St Joseph’s Convent bids farewell to its most ‘feared and loved’ teacher

KARACHI: A stern taskmaster but a loving person, Aileen Soares was one of the most loved teachers at St Joseph’s Convent. She passed away on Saturday at the age of 76.

According to her students, many of whom took to social media to express their grief over the loss of their favourite teacher, she was a kindhearted person.

Born on October 31, 1941, Ms Soares, who was originally from Goa, India, was a student of St Joseph’s Convent. According to a fellow student and colleague, Suroor Akbar, Ms Soares had always been “crazy about maths”.

A perfectionist from the very beginning, Ms Soares excelled under the tutelage of Simon D’Lima. She outshone all others during her time at St Joseph’s, according to Akbar. Her love for mathematics carried on throughout her life and after completing her Matriculation from St Joseph’s Convent, she joined the school as a teacher where she continued to teach for the next 58 years.

“She had an abrupt way of speaking but she was like custard. Soft and sweet inside,” recalled Akbar. St Joseph’s Convent Principal Naseema Kapadia remembered Ms Soares as a wizard. She knew how to handle her students, she said.

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“When she was in hospital [recently] she scolded the nurses because she thought they were students who weren’t doing their work properly. Her whole life was the school,” said Kapadia. According to her, Ms Soares was a strong, independent woman who knew every student by name. She was a hardworking, kindhearted person who always welcomed people to her home on Christmas. This was echoed by Muna Pathan, a literature teacher at St Joseph’s Convent who was also Ms Soares’s student at one time. She called everyone ‘nitwits’, recalled Pathan fondly, adding that she inculcated in her students the desire to be perfect. “That really stuck with me – the desire for perfection,” she said.

Another student, Sadia from the class of 2009, said that Ms Soares was a great teacher who was always willing to help her students. “She was inspirational.”

Kapadia said Ms Soares taught at the school for around 58 years. In fact, she was honoured for 50 years in service at a ceremony in 2011 along with seven other teachers, which was described as an “august and befitting event”. Even though she retired three years ago, Ms Soares never left the profession. According to Akbar, she was willing to come to school in a wheelchair. She was the most feared and loved teacher, she said.

According to Sana Farid from the class of 1997, in Ms Soares’s dictionary there was no one who could not do math. Students who were C and D grade students before they had the honour of studying under Ms Soares from grade seven to grade 11 cleared their O levels as B and A grade students, she recalled.

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“She was a disciplinarian with a great sense of humour. When we [her students] meet today we still use some of Ms Soares’s favourite quotes and it takes us back to our time at St Joseph’s,” she said. Farid’s favourite was when Ms Soares would get irritated with student who were slow to answer math questions and asked them if they had “come to warm the benches”. The last five minutes of class were spent competing to see who could learn her favourite quotes including “aim for the sky, you fall on the tree, aim for the tree and you fall on the ground”.

According to Ayesha Naveed of the class of 2010, Ms Soares was the most dedicated woman she had ever met. “Her commitment to teaching math year after year even though she was very sick was unparalleled. The word ‘nitwit’ will always remind generations of St Joseph’s Convent students of her,” she said.

“Ms Soares taught me that the best way to learn was to teach others. You may be good at what you do, but you are even better if you can teach it to others,” said Beverley DCruz of the class of 1997.

“She was highly regarded in global circles and gave very few recommendations but when she did they mattered. I feel like I got into MIT thanks to her work she did with us in Maths and the recommendation she gave me,” she added.

Her funeral will be held on Tuesday, January 9. Mass will be held at 3:30pm and the viewing will begin from 2:30pm at St Patrick’s Cathedral.

Famous for her ‘totkas’, she was buried at a graveyard in DHA Phase VII

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