The Kids are the “Why” for KIPP’s Marie Fraise

Marie Fraise

5th Grade Math Teacher
KIPP Memphis Collegiate Middle School

Q1: Where did you grow up and how did you get acquainted with City Year Memphis?

I grew up in Topeka, Kansas. I attended a Junior College for 2 years in South East Kansas, then transferred to LaGrange College in Georgia where I first was introduced to City Year, via a recruiter named Maya Francis at a job fair in Atlanta.

Q2: Did you anticipate teaching in Memphis as you were considering what your major would be in college?

No not at all, I was very adamant about never becoming a teacher. I majored in Psychology and Nonprofit Studies.

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

I was working as a Parent Engagement Coordinator and in the in-between time I often had to sub in classrooms. This is where my fondness for the classroom came from.

Q4: As the Parent Engagement Coordinator and as a sub during your City Year internship, was there any particular experience you'd like to share about that made everything click and instill your passion for education work?

So my City Year service year really highlighted my “why”—why am I doing the work I’m doing? Why am I working long days to turn around and work long nights? It’s the kids. The kids really become your why. I’m not sure if I mentioned it before but during my Service Year I worked secondary jobs to make ends meet. Oftentimes I would get 3-4 hours of sleep before coming into school to serve. It was moments where I would be just barely awake and half alive that my small group would have an “aha moment” that made it worth it. When a scholar has been struggling with the same vocabulary word all week and finally they said it without having to self correct. That let me know that this was something I was really interested in. Education was something that I really cared about because of the children I had met.

Q5: You've been working at KIPP since arriving in Memphis. How does KIPP's mission align with your own mission for your life?

KIPP is all about preparing kids for a choice-filled life, be it in the college arena or the career field. I love that and believe in it because I know how I was when it came to making those decisions. When I was at a crossroads in my decision making in life after graduating high school, I was really at a loss. I know many children face that same dilemma. I love that KIPP is preparing kids from a young age to think about life beyond K12.

Q6: You are now enrolled in Relay Graduate School of Education to earn your masters. 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?

It is all about prioritizing your time! I have to plan my lessons for my students out at least two weeks in advance for me to have a buffer for the “just in case.” I also write everything out well in advance—at least a month. My planner is packed full of to do’s and deadlines. It is very doable but it can be stressful. 

Q7: What are your favorite places to enjoy Memphis?

I am a happy hour connoisseur! I love a lot of the local spots: Side Street Grill, Bayou, and Babalu! I also love the events that take place at Loflin Yard and Railgarten!