows families to learn Gujarati at their own time and place. The group meets once a week on google hangouts and this allows the students to see the teacher and interact with each other. Each week students receive a folder on google drive with classwork which includes audios, videos, pdfs, worksheets etc. Class sizes are limited to ten students per class. This allows the students to get personalized attention.
“This course is very dear to me because in the process I have grown as a person tremendously. There were many doubts and tears along the way, but I know for sure that this work of being able to bridge the generational gap of not just the language, but the cultural understanding is valuable and needed.”
In line with her mission to be accessible to everyone, two spots every year that are reserved for scholarship students who are in need. For Vaishali, giving back is part of Sanskar Teaching’s mission and part of her cultural roots.
The company uses a portion of the proceeds from all sales of online and live courses, to support in a small school called Pisai Prathmik (primary) school located in a small village in Vadodara district of the state of Gujarat, India. Here, children of farm workers, carpenters, factory workers ages kindergarten through grade 7, endeavour to become educated. The government pays the teacher (s) in this school. Sanskar Teaching supplements the rest of what this school needs to provide a quality education for these kids.
Along the way to building Sanskar Teaching, being a mother has changed the way Vaishali looks at being Gujarati.
“I began to value and treasure this heritage that I am blessed with. I wanted my children to value Gujarati language as much as the society values. English, Spanish, French and other foreign languages. I want my children to know that their roots are strong and precious and if they remain true and connected to them they will have a clear, loving and kind understanding of this world.”
Patel says, regardless of the time we live in, some of our cultural conditioning and programming stays with us and she’s experienced some pushback because of it.
“As a female educator, there are many times I have been asked: shouldn’t you focus on raising your family and taking care of your in-laws? Because what I do is all online, this is another cultural barrier is that there are many who see it as just a time-pass. I have been blessed to have a wonderful family who supports me wholeheartedly and encourages me to go higher.”
She adds, it’s important for South Asian women to have a strong network.
“Female entrepreneurs need a tribe for sure. If women can look past the envy, gossip, jealousy and struggles then there is no stopping us. Support each other and we can reach great heights.”
Patel continues to be inspired by her tribe and her culture today. She’s just finished creating Gujarati Memory board games to help introduce the language to 3-7-year-olds and is in the process of creating a level 2 Gujarati communications course along with a deck of Gujarati Flashcards that allow English speaking children to easily learn the Gujarati alphabet.
She is also launching a Gujarati travelling program for students to be able to see and learn more about the land by actually visiting it.
For more on Vaishali and Sanskar Teaching tools visit their webisite here.
Like this series? Check out another #boldandinsipiring feature here.
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