One Sunday morning in 1986:
He would wake up, buy wheat from the budge, get it ground, walk back home and make the dough for the bread. By afternoon, the bread was ready to be baked. He did this every Sunday, without fail. This Sunday was extra special, he was having company.
She would wake up. Cheerful and excited to go to his house with her classmates to have bread, homemade marmalade and peanut butter. This was an afternoon she could relax and chat about what she has been up to at school.
He was none other than Former KIS Maths Teacher, Bill Nevin. And she was Nandita Stixrud, Class of 1986.
Nandita was part of Bill Nevin’s advisee group. The Advisory Program was introduced by Kodaikanal International School (KIS) as way to better manage a student’s academic and emotional well-being in a residential school setting. The Program puts into practice the principle of ‘loco parentis’.
“Unlike most schools, KIS breaks the rigid teacher-student hierarchy, there is no ‘us and them’, we are all part of the same community,” states Bill. As part of the Advisory Program, teachers are encouraged to open their homes or involve students in a form of activity. This has proven to form long-lasting friendships between staff and students, and provide a comfortable environment for residential students to grow up in.
For Bill, back in 1986, baking bread and sharing it with his students was the best way he could find to make them feel at home and welcome. Nandita describes, “Bill’s house was definitely ‘home’, all of us kids would make it a point despite our weekend activities to go to Bill’s house. It was always a relaxed, pleasant afternoon and we always felt special. There was no pressure to formally answer questions, just general chatter, like at home. It was a friendship that was naturally formed.”
Bill states that every Sunday he would make bread and he found the entire process very therapeutic. He found great joy in seeing his students enjoy the bread he baked. “Being a Maths teacher, I wasn’t a great cook, but I could bake bread. These evenings were a great opportunity to open up different aspects of students to other students and to me as well.”
Bill Nevin still keeps in touch with many of his advisees over Facebook and emails. Bill recently visited Kodai for a month and reconnected with Nandita Stixrud, and a few others from his advisory group. “It is always very pleasant to bump into someone you know from time to time. And I am very touched to hear that those simple afternoons had such an impact on many of my advisees.”
Friendships can be formed anywhere and the Staff-Student relationships at KIS are especially unique. KIS fosters an environment allowing staff and students to engage and connect with each other outside their classrooms and some of the bonds that are formed, are for life.