Vidya Shankar
Founder, Mentor & Advisor
Adolescent Studies Facilitator

Vidya Shankar is a Child Rights Practitioner and Montessori Specialist with the TN Commission for Protection of Child Rights. She is the Founder of the CASCADE Family Learning Cooperative, which functioned previously under her Organisation – Relief Foundation. She continues to guide the newly formed Society, in her role as a mentor and advisor.

In her previous avatar, Vidya was a Chemical Engineer. However, she has since swapped those robes in favor of a more rewarding one which seeks to create safe spaces and communities for children. In the last fifteen years, she has been a part of an Adoptive Families Support Group, SuDatta, a Member of the Juvenile Justice Board and has served as the Chairperson of Chennai District’s Juvenile Welfare Board besides being an active proponent of Children’s issues especially quality and meaningful education.

She also conducts workshops on Juvenile Justice, Laws related to children and is experienced in training teachers up to middle school level on child rights and school reforms to make them child friendly and parent participative. She also offers parenting and educational counselling sessions over distance and in person.

She has completed her AMI Elementary Montessori (for 6-12 years old children) Diploma and Post Graduate Diploma in Child Rights Law from National Law School, Bangalore. More about Vidya…..

Arts program facilitator

With a graduation degree in Home Science – Interior Decoration and post graduation in Fine Arts, I have been engaged with the visual communication medium for over two decades now. My repertoire of work involves stints in an advertising agency, television production house, independent projects conceptualising, scripting and making audiovisuals for various clients, documentation in print and audiovisual media, engagement with development organisations, academic institutions and so on. Facilitating art and media studies with students for the last couple of years has been, for me, an opportunity to explore another dimension of this medium.

Rajalakshmi Nandakumar
Hindi and Sanskrit language instruction

Rajalakshmi is an electronics engineer with several years of experience in the IT field. After the birth of her daughter, she decided to make herself fully available for her daughter and relinquished her IT job. She firmly believes in the importance of a mother’s presence in providing a secure psychological foundation during the formative years of a child.
A firm believer in an education system with compassion as its core than competition, Rajalakshmi is the Hindi Language resource person. Having lived in the North throughout her school education, she has a flair for the language having studied it as a second language. Her passion for learning languages had motivated her to learn Sanskrit through Samskrita Bharati. She plans to offer Sanskrit too in CASCADE once she completes her certificate courses in Sanskrit.

Jayashree Balasubramanian
Elementary Directress

Jayashree has done her under graduation in Electronics and Communication Engineering and post graduation in Software Engineering. She was a software engineer and has over 10 years of experience in aerospace and cable networking industry.
Jayashree’s quest for alternate education for her children brought her family to CASCADE. Her family has been a part of CASCADE for the past four years. She is passionate about Montessori philosophy and overall child development. Jayashree has completed her AMI International Diploma in Montessori Elementary program (for 6-12 years old children) and is a directress for the elementary environment in CASCADE.

Vidyalakshmi Anand
Casa Directress and Tamil Resource person

Vidyalakshmi was drawn to the Montessori way of education after discovering it for her son who went to a conventional school for several years. Her child has gained from the free choice based elementary environment and enjoys coming to class everyday. Having done her M.Sc in Math and with a B.Ed too, she was also a teacher in the same school for over 5 years. To gain more from the method, she undertook the Primary Montessori course at IMC Chennai and joined the FLS team in 2016 as a Casa Directress. She also gives Tamil language sessions and has a flair for music and poetry. Her passion is to work with young children and she finds the Montessori way for children to be the most ideal for developing into happy productive citizens of tomorrow.

Elementary support and Tamil language instruction

Murali Krishnan is a post graduate in English and Computer Applications. During his tenure in the Software Industry, he had volunteered for many years in the child welfare sector, especially the Juvenile and Observation Homes in Tamilnadu.

After volunteering with Relief Foundation for 3 years from 2003-2006, he became a core member in 2006. He plays a key role in initiating dialogues with potential schools that are looking for change and support in scaling up, teacher development and adopting best classroom practices that will make learning meaningful for children.

His core strengths are in creating leaders and providing opportunities for youth to bring out their potential to become self reliant. Murali is associated with Relief Foundation for the past 12 years from a volunteer to a core group member and is spearheading our CASCADE rural project in Thiruvannamalai.

He stays in close connect with students to understand and implement their needs in the classroom as well as in their families and communities. His areas of expertise built over years of experience in the education sector include, school administration system reforms as well as enshrining good practices for child friendly schools.

Murali has done Montessori AMI Elementary Diploma (for 6 to 12 year old children) and currently supports the elementary environment in CASCADE. He also takes care of Tamil language instruction for CASCADE elementary children.