Danny Song - Why I Believe Memphis Academy
6:00pm. I get in my car and start driving home, so I can make it for dinner and bedtime routines. I had a couple meetings that morning and toured a potential facility. The remaining hours of the day was spent writing the charter application. “I must be doing this wrong,” I thought. “Because this is too much fun.”
Very little of the work of educating children should be attributed to luck. But that doesn’t mean I don’t feel lucky.
If you asked anyone who works in a high-performing charter school - if you asked anyone who works in a school for that matter - they would tell you very seldomly does anything good happen by accident. We can’t rely on luck to ensure that we reverse and eliminate historic, pervasive, and persistent opportunity gaps. Certainly the founding of Believe Memphis Academy has not happened by accident.
8 years ago, during the winter of my first year teaching, my Memphis Teacher Residency (MTR) cohort took a trip to New Orleans. There, I met a woman from Boston named Sue Walsh. Sue wore her glasses on the tip of her nose so that, when necessary, she could dip her chin down and use her eyes to look over her frames directly into yours. Her presence exuded poise and gravitas. And, when she spoke, her words were measured and deliberate.
She talked about schools and the work of educating children in such a way that her words were like air to the lungs and water to the soil. She spoke about schools in ways I had never heard anyone - from my own schooling as a child to now as an aspiring teacher.
For the next 6 years, I was a part of 3 founding teams, helping to open 3 different charter schools - 2 in Memphis and 1 in Nashville - all with a singular goal: to learn everything I could so that I could one day found and lead a high-performing charter school in Memphis. So, on December 22, 2014, when Sue and Linda Brown sat across the table from me and extended an offer for me to join the Fellowship, it was like lightning.
Lucky. Charmed. Blessed.
I ran into Nicole Warren in a coffee shop. I’d never met her, nor her husband, in my life. Now, she’s our future Director of Curriculum and Instruction, and Jeff is our Founding Director of Operations. Alicia Norman and I never spoke or met before 2017. But, we both submitted charter applications that year, and next year we will share a building that is exactly in the community in which we want to be - Perea starting with PreK and Kindergarten and Believe starting in 4th and 5th grade. Anthony Ivey Sr. and Jr. were leaving their last day of school at a local elementary school that was shutting down. Sarah and I were passing out ice-cream cones that day and telling people about Believe. The Iveys have literally attended every single Believe family event since.
Something happens when you feel lucky over and over again. That feeling of luck turns into belief.
There’s a story behind every founder - every founding family, every founding staff member, every community partner. #IBelieveMemphisAcademy because from my seat, I get a backstage pass into all these stories. There’s a reason we’re all here, at this time, doing this work.
The mission of our work to ensure ALL children have access to the excellent education they deserve unites us. The vision for a structured, joyful, rigorous, and supportive learning environment inspires us. And, together, we commit to constantly work out our mission bring our vision to life. We believe Memphis.