Back to School (for the first time) at Cornerstone Prep Denver

Cornerstone Prep – Denver Campus opened doors for their first students on Monday, August 10. Cornerstone Prep, an MTR partner school since Cornerstone Prep – Lester Campus opened in 2012, expanded from the Binghampton neighborhood to Denver Elementary School in the Frayser neighborhood for the 2015-2016 academic year.  Ten MTR grads were hired for Denver’s inaugural year. Read about week one below.
11694097_852588649859_8843606166575877662_n “I have been humbled and inspired by my visits to Denver during the first week of school. As you walk through the halls and talk to faculty and staff, unity is apparent. There is a united front that believes whole heartedly in each and every child at that school. I can’t help but count my blessings each time I go. I am thankful to be a part of it!”
-Danielle Ringold | MTR Instructional Coach
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“Cornerstone Prep Denver has been an amazing place to work so far! The care for teachers, students, and parents is unreal. I am excited to continue to grow with my fellow teachers and staff members this year and to see life and confidence in my students. We are teaching and training future community leaders and activists!”
-Sierra Tellis | Fifth Grade Teacher
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“I am so excited to be at Denver teaching kindergarten! There’s nothing better than having a kiddo tell his dad on his first day, ‘I LOVE school!’ It has been a great gift to teach with so many MTR grads. All of us first years are able to support and lean on each other, and those in their second year have been extra sweet encouragers and helped me think through how to better support and teach my students. Tough days are a thousand days better when MTR family are there to help you with your students, encourage you, and remind you of the Gospel.”
-Anna Hollidge | Kindergarten Teacher
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“It is such a wonderful opportunity to serve my fellow MTR graduates in the area of special education. I find myself in a unique position to assist in the development of great strategies to reach the students labeled as ‘different’. It has been mind-blowing to be in their classrooms and see them use their gifts in amazings ways. I see a great difference when in an MTR graduate’s classroom.”
-Domenic Andolina | Special Education Teacher
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“I have absolutely loved working at Cornerstone Prep Denver. The leadership at CPD does an excellent job of leading the school well and supporting the teachers. I am a first year teacher and anticipated this year being difficult and busy. Both of those have/will be true, however, I’ve been with my kindergarten students for less than a week and I already love them! I come home laughing on a regular basis because of the crazy things they say or do. I am encouraged by my students, my co-teacher, the staff at CPD, and my MTR Coach. I know this is going to be an amazing year!”
-Brooke DeBoard | Kindergarten Teacher
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“I am delighted to be under the leadership of Diana Bey. And may I say, this week has been a sweet struggle. There have been barriers, behaviors, and there’s always a way to doubt yourself. But in those moments Diana is always there to assist and affirm. I love my students and my team!”
-Starr Garrett | First Grade Teacher
Generation | MTR logo

“Giving Time Back to Memphis Students”

Author: Emma Mansberg | MTR Volunteer | St. Mary’s Episcopal School c/o 2017

Nelson Mandela said, “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” This ideal is at the heart of both Generation Watches and Memphis Teacher Residency, and MTR is ecstatic to announce its partnership with this amazing and innovative new company. Founded by brothers, Matt and Jonathan Nason, Generation Watches has a mission to “give time back” to youth around the world by donating a portion of the company’s profits to support education. Throughout the months of August and September, Generation Watches will donate 50% of its profits to MTR.

Generation Watches is a business motivated solely by giving and the biblical ideal of charity. Each of them strongly believes that the more that Generation Watches is able to give, the more successful they are as an organization. Even more impressive though is this company’s commitment to making a difference in the education and the lives of children all over the world. They saw the problem and they sought to find a solution.

Matt and Jonathan were first confronted with the effects of a lack of education while visiting the small town of Buena Vista, Guatemala. During their time there, they watched the cycle of poverty move before their eyes. They watched children drop out of school to help their families tend to their farms and never to return to education, and they watched young girls be faced with pregnancy and an expectation to remain in the home as housewives. But, they also saw through the work of their friend’s organization, Educate Buena Vista, the profound impact education can have on this vicious cycle of poverty. For $850, one student can be funded to attend Educate BV’s high-tech middle school in Magdalena, Guatemala. Organizations like Educate BV are changing the statistic that only 1 out of every 10 students in Buena Vista finishes grade school. So, Matt and Jonathan sought to find a way to support organizations that have a commitment to education. They brainstormed, and they chose watches. But why watches?

People often say, “You can’t buy time”, but by purchasing a Generation watch, you are doing just that. The profits from these watches give time back to the young people of Guatemala. By giving a child the opportunity for higher education, he or she can get a higher paying job and break this cycle of poverty not only in Guatemala but now in Memphis. This partnership between MTR and Generation Watches allows us to give back time to the youth of our city. So, starting today, August 1, support our community and its journey toward better education, and while you’re at it, buy a watch!

2015 Residency Year in Review

The MTR Class of 2015 celebrated their graduation with a Masters in Urban Education at the annual MTR Victory Party on Friday, May 15. Christy Anderson, graduating resident of the Class of 2015, shared the address below.


Good afternoon, Class of 2015. Here we are. At the end of a long road…it’s not really the end.

Rather the end of the beginning. When David asked me a few weeks back to give the resident address, he asked me to provide some sort of a review of our residency year. My mind immediately went to TIME magazines “year in pictures” but I thought “Hannah already covered that at mentor appreciation”. I considered taking us on an interactive walk through the MTR 2015 Facebook group, but ya’ll…we talk on there way too much for that. I sat painstakingly scrolling for 15 minutes one day determined to get to the bottom. Would I use David’s e-mails? I could do that. Post some nice capitalized, bold-faced words on the screen. Let the coursework talk? “In the words of Tim Keller…” But that didn’t exactly convey the messages I wanted to send. So I settled for a conglomeration of them all. It doesn’t allow me to wrap it up with a nice, neat bow, but it captures who we are, what we went through, and the things we accomplished. With no further ado…here is our year in review

The Summer

It started out like any good summer camp does – ice breakers on ice breakers on ice breakers. We all approached those first few days differently. Many came in bright eyed and full of excitement. Some came in with pits sweating. We were reluctant, hopeful, skeptical, self-protective,encouraged, the list goes on…But we all had one thing in common; we came expecting something from MTR and one another and believing something about the work we were about to do here in Memphis.

As the summer progressed, we began to conform those expectations and beliefs to those of MTR and those of our Creator. That’s not to say that we all came out the same on the other end, but we did begin to take on a shared mission for our city and common vision for what that may look like. We learned to view our work as part of God’s work of reconciling the created to Himself, to one another, and to creation. We began to learn the importance of engaging and sympathizing with the stories of those we come into contact with – whether those stories are a minute or centuries old. We learned to lament the broken places and turn to God for justice. We learned how we would best go about coming alongside God in His fight for justice. And we fought to break free of an “us” and “them” mentality where it is our job to educate others out of brokenness.

Stepping back and connecting reconciliation to God’s story helps us move away from dramatic visions of fixing the world, as if our job were to provide solutions to problems outside us. If Christians believe anything, it is that no one—including ourselves and the church—is separate from the brokenness as an untainted solution to the problems of our world…The dividing line between good and evil runs straight through each one of us.  (Katongole & Rice, Reconciling All Things)

We were filled to the brim with words of wisdom like this. We read and read and read…and read some more. All the while forming a community. MTR is masterful at facilitating that. I can’t speak for you all, but I found this summer living in community to be life-bringing, encouraging, energizing, protective and filling. I can’t tell you how many Facebook posts from the summer had to do with people eating together, offering to feed someone else, or for a few of us…asking to be fed by someone else. Watermelon, chips and salsa, guac, sushi, kombucha, spaghetti squash, waffle cones [only on Wednesdays], donuts, gluten free and dairy free treats, coffee, Jerry’s snow cones, pancakes…

We enjoyed game nights, afternoons on the lawn, Memorial Day parties, group dinners out, AMERICA World Cup watch parties, study breaks, summer concerts, karaoke nights, Redbirds game and so much more. There were a couple of videos on Facebook that I wanted to insert here – Johnathan reading like a farmer, Mitch doing Tooty Ta, Jasmine and Ben belting it at karaoke, – but I couldn’t figure out how to insert them from Facebook. You’re welcome.

And at the heart of it all…whether thinking about our work as teachers, coaches, community members, friends, or family, the goal of our summer was to realize our role in seeking reconciliation for our city. Corbett and Fikkert said it best in When Helping Hurts

It all goes back to the definition of poverty alleviation. Remember, the goal is to restore people to experiencing humanness in the way that God intended. The crucial thing is to help people to understand their identity as image bearers, to love their neighbors as themselves, to be stewards over God’s creation, and to bring glory to all things.


The Fall

Fall came and with it came the excitement of being in the classroom – finally ready to put into practice all the theoretical, practical, and theological beliefs and skills we’d been filling ourselves with for the last 3 months. Little did we know that we weren’t really all that prepared. Not sure what you all thought we were going to do, but I subconsciously believed that my perspectives and belief in my students alone would change their academic performance and foster behavioral success. Ha! So we failed…and we failed…and we failed again (Thanks Robin!)

The fall was hard as we fought to manage our time, keep up with our goal of 100% of residents doing 100% of readings (Sorry, Robin…), honor our mentors, find success in the classroom, and keep up with our social lives (more like lack thereof). Christmas break came as a welcome reprieve from the stress, drain, and strain of fall focus.


The Spring

Spring brought the stress of Lead Teach but it also brought a lot of freedom. Back again were the Saturdays of old (though many were spent planning or prepping for Monday). Classwork was less. Planning became easier. We were granted control. We tried out our own styles and felt the pressure and responsibility of being on our own in our classrooms. It was a lot of work, but it was liberating! Maybe we would make it at this whole teaching thing after all…

And then as an act of mercy, the Lord granted us 1, 2, 3, what seemed like endless days off for “Snowpocalypse 2015” just after most of us finished our Lead Teach experiences.

Our Spring semesters looked different as “by mentor and coach discretion” took on many forms. Some of us gained free time as instructional responsibility slowly dwindled. Others were thrown back into – or simply kept on – lead teaching. We took field trips, enjoyed fun in the classroom, led projects and programs.

Job talk picked up. I loved hearing the buzz about who was interviewing where and what jobs people had accepted. Shelby County schools’ deadline made (and still makes) many of us nervous. As we depart from here there are many things we know about one another and many things we don’t.

In fact, in thinking about what I would say about Spring, I was struck by how much I truly don’t know about everyone’s story. At first, this was disheartening. How could I walk through this difficult season in community with these people and still feel disconnected from your stories. It made me realize how much of a blessing this year has been for us and for the city. We represent 60 stories, 60 experiences, and give or take 1,500 years of experience that is being leveraged to reconcile relationships here in Memphis. We have experienced change together – deep, lasting heart change.


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Growth in Forgiveness

Author: Hayley Moore | MTR 2012 | English Teacher at Kingsbury Middle School

Last week I attended my cohort’s Ultimate Victory Party. This is a celebration of fulfilling our four year commitment to MTR. My friend Rebecca spoke that evening of how deeply we have all learned joy from our time in MTR. I am reminded of James 1:2-3. “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.” I will not achieve perfect steadfastness this side of heaven, but I clearly see how the Lord used teaching in my life to produce a more unwavering, unshakeable foundation in me.

One of my biggest personal applications from teaching is my growth in forgiveness. Teaching necessitates it. The student who was disrespectful to a peer and saddened me yesterday will walk into my class 4th block; the student who tried my patience and personally offended me today will be in my classroom tomorrow morning. My faith is tested; my sin nature is stoked. However, I have learned that quickness to forgive keeps bitterness at bay. As a first year teacher, I possessed a lot more bitterness. Resentfulness is personality poison. Over time, I have become less easily rattled and more forgiving. I have become more unwavering, more steadfast. This is the Lord’s promise to me in James 1; tests produce steadfastness.

Of course, as a human, I often fail to count my trials as joy. 999 out of 1,000 times, I don’t mentally frame trial as the Lord’s refinement tool. I read verses like James 1:2-3 and think, “Man, I’m failing at remembering joy.” However, the gospel truth doesn’t condemn! “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death” (Romans 8:1-2).

My time in MTR taught me trial is a guarantee. The Lord’s refinement of me is not contingent upon my joy. I get to experience joy when I acknowledge the work He is doing in me.



Home to Memphis: One Incoming Resident’s Story

New MTR Residents and MTR Camp interns are preparing now for their journey into urban education in Memphis. Ayanna McFarland shares her reflections below regarding her evolving relationship with MTR, which began in 2011 when an MTR resident was placed in her classroom at Whitehaven High School. Ayanna would eventually serve as a Campus Rep at Howard University for MTR, as an intern at MTR Camp last summer, and is joining the MTR Class of 2016 in May.

MTR Pre-Residency Reflections
Ayanna McFarland

“Before I made you in your mother’s womb, I chose you. Before you were born, I set you apart for a special work” (Jeremiah 1:5a NCV)

It is now my senior year at Howard University and I have five days of student teaching left. In a few weeks I will pack up and start my journey home to Memphis $15 richer (my dad bet me Freshman year that I would not come back home). What has called me home? In the midst of all of the negative press that youth have recently received in Memphis, what calls me to serve the youth in Memphis?

Rewind almost exactly four years ago, to my senior year at Whitehaven High School in 2011.

Mr. Tuminaro, a resident from a program called Memphis Teacher Residency, took an interest in my life. At the end of class, we would talk about literature and grammar and teaching. I told him that teaching was not for me but Mr. Tuminaro told me that not only was teaching for me but so was Memphis Teacher Residency. He recognized that I was book-smart but he also saw my desire to serve others and the passion that I have for my city. He told me that school will teach me some strategies for teaching but that MTR will teach me how to prosper in real-life situations. I was intrigued.

At the same time, another teacher (who later became an MTR mentor), Mrs. Buford, told me that she saw the teacher in me. I said that I wanted to pursue business; I even wrote a fifteen year plan for my life and showed her how I would reach all of my goals. I put at the top of the plan “open for divine intervention”, which made her laugh for quite a while. She encouraged me to be flexible and that God would lead me in the right direction. She emphasized that I would be fine but I cannot plan the future. I thank God that nothing went as planned. God did intervene and my contrary spirit was tamed; I was to teach.

Okay, God, now what?

On June 28, 2011, I felt compelled to reach out to the program that Mr. Tuminaro had told me so much about. Here’s what an ambitious 18-year old “me” emailed:

To whom it may concern:

My name is Ayanna McFarland. I am an incoming freshman to Howard University. I plan to get my certification in D.C. and come back to my hometown, Memphis, to teach. As a senior in high school, I had experience with a resident teacher from another program. He was one of the best teachers that I’d ever had because of his experience in the residency program. I want to also become an exemplary teacher through MTR one day. I know that my application will not come across your desk until 2015, but I felt it important to express my interest before I leave for D.C. Thank you for your time!

I was offered a position as an MTR Campus Rep through which I learned more deeply about the benefits of the program. The community, the Christian emphasis, and the commitment to serving in urban areas were my constant talking points. Each time I talked to students about the program, I was also convincing myself. I found myself again listening to my own promotion for the first MTRCamp.

Fast-forward to my last summer as an undergraduate in 2014. I coordinated a program called Alternative Spring Break Memphis the previous semester and the children of Binghampton (an MTR partner neighborhood) had won my heart. I chose to join MTRCamp instead of teaching in Brazil. It was the best decision that I ever made.

Through MTRCamp, I had a true taste of what MTR is about: Christian love, equal education, community, and fun! Our days were long and some were harder than others but we lifted one another up. I found joy and peace through community in Binghampton. I could not wait to put in my application for MTR along with my new sisters and brothers in Christ.

Back to the present, when I am constantly bombarded with questions about why I want to teach, why I want to go back, why I want to serve the youth, I have but one answer: God has called me to do special work. He did not say easy work or ultra-prestigious work. I am using my gifts and talents to serve and I am not alone. MTR has already been a family to me, which has kept me on my track with God’s purpose for my life. My joy has overflowed and touched even my best friend who will now be joining the Class of 2016 this May! When I think of his wonders and how His plan all comes together for good, I must end by thanking God for allowing MTR to touch my life.

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To Whom Did He Come?

Author: David Montague | MTR President

Below is a portion of what David shared at the MTR Spring Selection Weekend dinner last Friday. He uses elements of Jesus’ first resurrection appearance to Mary Magdalene (John 20) and connects it to the work of urban education. Be encouraged this Easter weekend. He is risen!

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To Whom Did He come?

He came first to a woman.  A women with a “story”… a past… from whom seven demons had been cast out.  A women weeping.

14 At this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not realize that it was Jesus. 15 He asked her, “Woman, why are you crying? Who is it you are looking for?”

What do we know about women in the first century.  Women were seen as less than.  They did not carry the same rights or value or dignity as men.  Women were not considered valid witnesses either personally or in the court of law. For we know, from Josephus, that the Jews had added to the word of the law (which says that on the testimony of two or three only can anything be established), these words: “But let not the testimony of women be received, because of the frivolity of the sex.” The rabbinical teaching was that the testimony of one hundred women was not sufficient to refute that of one man.  In essence, they were not fully participating legal citizens.  They were marginalized and oppressed, systemically, in a male dominated world.  Add to that formally demon possessed and single with no protection from a husband, and you had someone on the lowest end of the social system.  She was the ultimate “Outsider”

Memphis is a collection of “outsiders”….  We are a “what good could ever come out of….” Type city.  We are a city with a questionable reputation… Routinely ranked in the top 10 of questionable / unsavory rankings of poverty and poor health.  And we are, of course, the city where one of our nations greatest leaders, MLK, was killed.

SCS, too, is a “less than” district.  For example, in a recent ranking of states, TN was rated as the 41st highest performing state putting us in the bottom 25% of all states.  Within TN, SCS is the lowest performing district.  Regarding poverty, approximately 85% of SCS students qualify for FRPL, while more than 40,000 students come from families that make less than $10,000 annually.

Memphis is a Mary Magdalene of cities… the type of people and place that Christ (and his people) come to first.  Not last.

(as an aside… isn’t it interesting that with Mary who was one of the only few to stay with him to his death was the first to see him at his resurrection… quite literally the last shall be first)

How did He come?

He came, nameless (anonymously), as a common gardener. 

14… At this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not realize that it was Jesus. 15 Thinking he was the gardener, she said, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will get him.”

He broke into history, alive, resurrected… not appearing to Kings or the wealthy or the majority or the powerful.  He announced himself to the world anonymously.  Nameless.  A commoner.  Veiled.  Simple.  Plain.  A gardener.  Just a common man doing a common job.  Although I don’t think it is a simple coincidence that he came as a gardener… as He has come to create and cultivate a new world, and has called his people to also create and cultivate (see theme to MTR yearbook).

In the same way, teaching is an anonymous job.  It is not for the self-serving.  It is not for those of personal ambition.  It is not the place to make a name for yourself.

There are 7,000 teaching jobs in Memphis; teaching 100,000+ students in public schools. SCS is the second largest employer in Memphis with a total workforce of 16,000.  2nd only to FedEx’s 31,000 employees.  Methodist 12,000…. IP 2,200.

In education, you are often known as a 3rd grade teacher, or an Geometry teacher, or Middle School science…. Not as much Emily Tuberville, or Ben Rollins or Rebecca Rhodes.

You are often nameless and anonymous, doing a common job… common in the sense that you share the job/ role with 7,000 others (probably more than any other job in the city) and that the job must be applied to every child in our city, by law.

Yet, uncommon and glorious in that in what other profession can you have the right and obligation to shape and form minds and hearts more than any other person in their life, save possibly their parents.

What did He do?

He called her by Name.  And blessed her with purpose.

16 Jesus said to her, “Mary.” She turned toward him and cried out in Aramaic, “Teacher! 17 …Go instead to my brothers and tell them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’”

His first word to her (following his question)…. His announcement of His coming as King of the World was not, look at me… it was you, “Mary”.

His first act, encounter, conversation, was appearing to and calling an outsider by her name.  It was saying “I see you, I know you, you are a person and individual.  I see you not as simple a female, or as a person, but as an individual worthy of my time and attention… despite your social status. Despite your issues.  Despite what the world thinks of you.

Interestingly, at the sound of her name, at nothing more than this life-giving dignity, Mary “got it”, she could see.  This value produced an ‘aha.’

So, we remember that we teach children and not subjects.

And you get the wonderful opportunity to go where the children are… to the modern day “well” necessary gathering place for all children.  And while you don’t go there talking about Jesus, you get to go there living like Jesus.  Seeing people.  Many of whom living with issues…  With a vision to see beyond their needs and seeing, knowing, loving them as individuals.

Please be encouraged that your work is strikingly similar and aligned to that most powerful and intentional moment in history… there is a wonderful purpose and story that accompanies your often very hard work.  So, thank you.

Have a great Easter weekend.


John 20:11-18

Jesus Appears to Mary Magdalene

11 Now Mary stood outside the tomb crying. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb 12 and saw two angels in white, seated where Jesus’ body had been, one at the head and the other at the foot.

13 They asked her, “Woman, why are you crying?”

“They have taken my Lord away,” she said, “and I don’t know where they have put him.”14 At this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not realize that it was Jesus.

15 He asked her, “Woman, why are you crying? Who is it you are looking for?”

Thinking he was the gardener, she said, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will get him.”

16 Jesus said to her, “Mary.”

She turned toward him and cried out in Aramaic, “Rabboni!” (which means “Teacher”).

17 Jesus said, “Do not hold on to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father. Go instead to my brothers and tell them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’”

18 Mary Magdalene went to the disciples with the news: “I have seen the Lord!” And she told them that he had said these things to her.


The Voices Project Tour

Author: Lachelle Robotham | MTR Recruiter

I walked into this experience not knowing what to expect and walked away with one that I will likely never forget. Last week I had the opportunity to travel alongside the Voices Project as they toured four different HBCU’s and six different cities. I must say, I learned a lot and gained valuable insight and new perspectives.


The tour began in Richmond, Virginia with a morning devotional and a team meeting in Richmond’s historical Robinson Theater. This theater represents a piece of African American history and exists to help build healthy community; the perfect place to launch the Tour. We loaded the bus and headed to Murfreesboro, NC where we were met by snow and a room full of eager Chowan University students. From Chowan we traveled to Paine College, made a brief trip to the King Center in Atlanta, GA, followed by a visit to Jackson State University and finally to Dillard University in New Orleans, LA.


Each night we arrived on a different college campus and began the process of setting up a night of worship, spoken word, music, and a panel of African American leaders. Each member of the panel took turns responding to questions pertaining to topics such as: the role of the church in community development, investing knowledge and gifts into ones community, and the power of Christian love. These questions prompted responses such as “Isaiah 68 is for oppressed people all around the world. Not the oppressors. So that we will take the brokenness of the cities and rebuild them in a way that will bring dignity to every human being and glory to the name of our God“.


The goal of the Voices Project is to bring together African American leaders from several different spheres, including music, art, politics and education. Along with MTR, there were representatives from organizations such as Compassion International, the Christian Community Development Association, Mission Year, and Sojourners to name a few. These leaders use their voices to engage in activities and conversation about the African-American community and our role as leaders. As a representative of MTR, it was an opportunity to learn from those who have been long invested in various areas of social justice, each with the mutual goal of giving oppressed individuals and communities a voice.


It was an encouragement to see so many leaders fighting for the same things that MTR staff and teachers work for each and everyday. Hearing all these different voices and unique perspectives in one place affirmed in me the importance of asset based community development and the value that each person holds. When faith and justice collide, every voice has a greater opportunity to be heard.


A Crosstown Update

MTR recently received an update on the Crosstown project and Groundbreaking Announcement that we are excited to share! The renewal of the Sears Crosstown building has long been a dream for many in our city. In 2017, a portion of this huge building will house our new home, along with 14 other organizations plus other small businesses. Below is an email from the directors of the project. Read on to learn more about the progress of the construction and the Groundbreaking Ceremony on February 21, 2015.


Dear Crosstown Community,

Over five years ago, the Crosstown development team began what was considered to be an improbable journey to restore and redevelop one of the largest abandoned buildings in Tennessee.  It’s one of those cliche, underdog stories of passion and conviction confronted by skeptical snickers, laughter, and the predictable response: “you want to do what?!  In Memphis?  Yeah, good luck with that.”  Despite the building’s beloved history, prime location and iconic status, no one believed it could ever be redeveloped, much less transformed from debilitating blight into a community asset.  Admittedly, their doubt was not unfounded and probability was on their side.

Yet, here we all are five years later — on December 29, we closed financing on the Crosstown Project.  Our general contractor, Grinder Taber Grinder, was given a notice to proceed the next day, and we’ve now shifted from demolition work to the construction phase.  Thanks to an enormous amount of work by our design and development team, attorneys, Suntrust Bank, the City of Memphis, as well as your steadfast vision and commitment, miracle has been stacked upon miracle to create the most unlikeliest of milestones.  And the unlikely milestone is the most miraculous part — a one million square foot former distribution center in a severely disinvested area, where the poverty rate extends beyond 20% and unemployment is double the city’s average, will be resurrected not as an office complex, industrial park or sports arena, but as a mixed-use, vertical urban village that brings some of the city’s greatest resources in arts, education and healthcare to a community that needs them most.  A structure that is now completely empty and a detriment to the surrounding neighborhoods and businesses will be repopulated with 3000 people everyday who are going to work, to learn, to shop, to eat, to live, to create, and to heal.  Equally spectacular, this restoration is not the result of a single person or developer; it’s the product of a team of civic-minded individuals who love their city and joined forces with fifteen well-respected, local organizations that believe in the vision and want to be active participants in the new community.

Of course, none of this is possible without all of you and the hard work you have expended over the last few years.  As a result, impossible, jaw-dropping aspirations were achieved in 2014: 1) over 450,000 square feet of commercial space has been leased for a building that is still two years from opening; 2) $200 million in philanthropic, private, and public funding was secured to complete the project, including over $50 million in historic and new markets tax credits; 3) 38% of the apartments were pre-leased; 4) design and construction documents were fully completed and bids came in on budget (and our goal of awarding 25% of the work to certified minority and women owned businesses has been exceeded); and 5) hundreds of new construction jobs were created and economic regeneration in the area is already starting to occur.

This email started out as a simple update to inform everyone about financial closing, but as we considered it more, it felt appropriate to also remind us all of the genuine miracle that we are witnessing and the magnitude of the real estate and community development we are now embarking upon.  We use “embark” because, as we all know, this is just the beginning and not the end.  Much work, planning and implementation is still to be done.  As we’ve always communicated, success for us is not financial closing or even opening day — success is ten years from now when the building is still vibrant and all our tenants want to renew their leases.

All that said, this is a monumental moment worthy of being memorialized.  Here are the details for how we would like to celebrate with all of you and the Memphis community.


On February 21, 1927, Sears, Roebuck & Co. executives came to Memphis to break ground on what would become their seventh retail and distribution center (of ten built across the country).  88 years later — on Saturday, Feb 21, 2015 — we will break new ground for the Crosstown redevelopment.  Please plan to join us from 11:00-2:00 for the ceremony, which will include presentations, the launch of our new branding, exhibitions (including new renderings), an iron pour using old radiators from the building, live music, food, and much more.

We sincerely hope you, your staff, and your families will be able to join us on Feb 21st for the festivities to mark this exciting new chapter of our journey together.

Thanks again and all the best for a banner 2015!

Todd Richardson & McLean Wilson


In Honor of MLK Day


Author: David Montague | MTR President 

MLK was the leader of the Civil Rights movement.  The defining aspect of the Civil Rights movement was the technique known as non-violent resistance.  MLK had to convince blacks that the only way for them to win rights and equality was by protesting… non-violently.

This, of course, was very hard to do.  So he constantly wrote and spoke about non-violence.  In fact, he came up with five points of non-violence and as cities took up causes (for example the Memphis sanitation worker strike) he, and people from his organization, would go to these cities and teach for weeks on non-violence.

I found his five points of non-violence brilliant, powerful and joyfully rooted in the gospel.

It is to each person’s benefit to have read his five points of non-violence.  It is historically and personally valuable.  Very much worth your time to read it.  Ideally today.  I’ve edited together some of his comments from an essay he wrote entitled An Experiment in Love to condense but keep the essence… and added a few of my takeaways.

An Experiment in Love

Martin Luther King, Jr.

Christian Love… imparts value by loving.  What gives man value is not what is in him; what gives him value is precisely the fact that God loves him.

“The guiding principle of the Civil Rights movement is Christian Love.  The Sermon on the Mount is the initial inspiration of the Negroes of Montgomery for social action.  It was Jesus that stirred the Negroes to protest with the creative weapon of love.”

Christian LOVE is the IDEAL (spirit / motivation); Non-violent resistance is the TECHNIQUE.  Protest with the creative weapon of love.

“Christ furnished the spirit and motivation”… and the method (cross).

Aspects of Non-Violent Christian Love.

1. Love leads to ACTIVE non-violence.

Violence would be both impractical and immoral.  This would only intensify the existence of evil.  Hate begets hate.  Our aim must never be to defeat or humiliate the white man, but to win his friendship and understanding.

Non-violence is not a method for cowards.  It does resist.  No group must submit to wrong, nor do they need to use violence to right that wrong.  There is the way of non-violent resistance.  This is the way of the strong man.

It is not passive.  While he is not physically aggressive, his mind and emotions are always active, constantly seeking to persuade his opponent that he is wrong.  Passive physically but strongly active spiritually.

2. Non-violence does NOT seek to defeat or humiliate the opponent.

…But seeks to win friendship and understanding.

Non-violence means to awaken a sense of moral shame in the opponent.  The end is redemption and reconciliation.  The aftermath of non-violence is the creation of a beloved community.  The aftermath of violence is tragic bitterness.

3. Non-violence is an attack directed against the forces of evil rather than against the persons who happen to be the doing of the evil.  It is EVIL (Satan) the non-violent resister seeks to defeat, not the persons doing the evil.  The basic tension is not between races… The tension is between justice and injustice, between the forces of light and darkness.  And if there is a victory, it will be a victory for justice and light.  WE are out to defeat injustice and not white persons who may be unjust.

4. Non-violence is willing to accept suffering without retaliation.

“rivers of blood may have to flow before we gain our freedom, but it must be our blood.”

One may ask, “What is the nonviolent resister’s justification for this ordeal for which he invites men, for this mass political application of the doctrine of turning the other cheek?”  The answer is in the realization that unearned suffering is redemptive.  Suffering, the Christian says, has tremendous educational and transforming possibilities.  “Things of fundamental importance to people are not secured by reason alone, but have to be purchased with their suffering.”

5. Non-violent resistance avoids not only external physical violence but also internal violence of spirit. 

The resister not only refuses to shoot his opponent but also refuses to hate him.

At the center of the movement is Christian love.

Along the way of life, someone must have the sense enough and morality enough to cut off the chain of hate.

This “love” is not referring to affectionate sentimental love.  It would be nonsense to urge men to love their oppressors in an affectionate sense.  Christian love is an overflowing love which is unmotivated, groundless and creative.  It is not set in motion by any quality of function of its object.  It is the glory of God operating in the human heart.  Christian love seeks not his own good, but the good of his neighbor.. It does not discriminate between worthy and unworthy people, or qualities of people possess.  It begins by loving others for their sakes.  LOVE discovers the “neighbor in every man.”  And the best way to determine if you have this love is to love those with nothing to gain in return.

This love springs from the NEED in the other person.

This form of non-violence is also known as GRACE.  And grace has a place in the Civil Rights movement… as well as in MTR, Memphis schools, our city, our nation… Non-violent resistance very much still has a role in our lives today.

20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.

21 Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior. 22 But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation—

Colossians 1:20-22


Snappy Casual: A Story of How Memphis Changed My Wardrobe

Author: Sam Moseley | MTR Camp Staff ’14 | Blog Post via “The Secondary Source

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“I like your shirt” she said to me.  “You might not be able to get away with that if you were in the residency program, but for summer camp it’s great”.

I was wearing a short sleeve button up shirt and khaki shorts. The shirt was a few different colors and maybe it didn’t have a “traditional” pattern, but I thought it was appropriate. After all, the dress code on our schedule read “snappy casual”. I figured that meant somewhere in between gym shorts and a t-shirt and khaki pants and a polo. My idea of snappy casual was more than casual but less than business casual. Seems fair right?

This episode happened at the opening dinner for the camp I taught reading at last summer in Memphis. While nobody slapped me on the wrist for my choice of clothing, I found out later that the program I was working for had a different idea of snappy casual than I did. I figured this out through interacting with the program’s teaching residents.

Our camp staff had lunch with the residents one day and I asked a girl, “Do y’all have to dress this way everyday?”

All of the gentlemen were in button down shirts and ties, some of them with jackets. The ladies all wore dresses or professional looking skirts and blouses. She kind of laughed.

“Yeah, they like us to dress snappy casual”.

“Wait… this is snappy casual?” I thought in my mind. What about business casual? Did it just get pushed aside? Is it not a thing anymore? If ties mean snappy casual, what is business professional? At this point, I realized that my idea of standard teaching clothes was different than this organization’s idea that hired me. Throughout my six and a half weeks in Memphis I pondered the standard of snappy casual. Here are my reflections on the dress code:

·      Creating a new norm The organization I was working for is creating a new norm for their residents. They are redefining their teachers’ concepts of an acceptable wardrobe. Consequently, when residents leave the program, wearing ties to work everyday will be second nature, almost like breathing (well… maybe not quite that natural, but close).

·      Setting a personal standard of professionalism This program is personally raising the bar for its residents. Sure, some teachers might wear ties or dresses to work already, but this year there are upwards of 75 new teachers in Memphis schools promoting snappy casual. Memphis is seeing a personal standard of professionalism that considers teaching as something to “dress up” for everyday.

·      Showing students they are worth it One of the messages that snappy casual is sending is that students are worth these teachers’ time. How a people dresses is in part a reflection of the value they place on the context they are in. If businessmen are going to a conference meeting, they dress accordingly because they have predetermined the value of the meeting. Snappy casual is giving value to students and indirectly telling them “You are worth getting up for and putting on this tie. You are important”.

If you knew me before this year, you have probably noticed a change in my wardrobe since last year. I wear more bow ties. I wear slacks to class. Many people ask me why I am dressed up. They ask if I am going to a meeting or if I have been at a school. Sometimes I have been in one or both of these scenarios that day. Other times, I am simply going to class. Junior year Sam would have been content going to class in a backwards cap and a hoody. I don’t think wearing casual clothes to class is wrong; I just have personally assigned a different value to how my classes contribute to my professional development than I did before. Next time you see me in Bailey or Palko, you will know that Memphis is largely responsible for the bow ties I wear.

Next year, by God’s grace, I’ll be teaching English at a local high school. I consider this year as preparation for my vocation. Part of that preparation includes figuring out what I want my wardrobe to look like. I have decided to adopt the theme of snappy casual, because I want to create a new norm for myself. I want to create a personal standard of professionalism that conveys to students they are worth my time.

Read more on “The Second Source” from Texas Christian University Education Majors.

Read more about Sam’s vision for teaching on TCU’s website here. (photo credit)