Principal Helen Sircar at Christ Church Girls’ High School before her arrest on Thursday. (Amit Datta)
Helen Sircar, the principal put in police lock-up after Thursday’s trial by mob at Christ Church Girls’ High School in Dum Dum, is acknowledged by her seniors, peers and students past and present as “one of the best teachers around”.
Before joining Christ Church as principal in 2011, Sircar had taught English at St. John’s Diocesan Girls’ Higher Secondary School for over 18 years. “Helen used to be one of our best teachers,” said Rosita Christine, a former principal at St. John’s Diocesan.
Sircar, a single mother with an 11-year old daughter, shifted to the principal’s quarter within the Christ Church compound after joining the institution over a year ago.
Christine, who knew Sircar since she was a child, said: “Helen has all the qualities of a good teacher. She is approachable and at the same time strict and extremely disciplined.”
Sircar, an alumnus of Loreto Day School, has a master’s in English and B.Ed degree from Calcutta University.
Her daughter, a student of Class VI, was with her maternal uncle on Friday, still confused about why her mother wasn’t back home.
“We had promised her that I would bring her mother back today. But we haven’t been able to,” said a cousin of Sircar after a Barrackpore court refused bail.
Acquaintances describe Sircar as being very dedicated to her profession and a very capable teacher of English.
“She taught English from classes IX to XII at her former school. Students scored very high marks in English and Helen would give equal attention to all to ensure that they performed well in their board exams,” Christine said.
Sircar had started her career as a temporary teacher in the primary section of St. John’s Diocesan in the late 1990s. “ The school’s governing board noticed her talent days after she joined the school as a primary teacher,” Christine said.
It wasn’t long before St. John’s Diocesan made her a permanent member of senior school faculty.
Christine said she was shocked to hear about the allegations against Sircar, particularly those by guardians of students at Christ Church. The former principal of St. John’s Diocesan said it was hard to believe that Sircar wasn’t student-friendly and capable as an administrator.
If that were the case, Sircar wouldn’t have been such a popular teacher among students and guardians at St. John’s Diocesan, she said.
The students there liked her because of her involvement in activities other than academics, Christine said.
“Helen was a great organiser and she took a keen interest in arranging most of our cultural programmes and other events,” the former principal recalled.
Sircar also participated in the activities of the Interact Club at St. John’s Diocesan and motivated students to do likewise, a former colleague said.
At Christ Church, she was just as popular despite some people giving the impression that she was not, sources said.
“Helen had dreamt big for Christ Church,” a colleague said.“Principal ma’am teaches us English and is very good at it,” said a Class X student of the school. “We can’t believe she is being accused of wrongdoing.”