THE team

"The work is very hard. You really have to have a staff being maniacs – who don’t know “No”, who assume nothing, who take no excuses, who come for the kids.” – Dr. Lorraine Monroe.

Click to learn about each of the maniacs on our team.

+ Lesley Blayde, Teaching Fellow

Lane College, B.A., Mass Communications

"When moving to Memphis in 2015, I decided that I wanted to serve on a team that worked tirelessly and tenaciously to provide Memphis scholars with the education they deserve. I wanted to be a part of a team that put students first, adults second. I was in search of a team that was not afraid to acknowledge the educational deficits that our children face and showed the courage to tackle those deficits and close the gaps. Having a community of like-minded founders, educators, parents and scholars who all have aligned missions is what ultimately attracted me to Believe Memphis Academy."

+ Derek Brody, Lead Teacher

Vanderbilt University, B.A., Political Science and History

"I know that I will be firmly dedicated to this work because I am aware of its significance and of the impact a strong and successful education can have on the life of our scholars. I am aware of the impact because I have seen it in the work of our scholars, of those whose trajectories have begun to change because of the work we started last year. I refuse to leave that work unfinished."

+ Dominique Clark, Teaching Fellow

Wiley College, B.A., English

"Experiencing the realities of success after becoming an intentional connoisseur in the scholarship of instruction changed my life’s perspective of what is possible in my classroom as well as my personal life. I now find joy in sweating all small things, practicing my awesome, believing in myself, assuming the best in others, and being dependable all from the opportunity I was given at The Believe Memphis Academy Charter School."

+ LuDella Coleman, Operations Coordinator

University of Memphis, B.S., Health Science

"My parents instilled in us the importance of education and there are many different routes one may take to become successful. I appreciate their willingness and helpfulness in allowing us to choose the paths we wanted to take. My parents also taught that education is one thing nobody can take away. If you have the resources to get the education, go for it and if the resources are not available, keep asking, keep pushing until they are."

+ Ashley Cowsert, Physical Education Teacher

College of the Ozarks, B.S., Physical Education

Union University, Masters in Urban Education

"I truly believe that students come first, I also have a deep understanding that the climate of a school is sincerely based on how teachers feel respected and honored as people and professionals. The team of educators at Believe are those who commit to sticking to the mission to deliver the promise to have each child ready for high school and college."

+ Meghan Cunningham, Teacher

Georgetown University, B.A., Justice and Peace Studies

"I’ve dreamed of being a teacher for as long as I can remember. From a young age, I possessed a deep reverence for my teachers, and I envisioned myself at the front of the classroom. My attachment to teachers was the result of switching schools multiple times, as well as the result of having been fortunate enough to land in the classrooms of high-quality educators. By the end of third grade, I had cultivated a deep sense of respect for my teachers, and I felt a strong conviction that I would one day be in their shoes."

+ Amy Dowden, Teacher

Bucknell University, B.A., Psychology

"One of the most exciting parts about joining the Memphis community for me is coming to work at Believe Memphis Academy. Believe maintains both an unmatched, uncompromising commitment to overcoming educational inequality, and a deep-seated commitment specifically to the city of Memphis. In learning about Believe, I recognized their unique vision and drive. Every school wants their students to succeed, but at Believe Memphis Academy this good-intentioned desire is not enough. Instead, Believe confronts the reality of the opportunity gap and its resulting disproportionate student achievement, head on. I knew that at Believe, the education of their students is highly valued, and this value is reflected in everything they do from effective daily instruction, to enriching field trips."

+ April Ghueder, Lead Teacher

Christian Brothers University, B.A., Liberal Studies

Christian Brothers University, M.A., Educational Research

"As a Memphis native, I quickly learned the beauty and determination ingrained in the words grit and grind. I watched my parents dedicate their lives to serving others, working hard, and never giving up when life got tough. Their relentless advocacy in my education journey mirrored their love and desire for me to be successful... Like my parent’s belief, I, too, believe in schools that hold high expectations from the top down. I chose to teach at Believe Memphis Academy because they are holding students, staff, and community stakeholders to a high caliber. Memphis needs a school that loves kids and trust that they can learn regardless of their race and economic status. Lowering the bar for success is not an option. Believe Memphis Academy is preparing scholars for the future by setting them up with the right resources to be successful."

+ Alexis Hawk, Teacher

University of North Carolina - Chapel Hill, B.A., History and Psychology

"Believe Memphis Academy is rooted in community. I cannot do my job alone. My scholars and colleagues have amazing talents that I must utilize to create a positive, interactive learning environment. I am not only a teacher to the scholars in my classroom, but to everyone who steps into our building."

+ Ali Hill, Dean of Instruction

Wake Forest University, B.A., Elementary Education

"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."

+ Angelique Hines, Lead Teacher

Hope College, B.A., Political Science

"The most rewarding thing from last year, for me, was leaning on my peers. It was when I trusted our system of collaboration that I grew most as a teacher. I felt more prepared, my group showed growth, and my kids felt challenged because I had rigor. I was allowing my students to truly experience literacy, and as they were getting better, so was I."

+ Allison Hitchcock, Lead Teacher

University of Minnesota, B.S., Chemistry

"Living the Badger mission is more than a job. It is more than a laundry list of tasks to complete before I leave the building. It goes beyond knowing the expectations or saying the right words during conversations or memorizing the lesson plan script. Living the mission requires that I commit my whole self to becoming the best possible version of me that I can be so that our scholars have the high-quality education that they DESERVE."

+ Jacob Hudson, Behavior Supports Specialist

"There is an urgency to tackle educational injustice with not only a hope but an expectation for change. On my tour, I noticed that every decision is based from the “Kids First, Team Second” mentality and it honestly shows down to the smallest details. I truly believe that Believe Memphis Academy is the spearhead in Memphis for radically improving urban education."

+ Olivia Husbands, Lead Teacher

Hope College, B.A., Elementary Education

Union University, Masters in Urban Education

"Not for lack of brilliance, or confidence, or ability but inequity. Invisible systems tied to the feet of those whose zip codes sanction them to schools that are not good enough. I have taught students who are just as smart if not smarter than students attend private schools in the same grade and city. And yet the achievement and opportunity gaps are ever widening. Our city is missing out on the opportunity to cultivate brilliance. This is not as things ought to be. I came to Believe because I want to be an upper right quadrant teacher in an upper right quadrant school. I want to our scholars to defy the odds. I believe the narrative can change."

+ Abbrianna MacGregor, Special Education Teacher

Emerson College, B.A., Marketing Communications

"My firm conviction is that all students should become more inspired to achieve highly with each day they attend school, regardless of their zip code. My goal is for their educational experience to vary from my own in that they recognize their capacity to obtain a college education and make large strides toward it each day."

+ Se-an McDonald, Scholar Supports Coordinator

University of Tennessee - Knoxville, B.A., Special Education

Christian Brothers University, Masters in Education

"My mission is to create the most effective and accomplished Scholar Supports and Special Education program in the city of Memphis... This is the year to continue laying the foundation for Scholar Supports at Believe Memphis Academy. This is the year that determines if we can build the program that our scholars deserve. The foundation is what is not yet complete. We know our mission and vision. We know what is at stake."

+ Rico McKay, Associate Teacher

MidAmerica Nazarene University, B.A., Criminal Justice

"I moved to Memphis with a desire to be an educator and spent a year as an assistant teacher in an elementary school classroom. When I learned about Believe Memphis, I began to believe. I believe that this is a place where scholars can get a fair shot. I believe that this is a place that will prepare me to be the best I can be for all scholars."

+ Felicia Mckelvy, Teacher

University of Memphis, B.A., Child Development and Family Studies

"My first year of teaching taught me that it is okay to make mistakes as an Educator, it is okay if you do not have all the answers, and it is okay to fail (sometimes). I know if I am confident in myself as a 2nd year Educator, my students can be confident in themselves, and in their own future. I want my confidence to rub off on my students so they can grow to be great leaders in their education."

+ Tremaine McKinley, Special Projects Coordinator

University of Memphis, B.L.A., Asian Studies for International Trade

University of Memphis, Masters in Business Administration

"I joined Believe Memphis Academy because I could tell they were the real deal. I’ve spent the past few years trying to define my professional “fit” and, now that I’m here, I see that the secret has really been finding the people I wanted to be surrounded by. I’d been looking for a team full of “Badgers”. I jumped at the opportunity to intertwine my professional life together with my life as an active Memphian and citizen of the United States."

+ Maria Offutt, Teacher

Ohio State University, B.A., Arabic Language and Literature

"Believe told me to get ready to grow and learn from our experienced coaches, community members, and students. I know that it’s a huge gift to receive all of that support from my colleagues, and I work best with the knowledge that others are standing with me, and giving me the power to see the capacity to create systems change that I have in myself, as passed down to me from by generations upon generations of my family."

+ Sarah Logan Song, Dean of Culture & Families

Union University, B.S./B.A., International Business and French

Union University, Masters in Urban Education

"I have my dream job. When I tell people we moved back to Memphis to start a new school, most probably don’t know that I have been dreaming of this role and this school for many years. As the founding 7th grade social studies teacher at a local charter school in 2011, I learned two truths: 1. Relationships are the key to lasting change, and 2. Lasting change is only possible when families and schools work closely together."

+ Danny Song, Head of School

Union University, B.A., Journalism

Union University, Masters in Urban Education

"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 did not happen by accident."

+ Abigail Taber, Lead Teacher

Tuskegee University, B.S., Biology

"I joined the team of Believe Memphis Academy Middle for two reasons. First, I had an overwhelming feeling as I entered the doors of Believe. As I turned the corner, the halls seemed pristine, clean, and bright. It was an atmosphere that bolstered, “Students first”, an atmosphere that exuded/ screamed… “We take pride in all we do, down to the cleanliness of floors.” I thought, children could learn in this environment: I could learn in this environment. The second reason I joined Believe was what I witnessed as I left the halls and entered the classrooms. True learning was taking place. It was evident that students felt seen, safe, and successful."

+ Jeff Warren, Director of Finance & Operations

Yale University, B.A., Psychology

Relay Graduate School of Education, Masters in Teaching

"There is no special trick or gimmick, no after school activity or mystical methodology, that miraculously motivates, prods, cajoles, and guides students to academic success. It requires the hiring, training, and retaining of great teachers and staff members. It necessitates support for every student that walks through our door that matches their gifts and needs. It compels us to foster a culture where our students will develop the leadership skills that will be necessary for them to achieve their goals and advocate for themselves and others. With great teaching, support for all children, and leadership development, we have the most amazing opportunity in the world: to prove what is possible for every single student in Memphis and to build the school that our children deserve."

+ Nicole Warren, Director of Curriculum & Instruction

Bowdoin College, B.A., Gender & Women's Studies

University of Michigan, Master of Arts in Elementary Edcuation

"Without skilled teachers, we cannot reverse the achievement gaps that exist between the affluent and impoverished, between white children and children of color, between boys and girls. The team of educators at Believe Memphis Academy is willing and able to balance the harsh reality that many scholars in our city are not performing on grade level with our unrelenting belief that every single child in Memphis is capable of great academic achievements. Families in Memphis are ready to send their children to a school that will refuse to lower the academic bar, while supporting their children in reaching it. What teachers, leaders, families, and scholars did in Brownsville is possible here in Memphis."

+ Addie Willis, Literacy Interventionist

Florida State University, B.A., Studio Art

Union University, Master of Arts in Urban Education

"I joined Believe for many reasons, but a big one was because I felt myself becoming complacent in my teaching practices. I expect my scholars to be constantly learning and improving, so I must be willing to do the same. I expect my scholars to be willing to make mistakes and learn from them, so I must do the same. I expect my scholars to be open to constructive feedback, and implement it, so I must do the same. I want to come into each day prepared with more tools in my teaching toolbelt than I had the day before because scholars deserve a teacher who will work relentlessly for them, so that they can excel in high school, thrive in college, and lead lives full of opportunity."

+ Trey Willis, Lead Teacher

University of Memphis, B.A., Music Education

Union University, Master of Arts in Urban Education

"I am grateful for the opportunity that I had last year to be a part of founding a school in my hometown. I am proud to be a part of the Believe family, and that is what I am most grateful for coming into year two... We are still working hard to build the school that these kids deserve, and I know that we won’t be satisfied until we achieve our goals. We know that our kids can learn, and we have seen them grow all year. I don’t expect this year to be any different. In fact, I expect there to be more growth and even more achievement because we have so many returning veterans and new highly capable and talented educators joining us in this great work of teaching."