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Mayes a modern-day Renaissance man

New+director+Chris+Mayes+was+formally+introduced+to+the+community+at+the+recent+Beyond+Z+event.+
New director Chris Mayes was formally introduced to the community at the recent Beyond Z event.

New director Chris Mayes was formally introduced to the community at the recent Beyond Z event.

New director Chris Mayes was formally introduced to the community at the recent Beyond Z event.

Juanita Wimbley

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The new school director, Mr. Chris Mayes, comes to KIPP with more than a decade of experience in teaching and leading in schools across Texas and Louisiana.  Mr. Mayes began his teaching career as a substitute in 2003 in Livonia, Mich., just outside of Detroit where he lived with his grandparents for most of his childhood, although Mr. Mayes is actually a native New Yorker.

At Michigan State University, Mr. Mayes earned his bachelor of arts degree in French and journalism, but after spending two years as a news anchor, reporter, and producer at CBS and FOX affiliates in Michigan, he realized that he was less interested in telling stories and more interested in changing the narrative for kids who grew up like him, in the Brooklyn projects, where he says “hope was the last thing on anyone’s mind.”

In 2004, Mr. Mayes moved to Orlando where he voiced Mickey and volunteered doing story time at elementary schools in North Orlando.  He then moved with his children to New Orleans where he taught middle school English and French.

New Orleans is known for it’s music and culture, but for Mr. Mayes, the best thing about New Orleans is the food.  He took some classes at the New Orleans cooking school and has entered competitions as an amateur chef such as “Battle of the Paddle” in southeast Louisiana where amateur chefs compete for best stew.

Months later, Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans, leaving Mr. Mayes and his family homeless.  They relocated to Houston, Tex., where they lived in shelters and hotels until Mr. Mayes found a job teaching third grade at KIPP Houston.  After one year, he returned to his favorite city to implement all the things he learned about teaching from KIPP to make New Orleans schools a better place to learn.

During Mr. Mayes’s time in New Orleans, he taught high school English, math, drama and dance, including serving four years in a prison as the assistant education coordinator.  Here he transformed a prison tutoring program into a full school program where students graduated, celebrated, and even earned time off their sentences for completing educational expectations.  This work earned him awards from the state and encouraged him to pursue school leadership.

After three years of working as an assistant principal and literacy specialist, Mr. Mayes was selected to join eight other education leaders from across the country to participate in the Accelerate Institute leadership preparation program through Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Business.  Here, Mr. Mayes learned the strategies and techniques to transform the schools of his realities into the schools of his dreams.

When Mr. Mayes is not working, he keeps busy with his family. He has one son, two daughters, and three grandchildren.  He also loves to cook, ice skate, and travel.

Mr. Mayes has lived in five countries and can read, write, and speak French, Spanish, Portuguese and Patois. He says he’s working now on learning Arabic. Now in his fifteenth year in education, Mr. Mayes is already thinking about life after retirement. When he finishes his time in education, he wants to own his own food truck with a focus on blending his love of New Orleans with his Latin American roots through food.

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The student news site of KIPP Blytheville Collegiate High School
Mayes a modern-day Renaissance man