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30th Anniversary Spotlight
Efe Osifo '01
Meet Efe Osifo
The Power of Goodness
Steppingstone 2001 / Boston Latin School 2007 / Suffolk University 2011 / Boston University 2014
From Scholar to Teacher
“The collective power of goodness.”
Amid a year fraught with uncertainty, Efe Osifo’s faith in that power for good gives him hope. “If enough people are on board, we can shape, move, and change things.”
A 2001 Steppingstone Alumnus and deeply dedicated teacher, Efe also finds hope every day in his students. “I inherently believe that every kid wants to learn and do the right thing,” he reflects.
When it comes to teaching, Efe has a “relationship first” philosophy. “It’s rooted in the love I have for my kids,” he adds. “I want you to do better because I care about your future. I’m in it for you.”
It’s just one of the many lessons that he’s carried with him from his days as a Scholar.
Where His Journey Starts
Since 2017, Efe has served on the faculty of the Noble and Greenough School. Along with teaching middle school math, he also focuses on diversity and inclusion work as well as tutoring after school and assisting in admissions.
“I love the energy and exuberance of the kids,” he says. “I see the passion they have, and honestly I get more out of them than they ever get out of me.”
Tracing his path as an educator, “my journey really starts with Steppingstone in 6th grade.” He grew up on Columbia Road in Dorchester in the 1990s. As a Scholar, he knew that he was getting to learn at a faster pace than his neighborhood friends. He didn’t dwell on why. “It just felt like extra school and that felt fun,” he says. What he didn’t realize was how much of a difference it would make years later. Also, “I didn’t understand how much power a good teacher could have,” he adds.
As a young student, “I was an easy kid to push to the side and ignore,” he reflects. When he went on to Boston Latin School, “I had a teacher who wouldn’t let me be the status quo,” as he puts it. The teacher kept encouraging Efe, confiding in him that “I was you.”
In reflecting on his path after high school, “I knew that I didn’t do this all on my own, and I felt a strong call to give back,” Efe says. While he pursued his bachelor’s in marketing at Suffolk University, he decided to enter Teach for America after college. His emerging passion led him to pursue his master’s in education at Boston University and into teaching jobs in the Boston public schools and area charter schools.
In his journey as the first in his family to go to college, “tons of people inspired me,” he says gratefully, “my parents first and foremost.” They came to the United States from Nigeria with hope shining in their eyes. “It starts and ends with them,” he says. He has such admiration for their ability to survive.
Passion for Education and Justice
Today, he’s passionate about his craft. He’s continually working to reach all his students-and learning every day as well. In the classroom, he strives to be present and be authentic. “I’m just me,” he says. He talks to his students about the value of doing the same.
He’s equally passionate about “social justice in all its forms.” He sees supporting Nobles’ efforts at diversity and inclusion as part of his calling as an educator. “Helping kids to feel seen and valued is paramount to my work here,” he notes..
In the past year, the national reckoning with systemic racism has served as a wake-up call. Back in class, with everything in the news, it’s hard to do anything without relating it to what’s going on in the world. Efe wants his students to appreciate that the math they’re learning is relevant to the conversations about equity and justice. “Every day you’re making decisions based on math.”
As blessed as his students are by their educational opportunities, he also knows that they often have a lot on their minds besides the subject at hand. Sometimes they need space and “someone to be here for them.”
Thinking about his approach to those moments brings him back to the ways his Steppingstone teachers modeled flexibility. He realizes as a teacher now how hard it is “to let the class energy be what it is.” He appreciates the times in which Steppingstone teachers understood the need to listen and take “creative detours” from a lesson plan. They taught him, in part, to question. “It felt like we were equal partners in this.”
"Seen as a human being"
Looking back, “being a Steppingstone Scholar was one of my first opportunities to be seen as a person, not just as a student,” Efe reflects. His teachers and advisors pushed him in a way that was individual. “They were invested in me. They cared about me. They wanted me to do more.”
“Steppingstone was where I felt most comfortable to be myself,” he explains. “I was seen as a human being.” Fast forward to today, and he describes himself as “trying to be a better human.”
If he could offer one piece of advice to Scholars, it would be to never think of themselves as too young to matter. “You’re old enough to have an opinion and old enough to take a stand,” he says. “You belong wherever you want to be.” Even if you’ve only lived on the planet for 10 years, “your voice is really valuable and deserves to be heard.”
“A lot of times, we close our own doors,” he adds. “Even as adults, we do that. So many adults have too many regrets.”
For kids and adults alike, he sees it as imperative to hold onto joy and imagination.
A Dream for the Future
At same time, Efe does his best to hold onto hope. As intractable as today’s problems may seem, “I believe if we get the right people in the right room at the right time, we can do the right thing,” he says. “Once you get the ball rolling, people will roll with you.”
Efe dreams one day of creating a “Nobles-esque” school or summer program within an inner city neighborhood. He’d love to provide more kids in Dorchester, Mattapan, Roxbury, and other neighborhoods with free access to the kind of education that they’ve never been able to afford. “That’s what keeps me up at night,” he says.
“If anything,” he adds, “I want school to be more like Steppingstone some day, where it’s just fun to learn.”
Steppingstone is an educational nonprofit which serves students of every race, color, religion, sex, gender identity, national or ethnic origin, or political beliefs to all the rights, privileges, programs, and activities generally accorded or made available to Scholars enrolled in the program. It does not discriminate on the basis of gender, race, color, disability status, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, religion, or national or ethnic origin in the administration of its educational policies, admission policies, scholarship programs, or other organization-administered activities.