This is the latest piece in NSNO’s series, “The Future is Bright.” We are profiling incredible educators from across our community. They are helping our students build brighter futures through the work they do each day, and their leadership creates a brighter future for our schools and our city.
Many of these educators are connected through programs NSNO leads for:
- classroom teachers (The New Orleans Teacher Community),
- current and soon-to-be principals (The Principal Collaborative and the Novice Leader Academy), and
- current and aspiring system-level leaders (E3 Fellowship).
Some share a school building, a network, or a mentor. All of them are united in their purpose to give our students the best possible education, and in so doing, build a brighter future for our children and for us all.
Today, we profile Diamonique Pollard, Scholar Support Coordinator at Élan Academy.
Diamonique Pollard’s Dedication and Commitment to Teaching
Diamonique Pollard has wanted to be a teacher since she was five years old. Her aunt was a teacher, and she’d take Pollard with her to decorate her classroom at the end of the summer.
“At that age, I thought, ‘Oh, I like this. I could decorate a bulletin board.’ And she was like, ‘No, there is more to it than just decorating the classroom. It’s about a mission for you to change the lives of children. You have to make sure that you’re reaching all of your kids,’” Pollard explains.
As Pollard grew up, that mission stuck with her. She kept thinking about it.
“And so I went out and pursued it,” she says.
Diamonique went to Southern University of New Orleans (SUNO), where she began studying elementary education. She was also a member of the Louisiana Army National Guard. When Hurricane Katrina hit, she left school to help with the response.
When she returned, she found SUNO had not continued its elementary education program. Pollard earned a degree in psychology in 2009 and another in substance abuse counseling in 2010 instead. She felt that the skills of a counselor would be helpful once she became a classroom teacher.
After she graduated, Pollard taught Sunday school and Vacation Bible School. Her aunt encouraged her to continue her own schooling and follow her dream of being a classroom educator.
“She was like, ‘You really need to go back and pursue education. You are so good with these kids. I see it. You need to go back.’”
Pollard taught at a parochial school for four years, then substitute taught in St. Charles Parish. When she saw that SUNO was offering an alternative certification program, she signed up. And in her last semester, she joined the Norman C. Francis Teacher Residency program, which is a partnership between Xavier University, NSNO, and public schools in New Orleans. The program would give her both additional support and training as she taught and a Master’s degree in education when she finished.
As she worked toward her degree from Xavier, Pollard got a job as a 2nd grade lead teacher at Élan Academy, a public elementary and middle school on the West Bank of New Orleans. She loved it right away. Once she graduated from Xavier with her Master’s, she became the lead teacher of special education for the lower school. And she was fiercely dedicated, continuing to work even as the National Guard called her for night shifts during both the onset of COVID-19 in Louisiana and several hurricanes in 2020.
Especially in times like those, Pollard could find herself exhausted. But she took care of herself and her students, and she guided her class to exceed their goals each semester. She was motivated by this by her role as a parent; her own daughter is a student at Élan.
“I’m a parent first,” she says. “The same thing I expect from my daughter’s teacher, I’m gonna go a little bit above, because as a parent, this is what I want to see. That’s what I hear,” she says.
Pollard helped students not only grow academically, but to expand their confidence and sense of agency. She had an elaborate system of classroom jobs–from the person who managed technology, to the person who led the line, to the person who turned off the lights.
Parents and students appreciated her approach. She worked closely with one student who was struggling academically and was repeating the third grade. One day, she returned to her desk after bus duty and found a card from this student on her desk. It had a hand-drawn angel on the front.
“He said ‘to Ms. Pollard, thank you for getting me through everything,” she explains. “The angel is supposed to be me. He says I was the angel helping him, because he was struggling.”
His mother followed up, too.
“His mom was like, ‘Thank you so much. You’re always looking out for my baby,’” she says.
This matters to Pollard.
“Those moments where the parents and the kids thank me and appreciate me, that lets me know that I’m doing what I was created to do,” she says.
During the 2021-2022 school year, Pollard also became Élan’s Scholar Support Coordinator, so she doesn’t have a full-time classroom anymore. But she still works closely with her students. When they’re struggling, her message to her students is based on her own experience–hitting “roadblocks” in her career and finding ways around them to a role she loves.
“My favorite thing to tell them is, you know, if plan A doesn’t work, good thing that the alphabet has 25 more letters. Keep trying again until you get it right. It’s not going to be easy. It will take some time and effort,” she says. “We’re going to get it done together.”