Koai K. Matthews is from Chicago, IL and brings with him over 15 years of education experience. His past experiences include Classroom Teacher Assistant, Kindergarten Teacher, Americorp Team Member, Youth Development Coordinator, 6th Grade Math Teacher, Algebra Teacher, Self-Contained Teacher, and Assistant Principal. It is his wide-ranging background that has prepared him to join Education Reform from the leadership ranks. Coupled with this experience, Koai majored in Urban Education as an undergraduate, earned his first Masters Degree in Education shortly after, and completed his second Masters Degree in Educational Leadership in 2012. “It’s my belief that we are on the cusp of true education reform in this country. To that end, I want to be on the front lines, armed with the pedagogy, knowledge of best practices, and relevant education experience to be an effective agent of change.”
Having spent over eight years in the charter sector in Chicago, Koai eagerly joins the work that is being done here in Tennessee. “I know, first-hand, the feeling of being undervalued and overlooked. As a child, I had many encounters with teachers who had very low expectations of what I was capable of achieving. Similarly, I have had many college professors who made judgments about me and my abilities, rather than gaining an accurate assessment.” It is these types of interactions that has fueled his unwavering dedication to education and closing the achievement and opportunity gaps.
Christy Bakke is from the town of Le Roy, IL, just a dot on the map between Chicago and St. Louis. She completed her undergraduate studies in Speech-Language Pathology at Eastern Illinois University and earned her masters degree in Education through the Memphis Teacher Residency. Her purpose in education is best communicated through Dr. King's words, "Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that." "We show students light when we teach them in truth and in our teaching, they experience love," she believes. Christy has been on the Lester Prep team since 2015 when she joined the staff as a 7th-grade history teacher and volleyball coach. Today, she lives in midtown Memphis with her husband, Josh. When she's not at school, Christy enjoys hiking, biking, paddling, and traveling to visit family and explore the world.