Standing near the Iwo Jima Memorial and Arlington National Cemeter, the Netherlands Carillon has one of the best views in the area, overlooking the Potomac River towards Washington, D.C..

Moosa Shah

Meet Moosa

Retiring to the American Dream

As a refugee from Afghanistan, he never imagined he’d one day have the honor of meeting a U.S. president. For Moosa Shah, the path from Kabul to the White House wound through Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS)—first as a student and then as a teacher.

Newly arrived in the United States after emigrating with his parents and older brother, and knowing no English, he began his American education journey as a sixth-grade ESOL student at Pine Spring Elementary School (ES) in 1980. Thankfully, as children do, he picked up the language quickly. He went on to attend Rocky Run Middle School (MS), ultimately graduating from Chantilly High School in 1986. Next up was George Mason University (GMU), where Moosa earned a degree in biology. He did a brief two-week stint at dental school before quickly realizing his heart was in the classroom.

Luckily for him, GMU and FCPS had just collaborated on a master’s program known as the Professional Development School. With its focus on preparing future educators, Moosa jumped at the opportunity to be one of only 14 students in the inaugural class to train middle school teachers. Upon completing the program in 1992, Moosa was hired by FCPS to teach seventh-grade science at Franklin MS.

Moosa with His Family
Moosa receiving the FCPS Teacher of the Year Award
Moosa receiving the FCPS Teacher of the Year Award

With his enthusiasm for the subject and his ability to relate with the students—especially those facing challenges, language-based or otherwise—Moosa instantly won over his pupils as well as his peers. When FCPS opened Rachel Carson MS in 1998, they knew who to call. Moosa agreed to make the switch and ended up spending the rest of his career there. In addition to his regular teaching duties, he served as a Great Beginnings coach for 12 years and taught an FCPS Academy course for new science teachers.

In 2014, at the urging of his teaching team, a reluctant Moosa allowed himself to be nominated for the FCPS Teacher of the Year award. It wasn’t a surprise to anyone when he won. Unbeknownst to him, that automatically put him in the running for the Washington Post Agnes Meyer Outstanding Teacher award, which he also won.

Moosa with President Obama

That same year, the Ford’s Theater Gala decided to pay tribute to American educators. Yes, you guessed it—Moosa was one of the four teachers chosen nationwide to attend a weekend of celebrations. And that’s how he ended up at the White House meeting the Obamas as well as then-Vice President Biden.

However, Moosa doesn’t measure success in accolades and awards. The secret to his success—in and out of the classroom—has always been building relationships. Early in his career, he got some valuable advice from a fellow teacher, “Know your marigolds.” Marigolds are the people who pull out the “magic and not the madness.” To Moosa that has meant investing in relationships with the most positive people in the room. And throughout his 30-year career at FCPS, this strategy has served him well, rewarding him with coworkers who became family.

Moosa at the FCPS retirement ceremony
Moosa at his retirement party
Moosa Shah

I couldn’t have retired this early without ERFC!
Work is now an option, not a necessity.


According to Moosa, ERFC is one of the best things about FCPS. “I couldn’t have retired this early without ERFC! Work is now an option, not a necessity.” This fall, for the first time since age four, Moosa didn’t have a “first day of school.” While it was a strange feeling, he found comfort in a retirement gift one of his former colleagues gave him—a jar filled with notes from his students. She left him strict instructions to read only one note each school day AFTER school started.

Although he’s elected to keep one foot in education by subbing for FCPS, his focus now is on spending quality time with family and helping his parents navigate their twilight years. He also plans to purchase a little camper van cozy enough for him and his cat, and venture out to each of the lower 48 states. He wants to see as many places as possible. Knowing Moosa, he'll be making friends along the way as well! And when his travels take him through New York and he passes by one of his favorite spots, the Statue of Liberty, he’ll say a word of thanks to Lady Liberty and all that she symbolizes for this American dreamer.