From Corps Member to School Principal, Atlanta TFA Alum Ascends to Leadership
Mini’imah Shaheed left her hometown of Oakland, California in 2001, set to become an educator.
Since that time, the University of Pennsylvania graduate has worked as a teacher, transitioned to administration as an assistant principal, and is now serving as the founding principal of KIPP Strive Primary, with eyes on eventually becoming a school superintendent.
“I am a lifelong educator,” said Shaheed sitting in her school nestled within Atlanta’s West End and Westview communities.
From the Beginning
Shaheed is a first-generation college student and she firmly wanted to pursue college to break the cycle of intergenerational poverty in her family. She majored in English Literature at UPenn, and states she had an experience like none other during her senior seminar.
“A TFA alum came back to the school and I was absolutely inspired,” said Shaheed.
She says the way the alum talked about making immediate and long-term impact moved her deeply emotionally. From that experience, she simultaneously applied to TFA and graduate schools, but in the end—she decided to join the corps.
After accepting the offer to join, Shaheed went through TFA’s Summer Institute experience at the University of Houston in Houston, Texas.
“I got married two days prior to going to Institute,” said Shaheed jokingly. “In those beginning years, TFA was harder than marriage.”
She then moved to Atlanta, Georgia, where she taught second grade with Atlanta Public Schools. Shaheed points to the excellent support she received in her first year.
“The one on one coaching that I received from Teach For America was incredibly helpful. Just having someone who is coming into your classroom, understanding where you are as a first-year teacher, understanding that there are steps to grow as a teacher and being able to benchmark those steps in a very concrete relatable way, it is incredibly helpful.”
Wanting to engage her English Literature background, she then transitioned to becoming a high school teacher. It was there where she met Christal Chase at Mays High School more than a decade ago. Despite the time passed, the impact of Mini’imah’s teaching and connection with students remains with Chase.
A Rough Day
Roughly ten years ago, Christal lost a close person to her through death. It was an experience that would forever be etched in her young teenage mind. However, her teacher, Mrs. Rashid at the time, who eventually changed her name to become Mrs. Shaheed, did something Christal would never forget.
“She wrote me a letter letting me know that she supported me,” said Chase. “I still have the letter today, and she wrote the letter a decade ago.”
Chase notes that she was so shocked by the kind gesture that she did not know how to respond initially, however, she knew that Mrs. Rashid would be a teacher she would never forget.
“[The letter] made me feel warm and good. I held on to it for so long,” said Chase. “It meant that much to me.”
As the universe would design Chase’s life, she is now a teacher associate at Mini’imah’s school, with plans to pursue education as a long term career.
“Even though I’ve had some challenges since finishing high school, I know I want to become a teacher like Mrs. Shaheed,” said Chase. “I am so grateful for her presence.”
Kofi Kinney, program continuum manager at TFA-Metro Atlanta has two scholars who attend KIPP Strive. Kinney sees the continued progress and success at the school.
“Mrs. Shaheed knows what it takes to ground students in a quality education and every day, she works aggressively, but compassionately, to understand the needs of our students in this community,” said Kinney. “I firmly believe the school’s success is the result of Mrs. Shaheed’s leadership. Her vision is built out of love.”
After teaching at Mays, Shaheed then became an assistant principal at J.E. Richards Middle School in Gwinnett County. In 2012, she became founding principal at KIPP Strive Primary, which continually is ranked one of the highest performing schools across the KIPP network.
Shaheed points to the school’s music program as one success at the school.
“Our scholars love music and as a result, they have performed at places like the Buckhead Theatre, the Fox Theater, which increases their exposure to the outside community,” said Shaheed.
One day, Mini’imah hopes to enter higher levels of administration, but for now, she embraces the impact that she is having on her scholars at KIPP Strive.
“I have a long term goal of serving as a superintendent. I don’t know where that journey may take me. It may take me into the superintendency, it may take me somewhere else. I do know I want to continually broaden my impact.