Name: MenSa Ankh Maa

Current Role: Senior Managing Director, People and Partnerships (Teach for America- DC Region)

Length in Current Role: 14 months

What made you choose your career path: I want to make the greatest positive and transformative impact on the educational landscape, specifically in the area where I have lived for almost 20 years and where my two daughters now go to school. I started as a substitute teacher in Mt. Vernon, NY during my college days and have lived by the mantra: “If you ask me where I’m going, the answer will simply be – Wherever the struggle takes me.” I have been fortunate to be a teacher and school principal along the way and will continue on this path of educational leadership.

Favorite thing about what I get to do everyday: Every day I am humbled to work with a team of passionate and knowledgeable individuals, who care deeply about children. My favorite thing is how I am continually pushed to grow and think about solutions to the problems we face in the educational landscape in new and innovative ways.

Person/Place/Thing That Best Exemplifies Me: “I’m going to be Iron, like a Lion, in Zion.” – Bob Marley

My Superpower: I think that I have developed the ability to look into people and connect on a deeper level. If the eyes are a pathway to you soul, I’d like to think that I engage people and feel some of their story- sometimes just through eye contact. My co-workers may also say massage is a hidden talent since I was a certified massage therapist many years ago.

Best lesson learned from a mentor or someone I admire: The more you know, the more you know what you don’t know.

What I do to make lemonade out of lemons on my toughest days: When things get rough in the moment, I work to control my breathing. If that fails, listening to some old school hip-hop and/or doing a couple flights of stairs works most of the time.

What education equity means to me: Equity in education means that we, as a society, commit ourselves, our time, and our resources to ensuring that every child is given the permission to dream without limits. Every child is taught and encouraged to love themselves and to make the world a better place. Every child graduates from high school and is prepared to enter into a college/ university or begin a trade making (at least) a livable wage.

My favorite thing to do to relax and rejuvenate: I enjoy running, skating, swimming and cycling. Whenever I complete an activity, no matter the distance, I take a deep breath knowing that I just did something to improve my health and well-being. There’s nothing like a good cardiovascular work out to achieve that!

The practices/habits that help keep me grounded and maintain perspective when I’m feeling stressed, overworked, or unmotivated are: I recharge by spending time with my wife and daughters, playing with my dogs, and reading.

Who I turn to for advice or guidance when I need career direction: I really have not had anyone specifically to turn to for advice regarding my career. I will say that it was a number of Black women throughout my life who encouraged me to take the next step in leadership. Shout out to: Alexis Greene, Seana LaPlace, Lucille Hester, Dr. Norma Lewis, Dr. Kassandra Lassiter, and my late Mom Hazeley Davidson.

The advice I’d give to someone trying to find their career sweet spot: Do what you love… and get paid well for it.

Connect with MenSa at mensamaa@gmail.com.