What “Sparked” Alexandra Graham to Choose a Career in Education

Story by cnmAdmin2030 / July 30, 2019

Alexandra Graham did not grow up wanting to be a teacher. Growing up in Summerville, South Carolina before attending Winthrop University, she began her college studies majoring in Integrated Marketing Communications before switching to Middle Level Education. It was not at Winthrop where Graham decided she belonged in education, but closer to home at the church where her grandmother preached.

The church held a program for at-risk youth over the summer. Graham’s grandmother expected her to help with the program; however, she did not expect to immediately bond with the students. “All I saw was me,” Graham said. “People thought they were bad kids, but they were just misunderstood.” Graham considers herself a previously misunderstood teenager, so it was easy for her to empathize with what students were going through. She quickly fell in love with working with them and “felt like it was my calling.”

Graham said it was hard for her to watch others fail to make connections with the students. “I became determined to be the person who took the time to build relationships,” she said. By the end of the program, Graham knew she needed to switch her major. She wanted to continue providing a safe space for youth, explaining, “I got into education because I wanted to be there for my people. I want black kids and minority kids to know they can make it.” Graham has now been a teacher for four years, providing a classroom that receives every student who walks through it with open arms.

Graham will begin teaching at Meeting Street Academy this August. You can learn more about her and her journey to teaching below.


Who was your most influential teacher in school and why?

Ms. Bowers. She was my 8th grade Math Teacher and she challenged me in ways that I didn’t know I could be challenged. I felt like I went in her room crying every single day, but she worked with me and she promised we would get through it. It made me have respect for those tough teachers. She was influential because I applied that to life. Even if you’re having a bad day, you can put those things away and power through something. Math was my least favorite subject, but it made me a tougher person. Nobody ever thought I would be a teacher, so when I changed my major to education, I wrote a letter to Ms. Bowers. She wrote me a letter back and later came and visited my classroom.

What was your favorite recess activity and why?

I was the queen of Four Square. I’ve tried playing it with the kids at the courtyard, but I don’t have it like I used to.

What was your favorite book growing up?

That’s a hard one. I think I’m going to give you two different answers. I used to hate reading, but the books that made me enjoy reading were Tears of a Tiger and Forged by Fire by Sharon Draper. I also loved Harry Potter. It was a big deal when Twilight came out, but Harry Potter was it for me. I remember going to Books-A-Million and you got to stay overnight to get your book.

What school lunch did you look forward to?

The smiley face French fries!

What advice would you give your elementary self?

Manners take you a long way and the little drama in middle school does not matter because you won’t see those people again.

Favorite subject in school?

Social Studies, wait no. Let’s change that to English. It started off being one of those subjects that I did not like, but I excelled in it. I liked reading things that I wasn’t exposed to before. It was like I was taking a trip with dead people.

What made you choose your alma mater?

I chose Winthrop University because it was in state, but far enough away from home. I also liked that it had a private school feel. The reason I stayed at Winthrop is because of my family and my younger sister. I was the first one to go to college and be able to finish it. My little sister is 11 years younger than me and I wanted to finally break that cycle. I had a feeling if I could show I could do it, then they could do it. There were some days when I wanted to leave, but I knew I could be that example and turning point in my family.

Favorite memory of your student teaching experience?

I don’t think it’s a memory. Student teaching is tough. What I’m glad Winthrop did for me is they placed me in a well affluent school and I had the opportunity to see what type of problems they have there. My second semester I was placed at a Title I school. The Title I school was more of what I grew up with. It was great to have both perspectives and see that kids are still kids, regardless of their situation. They are still experiencing the same things. It was a very eye opening and humbling experience. Every school has their problems. You’re never going to walk into a perfect school. Kids are still kids.

Where were you when you received your offer to teach with Meeting Street Schools?
What’s crazy is about that is that I was at the school I am teaching at now. It was during my planning period and I slammed my screen down and restarted my computer because there was no way I was reading that email correctly. I just started to cry. Looking back at it, it was like a TV moment. The school I worked at was hopeful for me to obtain the position, so I got to share that joy. It was awesome.

What’s the first item on your Charleston bucket list?

I want to act like I’m a tourist one day in Charleston and walk around downtown and ask where Marion Square is and stay in a hotel downtown. And ask questions like, “You know where I can find a good crab cake? Where’s the beach at?”

Since you’re a teacher, what’s your Starbucks order?

A Caramel Macchiato with three shots of espresso. Sometimes I like java chips in there.

What piece of advice would you give to those trying to decide if a career in education is right for them?

That education and teaching is not about knowing all the right answers. It is more about wanting to help people. I call them little humans. It’s about helping little humans develop into functioning adults. It’s about developing the people you want to see take care of society. I think a lot of people think that teaching is just about test scores and getting all As. How I see it is if I can’t get you an A in math, I can at least help you shake a hand and learn how to be a functioning adult.


This interview has been edited for clarity.


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About Meeting Street Schools

Meeting Street Schools (MSS) is an innovative non-profit where schools, families, and the community collaborate to create environments where all children can achieve their full potential. With a network of schools across South Carolina, including MSA-Charleston (Charleston, SC), MSA-Spartanburg (Spartanburg, SC), MS-Brentwood (North Charleston, SC), MS-Burns (North Charleston, SC), and MS-Jasper & Beaufort (Jasper, SC), we are committed to providing students with the rigorous education they deserve.

Founded on the principle that every child deserves an excellent education regardless of their socio-economic background, Meeting Street Schools has been a beacon of hope and a testament to what's possible in education. Our schools are driven by a strong focus on student achievement, evidence-based instruction, and relentless support of our students and their families.

While united by our shared mission, each MSS campus, is unique in its character, tapping into the local spirit of the communities they serve. Explore each of our schools and discover how they're creating a brighter future for students in South Carolina.

News & NotesFrom Clemson University to Master Teacher and Player Coach: Emily Godwin

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Our Schools

MSA – CharlestonDowntown Charleston, SC - Independent School - Since 2008 - 364 Students

Nestled in the heart of Charleston, South Carolina, MSA Charleston is more than just a school—it’s a hub for innovative learning and community engagement. As part of the Meeting Street Schools network, MSA Charleston embodies a commitment to excellence through its rigorous academic programs, inclusive culture, and focus on developing the whole child. With a curriculum that emphasizes both academic and personal growth, MSA Charleston prepares students to be curious learners and active citizens of their community.

MSA – SpartanburgDowntown Spartanburg, SC - Public School - Since 2012 - 323 Students

MSA Spartanburg stands as a pillar of educational innovation in the Spartanburg community. The school’s dedicated educators and supportive learning environment ensure that each child receives a high-quality, personalized education with exceptional faculty and teachers. MSA Spartanburg is distinguished by its emphasis on community partnership, fostering relationships that extend beyond the classroom to build a strong foundation for lifelong learning and success.

MS – BrentwoodNorth Charleston, SC - Public School - Since 2014 - 694 Students

MS Brentwood is a place where education meets opportunity. Serving the Brentwood area, this school is a testament to the transformative power of education. With a student-centered approach that celebrates diversity and encourages excellence, MS Brentwood is dedicated to equipping students with the skills they need to thrive in the 21st century. MS Brentwood also serves as a hub for the Brentwood community to access educational and wellness services. The school’s commitment to innovation, coupled with a warm, welcoming environment, makes it a standout in the MSS network.

MS – BurnsNorth Charleston, SC - Public School - Since 2018 - 478 Students

Located in a community rich with history and culture, MS Burns is renowned for its dynamic educational approach that intertwines traditional learning with modern teaching techniques. The school’s focus on experiential learning ensures that students at MS Burns are not only recipients of knowledge but also active participants in their educational journey. MS Burns exists to spark an educational revolution for the students and families in the Dorchester-Waylyn Neighborhood in North Charleston. With a commitment to creating a supportive and challenging academic environment, MS Burns is forging a new path in public education.

MS – Jasper & BeaufortJasper County, SC - Public Charter School - Fall 2023 -

MS Jasper represents the Meeting Street Schools’ dedication to community-based education with a global perspective. The school provides a nurturing environment where students are encouraged to explore their potential and cultivate a love for learning. With its diverse programs such as Eureka Math, and Wit and Wisdom, MS Jasper puts a major emphasis on character development, specialized learning and equips students to become thoughtful, engaged members of society, reflecting the MSS ethos of empowerment through education.


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“MSA is a family. Once you’re in, you’re in. They said they would follow our kids from K-3 to college and they actually lived up to what they said they would do. Not only did MSA challenge my daughter academically but it also exposed her to new things that she probably wouldn’t have been exposed to at our previous neighborhood school. Our journey at MSA was exciting and rewarding. They actually walk the walk.”

— Tyeka GrantParent

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“Meeting Street Academy is my family. They taught me that I am valuable. I am an asset to the world…They asked me, ‘What is your dream?’ I had never been asked that before. The MSS community gives me the strength to pursue my dreams.”

— Kadelyn SteedStudent

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“We come into work everyday truly believing that our students are capable of achieving anything that is put in front of them. Here at MSS, students are provided the opportunity to achieve success through the facilitation of well-educated teachers, resources, and a responsive classroom school environment.”

— NikToshia GilesTeacher