We had the good fortune of connecting with Shreena Punwasi and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Shreena, what makes you happy? Why?
Being a British science teacher in Houston, I’m used to being the odd one out. So when it comes to my classroom, I’m not afraid to be THAT teacher…the one who wears the science pun tees, the Ms. Frizzle dress and the glow in the dark galaxy shoes. One day, I wore some science earrings and my students couldn’t stop commenting on them. “You’re such a geek Mrs. Punwasi!,” they told me. They were right – I am! I love dressing up and showing off how much I love teaching and science. It makes me so happy and that I can’t help but hope that my enthusiasm off onto my students and those around me. I wanted other people to feel that same sense of pride and started a few projects during lockdown that I’ve wanted to for a long time. The first is Youreka – an online journal of my homeschooling journey with my own children. The second is The Chic Geek, a small accessory business designed to inspire other to show off their passions too. Both of these ventures have brought so much happiness into my life and I hope they bring it to others too!
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
During my university degree, I was a student mentor, helping run outreach workshops to promote STEM. After graduating and a year in industry, I realized that STEM education was my passion. I worked for several years as a Scientific Projects Manager, developing and implementing STEM outreach programs for students, teacher and academics in the UK. We worked evenings, weekends and holidays – anytime school was in or out and it was exhausting, but we loved it. Watching kids get inspired and seeing teachers re energized was totally worth it. I’ve always loved promoting STEM and even now that I have young children, I try to instill that same love within them. In fact, I recently started up an instagram account @yourekafun to document some of our homeschooling adventures and encourage other parents. When life brought me to Houston, I decided that I wanted to have more of a direct impact and took my ACT through Texas Teachers and was in a classroom teaching within the year. Without a doubt, starting in a Title 1 classroom in January, (6 month pregnant no less!) was the hardest few months of my life. I’d always had great respect for educators, but being on the other side of the fence really put into perspective the amount of work & sacrifice that teachers put in on a daily basis. One thing that really surprised me is how teachers find the willpower to keep going, even during the most trying of circumstances. We get no bonuses, no loyalty gifts or expense accounts…instead we get handwritten letters, pictures and home-baked cookies. As non consequential as it may sound to others, these little trinkets get us through the toughest days and pick us up when we need it most. That was the idea behind The Chic Geek and that is what I hope one of our gifts will do. I would love to think that someone somewhere who is having a rough day receives one of our gifts on their desk and it makes their day! I believe gifts shouldn’t have to be expensive to be thoughtful and our products reflect this.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
Our favourite spots in Houston are: -Houston Zoo -The Chocolate Bar in Rice Village -Surfside Beach -Kings Biergarten -Cedar Creek -Red Lion Pub -Pondicherry -The Museum District -The outlets at San Marcos -Any of the theaters – they’re all great!
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
My family who have been my constant sounding board as I’ve learned to take risks and pursue my idea even if I didn’t have it all figured out. Especially my little sister who is my role model when it comes to building a business. Some good friends of mine: Sara Varvarigos who is a fellow mompreneur and has always encouraged me to follow my passion. My science team who spent their lunches offering me advice and looking through designs.
Instagram: www.instagram.com/thechicgeektx and www.instagram.com/yourekafun
Facebook: www.facebook.com/thechicgeektx and www.facebook.com/yourekafun