Mumbai resident Latika Sethi is first exchange teacher to visit Sacred Heart Schools in Atherton
Education that spans the world and is ecumenical in nature is on display at Sacred Heart Prep thanks to a special visitor from Mumbai, India, Latika Sethi, who is spending two weeks at the school. She teaches biology at Sophia College (11-12th grades), which was established in the 1940s as the first Sacred Heart School in India. While on the Atherton campus, she is teaching about Hinduism, meditation, and biodiversity.
Latika is finding her coed classes quite different than her all girl student body at Sophia College. “The students here are much more independent and more experienced in general,” she said. “Our students in India tend to be a little more sheltered and protected.”
As background, the International Network of Sacred Heart Schools has institutions in six continents. Each school largely functions as an independent unit, but with an educational and community framework constructed and monitored by their founding order, the Religious of the Sacred Heart of Jesus (RSCJ).
About five years ago, the “SHS India Project” was initiated in an effort to build bridges with the Sacred Heart educational institutions in India by raising awareness, funding, and other means of support for the education and empowerment work being done by the RSCJ and Sacred Heart educators in Mumbai and rural India.
As part of this project, six faculty from SHP were awarded scholarships to visit the schools in India, learn from faculty and students there, and explore the work of the RSCJ in the community. Two more faculty will be going next year.
Latika is the first teacher to come from India as part of the project. She wants to take back some of her learnings to her Sophia classroom. “We have a fixed, proscribed syllabus and our biology department is comprised of two zoologists and one botanist for 400 students,” she explained. “I’m realizing that I need to work on the students’ personality, to follow how their minds are working. In that way I won’t be deviating from the syllabus but building on their perceptions.”
The opportunity to come to the Atherton campus was open to 30 staff members at Sophia College but only Latika and one other colleague applied. “I’ve pondered the reasons why that was,” she said. “I think even the staff are very sheltered.” [Her colleague withdrew his application due to a family illness.]
“Latika is the perfect person to be our first ambassador,” said Deborah Farrington Padilla, who is the coordinator of the SHS India Project. “She is so outgoing and so joyous. People naturally want to be around her.”
Of note, while Sophia College is a Christian minority institution and Latika is a Hindu, about 60% of the student body are Muslim. “We all get along very well,” said Latika. “Like here, there is passion among the staff about teaching. There is openness and hardly any politics. I feel privileged to be part of the Sacred Heart community.”
Photo by Laura Pitchford