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#ThankYouTeacher - Sister Meena is Goa’s first special educator to win top state award

Sister Meena, a special educator in Goa's oldest school for children with disabilities, has been recognised by the Goa government for her outstanding contribution. She is the first special educator to win the prestigious Goa State Teacher's Award.

As Sister Meena walked up to the dais to receive the Goa State Teacher's Award from Pramod Sawant, Goa Chief Minister, there was resounding applause from the audience. A special educator for nearly 30 years, Sister Meena is the first to be recognised by the state government in this category.

Every year, the Goa government honours the contribution made by teachers from across the state. Special educators, however, have never been considered. Sister Meena has created history and is looking forward to many more years of service at the St Xavier's Academy (School for Special Children.

Located in Old Goa, the school reaches out to children of all disability types and is the first centre in the state to do so. There are students here from classes one to 12 and Sister Meena is a higher secondary level teacher.

When I became a sister, I was sent to the academy to teach differently abled children and as I spent time with them, I started loving them. At the time, the school was enrolling deaf and hard of hearing children only. This award makes me feel proud, elevated, and motivated to do more and I look forward to many more years of service. - Sister Meena, Winner, Goa State Teacher's Award

Sister Meena's passion for teaching inspires everyone around her, says School Principal Sister Monica Coelho. 'She is the first one in our congregation to do special education training and she encouraged me to pursue it as well". Known for her firm but loving touch, Sister Meena deserves the award, she adds. The honour, believes Sister Monica, is a recognition of the commitment and efforts shown by special educators everywhere. "It is great that special educators are finally being considered because I believe that we are meeting many more challenges than regular teachers."

The St Xavier's Academy is a residential facility with students coming from different parts of India, even Assam. There are children with autism, hearing and vision disabilities, slow learners, to name a few. For the last nine years, the school has reported 100% results in a row.

"The state recognition means there's growing acknowledgement of the role that people with disabilities can play in nation-building", says Father Maverick, Manager, St Xavier's Academy. "We follow the same state board of education and the good results show that disabled people are no less".

Avelino D Sa, President, Disability Rights Association of Goa (DRAG) believes the state award will have a larger impact.

"We have been demanding for the last five years that the state government recognises special educators. This year, it has finally materialised. This will help attract more teachers into the field of special education I feel. There are so many special educators working tirelessly with no recognition. Goa is the first state to do this and it is high time".

Also Read: Tiffany Brar's pre-school for visually impaired toddlers aims to equip them for mainstream education

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