Shaheen Mistri is the CEO of Teach For India, and serves as one of its founding board members. She has earned global recognition for her dedication and commitment towards the fight for educational equity.
Born in Mumbai, Shaheen lived in thirteen different countries while growing up. At the age of eighteen she returned to Mumbai, keen to learn more about the city and its slums, when she decided to enroll at the University of Mumbai. Shaheen had always heard about inequalities in India’s education system, but what she saw shocked her.
Shaheen soon came to realize that children living in the slums lack access to quality education and are deprived of the skills necessary to compete in India’s formal, competitive job market. She founded the first Akanksha Centre in 1989, enrolling 15 children and employing college friends as volunteers.
It eventually evolved into the Akanksha Foundation, a non-profit education project that provides after-school tutoring to children from low-income families. The centres and schools are in Mumbai and Pune. Volunteers, mostly college students, teach children using an innovative methodology, which has won the foundation international honors.
As the recognition of Akanksha’s work grew, Shaheen continued to see a growing disparity between the magnitudes of problems that plague India’s education system and the contribution Akanksha could make to solve them. She saw an opportunity to expand her reach and work for more transformative changes when she met Wendy Kopp, the founder of Teach For America. The Teach For America program recruits and trains outstanding recent college graduates, who commit to teach for two years in public schools in the US.
Two decades later, Shaheen has used her conviction and belief to motivate college students and working professionals to join the Teach For India movement and devote two years of their lives to eliminate educational inequality in India. Along with five colleagues, Shaheen launched Teach For India in 2008, after which the organization has recruited almost 1700 teaching Fellows till date for its two-year teaching Fellowship.
Shaheen is an Ashoka Fellow (2001), a Global Leader for Tomorrow at the World Economic Forum (2002), and an Asia Society 21 Leader (2006). Shaheen also serves on the boards of Ummeed, The Thermax Social Initiatives Foundation, The Akanksha Foundation, The Indian School Leaders Institute, Design For Change, and is an advisor to the Latika Roy Foundation.
She also serves as a committee member for National Council for Teacher Education. Shaheen has a Master’s Degree in Education from the University of Manchester, England.