Savindri Talgodapitiya, the founder of Talgo Education, has a stellar record as an academic and professional. She graduated with an MMath (Honours) from the University of St Andrews and an MSc in Financial Mathematics from the University of Leeds.
Before becoming a full-time private tutor in 2016, Savi worked on several prestigious research projects, including working as a Programmer at the Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research, affiliated with NASA’s SDO mission. She also excelled in various management capacities in the fields of Quantitative Finance and Sustainability in her home country, Sri Lanka.
This is Savindri’s story about how she heeded her call to be a math teacher and changed kids’ perceptions of math.
How it all Started
Savindri wasn’t always clear that she was destined to be a math teacher.
She always enjoyed math, even in school, and found that she was reasonably skilled at it. “Even though I wasn’t a prodigy or a genius by any stretch,” quips Savindri.
But Savindri had significant advantages on her side. First, her family always supported her love of math and considered math an essential subject.
Math is nowhere near as daunting as it’s made out to be!
The second was that she had outstanding teachers in her primary and middle school years. Savindri shares, “My teachers set the right foundations for me to excel as I grew older. With math, the only way to learn is to have a solid foundation and understand the core concepts well.”
So Savindri was fortunate enough to be able to nurture her love of math and to see it through until she earned two postgraduate degrees in the field.
“My own success has just proven to me that students don’t always need to be a standalone talent or ‘naturally gifted’ at math to be able to learn and excel in this field,” adds Savindri.
In Savindri’s experience, most kids can have very successful math careers if they are taught well in their primary or secondary years.
Becoming a Teacher: A Calling or Circumstance?
Like most university graduates, Savindri spent a long time figuring out her calling after graduating. “I tried to understand who I was and what I was meant to do,” reveals Savindri.
She continues, “I feel this is why I experimented extensively in my professional career. I have experience in fields from solar physics research to corporate sustainability – two areas that don’t quite mix!”
Savindri worked at the Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research and joined two global banks working in Quantitative Research and Corporate Communications at a large multinational corporation for a while.
She adds, “Of course, I would start each new phase enthusiastically, ready to tackle whatever life threw at me. But inevitably, as time went on, I would become burnt out and unenthusiastic, and I’d struggle within the structure of the organisation.”
During this time, Savindri moonlighted as a part-time tutor. Eventually, word got around as she started gaining more recognition as a teacher. Increasing numbers of students kept approaching her.
The more I tutored, the more I realised I found better satisfaction as a tutor than in any of my other jobs.
Aside from her pure love of the teaching profession, Savindri also found that she really enjoyed being self-employed, especially after working in the corporate sector for so long. For the first time, she was entirely responsible for herself and in charge of her success, never having to sacrifice her much-needed personal time to do her job well.
Savindri shares, “I felt that being a teacher, in its own way, was making me more mature as a person!”
Crucial Lessons Learned
Nothing is quite as rewarding as teaching a student patiently and watching them understand something they thought they couldn’t at the start of the class.
Savindri points out, “This brings me back to my earlier point – it’s not true that all students have to be gifted or naturally skilled at math to succeed and have fun!” She stresses that, more often than not, we discount a teacher’s role in shaping a student’s understanding of and experience with a subject.
That’s why I’m so proud of my role as a teacher.
Savindri quickly adds that teaching cannot solely determine a student’s ability. “For instance, I’ve found that some kids have specific learning difficulties that might make it much harder to concentrate or grasp concepts,” says Savindri. In cases like this, she always recommends that parents speak to an educational psychologist if they suspect this is the case and work through a suggested teaching style.
The Way Forward for Talgo Education!
Savindri is hopeful for the future of her “baby” Talgo, “Formalising my tutorial service into a company has become my most recent venture! When I moved from Sri Lanka to Singapore earlier this year, my tutorial service moved with me. So it made sense to establish Talgo Education as a fully-fledged brand. I’m currently focusing on getting our university tutoring arm up and running.”
Savindri concludes, “I started as a teacher, and now, as my career grows, I’m becoming part-teacher and part-entrepreneur – and I am cautiously excited for what’s to come!”