Professionalism Lessons Not Lost on Freedom Prep’s Alexis Smith

Alexis Smith

3rd Grade Teacher
Freedom Preparatory Academy - Westwood Elementary

Q1: You grew up in Memphis so you know the typical question, "What High School did you go to?"—and did you have any idea what career you wanted to pursue?

I attended Ridgeway High School. I had no idea what I wanted to do after high school besides play volleyball. It wasn’t until I took IB [International Baccalaureate®] Psychology with Mrs. Williams my senior year of high school when I knew that I wanted to major in psychology. 

Q2: Where did you attend college and what is your favorite memory or take away from those years?

I attended Agnes Scott College. My favorite take away from undergrad is community. Each year at Agnes, I was surrounded by an amazing community that kept me grounded. I was connected with people who I still talk to today and two who have become my best friends.

Q3: So you did a gap year with City Year. How did that encourage you to stick into the education field?

When I first joined City Year, I did not want to be a teacher at all. I actually told my partner teacher Mr. Cooper that during our first 1:1 meeting to get to know each other. He literally laughed at my statement and said, “Okay!” As my year of service was coming to an end though, I realized that I wanted to make a bigger impact on youth, which would only be possible if I pursued being a teacher.

Q4: How has working at multiple schools—Memphis Scholars and now Freedom Prep—helped advance your educator skills?

I know one skill that needed a lot of development was my professionalism. My Impact Manager, Taura Mickens, emphasized the importance of developing it during my year of service with City Year. Her leadership really set me up for my current position with Freedom Prep.

Q5: Alexis, a lot of people don't really understand professionalism and everything that entails - would you mind giving a couple examples of how Ms. Mickens helped you grow in this area?

First, she worked with me on sending emails because I tended to be very casual in mine. Another example is when she taught me the importance of the hierarchy in a workplace and how to set boundaries in a workplace with peers as well. Lastly, she helped me with my resume when it came to finding my LACY (Life After City Year). I believe my resume played an important role in my application process while I was applying to different schools.

Q6: You are now enrolled in Relay's graduate program. What does this program look like in terms of admittance, class structure, and taking classes while you're in the midst of working full time?

With there being a high demand for teachers in Memphis, I believe that I applied for Relay at the perfect time. During my interview, the Resident Director highlighted the fact that the work would be a lot, but doable. Through a series of questions, it was apparent to the both of us that I was very committed to RELAY as well as Freedom Prep. I had an amazing mentor teacher and resident advisors that invested in my growth so much that I grew off the gradual release track before the end of my first semester. 

Q7: Why did you choose Relay instead of a different path to your Masters in Education?

The main reason I chose RELAY over other programs is that it gave me the opportunity to be a licensed teacher and gain my Masters of Arts. I also agreed with RELAY’s mission for its graduate students and was very interested in being able to attend Deliberate Practice. Deliberate Practice is a class that Year 1 students take where they can practice different teaching skills in front of their peers while getting in-the-moment feedback.I have grown so much as a teacher because of our weekly Deliberate Practice classes during Year 1.

Q8: What are your favorite places to enjoy Memphis?

Honestly, my two favorite places are my church and Shelby Farms. My church has become a safe space where I have connected to some lifetime family that I can do life with. Shelby Farms has been a great place for me to practice self-care, especially during the pandemic (safely and socially distanced of course).