Ali Hill - Why I Believe Memphis Academy

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I grew up in San Antonio, Texas, before attending Wake Forest University in North Carolina. My plan was to graduate with a degree in business. During my sophomore year, however, I enrolled in a Philosophy of Education class that completely changed my plans. Through completing a culminating project for this class, my eyes were opened to the staggering differences in school quality based on the socioeconomic status of its students. I was deeply concerned and quickly made a change to study Elementary Education. During my studies, I demanded my program change my student teaching placement from an affluent school district to a local elementary school where I would teach predominantly students of low-income backgrounds. In spite of their initial hesitations, my program allowed me to do so, and I became dedicated to teaching underserved students.

After graduation, I married and moved with my husband to New York City where I was lucky enough to join Harlem Success Academy’s second elementary school in its founding years. At Harlem Success Two, I was pushed and coached to teach effectively and hold every one of my students to high standards. It was there that I actually saw what I always believe to be true: every student is capable of learning and should be expected and supported to excel.

At the close of that year, Casey and I moved back to his hometown, Memphis, where I was eager to bring what I had learned to a traditional district school. While the children in Memphis were similar to the children in Harlem, the supports I received as a teacher were vastly different. I realized I couldn’t do this alone, and it was then I joined the founding first grade team at Cornerstone Preparatory School. Once again, I saw that with rigorous academics and strong supports, our students experienced so much growth and success. At the end of their first grade, our students were scoring above the 90th percentile on nationally-normed assessments. Once more, I saw the power of parents, families, teachers, and educators all rallying around our children – demanding high expectations of them and pushing them to their highest potentials.

My time at Cornerstone also brought me the good fortune to meet and work alongside three of the founders of Believe Memphis Academy: Danny and Sarah Song and Lisa Settle. Their dedication to serving the students of the school’s community was inspiring.

When my first child was born, I knew I had to take a break from full-time teaching. Fortunately, I was able to continue working as an assistant to the Director of Curriculum and Instruction reviewing and writing curriculum from home as my family continued to grow.

I have now lived in Memphis for eight years - longer than anywhere else in my adult life. Memphis is my home. This is the city in which my husband and I are raising our three beautiful children. This is the city they know as home. It is a city I have grown to love. Right now Memphis is filled with hope. I can see such big things happening in this city. Change is happening here.

Believe Memphis Academy is one of those big, exciting things that is changing Memphis. I know Believe Memphis Academy is going to be a game changer for students in this city. I want to be apart of that change. By giving more students access to an excellent and rigorous education, we are opening the door for more high school graduates who are prepared to excel in college. It is my hope that these high school graduates will become college graduates who are prepared to make big changes in this world. And, maybe some will come back to Memphis and make those changes here. I am honored to be a part of a school that makes the place I call home a better place. I believe in Memphis and Believe Memphis Academy.

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Ali Hill is our Founding Reading Intervention Specialist. Mrs. Hill holds a Bachelor of Arts in Elementary Education from Wake Forest University. As a founding team member of Believe, she will support and build up the core of our Lower Academy program - literacy instruction. Working closely with our Director of Curriculum and Instruction, Mrs. Hill will provide planning and teaching supports to our literacy teachers, provide targeted supports to our scholars, and ensure that all our scholars have the rigor and supports necessary to be highly successful. We are so thankful that Mrs. Hill brings her passion, her skills, and her experiences to our founding team.

Danny Song