Story of a teacher who turned entrepreneur to fulfil her passion for teaching
A three-year old building a tower of pink cubes, and another kid using a toy knife to cut banana – when we look at it, most of us might feel it is playtime at school, but to think of it as a learning environment for children is the last thing to cross our mind.
“When I studied, we would be seated in chairs and the teacher would always be telling us something. That’s how education has always been for me. And when I entered this Montessori classroom, I was seeing children doing different activities,” Stuti Mehrotra recalls the time she saw a Montessori setup for the first time in 2012. She was undergoing an eight-month long Montessori Primary course at the Formative Age.
Stuti Mehrotra, Founder of Linden Montessori
“And that’s when I felt education has to be really different,” she says.
This fascination for alternative methods of teaching, and reading the book Stay Hungry Stay Foolish by Rashmi Bansal, which talks about 25 IIM Ahmedabad graduates who became entrepreneurs, inspired Stuti to start Linden Montessori in 2014.
She says, “The leaves of Linden are really beautiful. If you look at one, it is rough on the surface and the inside is smooth. So, the philosophy that we derive is that one should go beyond outer appearances and look within. That was the whole inspiration behind the name.”
Living the dream
Today, Stuti might be working in the most difficult combination of a profession, that of a teacher and an entrepreneur. However, she says that she would not ask for anything more than living her childhood dream of becoming a teacher.
In school, almost every child is asked to write about his/her ambition in life. Stuti did too and shares, “In all those school essays, I remember I always wrote that I wanted to be a teacher.”
The Bengaluru-based teacher-entrepreneur says she loves how children are free to choose and learn concepts that interests them at a Montessori.
Teaching around 200 children aged between 1.8 years to six right now, Stuti notes that physical activities are important these days. The 41-year-old says,
“Today, most children are glued to gadgets, which makes them difficult to focus. Montessori activities helps them develop sharp focus and concentration.”
At Linden, she explains, toddlers arrange their own plates, put on their socks and shoes, and learn to be independent at a young age.
Recently, on International Women’s Day, the 41-year-old was recognised as a Shero by the Women Entrepreneurs for Transformation (WEFT). As for Stuti, she is happy that each day is never the same, even with the same set of children. She says, there is no space for boredom.
However, dealing with a group of children cannot be the same. Speaking of children misbehaving and hitting one another, Stuti calls this ‘deviation from normal behaviour’.
“There was a child who would not sit in one place at all and disturb the rest. Over time, approaching the child with freedom, he has become a team player and much more focussed,” she explains.
Dealing with challenges
Prior to this, Stuti worked as a teacher at Dr Virendra Swarup School in Kanpur and was also a corporate trainer at AXA insurance company .
While she believes spending time with children is a blessing, it is not without challenges. Growing from just three teachers to 60 member-staff, including helpers, Stuti says children get very attached to staff members. But when they quit in between, it poses a big challenge.
Now operating on a 15,000 sq. feet land in Doddanekundi Industrial Layout in Bengaluru, finding a place with an open playground posed another challenge in the beginning.
She says, “It’s not easy to get an open space right in the middle of the city. We were getting glass buildings where we could take one floor. I could have started with that but getting a place with a proper playground was important to start a school.”
With support from her family members, Stuti started with an initial investment of nearly Rs 50 lakh, which was spent on equipment and staffing.
Now, the school is successfully running on profits. “But we have also ploughed in the money back on expanding within the parameters. We have gone from only ground floor to having facilities on the first floor as well,” she says.
(Edited by Megha Reddy)