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Sabine Chishty: Putting communities at the forefront

  • Photo credit:
    Susmita Paul

You could say Sabine Chishty (TFA New York ’13) has education in her blood. Coming from a long line of educators, she has a deep understanding of the transformative power of a quality education — and she’s organizing to amplify the voices of communities so all students have the chance to live up to their full potential.

Explain what led you to care deeply about educational equity. What personal values, experiences or beliefs inform this?

Education transformed my family — success in school took my grandfather from a village in what was then India to better and better opportunities, ultimately leading him to a successful life in Dhaka, Bangladesh. For my father, education brought him from that country to this one: he emigrated to America in 1980 on a scholarship to Williams College in western Massachusetts.

For me, I have always known how profoundly lucky I was to get a great education, and how rare that is both in this country and in the world.

On top of that, I come from a family of educators, professors and school administrators — from my grandmothers who taught high school in Dhaka, to my parents who teach at universities in Chicago. Between my family’s educational experience and their commitment to teaching, my passion for educational equity isn’t surprising.

 

How has LEE helped you in your mission to end educational inequity?

LEE has transformed my understanding of what people and communities can do to fight for educational equity. Going through the Exploring Public Leadership Series and the National Organizing Workshop, I learned how to build power around the issues and poor policy decisions I saw wreaking havoc on my students. As a teacher in the South Bronx, I saw my role as supporting my students in pursuing their visions for success and creating spaces for them to become agents of change. LEE showed me that this approach —  of cultivating leadership and building power — is key to organizing for impact.

 

Tell us about your current role. What’s a typical day like? What is the impact you’re having on educational equity?

Currently I work for the Office of the Executive Director at LEE. In this role, I support our executive director and work on special projects to creatively increase our members’ impact and the success of the organization.

As a LEE member myself, I also co-chair EmpowerED, a collective action group of teachers, students, parents, and other stakeholders in New York City. Two years ago, EmpowerED members voted to organize around culturally responsive teaching. In the time since, we have advanced toward passing a bill in the New York State Legislature that will create valuable new opportunities for teacher trainings.

 

What is your vision for ending educational inequity in the U.S.?

I believe communities know exactly what they need — and too often, their voices are not at the decision-making table. Until that balance of power changes, inequity will persist no matter what band-aids we place on our problems. I love working at LEE and organizing for EmpowerED because I believe in our members and the communities we serve, and know that continuing to amplify and support these voices is part of how we end inequity in education.

 

What do you see as your role in achieving this vision?

I want to become a stronger and louder champion for community leaders who will stand up for what’s best for kids across the nation.