The Porter-Leath & University of Memphis Early Childhood Academy at Orange Mound is a state-of-the-art preschool and teacher training institute that has established a continuum of early childhood education, from 6 weeks to age 5, that defines and promotes excellence for young children and their families. Porter-Leath and the University of Memphis broke ground on the facility in November 2020 and opened in February 2022.
The Academy provides comprehensive early childhood education and support services for 288 children in 18 classrooms for children ages 6 weeks through 5 years old. Designed by early learning facility specialist RDG Planning and Design, the 38,000-square-foot facility, weaves local culture, history and geography into safe, inviting spaces that encourage play and exploration. Its child-friendly architecture utilizes natural light, lush landscapes and bright colors that enrich children’s learning opportunities. The site design has been inspired by the community and neighborhood traditions of Orange Mound. Through intentional design, the space should evoke feelings of community and home with unique features like the addition of a front-porch façade on each classroom that opens into a natural playscape designed to promote play-based learning.
In partnership with TONE and UAC, the Academy will also feature works of local artists, Juan Rojo, Daria Davis and Sarai Payne in its “Main Street” lobby, as a way to highlight the rich artistic and cultural heritage of Orange Mound.
All children enjoy a USDA-approved breakfast, lunch and snack each day that is prepared on site. Within the first 45 school days, all children enrolled receive a health, vision, dental and developmental screening at the center.
Porter-Leath Preschool uses evidence-based curricula to ensure children enter kindergarten ready to learn. All classrooms at the Early Childhood Academy are led by two teachers and children also greatly benefit from interactions with Foster Grandparent and AmeriCorps members at the site. Volunteers are welcome in our classrooms, as they help our students build upon their socialization skills. To sign up, complete our volunteer application, or contact us.
The facility features a teacher training institute, the Teacher Excellence Program, to develop successful early childhood educators in partnership with local school districts and early childhood partners. Paired with its outstanding early learning facility, the Academy’s teacher training program lays the groundwork for revitalizing the Shelby County early childhood education system for all providers.