She grew up and went to school in a small town and has worked for the same employer, International Paper, since she graduated with a public relations degree from Auburn University. But Kim Wirth doesn’t hesitate to credit some of what she’s achieved to teachers.
“I believe education is the great equalizer,” Kim says. “I have personally experienced growing up in a very small town and having teachers who made sure I was still looking at the whole world.”
That belief in education was at the heart of her decision to join the MCS Foundation board – even before the gift from The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the Teacher Effectiveness Initiative (TEI) had become concrete realities.
“I’m a problem solver at heart. That’s what I like to do at home and at work,” she said. “And that’s definitely what this work is about. We haven’t figured out the whole problem, but we’re definitely making strides. I say, ‘Let’s just get in the car and start driving.’ I like to see progress and milestones.”
Kim grew up on a family farm in Wayne County in Middle Tennessee and has worked for International Paper for 15 years—ten of those in the Memphis area, where she and her husband have made a home with their three children, now 8, 11 and 12.
Her current position is Senior Communications Manager for Printing and Communications Papers and Sustainability. She and her team of five provide communications support for the paper, packaging and distribution division of IP, as well as for the company’s corporate social responsibility division.
As chair of the MCS Foundation Board she is more excited and optimistic than ever about the potential impact of TEI and all the other reform efforts taking place within MCS.
“I think what draws me to this work is the marriage of a strategy to the day-to-day practical application,” she says. “The first steps have been putting a vision down on paper, getting the money to fund it and starting this body of work. Those are significant.
“But we’ve already made great strides in teacher evaluation. We’re putting a strong formula in place and we’re bringing in a great talent pool.”
As an education advocate who lives in Shelby County and whose kids attend county schools, Kim is hopeful that the merger of the two systems will include the historic reform efforts now in place in the city schools.
“It’s a great tool that MCS can bring to the table,” she said. “TEI is a body of work that will have impact for all students across the unified district.”
And she’s hopeful that the reality of an effective teacher in EVERY public school classroom is possible.
“I absolutely think it can happen,” she said. “When you look at the city, it has to happen. If we can’t overcome this stigma about Memphis, it’s going to continue to mire the city. We don’t have a choice. If you live in Shelby County or in Memphis you should care about this issue.”
Board of Directors
Kim Wirth, Chairman of the Board
International Paper, Inc.
William Mitchell, Treasurer
Crye Leike Realtors
Memphis Education Association
Evans/Petree Law Firm
Vincent J. McCaskill
Meet other leaders
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