From Thurgood Marshall School of Law to Rochester Prep High School

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George Eastman statue, University of Rochester

• July 24, 2015

A rising star has come to Rochester all the way from the Lone Star State. One day you might even read about the new school she is opening.

Until last year, Shadi Kafi had never even heard of Rochester. A recently minted Social Studies teacher who had left her law practice to follow her passion, Shadi was living in her hometown Houston. Then Uncommon Schools offered a position at the Rochester Prep High School. And she has never looked back. Shadi even likes the weather!

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Attorney Shadi Kafi back in Texas

Eight years ago, Shadi, an Iranian-American woman, graduated from Thurgood Marshall School of Law at Texas Southern University and built a practice defending the rights of juveniles, forming relationships with parents and children outside the courtroom. Over time, Shadi decided she could most proactively influence the lives of young people through education. Without the teachers, counselors and those she worked with on community service projects, she might not have made it through troubled times.

Now Shadi wants to give back. And she has found that chance teaching Global History at Rochester Prep.

After graduating from the Teaching Excellence Program in Houston, where she gained a teacher spotlight  in April 2014. Shadi’s nationwide search landed her final interviews in San Francisco, Austin, Houston, and Philadelphia.

But it was Uncommon Schools that captured her imagination. Uncommon starts and manages outstanding urban charter public schools that close the achievement gap and prepare low-income students to graduate from college. Since its inception 18 years ago, Uncommon has 42 schools in 3 states, New York, New Jersey and Massachusetts.

When Uncommon placed her at Rochester Prep–only three weeks later finding an apartment in the Upper Monroe neighborhood and setting up her classroom at the school’s home on Martin Street–Shadi knew she would be in a community with the very highest rates of childhood poverty and racial and economic segregation in the nation.

And she has taken on the challenge with passion. In her first year, Shadi worked with her students’ Digital Arts teacher, a faculty member at R.I.T. who teaches at Rochester Prep. This year,as students studied ancient Persia in Shadi’s history class, they collaborated with their Digital Arts class on making digital art posters representing Darius the Great, Cyrus the Great, Xerxes and also female leaders like Banu and Apranik. Shadi also worked with students on an art mural behind Tapas off Andrews St. on their last week of school with their teacher from R.I.T. and uses R.I.T. students as History tutors twice a week in her classroom, another helpful collaboration to boost student achievement. Shadi’s other passion is to bring the world to her students.To do so, she sought a partnership with EF Tours, the leading student international travel organization, to lead a student tour of Spain and Morocco in Spring 2016:

I can not wait to see the looks in their eyes when we hit the ground, it’s going to hit them so hard that they are not in Rochester anymore and they will never be the same!

Furthermore, Shadi–of boundless energy–will begin her graduate work at the University of Rochester’s Warner School of Education to obtain an M.S. in Educational Administration and a Building Leader Certificate.sahdi 3

Here real dream is bigger. One day she wants to open her own school. And she wants to do it right here in Rochester. Get ready for LACP. The Ladies Arts and College Preparatory. Since learning about Rochester, in her vision, LACP will combine the best of the Wilson International Baccalaureate Program and the School of the Arts.

It’s not just the Rochester weather she likes (coming from Houston can you blame her?) but the people and the vibe. She enjoys the four seasons, lush green trees, beautiful lakes, scenic drives and trails, charming neighborhoods and, most of all, the friendliest people:

Rochester has everything you could ask for, the quiet, quaint, lovely feel for the introvert and the bustle of many big cities just a road trip away for the extrovert. I truly love it here. Now I get everyone I know in Houston to come visit.

Too often I hear that it is too hard to recruit out-of-staters to teach in Rochester, whether in public or charter schools. All the way from Texas, Shadi Kafi is compelling evidence to the contrary.

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Discussing world travel in Wilson Commons

On another Rochester teacher who is giving back

“Teaching with poverty in mind:” One teacher’s perspective