In recent years, many Great Hearts graduates have started to return to the network to teach. In a new series of interviews, Betsy K. Brown asks these young educators to reflect on their experiences in the classroom and what brought them back.
BETSY K. BROWN: WHAT IS INSPIRING TO YOU ABOUT EACH SUBJECT YOU TEACH?
Nikhil Jandhyala: Sixth grade science is where I believe wonder is first conceived in the student. The ability for nature to be the teacher allows the student to be immersed first and foremost in the beautiful, then the true and finally the good.
Tenth grade economics is a fascinating subject. My favorite part of teaching that class is the opportunity I have to discuss political and economic philosophy and history.
One of my favorite parts about twelfth grade logic is that it is a foundational class. I feel as though I am going back to the roots of the liberal arts education and unpacking how we truly know things. One of my favorite aspects of that class is when we as a class convert commonly known arguments into a syllogism format.
WHAT INSPIRED YOU TO RETURN TO GREAT HEARTS AFTER COLLEGE?
I believe it is Great Hearts’ mission to produce better human beings and it was Great Hearts that had offered me the opportunity to be a classically-educated individual and, due to that, a better citizen. The reason I wanted to come back to Great Hearts was to offer that same opportunity to other individuals.
HOW HAS BEING A GREAT HEARTS GRADUATE INFORMED THE WAY YOU TEACH?
To experience the Great Hearts curriculum and community as a student is wonderful. To then have the opportunity to return and teach at that very institution is a great joy of its own. I have been able to put myself in the shoes of the student to best cultivate a wonder and joy for the subjects they are learning. Further, by constantly reflecting on my days as a student, I am more capable of offering the best kind of advice to students and parents who are at various stages of the Great Hearts education.
WHAT IS SOMETHING YOU EXPERIENCED AS A GREAT HEARTS STUDENT THAT YOU NOW STRIVE TO INCORPORATE AS A TEACHER?
While I primarily experienced an intellectual formation, I simultaneously received a formation of character as well. The habit towards the good and the true in the classroom is only built by having those teachers most disposed to the virtuous life. By having the kinds of teachers I did, I was able to reflect not only on the truth, but on the goodness in myself as a human being. As a teacher, I strive to not only derive an excellence in each student in each subject that I teach, but to harness the subject’s ability to set the student in the right direction towards the acquisition of virtue.
WHAT HAS CHANGED ABOUT GREAT HEARTS IN YOUR EXPERIENCE OVER THE YEARS? WHAT HAS STAYED THE SAME?
The structure of Great Hearts rests on the principles of Truth, Goodness and Beauty. Every day I teach, it is evident to me that teachers in the classroom strive to set those principles in their respective classes. When I was a Great Hearts student, the class was comfortably small, and the unique experience of an instructor teaching a few students in a small-school setting created the most feasible option of aligning the school with the universal mission. It is my belief that the Great Hearts ethos is protected in an environment similar to that. Though this is the case, it is also true that the Great Hearts charter has grown and is growing to a size much greater than that. While it is crucial for Great Hearts to reach various communities, it is important to not forget where we started lest those principles and that ethos are forgotten too.