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.