In honor of International Women's Day, we asked the Teach For All community to pay tribute to women in their lives who inspired them to work towards increasing educational equity and excellence. We think the tributes themselves are inspiring, and we hope you do too:
I’m inspired by Linda Cliatt-Wayman, the principal of one the toughest high schools in Philadelphia. After teaching for 20 years and then serving as assistant superintendent to all of the city’s 52 high schools, Cliatt-Wayman made the choice to return to the neighborhood where she grew up and do all she could to make Straweberry Mansion High School a safe place for students to receive a high-quality education.
—Karen Lieu, Sr. Assoc. Talent Acquisition
My sixth grade teacher Ms. Zareena Qadeer changed my entire life trajectory through transformational teaching.
—NOOR MASOOD, CEO, TEACH FOR PAKISTAN
Margarita Delgado and Elizabeth Eder Zobel de Ayala
I’m inspired by my Teach for the Philippines co-founders, not because they’re women but because they break free of the confines of race, gender and background.
—CLARISSA DELGADO, CO-FOUNDER AND COO, TEACH FOR THE PHILIPPINES
My grandmother is my guiding light in doing what I think is right and impactful, even if it’s unconventional or difficult. She was a revolutionary woman for her time. She “fought” in the freedom movement, was sent to jail, became a school principal, and raised and supported all six of her younger siblings. My biggest regret is that she didn’t live long enough for us to really talk about all the amazing things she did and why she did them. But as I grow older and think more about her, I like to think that I’m developing that understanding on my own and honoring her memory with what I do. I still have a long way to go to live up to it—but she’s definitely the guiding light and role model in my life.
—Isha Sheth, director, recruitment and selection - europe
My mother is my inspiration. For Ruth, life is a feast. Over the past 73 years she has raised four children, and switched careers every decade, a testament to her ability to reinvent herself and commit herself to constant learning. She has been a teacher, a state legislator, a professor, a fundraiser, a community organizer, a feminist, and most recently a published author on family relations. How many people publish two books after age 65? She has been committed to making the world a better place for women, for parents of children with disabilities, and for families across the world. My mother has shown me that there are so many ways to have an impact and that a life journey is unpredictable. She has also taught me that we have the power to follow our interests and passions to make the world a better by place by being open and eager to seize opportunities. For Ruth, learning is a part of every moment. Whether it’s talking to the person on line with her at the airport, reading everything she can get her hands on, or asking questions of all generations, life is her university. My father always tells the story of when the doctor told them that I was going to be their 3rd girl, he turned to her and said, “That’s good, because you are making the world a better place for women,” and I can attest: It’s true!
—Sarabeth Berman, Vice President, Public Affairs
I still remember my seventh grade English teacher, Mrs. Fish. She pushed and pushed and pushed me to meet a standard I didn’t know existed; I think I revised every paper a dozen or more times in her class. It’s such a universal, that great teachers hold their students to the highest of expectations, and Mrs. Fish did that. She was the kind of teacher I want for my own kids and for all kids.
—Wendy Kopp, CEO and co-founder, Teach For All
My principal when I was a Teach For America corps member in Washington, DC showed me the meaning of relentlessness. Thank you Daneen Keaton! And the fierce ladies of our 2014 cohort of Teach For Bangladesh Fellows inspire me every day!
—MAIMUNA AHMAD, FOUNDER AND CEO, TEACH FOR BANGLADESH
This Carribean-American writer and civil rights activist is one of the best known black lesbian writers of all time with books including Zami: A New Spelling of My Name and Sister Outsider. She was a prolific poet and theorist and was politically active in the civil rights, anti-war, and feminist movements.
Angela Davis's contributions to society are incredibly important. Starting with her work in the counterculture activist movement in the 1960s, with ties to the Communist and the Black Panther Party, Davis emerged as a leading feminist voice deeply passionate about abolishing the prison-industrial complex.
Clara Zetkin was a German Marxist theorist, activist, and advocate for women’s rights. In 1911, she organized the first International Women’s Day. In Minsk, Belarus I lived on a street named after her and remain inspired!
—Anasstassia Baichorova, Senior Director, talent acquisition
Mary Ann Curley
My fourth grade teacher taught me (and I would bet the rest of my classmates too) to find the joy in learning. By choosing books that were full of humor as well as meaning, inventing games to teach us practically everything—Punctuation Baseball was a favorite—and always celebrating our progress with a parade, Mrs. Curley inspired me to want to learn as much as I could. And I haven’t stopped yet!
—Deb Levine, Director, Marketing and Communications
Teach For India board member Anu Aga inspires me every day with her honesty, energy, and belief.
—SHAHEEN MISTRI, CEO AND CO-FOUNDER, TEACH FOR INDIA
My inspiration is my mother, a fierce advocate for my siblings and me around education. I'm grateful for her focus on why education was so important in our family.
—Elisa villanueva beard, co-Ceo, TEACH FOR america
I have only known my future Nana-in-law for five years, but I have come to think of her as the embodiment of the power of education. Nana was raised in the coal-mining region of Southwest Virginia. Her descriptions of her early life are hard to listen to—the only bright spots in her story are the trains that rolled through town, and the men who occasionally threw comic books or magazines down to a girl hungry for words.
After a completely inadequate high school education, by sheer force of will she graduated from Middle Tennessee State University and raised two children while her husband was in the Air Force. She then went on to get her master's degree from Central Washington State University, at a time when her classmates were almost exclusively male. She became a reading specialist, helping more children hungry for words.
Nana is my reminder that where you come from does not have to determine who you can become.
—Holly Nunn, Director of CEO Communications
My Aunt Paula has always been an inspiration for me. Paula teaches music for special education students and has truly brought transformation to her classroom. I can remember attending her annual Christmas pageants and witnessing the joy and pride in her students as they performed before their families and pushed themselves to achieve milestones. My aunt’s passion for her work and her students has never faltered and the impact she has had is immeasurable. Paula is an active, vibrant member in her community. She approaches every challenge, whether in her personal life, the classroom, or the community, with a positive attitude and there is truly no mountain this woman can't climb.
—Kathryn Jonas, Director, Web Operations
Sakena Yaacoubi is one of many women education leaders who inspire me. But female students coming to school regardless of their challenges are my biggest inspiration.
—Salyne al samarany, Ceo, teach for lebanon
My mother has worked as a kindergarten principal for almost 40 years in a low socioeconomic area. She is my hero!
—IDA KARLBERG GIDLUND, CEO, TEACH FOR SWEDEN
Sylvia Harris Schwartz
My grandmother has been a source of inspiration in many aspects of my life, including my commitment to educational equity and excellence. She highly valued education and pursued a nursing degree during a time when few women worked outside the home. She was a dedicated wife and mother, and a pillar in her community, serving others through countless organizations and committees, and through her synagogue. She deeply believed in the Jewish notion of Tikun Olam—repairing the world—which served as a guiding light throughout her almost 90 years. Her legacy lives on in those she has touched, including me, who continue her work to ensure that we make progress toward a more just and equitable world.
—YAMIT TARAGAN, SENIOR DIRECTOR, REGIONAL GROWTH, STRATEGY, & DEVELOPMENT - EUROPE
Emma Betta was my Junior and Senior year Honor’s English teacher. She was tough but fair, and let me intellectually roam around many ideas in the classroom in a way that I would not experience again until my second year of college. She taught me a love for literature and writing that I carry with me to this day. I don't know what she is up to, but I hope she's happily retired after inspiring so many kids to a life of learning.
—NICHOLAS ENNA, IT OPERATIONS AND USER SUPPORT