A chat with the most innovative teacher 

Nuwan Dissanayaka is the current chemistry teacher at Colombo International School, Kandy. In 2018, he initiated the concept of awarding the “Most Innovative Teacher of the Year”, in order to appreciate and recognise teachers in Sri Lanka. He has also won the Global Teacher Prize 2019 for initiating this concept in Sri Lanka.

Gihan Dananjaya Pathirana is the music teacher at a distant school named Sripada Vidyalaya in Sri Palabaddala, Ratnapura. This area is on one of the trails that lead to Adam’s Peak when you start the climb from the Ratnapura end, and it is absolutely beautiful. He became famous for his band that made music using alternative music instruments. They have also won several music competitions, all-island included. Gihan was felicitated and recognised as the “Most Innovative Teacher of the Year” in 2018 for his revolutionary teaching methods, at his school. He was selected to the top five and became the runner-up.

Following are excerpts from an interview conducted by members of the Media Club of Royal Institute College, Gampaha with the person who initiated the concept of the “Most Innovative Teacher of the Year” and the teacher who won the title of the “Most Innovative Teacher of the Year” in 2018. The full interview is available on Ramith Dheerasekara’s YouTube channel.


Nuwan Dissanayaka


What is the one piece of advice you’d give a teacher and also a student?


The best advice for a teacher is that as a teacher, you always have to think like a child and the best advice for a student is to be yourself, because most of the students tend to turn into someone they are not.


What is volunteer teaching?

When I was at university, there was a course called “Science Education”, so I used to learn from that. And my professor, Madam Sunethra Karunarathna, asked me to join some schools and practise learning. I started my teaching corner at Seethadevi Girls College, Kandy. I worked as a volunteer teacher there. This was in the year 2010.


When was the last day you spoke to your teacher?


Recently, I called my teacher who taught me how to teach, i.e. Madam Sunethra Karunarathna, and we had a chat about the situation in the country.


Could you tell us something about your school life in one minute and 30 seconds?


That’s where I got my foundation to become a good teacher. I used to be the last in class and then became the first in class. It was the best time of my life as a student in the school.


Can you tell us a little about Sri Lankan Dreams?


It’s an independent moment. The idea of Sri Lankan Dreams is to spark revolution in Sri Lanka.


Gihan Dananjaya Pathirana


What is the one piece of advice you’d give a teacher and also a student?


We are all humans. According to me, a teacher should respect a student and a student should also respect a teacher. That is my advice.


Sir, now I’m going to ask you about your first experience as a teacher. How do you feel about it?


My first experience was in the year 2016 at the Ratnapura Sri Palabaddala School, and I’m really happy about it, but it was a big task.


When was the last day you spoke to your teacher?


Two weeks ago, I spoke to my music teacher.


What do you think about your students? And could you tell us something about them?


They are disciplined and are really intelligent. The song I performed with them is “Walakulin Basa”, and it became quite famous on social media. The song I did recently was “Chinna Chinna Asai” with some of the students, as some others had left the school. The instruments I used were some bottles to get the perfect melody.


Could you tell us something about your school life?

I passed A/Ls (Advanced Level examinations) with better results. I did A/Ls in the year 2010. In my school life, I did so many musical things.


As there are so many types of music, how do you teach your students? Could you also tell us something about that?


To teach, I use many methods that I have come up with myself, and I found some new ways too.


By the way Sir, we got to know that you’re leaving Sri Palabaddala School. Is it true?


Yes, now it’s been four years since I started teaching at the school, and I hope to leave next year.