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Hello there, I am Eva Keiffenheim, a writer, researcher, and advocate for systemic change in education. If you’re interested in exploring my work, browse through projects or reach out via the contact form. Here, I share the heart of my journey and the mission that drives my work.
As a first-generation student in rural Germany, entering university was less about ambition and more about serendipity. In my small village, the prevailing advice was to skip higher education for immediate income. Growing up in a working-class family, hard work was part of my identity. At 16, I spent my summer holidays as a factory worker. By 18, my days began before dawn, delivering parcels and letters as a postwoman. Before turning 21, throughout my undergraduate degree, I worked my way “up” in part-time jobs — from a cleaning lady, a hostess to a sales agent in retail, to a FinTech human resource manager, to a startup job in New Delhi, and a prestigious internship in strategic finance on the 91st floor of Shanghai’s world financial center. If you just work hard enough, I thought, anything is possible.
Back then, I didn’t know this was one of my lazy beliefs to justify privileges. My various privileged identities made me unaware of the complexity of issues in our society. It wasn’t until after completing my master’s degree – trusting my intuition and turning down a lucrative consultancy offer to become a full-time teacher with Teach for Austria – that I started unlearning my narratives.
Immersed in a classroom in Vienna, I was confronted with the harsh realities of poverty and intergenerational trauma. Witnessing first-hand how these challenges manifested in the lives of young learners shifted my worldview. It wasn’t the children who were failing in our education system; it was the system failing them. No matter how hard they tried, most of them would never be able to tap into the opportunities more privileged persons have. Only under certain conditions – most of them unrelated to the quantity or quality of your work – anything is possible.
This revelation led to a change in how I worked towards changing education. I recognized that the ‘one size fits all’ model in education overlooks the unique challenges and needs of children from diverse backgrounds. It became clear that systemic oppression and identity-based discrimination were at the heart of these disparities.
Embarking on a journey of unlearning and relearning, I shifted from a Eurocentric, individualistic view to embracing the complexity of these issues. I learned that the key to meaningful change lies in collective effort, not in individual heroics. It’s about listening, building trust, and responding to the needs of communities rather than imposing preconceived solutions.
In this journey, I’ve learned the power of humility, listening, and community-driven solutions. My privilege and skills are tools, not solutions, and understanding this has been crucial. I’ve learned to step back, listen, and honor the myriad truths and realities that exist beyond my own.
Every step I take is towards a future where education empowers every child as a global citizen, ready to shape our planet with intellect, mind, and body. This is more than a career for me; it’s a commitment to shaping a world where every child, irrespective of their background, has the opportunity to thrive.