Sianai Hadley grew up in Horsham, a regional city in Victoria. In 2011, she was enrolled in Mr Manchikanti’s (Cohort 2011) Business Management class. It wasn’t anything she thought she necessarily had a passion for – she chose it “because a group of my friends were doing it.”
One of the first things that struck her was how young her teacher looked. “I thought Srini and my friends were the same age,” Sianai remembers – and she wasn’t too far off. After finishing university, Mr Manchikanti was back in high school, but this time at the front of the classroom as an Associate through Teach For Australia.
“It was my first year of teaching Year 12s,” which Mr Manchikanti says can be a nerve-wracking experience. It’s a time when students are thinking about their futures beyond high school, and especially as a young teacher, the age difference isn’t very noticeable in the grand scheme of things. With high school still fresh in his memory, Mr Manchikanti was able to quickly empathise with his students’ experience.
“They would always come back after a Sunday with stories from their weekends and I’d have to close my ears and pretend I wasn’t listening,” he laughs. Whatever those stories were, Sianai shrugged them off, remembering that weekends in the country “were so boring, that you just do weird, random things.”
That’s why it was so surprising when Mr Manchikanti called for an extra study session at 8am on a Sunday and the students actually showed up. “I promised everyone Macca’s. I do remember people coming relatively bleary-eyed and possibly with not too much sleep – but they actually sat still for two and a half hours, writing a full-on practice exam.”
“Srini was definitely my favourite teacher,” Sianai says. “He actually cared and wanted us to do well. Being a public school in a country town, it’s not really like that in every single classroom.”
This story was originally published as part of Teach For Australia’s Ten Year Anniversary timeline. Explore the timeline here. You can find Sianai Hadley’s story in the year 2011, as well as many more stories and milestones throughout the years.