Monday, December 1, 2008

Great Teachings of Kalpna Mistry

Speech given by Kalpna's Sister, Priya, at Berkeley High Memorial

Hello Everyone –

I’m Ms. Mistry’s middle sister. Been thinking about what I wanted to share with you all about Kalpna. Then I started thinking about the time we spent together just before Ms. Mistry left for the Philippines. As always, she had great stories to tell about her first year teaching experiences and her students.

She went on and tell my sister Raakhee and I about the spring final exam she had just given her freshman world studies class. She was rather smitten with herself over it, which was nice to see. I found the exam on her Mac... a device that you would think was an appendage to her… she rarely left home without it.

Clearly the class covered a unit focusing on Asian studies. The test starts with some routine questions covering topics about Buddhism and Hinduism and so on and so forth. Then she threw in a questions like this…

5. Your Hindi friend lost all his money gambling on the NBA playoffs. He is down and out on his luck and needs money. Being the knowledge BIHS student that you are, you recommend he prays to:

a. Shiva
b. Sareswati
c. Lukshmi (answer – goddess of wealth)
d. Brahma
e. Irish lepricons

A few questions later, after question #22, Ms. Mistry writes….

Quietly whisper your favorite ice cream flavor. – Do it, don’t be a whimp.

After question #26, she writes

Now say, “Mmmmm….” And rub your tummy

After question #43, and this is one of my favorite….

Sing one line from your favorite Michael Jackson song…then say “he-hee” just like Michael

Some of the students came up with a great line and several others looked at Ms. Mistry and said Michael who?… Ms. Mistry noted, generation gap…. Maybe Justin Timberlake next time.

After question #50, it reads

Please turn in this test as well as your scantron so I can give you the short answer section of the test.

Wow! Although entertaining, Ms. Mistry’s tests were no joke! I know her students can and have attested to that. She was all about challenging her students. She clearly set the bar high and worked with her students to learn how to process information and think outside the box. It wasn’t about simply regurgitated dates and facts… she helped her students analyze, conceptualize and really challenged them to think about our county, our world, our history through different lenses… understanding different cultural perspectives.

Just before this last statement on the test, Ms. Mistry writes a note to her students….

You rocked it, I’m sure of it – you’re smart.

I recall one of Ms. Mistry’s students sharing that she loved how Ms. Mistry would add silly and fun multiple-choice options to help them have a better chance of picking the right answer. Be that as it may, Ms. Mistry had an alternative motive. The truth is, and this is what Ms. Mistry shared with me that day before she left for her trip to the Philippines, “These students are freshman and they are so stressed about finals. I wanted them to take it seriously, but I also want them to fun. Hopefully realize that life doesn’t always have to be too serious. They will only young once and they should enjoy it!”

I have sincerely appreciated the opportunity to get to know so many of Ms. Mistry’s students, parents, teachers and faculty over the past couple months. I didn’t pay close attention to the names, but I recall all the stories that Ms. Mistry would share about you all last year. She loved you. So many of you have shared with me… with my family about all that Ms. Mistry has done for you. I want you to leave here today knowing that you gave her an opportunity to do what she loved… teach. She was an extraordinary teacher, and likewise, she had an extraordinary group of students and collogues. She clearly made the right choice when choosing Berkeley High.

I want to thank you all and I look forward to coming back in June 2011 to celebrate with all the students here today as you walk across the stage and embark on the next exciting stage in your life. You will do great things! I know Ms. Mistry is right about that. To all the students, teachers, administrators, parents, Thank you for all that you have done and all that you continue to do. I am certain that Ms. Mistry is looking down and is honored to see your generosity and love.