The Principal Series featuring Deonna Washington of Linden Charter Academy
Growing up in Flint, Mich., Deonna Washington kept her nose in her books. She wanted to attend college and knew she needed to stay focused on her education. Luckily, she had her grandmother and a special teacher encouraging her along the way.
"The best advice I ever received was from my grandmother," Washington explained. "‘You are the only barrier in your life’, she would say. She taught me that I could attain any goal if I worked hard to achieve it.’"
Washington achieved her college goal by graduating from Michigan State University (MSU) with a Bachelor of Arts. She decided to become a teacher to inspire a younger generation.
"My grandmother taught us that each generation should work to set new expectations for generations to come," she said.
In the classroom, Deonna loved analyzing students’ test results and developing new strategies to help them soar in areas where they needed more support. She received a lot of encouragement from her peers to explore leadership opportunities and decided to open an alternative high school to help students who were struggling to graduate.
She returned to the classroom and taught English at two schools before accepting a leadership position within National Heritage Academies.
Now as the principal of Linden Charter Academy in Flint, Mich., Washington wants to make sure all of her students understand they have the opportunity to go to college if they work hard.
"I plan to partner with the teaching staff at Linden to meet the physical, emotional, intellectual, social, and creative needs of the students," Washington said. "Students who are equipped with the appropriate tools to compete in an evolving world can beat all odds later in life."
In an effort to find a connecting point with students, Washington enjoys reading books that are popular with younger readers. She would like to see students in her school build strong connections with their teachers, a critical component to building trust and breaking down barriers in the classroom.
"My favorite teacher in school was Gloria Ward," Washington explained. "She had a way of building relationships with all of her students. She would send personalized messages to us over the summer and winter break which showed she cared for our well-being outside of the classroom. She encouraged me to dream big and explore the world outside of Flint."
Following her teacher’s advice, Washington decided to study Swahili for two semesters at MSU before studying abroad in Kenya, Africa.
"Africa is absolutely breathtaking. The experience was humbling in that I had an opportunity to understand a culture that was uniquely enriched in family values," she explained. "It was evident that my host family believed family is the center of one's life. More importantly, my host family treated their neighbors like family as well. From the experience, I learned that how you treat people determines your true character."
As principal, Washington hopes to instill a strong sense of integrity in the student body; one of nine moral focus virtues the school will study together throughout the year. She enjoys integrity the most because it causes students to examine themselves and reflect on their actions.
"Who you are as a person will carry you in life. I was taught that whatever you do in life, do your very best as it," she shared.