If you ask Principal Dr. Gloria Hall how she wants children to feel at North Dayton School of Discovery, the answer is “exactly how I felt in Sister Christella’s classroom” — understood, appreciated, respected and valued.
Sister Christella was a second grade teacher at a Chicago school whose motto was, “God, Students and Extraordinary Variety.” This was a total shift from the Texas school young Gloria had attended for kindergarten and first grade. “The year I went to kindergarten, was the first year of racial integration in Texas. For the first time, white and black kids were going to school together. It wasn’t very nice in the beginning.” But a deep respect for education motivated Gloria’s parents to help find the best fit for Gloria and her brother.
Gloria’s father was born on a farm where his ancestors had worked as slaves in the 1930s. He wasn’t allowed to attend school and had actually worked from the age of 3 or 4. Gloria’s mother was from Panama and shared a similar story filled with hard work and a longing to attend school. As parents, they worked multiple jobs in order to pay for private school for their two children, and Gloria knew the unsaid expectation was always that she would attend college… and that’s just what she did.
After high school, Gloria received a bachelor’s from the University of Illinois in Elementary Education with a concentration in Reading. She worked 12 years for Chicago Public schools teaching everything from 2nd to 7th grade Reading, Science, Math and Spanish. Then when charter schools opened in Chicago, Gloria transferred over to teaching upper grade math for one year before taking her first position there as principal. She went on to secure a Master’s in Business Administration, got a second in Educational Leadership and went on to pursue her Doctorate, which she acquired in 2012. She served as principal for 10 years before coming to National Heritage Academies, and was the founding principal at Aspire Charter Academy in Gary, Indiana.
“What drew me to NHA was the moral focus. At all the schools I had led, we did what I called 'character education,' but it had to be built out. We had to determine what it would look like in practice. I appreciate that NHA already has a format for these values. I believe that if we keep the moral focus alive (beyond our dedicated 15 minutes each day), and behave with care at all times, these are the virtues we really will espouse. If we live out these values, it will be our foundation — and everything else then becomes a possibility.”
Principal Gloria brings a unique mix of experiences and expertise to North Dayton. “Every school I have led as principal has been in an urban area — including the toughest schools in Chicago. I’ve also taken multiple educational trips around the world to study how other countries train their teachers including Egypt, Sweden and Finland. My doctoral research was centered on how to find and retain the best teachers, so I’m excited at how this passion will come alive through service to our staff. It’s also really important for me to listen and be connected to the students within the school. I want to be approachable and out in the building so I always have a pulse for what is going on.”