Laboni Banerjee: cultivating community wherever she goes | Aga Khan Academies

Laboni Banerjee: cultivating community wherever she goes

Laboni Banerjee recently celebrated her 10-year anniversary with the Aga Khan Academy Hyderabad as a Grade 3 teacher. Throughout her time, Laboni has seen the Academy grow in size through the number of programmes, students and staff, making the Academy a second home for her she is grateful to be a part of. 

Laboni was immediately attracted to AKA Hyderabad because of the vision and mission of His Highness the Aga Khan for the Aga Khan Academies. She found the values of the Academy to be more aligned with her own ethos than the school she was previously working at before joining the Academy. 

“Over the course of 10 years at the Academy, I have found myself a part of a vibrant and caring community,” Laboni said. 

When joining the Academy in 2010, Laboni recalls it being a much smaller school then, especially the International Baccalaureate (IB) Primary Years Programme (PYP). There were only seven PYP teachers and the Junior School principal at the time, Diana Smith who started the PYP at the Academy, along with Sreelatha Kumar, who was the PYP coordinator at the time and is now the Junior School principal. AKA Hyderabad received the Diploma Programme and Middle Years Programme authorisation in 2012 and 2013, respectively. The latter year is when Laboni remembers seeing notable growth in both students and faculty at the Academy.  

“Early years in the PYP were busy,” Laboni said. “During this time, I was also focusing on identifying myself as a member of the PYP team and growing with the school. 

Over the course of her time at AKA Hyderabad, Laboni has taken on various roles. Along with being a Grade 3 teacher, Laboni took a role in the PYP reading and writing assessment in which she collected evidence and data. Laboni also helped with the Admissions Department and was responsible for checking the vocabulary of students applying to the Academy. Reflecting back, Laboni said she greatly appreciated this role because it allowed her to build a special relationship with parents and students from the very beginning of their Academy journey. 

“While working with the Admissions Department I valued meeting a large number of people who were enthusiastic and eager to learn more about the PYP in the early years.”  

From 2012–2014 Laboni helped with AKA Hyderabad’s Outreach Teacher Training programme, which is a core part of Academies’ Professional Development Centre (PDC) that trains local teachers around the community in various subject areas and enhances their pedagogical skills.  

A few years ago, Laboni also had the opportunity to travel to the Aga Khan Academy in Mombasa, Kenya where she truly began to appreciate the pluralistic approach to education and diverse cultures and backgrounds the Academies values and emphasises. During her time in Mombasa, Laboni met Titus Mutemi, who was a recent graduate of the Teacher Preparation Programme – a programme provided by the Academies that trains teachers to become IB educators in their communities – and is now the PYP coordinator at AKA Mombasa. Laboni recalls Titus being filled with great enthusiasm and eagerness as he wanted to know everything about her class including the assessment techniques, books she has students read, any material created for the class and much more.  

“Partnering with Laboni was such an enriching experience,” Titus said. “Her flexibility and open-mindedness made our collaboration easier and enjoyable. Years have gone by and yet her enthusiasm and unique way of engaging with the young learners is still memorable.” 

When AKA Hyderabad transitioned to online learning in March 2020 due to COVID-19, Laboni said there were a few challenges she faced but was able to overcome due to the support she received from the Academy.  

“In the PYP we have always used technology as a learning and teaching tool. However, when we shifted to complete online teaching, building the bridge with new students I had never met before was the biggest challenge. With physical teaching, I was able to bond with my students on a personal level, but this changed with distance learning. 

However, the Academy always supported me and made me feel comfortable working on a virtual platform with a new group of learners. Assigning me to be a part of various online professional development sessions was immense support as it helped me develop my understanding of the application of various teaching tools. The virtual learning and teaching also enabled me to look at my own teaching philosophy through a different lens and reimagine my teaching strategies. Now, it is my greatest joy and top priority to see my students online and have personal conversations with them.” 

Laboni said she cannot imagine her future without the Academy being a part of it. She is always involving herself in different roles throughout the Academy in order to connect with more students beyond the PYP and see how they turn their passions into reality. Laboni also said she is fortunate to be a part of a community that is continuously supportive and where she is encouraged to grow each day as an educator and individual.  

“The greatest part about delivering education at the Academy and being a part of its community is that every day is a learning experience for me. I am always excited to see my students become open-minded young adults, chasing their greatest passions in life and thinking about how to make the world a better place for all.”