Dr. Manju Banerjee
Professor, Landmark College
Career Path: I have always enjoyed teaching. Even as a high school student, I would tutor younger students during my summer vacation. The students I have had the pleasure to work with have been my inspiration to continue on this career trajectory. Once, when I was considering leaving teaching, one of my students said, “That would be selfish of you. You are a very good teacher”. That comment really was a wake-up call for me.
I started my undergraduate education in Economics and went on to get my Master’s degree in Economics; but then I went back to teaching and got another Masters and Doctoral degree in special education. I am awed and inspired by the neurodiversity of learning.
Challenges: Challenges do inspire me. I draw strength from team-work and being part of a team. One of my greatest challenges was finding ways to feel included as an older international student, when I came first came to this country from India. Even though I could speak English, I remember occasions where I felt out of my depth. I remember one occasion where the faculty member said, “We will get together and discuss this during Happy Hour.” I finally picked up courage to ask one of my classmates how we were supposed to be happy during happy hour, and she laughed for 10 seconds straight. I used to be quite shy, but I had to learn self-advocacy to feel included. Students with LD are often excluded from their peer group because of lack of awareness of the unwritten laws of peer group dynamics. The subtleties of communication are tricky; but it is a necessary skill for being included.
Accomplishments: Smile! I am proud of many big and little accomplishments. But, I feel there is always so much more to do and accomplish, that it is never done. Sure, I can list career accolades, roles and relationships of which I am proud, but that to me is not really important. The best way I can answer this question is to say, I am most proud when others I care about are proud of me.
Mentors: There have been many mentors along the way. I can remember certain faculty during my doctoral program. My daughters have inspired me to be the best I can be and to not set any limits on possibilities. Students I have worked with in the past and even now, continue to amaze and influence me and teach me. This is going to be life-long.
TURNING POINT: Oh! I would definitely say the turning point was coming to the US. at the age of 23 years. Prior to that I was protected, as many females are in my country. I didn’t know how to drive, cook, or work for myself. All decisions were made for me by the men or elders in my family. Also, I was protected from failure. I came to Penn State as a spouse and learned there was so much I could do on my own. I learned to be self-sufficient and so much more. I would definitely say it was a turning point.
GOALS: I genuinely believe in the mission of Landmark College, that is, the goal is to transform the way students learn, teachers teach, and the public thinks about education. My goal is to be a part of that future, where ALL students think learning is enjoyable, and all educators feel empowered to teach all students, including those who learn differently. I believe in the power of research to inform practice and my goal is to be on the cutting edge of research which seeks to shine the light on learning and diversity.#