Meet the 40 Under 40 who stumbled upon her calling

ByLisa Holmes

Read the article at >

Sehba Ali was in the career office during her senior year of college with plans of teaching for a couple years before pursuing a doctorate in psychology — then she saw a brochure for Teach for America, and her whole life changed.

Ali, who was chosen as one of the 2014 Houston Business Journal’s 40 Under 40, found herself drawn into the mission statement on the brochure, which was centered around providing equal educational opportunities for children everywhere. She decided to apply, while still planning to only teach for a couple years.

“In my first month of teaching at McReynolds Middle School, I realized that my low-income students were just as smart and just as talented as the kids attending Lanier Middle School a few miles away. The only difference — my students lacked opportunity,” Ali wrote in her application.

She felt called to stay in the field of education, she said, and devote her time to creating opportunity for a solid education for low-income students. Ali spent a few years teaching in Houston before pursuing a master’s in public policy at Stanford University. She founded her own school, KIPP Heartwood Academy in San Jose, California. Ali later served as chief academic officer of KIPP Bay Area Schools and is now the superintendent of KIPP Houston Public Schools, which was named one of the 2014 Houston Business Journal Best Places to Work.

Ali believes in a hands-on approach to her job, writing in her application that she loves sitting in the classrooms with the students, attending celebrations and tutoring them. Professionally, her goals remain the same as they were in the beginning — to provide more opportunities to as many low-income children as possible.