English teacher retires after 21 years at school

Middle school English, journalism and public speaking teacher Chitra Kallay will be spending more time talking baby-talk and less time musing on the thematic elements of “To Kill a Mockingbird” come next fall.

Kallay, who has taught at the school for 21 years, will retire in June to spend more time with her six-month-old grandchild.

“I wanted to spend a lot of time with her,” Kallay said. “I will enjoy the wonder of her looking at the red flowers and the green leaves and marveling at her.”

Still, she added, “talking to 12 and 13 year olds is very different than talking to a sixth month old.”
Currently, Kallay is teaching eighth grade English, journalism and public speaking.

“I love the eighth grade curriculum,” she said. “I think the books are well chosen, and they are meaty enough and interesting enough, and the kids enjoy them. It’s always good to teach books that kids enjoy.”

Kallay originally came to Harvard School as a substitute teacher when another teacher was set to go on maternity leave. That job was only temporary, but soon afterwards a friend working at Westlake alerted her to an opening there.

Kallay stayed at the Westlake campus after the merger.

“Once the merger happened, the energy changed, and it was really very exciting to work in a co-ed environment,” she said.

Even though Kallay had ties at both the Upper School and the Middle School before the merger, Kallay prefers teaching the younger age group.

“It’s just great when they suddenly get something,” she said. “It’s just wonderful. There’s so much you can tell them that is still new.”

Kallay’s time at Harvard-Westlake was preceded by teaching jobs at the College of Guam and at UCLA. She worked in Guam when her husband’s navy unit was stationed there. She taught a survey course for freshmen and sophomores.

“I was teaching the children of Navy and Air Force officers, enlisted men and women who wanted to go to college, natives and some people from nearby islands,” she said.

Kallay was born in Bangalore, India. She opted for an American education when she received a scholarship from the University of Tennessee. Kallay went on to study at UCLA, where she met her husband. In school, Kallay studied both English and journalism with the ultimate intention of becoming a journalist.

“I thought I wanted to be a journalist, but I ended up teaching and I loved it,” she said.
 “I am blown away by the intelligence, the wit, the curiosity and just the renaissance kids that we have,” she continued. “They are amazing.”