The Book

From bleak, mafia-controlled streets of post-communist Russia, from joy and sorrow in India’s capital city, to the academic enclaves of America, Mission to Teach spans four continents as it recounts the remarkable life of Dr. Jhumki Basu.

It is a story of facing great obstacles—the brutal murder of her dearest mentor and the onset of breast cancer at the unheard of age of twenty-four.

It is a story of triumph—the founding of a next generation public school in an embattled New York borough with dramatic  results, and an unique professorship at New York University.

And it is a story of  making learning science exciting for children at risk of a lifetime of poverty, drugs, and crime—and a way for them to become responsible citizens.

Maithreyi Nandakumar interviews teachers of the School for Democracy and Leadership

Journalist Maithreyi Nandakumar interviewing high school teachers for Mission to Teach

Mission to Teach is the inspirational story of a revolutionary educator who took on American science education reform against deeply-established practices, suffering along the way several tragedies that only spurred her on to astonishing achievements in her all-too-short lifetime.

Mission to Teach shows us how, despite a seven-year battle with a killer disease and an untimely death, a fearless young woman’s path-breaking work endures through the movement she started.Mission to Teach is based on the life and work of New York University Professor Jhumki Basu, who developed ground-breaking teaching techniques that were rooted in her own experiences as a teacher in embattled inner-city schools. She co-founded a public school in underserved Crown Heights of Brooklyn which acted as one of the laboratories for her work. Here she demonstrated the dramatic benefits of including students’ own experiences in their education, making learning science deeply engaging and fun for both students and teachers. High school completion rates in the underserved institutions she touched, and those touched by teachers who have followed her model, have risen from 30% to over 90% and endured. Kids, whom Jhumki and her followers worked for, were candidates for a lifetime of drugs and crime. They are today college graduates and on their way to careers of their dreams.

Incredibly, Jhumki realized her achievements as she battled breast cancer for seven years before it engulfed her at age 31 – but could not stop her legacy. Though she is no longer with us, Jhumki’s absorbing story is made very personal through its narration by her father, with whom she had a deeply loving relationship and who she included in her work.