About Vidya Shankar — About

Founder, Educator, Trainer

Vidya Shankar

Starting off life as a first gen engineering graduate in Chennai, in a simple middle class family, I felt called to act on social issues even during my college days.

After a brief stint in industry, I chose to move out of it, to expand my family.

Adopting a child after bearing one was a wish turned real and the learning curve of life started on a seminal path revealing truths about children.

Relief Foundation was started in 1998 as a solution provider for children in crisis and institutional care. With visionary leadership the organisation is much sought after for information, material and training resources. RF operates "CASCADE Montessori Rural Resource Centres" in 4 village, situated in Tamilnadu, Andhra and Odisha. These have recently been granted the status of NCVRT Training centres to offer skilling courses to youth.

CASCADE FLS was started in 2020 as a separate entity after being cradled by Relief Foundation as a radical model of Parent-led cooperative education for children. CASCADE has 3 units in Chennai that offers Montessori education for ages 2.5 to 18 years, facilitating exams at the appropriate ages, with the NIOS and International Boards, as required and led by the student, more than the adults.

Awaken to Life is a newly launched initiative to offer services for the following target audiences, assessing their needs and working closely with them.

  • Parents
  • Educators
  • Corporates
  • Social Workers
  • Youth

Personal Statement

To quote my dearest student's favourite author:

"Learning is finding out what you already know. Doing is demonstrating that you know it. Teaching is reminding others that they know just as well as you. You are all learners, doers, teachers"
- Richard Bach

Now he's a grown up, and, as he likes to say, once a learner, always a learner!.

It is this beginner's mindset that keeps a body alive to their surroundings and the stimulus it brings. Oh, to look at life through the wondrous eyes of a child.

And the joy in watching that child grow, flourish and thrive.

I am truly blessed to be a parent, teacher and teacher-trainer who has seen some thousand children graduate and a few hundred parents turn teacher in my classrooms, over time.

I now turn all of my energies to running a body of education that is now giving so many across the world a head start in life, and am blessed to be able todo it the Montessori way.

Brief Resume

  • Graduated as a chemical engineer in 1986, and was known as one of the progressive thinkers amongst my alma mater even during my college days.
  • Became a parent in 1990 after marriage, blessed with two well settled adult children today.
  • Child Rights(CR) and Juvenile Justice (JJ). Studied and practiced child rights law in 2010, before which I had the unique privilege of becoming the youngest Chairperson of the Juvenile Welfare Board and Member Magistrate of the first Juvenile Justice board In India, in Chennai, adjudicating thousands of cases for justice delivery to children in need of care and protection and in conflict with the law. Trained several Social Workers, Academicians, Police and JJ Functionaries on best practices for rehabilitation and justice to children.
  • Completed my AMI Elementary Montessori Diploma, I offer consulting in this field at a senior level till date.Practicing the wisdom of 6 Montessori certifications acquired in the past 11 years.
  • Running 2 successful organisations since 1998 and 2019 one with a mission of establishing rural education for transformative communities (RELIEF FOUNDATION) and the other that creates a new education eco-system of collective learning families (CASCADE FAMILY LEARNING SERVICES).
  • Built a rating system for child rights compliance that school administrators could immensely benefit from
  • Also an Author, Speaker, Trainer, Advisor, Devotional music singer, Artist, Friend and most importantly, a determined and disciplined go getter.
  • I have now galvanized my life's learnings to form a new organization - AWAKEN TO LIFE, that will offer a plethora of services to a range of seekers, including parents educators, corporates, social workers and youth.

A seasoned veteran of many challenges with a proven track record of reaching out and touching lives, I will let my body of work speak for itself.

Vidya Shankar,
Dec 2021

See my full resume.