Teaching and Living in Memphis

The everyday lives of educators investing in and enjoying the Bluff City

“We don’t bluff” is something you hear a lot in Memphis. The quote started with Zach Randolph of the city’s NBA basketball franchise in the midst of an historic playoff run. He said some people talk a lot on the court, but it’s just that… talk. He told reporters later, “I play basketball. I don’t worry about all that. There’s a lot of bluffin’ going on the court… And I don’t bluff.

That saying has now become a constant on social media, billboards, even the “growl towels” fans wave during Grizzlies games. It’s this same resilient, persistent, and full throttle approach Memphians embody in work, life, and play.

It’s with no light heart that our educators undertake bringing the lowest performing schools in the state to compete with those performing at the top. In Memphis, whether it’s a night at Overton Square with friends or a day in the classroom with scholars… we don’t bluff. The Grizzlies, just one facet of life outside the classroom, provide Memphis’ teachers and the community an embodiment of the that lifestyle. Outside the nation’s top NBA franchise, Memphis also has strong neighborhoods, booming development, and a great opportunity to connect no matter where you live.

Downtown

The iconic capital “M” bridge acts like a trailer hitch giving the rest of the world a connection to Memphis, spilling into the unique and bustling Downtown. Situated along the banks of the nation’s mightiest river of all, Memphis was voted Forbes’ Top US Cities With Emerging Downtowns. While growth is strong, it remains authentic with cobblestone streets traveled by pedestrians, trolleys, and horse drawn carriages intersecting the world famous Beale St, Tom Lee Park, and The River Walk.

“I love living downtown because of the access to the river that it offers – I try to walk there every day and there is always great people watching! The workout stations, volleyball court, and soccer field also add a lot – plus, you can’t beat the sunsets!”

-Laura Kerr, Literacy Coach for YES Prep

Teachers and residents not only find outdoor therapy and refuge in these novel spots, but also a community and fulfillment for that dire need to connect with neighbors. This is an anomaly in itself, being that most major cities’ Downtowns are sky-scraper crowded asphalt jungles. Head a little south of Beale St. and you’ll find The South Main Community. “I also enjoy living downtown because of the proximity to South Main. It’s my favorite street in the city because it’s always changing! Whether it’s a new art sculpture or a painting or the work that’s being done to renovate the Chisca Hotel – I’m always excited to see what is different. Also, I’m a huge sucker for SOB and Café Pontotoc.” Hosting 105 National Historic Places, South Main supplies Laura and other Downtowners with a myriad of art galleries, a farmers’ market, and unique. In the midst of Downtown, you’ll find the original Orpheum Theater entertaining with Broadway Shows, while the Memphis Redbirds hit homeruns.

Maybe it’s the cobblestone streets, maybe it’s the young and fresh college graduates, maybe it’s the Gus’ Fried Chicken. Maybe we’ll never know what it is, but, no matter how much is happening around Downtown Memphis, Laura Kerr and the neighborhood still maintains its southern hospitality – a quality that captured Laura as she high tailed from Boston to Memphis to be a part of the urban education movement. An ultimate urban destination, Laura enjoys the perks of big city life and small town neighbors in Downtown Memphis.

Midtown

Midtown Is Memphis – a bumper sticker quote now turned tagline, encapsulates just what it says: Midtown Is Memphis. The ultimate melting pot and center of the city, Midtown Memphis is composed of several business hubs connected by pockets of residential neighborhoods. Consumed with chic bungalow homes and a vibrant population, Midtowners thrive on art, culture, and family. Cooper Younger, one of the many Midtown neighborhoods, is full of eclectic trinket and book shops, coffee houses, and local eats. Crosstown, Binghampton, and Evergreen are just a few more of the Midtown neighborhoods seeing a lot of recent development.

“My love for Midtown has to do with location, location, and location. Midtown is at the heart of all Memphis has to offer. To be anywhere else is to miss out of the many opportunities of entertainment, networking, and most importantly: to engage with a beautiful community of people.”

-Blake Barber, 5th Grade Teacher at Frayser Elementary

Hop on a cycle and cruise on Memphis’ many bike lanes, and you’ll arrive at Memphis’ own Overton Square. A recently revitalized community, Overton Square houses 4 live performance theaters, 15 restaurants, open pavilions, and funky little shops. Hop back on your bike or ride the Roo, and you’re stepping onto Broad Avenue. The Broad Avenue Arts District is a thriving neighborhood dotted with co work spaces, art shops, and hip restaurants. Not feeling the city center vibes? Outlying all these awesome communities, you’ll find parks and outdoor spaces; including Overton Park which is home to the Levitt Shell FREE Concert Series, The Memphis Zoo, and The Overton Park Nature Trails.

A Connected City

Midtown and Downtown don’t even begin to scratch the surface of all Memphis has to offer, but they are the areas of town young invested teachers just like Blake and Laura are choosing to invest their lives. Those who live in either Midtown or Downtown can get to work in many other parts of the city in 15 minutes or less including: Crosstown, Berclair, Orange Mound, East Memphis, and many other places.

The heart and soul of the city is fueled by something stronger than all the ways to enjoy your life here. It’s one body, one team, and one mission. There’s another slogan from the Grizzlies that seemed to embody a change of direction in Memphis. Also on that historic playoff, you began to see one word used to describe so many different pursuits and projects. Believe Memphis became a hashtag, a phrase common to conversations, a headline in the newspaper, and a rallying cry. Memphians already doing the hard work required to make a great city even better… began to march together under that banner. Yes, it was basketball… but it has become something more. Believe Memphis. Abundant Memphis. Resilient Memphis. Now is the time. Memphis is the place.