Varsha Dandekar , Mississippi School for the Deaf

Varsha Dandekar immigrated to the United States in 1978 from India. She resided in California for 22 years and moved to Mississippi five years ago. There she is a fourth grade teacher at the Mississippi School for the Deaf. In India, she obtained a master’s degree in economics and sociology and eventually took more classes resulting in her teacher certification. Varsha’s mother tongue is Marathi. She learned English as a second language after arriving in the United States.

Varsha recognizes the importance of early exposure to sign language and using it as the primary means of instruction in her classroom. She accredits the majority of her learning to reading and conversing with others and models that in her classroom environment. Everyday she allows her class 15 minutes of reading time while she models the same activity. The students’ excitement when they recognize a spelling word in their reading excites her as well.

Although she feels more Americanized after living in the United States for 27 years, Varsha incorporates the philosophy of her culture into her classroom. Her willingness to learn, hard work, cleanliness and neatness are just a few traits that she attributes to her culture. She enjoys sharing stories of her school days in India with her students.

Varsha has never felt like a minority and keeps an open mind about other cultures. She views moving to America as a positive change that has made her a better person. To Varsha, differences are a good thing.

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