The Christian community in Pakistan has many hidden gems, and it is our duty to recognize their services to the youth of our nation. This Christmas, we would like to pay tribute to a special teacher from St. Joseph’s Convent High School.
Some teachers – they’re so busy living, serving, teaching, and doing it all over again, that you sometimes forget that they too, are mortal. Ms. Aileen Soares was such a teacher.
Ms. Soares taught a generation and more of boys and girls in Karachi, mostly hailing from St. Patrick’s High and St. Joseph’s Convent School. She earned the respect, love and awe of all her students. Even those who hated Maths, swore by her impeccable rules. She managed to squeeze a distinction out of the worst of us.
May we learn to live life with the same gusto and principles that she did, and may she always stay in the hearts and minds of those she touched.
So in true spirit, let’s start with some of her favourite quotes:
“Look, Look, and see nothing? You think you’ll put your Math book under your pillow and it’ll all seep into your head at night? “
For those who didn’t know her, her classroom quotes were beyond epic. Her students would have compiled a book of quotable quotes, and maybe they have already, it just needs to go to the publishers.
Political correctness be damned, it’s Ms. Soares we’re talking about and what doesn’t break you, makes you stronger
“She was a force of womankind who taught Math with intelligence, discipline, and wit, made sure we weren’t just “warming the benches of St Joseph’s Convent” or “looking, looking, seeing nothing.” Or goading us with “girls can’t do math” so we could be even more determined to prove her wrong. Still the best Math teacher I’ve ever had, giving me a love of math that made me a Math major early on in college”. – Sheba Najmi
She knew we would all get our As and Bs. No matter how much of a ‘dimwit’, or ‘nitwit’, or ‘nutty’ ones we were, we were still HER geniuses. She would ask us to keep staring at the problem to find the solution, but as we all would sit there, she would say , “Look! Look! See nothing. Sitting, sitting warming benches.”
The New Girl
8th September 1999 – My first day at St. Joseph’s , stepping straight into Grade 9 freshly flown in from South Africa and trying to acquaint myself with my new school and classmates.
“Today is Wednesday, we don’t have Math today. You’re lucky. Make sure you have everything tomorrow.”
I wondered how ‘bad’ Math could be. I mean, I was good with my number crunching, I was so sure I would be just fine. Little did I know … I had bought myself huge ‘registers’ instead of ‘copies’ and I needed to go to Mrs. Wellows and make sure I was all set for the Math class tomorrow.
Thursday arrived, the day progressed and the bell rang, and finally there it was – Math class! Everyone was fidgeting, going through their bags and ensuring all was ready. I saw a faint shadow of a lady, she was small and dainty. Her hair was short, the perfect salt and pepper and her white dress was fluttering in the wind, ideal for the hot, Karachi weather. There she was, her name, Ms Soares. I couldn’t help but think to myself wondering if she was really THAT terrifying and if she was like Tyrannosaurus Rex of Mathematics. All the daintiness shattered, when she spoke and said:
‘Get up you little nitwits, time to change places. Leave everything at the table. And where is the new girl?’
Me, the new girl was moved right to the front, right under her nose. Oh boy, I wasn’t sure if I was going to make it through the day, let alone the next 3 years. That is a clear memory of my first interaction with Ms Soares.
“Aim for Distinction, You Pass, Aim for Pass, You Fail!” – Ms. Soares
She pushed us to always give it our best. I received my moment of fame when I got 90% in a Math test. The new girl finally was now known to Ms Soares. It was a lot to live up to after that, since she now assumed I knew all the answers.
She Was way Ahead of Her Time
“In an age where girls are encouraged to go into science and scarcity of women leaders, here’s someone who did both for the past 50 years. She taught me and I am a boy. She was brilliant, way ahead of her time and just knew how to tackle mischievous characters like me!! She taught me to love math. A true legend, a pioneer, a leader….thank you for leaning in!!!” Mahil Maurice
She knew I was struggling, not only with the Math, with the adjustment to the whole new school system. I was nervous, overwhelmed and was trying to figure out my way to get through. It was then, when all her years of experience came forth and she called me over. She spoke to me, sitting in her chair, gripping her pen as best as she could and going through my small book of Math classwork. Her osteoporosis had become worse progressively. Her fingers were hurting, her bones were soft and she was in pain, but she still smiled through. She slowly walked me through the problems we were going through and showed me how to solve it and what I was missing. The methodology behind each problem, the systematic way of solving it, she walked me through it all. It was at that moment, that my love for Math was rekindled and my relationship with her changed.
She Set A Shining Example by Living Her Principles – A True Fighter
In 3 years we watched her age. We watched her struggle. We watched her osteoporosis get the better of her. But we also saw her get to school every day. She was on time for every class. We saw her carrying her own books, her own bag. We saw her fight the pain. Heck, I don’t remember ever missing a Math class unless I was the one absent.
By the time we reached grade 11, we would laugh at her mockery of us. Eventually, she would laugh too and her bright white smile, twinkling in the sunny, airy SJC classrooms. She grew onto me, she grew onto everyone. She was an inspiration, no matter what the struggle, When we all got our O level grades, individually handed to us by Ms Fikree, Ms Soares asked not to hug her too hard. Her bones would hurt. All we wanted to do was thank her for all the love. The love in her words and the love in her 20% F test grades as well.
I owe my work ethic to her and all of the SJC family. You don’t give up, you don’t let yourself go. I will still remember her, in the white flowy dress, walking into class ready to take on another day.
Did you know about this Christmas Bakery in Karachi, serving the city over many generations, and now run by Muslims?
Umamah holds an MBA degree from Institute of Business Administration, Karachi. Pakistan. She has been teaching for over 10 years now, and is currently a lecturer at IBA.
She is married and has two beautiful daughters, Alishba and Amal. She loves to spend time with close friends and family, and enjoys bonding over a good meal and a cup of tea.
Despite her educational and professional Accounting background, she finds her creativity through food and was previously operated a home-based customized cupcake business for over 2 years!