Coalition Language Representatives

Talat Awais is native Urdu speaker, born in Pakistan. She has over 30 years of experience with teaching and building educational programs in both private and non-profit institutions. She has taught in one of the leading and distinguished schools in Pakistan, Lahore Grammar School (LGS). She not only taught Computer Science and ICS (Intermediate in Computer Science) in this school and college, she was instrumental in establishing the computer labs. As head of the Computer Departments in multiple branches of LGS, she mentored her staff to produce love for the subject within the students and help them achieve high grades in both O’ and A’ Level Cambridge Exams. She has been trained at both Cambridge and Oxford and has multiple certifications related to best practices and techniques in teaching.

Currently she is playing the role of Language Program Director for Indus Arts Council’s Urdu program. Her passion for the Urdu language was evoked by her Urdu teacher while studying Urdu literature in O’Level. Her 7 years of experience with teaching Urdu in Houston ranges from ages K-12 to adults. Outside the Indus Arts Council, she has also taught Urdu to middle and high school students at Awty International School and other private schools in Houston.

Talat has attended several of StarTalk’s teacher training workshops since 2014, deepening her knowledge and understanding of methodologies involved in language teaching. She has also attended and conducted professional development workshops with the Indus Arts Council. She was the lead presenter at ACTFL 2018, on Effective Use of Resources for Language Learners. She is well versed in student assessment and has been ACTFL OPI certified since 2019. She also attended training on Performance Assessment at the Center for Applied Linguistics, Washington DC, in 2016. She completed New York University teacher training in 2021. She is well informed and skilled in the knowledge of StarTalk principles and ACTFL learning standards. Working as the lead instructor, she has applied this knowledge in designing the curricula for Indus Arts Council StarTalk summer programs since 2016. She successfully leads her team throughout the year for the Urdu Program run by Indus Arts Council in Houston TX. She has incorporated strategies using music, theater, storytelling and online games to make language learning a fun process. She has also brought her IT knowledge into designing innovative ways to teach Urdu both in class and online.

Talat is a self-directed, enthusiastic educator committed to student development and enhanced learning experience. She is skilled in designing innovative activities that challenge students while addressing their diverse needs and interests. She tailors her communication style and messages based on how the students learn best, while incorporating a variety of ways to present information to be learned. She believes in building teams through collaboration and open-mindedness to produce positive results and a more inspiring work environment. Her vision is to create an environment in every lesson for students to develop their language proficiency, develop language skills that will help them connect to their culture, and make them lifelong Urdu learners.

Zaitoon Dada, a native Urdu speaker, has been an instructor, organizer, and teacher of language for over 20 years. She began teaching Urdu with Indus Arts in 2012 and went on to join StarTalk’s Urdu program in 2015, where she has been teaching the language every summer to students in Kindergarten to 2nd grade. A majority of Mrs. Dada’s students were novices or did not know any Urdu at all, and in a span of 3 months, upon completing the program, they were able to hold conversations using what they learned through the use of mnemonic devices, creative exercises, and even songs that Mrs. Dada created herself. She also created many lesson plans and curriculum content for her summer classes, and is well versed in the process of tailoring a language learning experience for students of all ages.

Mrs. Dada was invited to, and successfully completed, a StarTalk Urdu Teacher Training Course at New York University in 2015. Additionally, she was invited to the University of Texas at Austin, where she completed the “Strategies That Work: Helping Students Become Proficient Speakers of Hindi and Urdu” workshop. Her expertise as a teacher, and exposure in the subject of linguistics, go beyond her involvements described here. She has been extensively teaching the intricacies of Arabic, one of the more complex languages, in weekly classes that she has coordinated and solely instructed over the span of 12 years.

Mrs. Dada graduated from an advanced program in Pakistan, which taught her in great detail about language translation and interpretation. She is a performer of Urdu hymns, seminars, and lectures in her hometown of Houston, Texas, where she is well-known and often invited to speak and perform in Urdu at various events, including multiple appearances on the TV One television network, which airs worldwide.


Safia Hashim is a native Urdu speaker born in Pakistan. She has been involved with teaching and educational programs surrounding Urdu for 25 years in Pakistan and the United States. Her work has been in both non-profit and private institutions. Currently she is teaching with Indus Arts as well as teaching private lessons. Safia has a passion for the Urdu language and uses this to help encourage and teach students to better understand the language. Her goal is to help students in grades K-12 have a better understanding of the Urdu language and culture, and she hopes to one day see Urdu be an accessible language to learn in public schools.

Safia has attended many Startalk teacher training workshops, such as at ACTFL in 2018 and 2021. In Pakistan, she received a Master’s degree in Economics from the University of Karachi. She spent several years teaching Math, Urdu, and Social Studies. In the United States, she has taught Urdu-related trainings with organizations such as Startalk (NYU Program) and Indus Arts. She has received OPI training and short courses with Urdu as well.

Shahid Iqbal is a native Urdu language speaker from Karachi, Pakistan. He is co-founder of Indus Arts Council, an Urdu heritage language school in the U.S, where he has worked for 8 years as the program director. He is responsible for promoting and developing Urdu classes in several areas of the Greater Houston, Texas, metropolitan area, including but not limited to community centers, private schools, and online (due to the pandemic). Shahid holds a Bachelor's degree in Management Information Systems and certification in Capital Fundraising from Rice University in Houston, Texas.

Shahid has chaired several committees for Urdu language education/development in the U.S., from local organizations to nationwide Urdu pedagogy consultants, institutes, and community groups. He has also led the teacher training program at Indus Arts Council since 2014. He is involved with the City of Houston, Harris County, and other local government agencies in promoting the use of the Urdu language in public service as well as in targeted community messages.

Since 2014, Shahid has served as the Program Director for the StarTalk Urdu summer camp in Houston, Texas. He has attended several StarTalk conferences and trainings and participated in ACTFL sessions and other groups as well. He has helped many other programs with applying for StarTalk grants. During his leadership, the Urdu summer camp program saw unprecedented growth and demand for Urdu language in Texas, Missouri, and California. Since 2019, Shahid has managed 2 pilot Urdu programs in St. Louis, MO and the Bay Area, California. In 2020, he is working to develop Urdu classes in the Virginia/Maryland/DC area.

Samina Kasim has been passionate about teaching in the field of education since graduation. She had been blessed with the opportunity to teach at the most prestigious school in Pakistan, Karachi Grammar School. She is fluent in Urdu and English. For the past five years, she has been associated with Indus Arts Council (IAC), a community-based public non-profit organization. She is a lead Urdu teacher, conducting weekly, summer, and fall classes and is involved in leading and directing numerous community-based projects in collaboration with IAC. She currently teaches online classes in Urdu to adults from all over the U.S.

Samina was born and raised in Karachi, Pakistan. Growing up, she was enrolled in one of the most prestigious schools, where Urdu novels were taught to students to develop their Urdu literacy skills. She holds a Bachelors in Home-Economics and a Masters in English Literature, Education, from the University of Karachi, Pakistan, and many diplomas and certifications from Oxford and Cambridge. In the last 26 years, she has been involved in the teaching of English and Urdu to O-Level students in Pakistan. She taught middle school English Language Arts and Basic English courses in IQRA University, Pakistan. She worked as ESL teacher both online and onsite at AS-Salam, Houston.

Samina has attended several StarTalk Urdu teacher training programs and served as the lead for five StarTalk student programs. She is well versed in StarTalk's learning philosophy and incorporates ACTFL's learning standards for global language acquisition in her classes. She uses technology in her language classes to assess, enhance, and reinforce students' learning. She was a keynote presenter at the ACTFL conference in New Orleans, 2018.

She has introduced Pakistani oral storytelling traditions with language learning and cultural goals. As a teacher she takes as her responsibility to cater to a positive learning environment for all students to meet their individual needs. She has introduced many themes and topics to conduct Indus Arts Council’s summer program. She initiates her lessons with self-introduction, family introduction, friend introduction, weekly routine, daily routine, weather, animals, emotions, Pakistan’s map, extended family, likes, dislikes, and colorful festivals of Pakistan.

To bring life to her classes her students hear simple stories from illustrated story books in Urdu and watch videos of various animated stories, advertisements, and videos about culture and families, all based on everyday life, family, friends, fruits and animals, cities, and villages in Pakistan. Students learn language construction, forming short paragraphs, leading to the 5 basic elements of a story—characters, setting, plot, conflict, and resolution. They pretend to be characters in various settings in Pakistan’s city or a village, experiencing short situations from daily life.

Batool Moin is a native Urdu and Punjabi speaker, and she has been involved in the teaching of Urdu language and Pakistani culture in Texas through the Indus Art Council, teaching students of different ages. In June 2021, she was an Urdu instructor in the StarTalk Urdu Language program in Houston, Texas. She has helped students in middle and high school, as well as UT Austin and Cambridge IGCSE (Urdu as a Second Language) students, learn and speak Urdu with ease.

Batool holds a Bachelor's degree in Urdu literature, psychology, and Islamic studies from Punjab University, Pakistan. She studied Urdu grammar and text as a subject for more than 12 years. She has successfully completed a StarTalk training workshop in Urdu. She has completed the course (SPECIAL CONSIDERATION FOR INFECTION CONTROL DURING COVID-19) from Texas A&M. She completed teacher training in the Maryam Islamic Center School with workshops, classroom management, students with special needs and mental health, bullying depression and self-care, effective communication, professionalism, and tips on teaching Seerah.

Mukhtarunnisa Zaidi is a native Urdu speaker, born and raised in Pakistan. She has been involved with teaching and educational programs surrounding Urdu for 30 years in Pakistan and the United States. She has worked in both nonprofit organizations and private schools. She is currently teaching with the Indus Arts Council as well as teaching private lessons to students. Mukhtarunnisa has a passion for the Urdu language and culture and uses this to help encourage and teach students to better understand the language. Her goal is to help students in grades K-12 be fluent in Urdu and have a better understanding of the language as well as culture. She has attended many STARTALK teacher training workshops, such as at ACTFL in 2018 and 2021. In Pakistan, she received a bachelor’s degree in Advanced Urdu and Child Psychology from the University of Karachi. In the United States, she has taught Urdu-related classes with organizations such as STARTALK (NYU Program) and Indus Arts. She has received OPI training and short courses on Urdu as well. She has been an Urdu and culture teacher for many years and loves to work with children. She loves to spread knowledge of the Urdu language and culture to children and connect them to their roots.

Published: Monday, August 23, 2021