Memphians, what do you want the world to know about education in your city?
On April 24, a dozen people will seek to answer that question in five minutes as part of Ignite Edu, a national presentation series returning to Memphis. (Chalkbeat is helping to host the event — the first one focusing on education — at Clayborn Temple. For details, visit Ignite Edu).
Among the speakers is Andrea Fitzgerald, a Memphis educator who wants to use the stage to shout, “Memphis education isn’t failing. Stop saying that it is, and start putting in the work.”
The Memphis native returned to her alma mater, Kirby High School, to teach math for seven years before becoming a Shelby County Schools math coach. Her five-minute talk will focus on the city’s education “mindset” and how teachers, students and leaders can be more positive.
“Teaching in this city will teach you empathy above all else,” she told Chalkbeat. “When you understand what kids … are up against — sometimes they’re the parent of their household or they don’t have anyone to wake them up in the morning — you understand more why they might be late to class.”
Fitzgerald’s talk will dive into what’s missing in statements like “Memphis schools are bad schools” or “Memphis education will never be good.”
“This has to be an all-team effort,” said Fitzgerald, a former college basketball player at Carson–Newman University. “We can’t complain about being out of shape and then not commit to do the pushups. The question is, are you willing to join in?”
Check out the full list of speakers below. Ticket sales are available online, and Chalkbeat readers can enter the word CHALKBEAT for a $5 discount.
Lanell Smith, regional fellowship recruitment manager, Education Pioneers — By the Numbers: Data and Leaders of Color
“We see a shortage of people of color in data and analysis in public education. Many qualified candidates don’t realize what jobs are available in education outside of teaching. That needs to change.”
Trakela Small, dean of academics, Freedom Preparatory Academy Middle School — Education Cannot Be Colorblind
“Colorblindness and fear around race are damaging our students and teachers. This country was founded on the construct of race, so we cannot continue to ignore its impact in our schools.”
Shane Young, executive director, Memphis Inner City Rugby — Sport for Academic Achievement
“America has a sports obsession. We need to become obsessed with capitalizing on that obsession for our kids. “
Carly Gilson, special education doctoral candidate, Vanderbilt University — The Power of Expectations
“Research shows that expectations are the single greatest factor shaping our ability to be successful in all aspects of life. What happens when we as educators, parents and community members raise our expectations high enough for students of all abilities?”
Scarlett Hester, communications doctoral candidate, University of Memphis — Teaching Community & Listening in the Age of Trump
“Communication is key to education and so frequently we’re so focused on getting our ideas out there that we forget to stop and hear the voices of others.”
Clay Francis, doctoral student, Department of Leadership Policy & Organizations, Vanderbilt University — Why 500 Yards of Duct Tape Gives Me Hope for Education
“Duct tape can fix anything, even education. Come listen to find out how we can use experiential activities outside the classroom to help students understand the importance of multiple perspectives, interdependence, change and equity.”
Terry Ross, principal, Kingsbury High School — I Believe In You: Changing Mindsets and Rewriting Narratives
“My talk will help audiences see the power of our words when working with students on a daily basis.”
Tony Knox, founder, FitNexx — How Fit is Education?
“My talk will inspire people to get up and get their families moving … Not only will their health benefit from it, but their careers as well.”
Kimberly Hooper-Taylor, manager, youth and community education, Stax Museum of American Soul Music — No Frauds: From Faking It to Making It … Happen
Mary Webster — Museums as Community Partners
Hardy Farrow, founder, Let’s Innovate through Education — Why Our City Needs More Pipelines (Not The Road Kind)
Editor’s note: Chalkbeat is not a financial sponsor for Ignite Edu and is receiving no monetary benefit from the event. Chalkbeat is an independent nonprofit news organization and is partnering with Undercurrent to help host and promote Ignite Edu. You can learn more about Chalkbeat here.