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Anisha Lakhani, a step alumna posing at the inaugural ceremony of Aga Khan Foundation, Australia

Anisha Lakhani at the inaugural gala of Australia

Anisha Lakhani, the Academic Director of ITREB for Australia and New Zealand shares her journey from a Secondary Teacher to an Education Leader:

With World Teachers’ Day in mind, I decided to look up the root words and meanings of the word for teacher in different languages. It turns out that in different corners of the world, the word "teacher" carries with it an aura of respect, inspiration and admiration and in every language, this noble term embodies the essence of wisdom, mentorship, and guidance.

For instance, the Sanskrit word for teacher is guru which comprises of the word “gu” that represents darkness and “ru” which means to dispel, making a teacher someone who dispels the darkness of ignorance. The Arabic word for teacher is ’a, which stems from i-l-m that means knowledge and wisdom and in Maori the word for teacher is kaiako, wherein ako signifies the collaborative process of teaching and learning at the same time. It reaffirmed my mantra of “Once a teacher, always a learner”.

Our beloved Prophet Muhammad(may peace be upon him) also referred to himself as a teacher. Once he was sitting with those in the mosque who were engaged in learning as opposed to those who were engaged in worship.

He is reported to have said:

They are both engaged in useful pursuits. But I am a teacher. I shall join the group assembled to learn.

My journey into the world of teaching began with my years as a student teacher at the Institute of Ismaili Studiesand the in London. I received the training that would shape not only my career but also my character. Being a teacher has been a transformative experience that has helped me evolve as a person personally and professionally.

As a teacher, I discovered that religious education is not just about imparting knowledge; it's about nurturing young souls and guiding them towards a brighter future and balanced life. It's about instilling values, igniting curiosity, and fostering critical thinking. Through teaching, I learned the power of patience, empathy, and resilience. It taught me that every student is unique, and it's our responsibility as educators to help them unlock their potential to go on learning. In turn, every student I came across taught me something about myself.

My journey didn't stop at being a teacher; it evolved into leadership. As I took on the role of a teacher lead, the transition allowed me to not only have an impact on my students but also to influence my fellow educators. As a teacher lead, I had the privilege of conceiving new initiatives to train and mentor teachers, co-designing pathways to grow and develop professionally. It was a role that required me to lead by example and inspire those around me.

Today, I serve as an Academic Director in Australia, a role that has broadened my horizons further. It has given me the opportunity to make a difference not only within the walls of my community but also at a secular level to make an impact on the organizations with which we collaborate.

Beyond my role as an Academic Director, teaching has provided me with a global exposure that I could have only dreamt of. It opened doors to international opportunities, allowing me to participate in events like the annual camp and other international conferences. Such experiences have enriched my perspective, exposed me to diverse cultures, and deepened my appreciation for the global Ismaili community and humanity at large.

Through the lens of teaching, I have also unpacked my own understanding of the relationship between faith and reason.

A black and white photo of a women seated in the Aga Khan Centre open space

"Teaching is not just about transmitting knowledge; it is about fostering a sense of wonder and curiosity. It's about encouraging students to ask questions, seek their own answers, embark on their own quest and explore the boundaries of their own beliefs."

In the classroom, I have witnessed the beauty of intellectual discourse and the harmony between faith and reason as we start with the premise that “doubt is essential for faith.

In conclusion, my journey from being a student to a teacher, then a teacher lead, and now an Academic Director in Australia has been a profound and enlightening one. It has been a journey of personal and professional growth, a journey that has allowed me to make a positive impact on countless lives, and a journey that continues to inspire me each day.

As I pay tribute to my alma mater, Ƶٷ of Ismaili Studies, I also extend my heartfelt gratitude to the teaching profession itself. Religious Education teachers are the unsung heroes who shape future generations of our community, and I am honoured to be a part of this noble fraternity.

In every language and every corner of the world, the word "teacher" embodies a legacy of inspiration, knowledge, and hope. It is a legacy that I am proud to uphold as I continue my journey in education.