Teacher Feature: Hina Agarwalla, the agent of change

Most teachers go above and beyond the call of duty, and Mrs Agarwalla is no exception. Read on to learn about our English as an Additional Language (EAL) Teacher and Class Advisor’s passions and what drives her to go the extra mile.

14 April 2020

Mrs Agarwalla was born and raised in the vibrant city of Karachi, Pakistan – a city she describes as being prodigious, multicultural and bustling with resilient people. Growing up, she spent most of her teenage years volunteering for an international NGO. She was voted the chairperson of the NGO’s youth committee and this profound experience ignited a fire that drives her passion to bring about change in her context. She still exudes that passion in everything she does. During her teenage years, she organized various events for youth intending to raise awareness about important issues and later even assisted the principal of the school in implementing meaningful strategies which helped raise the level of the NGOs school. 

She attended the University of Karachi where she studied Psychology, English Literature and Education and graduated at the age of nineteen with a Bachelor in Arts. She is currently doing her Masters in Education from the University of Sheffield and plans to do her PhD thereafter. Besides volunteering, she loves reading, travelling, music, studying architecture and is keen on acquiring in-depth knowledge about educational psychology because it helps her understand the complexities of the human mind and become a better educator. 

Recently, she co-authored an article titled ‘Global teachers as global learners: Intercultural teacher training in international setting’ which was published in the London Review of Education, which is a peer-reviewed journal.

She moved to Switzerland thirteen years ago and confesses her unconditional love for Confoederatio Helvetica. “Having travelled around the world in my quest to explore its natural and cultural beauty, it is always a privilege and source of comfort to come back home to Switzerland, whose mesmerizing beauty and exemplary democratic values I adore the most.’ 

Mrs Agarwalla has been teaching for sixteen years, and her passion for making a difference through education has not faded a bit. She joined Institut Montana four years ago and admits: “What I admire the most about Institut Montana, is its cultural diversity in all its grandeur. It is integral for the world around us to experience diversity in all its glory so that we can learn to appreciate our unique differences and repudiate the very idea of discrimination in all its forms.’ Teaching helps her foster respect, appreciation and understanding of various cultures, and she takes great pride in promoting critical thinking skills and intercultural understanding through her interactions with students. “Education is key to fighting fascism at its grassroots level. If we fail to teach that in schools, we fail the society which, after all, is a reflection of our education system.” asserts Mrs Agarwalla. 

On a final note, we asked some of her students and their parents about what they think of Mrs Agarwalla. This is what they shared: 

Mrs Agarwalla is an integral part of this school’s community. She is kind, helpful, supportive, and has a ginormous heart. She had donated her time and positivity to help raise awareness about our school’s this year’s charity, DEBRA, Schweiz which supports individuals suffering from Epidermolysis Bullosa. We couldn’t have done nearly as well if she hadn’t helped us.” - Sam (President of Institut Montana’s charity committee) 

“I am privileged to have had Mrs Agarwalla be my son’s class adviser at Institut Montana. She has so many wonderful outstanding qualities; her kindness, creativity and generosity are just some of the traits that make her an exceptional person. She is devoted to the well-being of all her students. The students look up to her and know they are getting the best advice from her because she truly cares. Mrs Agarwalla makes herself always available to the students to assist them with whatever they may need. She works tirelessly to ensure the school’s functions and activities are organized to a very high standard. Mrs Agarwalla exemplifies what school spirit is all about, and she is such a positive role model to all her students. We are all lucky to have her support the school as well as its students.” Lucie (a proud parent) 

“I think the best way to explain the relationship between Mrs Agarwalla and my graduating class is to share something that happened in our advisory period. She at some point told us that technically she wasn’t allowed to give any of us a hug since school rules prohibited that. We all collectively decided that we would then hug her instead because we all felt like she deserved it. What I’m trying to say is that, and I think I can speak for all of my graduating class, she is one of the most compassionate, caring, and just all-around sweet people that any of us know.” - Niclas (a former IB student) 

“Mrs Agarwalla has been the best school advisor and tutor I have ever had. All of my school life, I shared academic or personal issues with my tutors, but somehow, they were not able to resolve the issue at hand. Thanks to Mrs Agarwalla, I found myself speaking to her about problems and having this feeling that I could rely on her when things turned sour. She always has a kind face, a shining big smile and the way she felt and spoke about incredibly interesting and worthy causes during our advisory lessons and otherwise, is a true example of what education and schooling should be: offering a special safe place in which everyone counts, is accepted as who they are and to have fun while learning. I am so grateful that Mrs Agarwalla appeared not only in my life but in the lives of all the students of Grade 11/12 A. She has genuinely left warm memories in all our hearts." - Albert (a former IB student) 

“Mrs Agarwalla has always been a source of support to me. Many teachers or advisors focused a lot on our academic worries, but Mrs Agarwalla always cared about us as individuals. She did not only speak through words, but also through her actions. Our class would often go on small outings such as laser tagging or sushi dinners, which really strengthened our bond. Not only did this create good communication between students, but also between students and advisor. She was naturally able to create this bond, without forcing it onto any of us. I am so glad to say that as an alumnus, I will be in touch with her for a very long time. I hope her understanding personality can shine across Institut Montana for the coming years!” - Maria (a former IB student)

“Mrs Agarwalla is one of the most kind-hearted and empathetic people I’ve ever met. She was my advisor in grade 12. I would always see a sincere smile glowing on her face when she would hear about someone’s achievements and would show genuine compassion when someone would share their misfortunes or sorrows. She cared for our happiness as if it was her own. At the beginning of our IB exams, Mrs Agarwalla gave each of her advisees a lucky charm, a four-leaf clover. It was a kind gesture; she didn’t have to spend her time, resources and energy on it, but she chose to, and this was one way of showing how much she cares for us. I still have the clover with me.” - Anastasia (a former IB student) 

“Steady, constant, solid - that’s how I would describe Mrs Agarwalla’s support towards her students, including me. While high school is fun, it can also get very overwhelming. When I felt like everything was just getting a bit too much, many teachers were concerned to help me ensure that my academic performance would not suffer. What was special about Mrs Agarwalla was that she went one significant step further and would always make sure that I would still be taking care of myself. It was comforting to have her as a teacher, but also as a constant when everything else seemed unsure.” - Livia (a former IB student)

“I ought to take the immense pleasure and honour of having Mrs Agarwalla as my class advisor. She has shown over the progression of the academic year that her determination and enthusiasm in advising 9B has never faded during the countless advisory sessions. Mrs Agarwalla is, without a doubt, a sincerely devoted class advisor which I was able to rely on to solve various issues swiftly during the academic year.” - Paolo (Grade 9 advisee)

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