Darab Nagarwalla’s purpose in life is to teach young people to be passionate about the environment. Though India is his homeland, for the next three semesters Nagarwalla has chosen to live in Goshen while on sabbatical. He is currently in the process of obtaining his teaching certificate at Goshen College.
What do you want to say to introduce yourself?
I am a 52-year-old Indian, married with a daughter in grade nine. My wife and daughter continue to be in India while I am here. I am here on sabbatical, working towards my teacher certification in biology through the Transition to Teaching program.
What is so special about teaching for you?
I don’t have a lot of money to donate to a cause. Teaching for me is my donation, my investment in the future of my country and ultimately to the world.
It is a calling, a deep desire within to make a positive difference in young people’s lives. My rewards lie in the satisfaction I get from spending quality time with young people, feeling that I am helping them to grow up to become critically-thinking, feeling, responsible and environmentally-concerned adults. The job part is a “side- effect.”
Have you worked in a teaching-related field before?
Since 2004 I have worked at Woodstock School, a 150-year-old Christian international school located in a small town called Mussoorie in the state of Uttarakhand in northern India. Mussoorie is located in the outer range of the Himalaya Mountains, at about 7,000 feet altitude.
I have worked mainly as an outdoor and environmental educator but I also taught science and health in middle and high school as a substitute. I also went to school there from grades six to 12. So, it’s home for me and my family. My wife works in the administration in the senior school.
Did you grow up wanting to be a teacher?
Not really. I didn’t grow up wanting to become a teacher. It is more out of a sense of conviction that grew in me, that I need to fulfill my “karma” by helping others. In my case, young people.
I am interested in young people. I like spending time with them and I find it rewarding to teach teenagers and get them excited about science and nature and to be concerned about the environment and the needs of the economically deprived and the marginalized in society.
What prompted you to join schooling after all these years?
When I finished my undergraduate education at Northland College in Ashland, Wis. in 1985 with a degree in environmental studies, I couldn’t decide what direction to take in higher education, so I returned to India and worked in the environmental field.
I realized then that I loved being a student and never wanted to stop learning new things. And I began to harbor a dream of going back to college someday, when I found something interesting enough to hook me. I decided I would find a way somehow, no matter how old I was.
[Through] my experiences as an outdoor and environmental educator at Woodstock, I realized I wanted to learn how to be an effective science teacher, really make a difference in kids’ lives and make science fun and interesting.
Why would you like the environmental field of teaching?
There were some special experiences during my 11th grade year that pushed me in an environmental direction. I began to see this also as fulfilling my “karma.”
We Homo sapiens are in the process of slaughtering “the goose that laid the golden egg.” We have exploited and defiled her in our greed and short-sightedness. Although Mother Earth is strong and resilient, she also has limits of consumption.
We are consuming way too much. We are in danger of leaving behind a sick and degraded earth for future generations yet unborn to live on.
I can’t live with the guilt of knowing that I didn’t try to do my bit to help save Mother Earth.
What is it like meeting other Indian students at Goshen College?
I am so blessed to have students here from Woodstock School who have been my former students in middle school. It’s really exciting to have them as my peers here at college. We share a special bond of affection. Some of their friends have also become my friends and I enjoy their company as well.
But there are also many people here in the Goshen community outside the college who have old connections with India and particularly with Woodstock School. This makes me feel very comfortable here. Even the family that I am currently staying with, Dan and Anne Lind, have been my teachers at Woodstock. They have known me since I was a teenager.
The director of the admissions office at Goshen College, Dan Koop-Liechty, and his wife, Jill, have been my colleagues at Woodstock. Their younger daughter Elsie and my daughter have been classmates, and they used to play together. They are still friends.
Any “Aha” moment when you first arrived in Goshen?
For me, every day has its “aha” moments.
My brain feels like a giant knowledge sponge that is soaking new knowledge from my professors, classmates, readings, assignments and important experiences in classrooms in local schools.
It has been overwhelming. But the most exciting moments have been when I have taught a lesson in a classroom that has worked and that has got the students excited. That makes me want to dance with joy.
What would your teaching certification contribute in your future?
My certification would provide me with the skills, knowledge and attitudes to be an effective science teacher at an international school anywhere in the world. It would allow my family and I to experience other cultures and meet interesting people and visit interesting places.
How would you see yourself doing 20 years, after this certification?
I would like to be involved with teacher education after I retire from active teaching. I want to contribute towards improving the quality of science education in remote mountain villages.
I want teenagers in the villages to be able to value and respect the land, forests, streams and rivers, wildlife, and other people all around them, and to be able to earn a decent living from their knowledge of science.
I would like to conduct science teaching workshops with teachers from village schools. I am positive my education here will help me to do this effectively.
What do you miss most from India?
I miss my wife and daughter, my colleagues and friends. I miss walking and looking out over range upon range of mountains, as far as the eye can see.