Teach Plus to end fellowship program in Memphis

After seven years in Memphis, a national nonprofit group that trains teachers how to impact legislation and policy is pulling its fellowship program.

Instead, Teach Plus will focus on a partnership with Shelby County Schools that will train teacher leaders.

The fellowship will end this fall as the current class of 18 Memphis teacher fellows completes the program.

Teach Plus has trained more than 100 fellows in Memphis since 2009 and has been led since 2015 by Miska Clay Bibbs, a school board member with Shelby County Schools.

Clay Bibbs said the decision to pull the program was made by senior management with the Boston-based organization.

Emily Silberstein, a vice president with Teach Plus, said the organization is seeking to better align its work in Memphis with Shelby County Schools’ engagement work centered on recruiting and supporting teachers. Kemba Edwards, teacher engagement manager for Teach Plus Memphis, will head that partnership.

In a letter to supporters on Wednesday, Clay Bibbs said the national organization will continue to assist fellowship alumni in Memphis “to advocate for issues that are important to them and their students.”

She told Chalkbeat the program leaves a strong legacy. “The lasting impression for me in my time here is how powerful it is when it clicks in teachers’ heads how powerful their own voice can be,” said Clay Bibbs.

Katie Kaplan, a teacher at Memphis Delta Prep who is in the city’s current class of fellows, said she’s sad that other teachers cannot benefit from the Teach Plus experience she’s had.

“(The fellowship) truly exposed me to the world of politics and how teachers can be at the same table as policymakers and elected officials,” said Kaplan, recalling her engagement work during Shelby County Schools’ recent budget season. “You make such a difference when you include teachers at that table; it shifts the language to a student-centered focus. It’s a loss to see the program leave Memphis.”

In addition to Tennessee, Teach Plus provides teacher leadership programs in California, Colorado, Illinois, Indiana, Maryland and Massachusetts.