“Education starts with great teachers who love going to work every day and teaching children something new. We need to make sure that we appreciate those teachers, and not cut their salaries because they are the ones who are helping students thrive.” – Opal Vadhan, USA

We’ve talked to hundreds of teachers so far here at Daily Edventures, and I find that I learn something new from each and every one of them. But when we have the opportunity to hear from students, everything just comes to life. We’re no longer talking about pedagogy, theory or teaching philosophies – we’re going straight to source and learning what impact teachers and education in general are actually having on our young people.

In today’s Daily Edventure, we hear from college sophomore Opal Vadhan, who I had the pleasure of meeting at the Student Voice Live event earlier this year. While Vadhan hasn’t yet officially entered the work world, she’s already logged an impressive series of work experiences – from being a bookings coordinator for a multi-platform community that facilitates dynamic conversations about real issues young people face, to serving as an advisor for other students in her dormitory. In all of her pursuits, Vadhan is particularly focused on helping young people, as she does in this Huffington Post blog. “I am still working towards more professional achievements,” she says, “but with all that I’ve accomplished, my biggest goal is to empower other students.”

Here, Vadhan shares her views on what makes a great teacher, and why she believes her generation will make a real difference in the world. Enjoy!

What drew you to the field of education? Why is it important to you?

Growing up I loved school and learning. My mom left her life in India to raise me in America, and education was an important factor in that decision. I would look forward to learning something new, and I loved reading all kinds of books. Education is important to me because I believe every child deserves one and needs one. If it wasn’t for my education, I wouldn’t be the person who I am today.

Can you tell us about a favorite teacher, or someone who made a difference in your education?

The first person I think of is my 11th grade English teacher, Ms. Murdocca. She had a way of teaching that would make you think outside of the box. Not only was she a phenomenal teacher, she cared about each of her students and wanted us to succeed. She always believed in me and told me to keep following my dreams. I can’t thank her enough for all of the things she has taught me, not only about school but about life, too.

Please describe how your professional achievements have advanced innovation in education.  What has changed as a result of your work?

Being the bookings coordinator at Gimme Mo, I am able to use that platform to educate other students and inspire them. Also while volunteering at a shelter, for years I was able to teach other students. As a resident advisor, I am constantly doing education-related events for my residents to broaden their horizon. Lastly, I think this trip to Kingston, Jamaica where I will be working at a school with children I’ll be able to help their education.

How have you applied technology in innovative ways to support your work?

Technology has been great for advancing education. I use technology on a daily basis and for me having my smart phone on me at all times allows me to use social media to connect with others at all times.

In your view, what is the most exciting innovation happening in education today?

Honestly, I think it’s my generation of students who are filled with passion that is really going to have a huge impact on education.

Is there a 21st century skill (critical thinking and problem solving, communication, collaboration, or creativity and innovation) that you are most passionate about? Why?

Besides it being my major, I am most passionate about communication. Everyone is given a voice, and I believe it is our responsibility to use it to help others.

If you could give one educational tool to every child in the world, what would it be? Why?

I would give them a notebook and a pen. Even with technology so advanced, there is nothing like having a notebook and a pen to write down everything you’re learning. There is a learning experience in every single moment, in and out of the classroom. You should always be prepared to write it down. It’s such a great feeling to look back on all your notebooks filled with handwritten quotes, stories, and whatever else is on your mind.

What is your country doing well currently to support education?

I think as a country, America is moving forward in educating children here. But I think there is a great need for us to go help other children in other countries who are forced to work at a young age and aren’t as lucky to have an education.

How must education change in your country to ensure that students are equipped to thrive in the 21st century?

Education starts with great teachers who love going to work every day and teaching children something new. We need to make sure that we appreciate those teachers, and not cut their salaries because they are the ones who are helping students thrive.

About Opal Vadhan,
“Opal Vadhan is a 19-year-old student and resident advisor at Pace University in New York City. She is currently working on The Opal Show which will inspire and empower youth to follow their dreams. Opal just finished an internship at The Rachael Ray Show, and is the audience coordinator for High School Musical star Monique Coleman’s show, Gimme Mo. Opal does social media for the organizations @KeepitKind and @MaristYAdult. She’s also interned at Sony Music Entertainment, and worked at Lacoste. Opal is a member of Seventeen Social Club, Teen Vogue IT Girls, and New York Women in Communications. She is a big dreamer, optimist, and believes that you can do anything you set your mind to. Opal loves meeting new people so connect with her on twitter @OpalVadhan.”  See her Huffington Post blogger page here

  • Birthplace: Forest Hills, New York
  • Current residence: Manhattan, New York
  • Education: Current college sophomore
  • Website I check every day: I check my e-mail – a plethora of times a day, I also am always checking social media on my phone such as Twitter.
  • Person who inspires me most: Tammy Tibbetts, the founder of non-profit She’s the First, which sponsors girls in underserved countries to be first in their families to get an education.
  • Next travel destination (work or pleasure): I am going to Kingston, Jamaica where I will be volunteering with the Marist Missionary Sisters with underprivileged children.
  • When was the last time you laughed? Why? I do believe in laughter being the best medicine, so I do laugh a lot. But yesterday, when I was interning and the other four interns in my department just tell the funniest stories and they make my days that much better.
  • Favorite book: I love reading and I couldn’t possibly just pick one book. I do love my Nicholas Sparks romance novels, but I am currently reading How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie, that was recommended to me and I am learning invaluable information.
  • Favorite music: I love all kinds of music, and love finding new artists to listen to. It was great interning at Sony Music because I got to see how much time and effort goes into making music.
  • What is the best advice you have ever received? This was a tough question, I’ve been given a lot of advice that I couldn’t be more grateful for. But this is the most recent one that I’ve received from one of my friends, Ben: “We need to follow our intuition instead of others’ expectation. Success originates from fulfilling what we are passionate about.” And it really stuck with me.
  • Your favorite quote or motto: “Every great dream begins with a dreamer. Always remember, you have within you the strength, the patience, and the passion to reach for the stars to change the world.” – Harriet Tubman. People need to remember to follow their dreams and that they can do whatever they set their mind to. It won’t be easy, but the possibilities are endless and the world is yours.
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