Angira Sceusi

Year of Graduation: 
A smiling woman in a deep blue top.

"I recognized early on, especially as I got to Exeter, the opportunities that were afforded to me because of education."

Angira Sceusi ’98 spent a decade working in finance as a successful oil and gas trader before she focused on different kinds of futures — those of students. Her move from Wall Street director to math teacher was the start of a pivot that today finds Sceusi engaged in the systemic improvement of an urban school district. She is the chief of staff at the public education nonprofit redefinED atlanta.

Sceusi’s career shift was spurred partly by a relocation to Texas when her husband, Eric, was matched with a Houston hospital for his medical residency. Sceusi volunteered with Big Brothers Big Sisters and was struck by the reality of academic inequity. She was paired with a little sister who attended the city’s lowest-performing elementary school. “She was a bright little girl and just had never been exposed to what was possible,” Sceusi says. “That was eye-opening to me. Here’s a kid who has all the possibility in the world, but we’re putting a cap on it from the time she’s 8 years old.”

Unsure of what to do, Sceusi soon found direction amid the swirl of emotions surrounding the unexpected death of her sister, Trisha Apte ’03, in 2009. She says her sister “talked about how she wanted to do something that had meaning and purpose and made her feel like she was making a difference at the end of the day, and I was like, ‘Yeah, I’ll do that when I retire.’”

Instead, Apte’s death moved up Sceusi’s time frame. “It really forced me to think about what I wanted to be true about my life,” she says. “If I died tomorrow, was I happy with what I had done? Did I feel like I had made a difference to people?”

Recognizing that volunteering would not be enough, Sceusi obtained her math teaching certification and quickly found her footing at a Houston high school. In 2014, she received a Symantec Innovation in Teaching Award, one of five given to educators nationwide, for her computer-based geometry curriculum. The award announcement reported that Sceusi’s students outperformed all other geometry classes in her school by up to 30 points on assessments and noted a partnership with a local nonprofit to provide a refurbished laptop and technical support to each of her students. She also used a distinctive supplemental tool: Exeter math problem sets, accessible free online.

“I started offering them as extra credit for my kids,” Sceusi says of the problem sets. “I had kids who were coming in with the kinds of gaps that I had never experienced at Exeter — brilliant students who could understand the concepts I was teaching in 10th grade math, but they needed a calculator to add a negative number because they had never learned how that works. To see them figure out the answer to some of those problems was really exciting.”

Eventually Sceusi, now a mother of two, sought more time with her own children. She traded in her whiteboard for a position in a Houston-area school district’s central office, handling budgets and later talent strategy, as part of the district’s efforts to improve teacher retention rates.

Then in 2017, Sceusi and her family moved to Georgia, where she learned of the progressive education-focused organization now known as redefinED atlanta. It was looking for someone who understood finance and business execution as well as education, someone who could effectively invest foundation gifts in local schools and communities.

It was a difficult time in Atlanta: The city was reeling from a public school cheating scandal believed to be the largest in U.S. education history, and some schools had reading and math proficiency rates below 10 percent. The job was just the challenge Sceusi was looking for.

Since joining redefinED atlanta, Sceusi has helped to begin turning those numbers around by championing community engagement efforts, equitable education advocacy, and school and school system efforts with almost $20 million in funding over the past five years. Sceusi channels investments into three areas: schools and districts, with the goal of equitable school systems; talent pipelines to support new teachers and leadership; and grassroots, policy and advocacy organizations that empower parents and communities. Of the latter, she says, “If we want to fundamentally improve education for all of our kids, it has to start with the people most impacted by what’s happening in the system.”

One point of pride for Sceusi is redefinED atlanta’s success in attracting the Relay Graduate School of Education to Georgia. The school uses a residency model to train teachers who are helping to close the opportunity gap and boasts a higher retention rate for its graduates who teach in urban classrooms.

Another redefinED atlanta achievement is helping to seed and fund the launch of Atlanta Thrive, a grassroots organization that has facilitated passage of crucial policies at public schools, including a goals and guardrails policy — the first of its kind in Georgia — to measure growth and achievement for all students in the district. RedefinED atlanta has also funded public charter schools that outperform many of the city’s wealthier, majority-white schools.

Sceusi credits the Academy with not only challenging and enhancing her math abilities, but also planting the seeds for her education work. “I recognized early on, especially as I got to Exeter, the opportunities that were afforded to me because of education,” says Sceusi, who arrived on campus as an upper from Hong Kong, where she had lived most of her life. “Exeter was my first real experience with how race, class and privilege play into every aspect of life. It was eye-opening, and I think in many ways set me up to ask a lot of the questions later in my life.”


Editor's Note: This article first appeared in the winter 2023 issue of The Exeter Bulletin.