How Xaviera Ingram Leads a Diverse, Supportive School at Young Audiences at Lawrence D. Crocker Academy
This is the latest piece in NSNO’s new 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:
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 Xaviera Ingram, Principal of Young Audiences at Lawrence D. Crocker Academy and member of NSNO’s Novice Leader Academy (NLA).
Xaviera Ingram says she moved around a lot growing up. “I went to so many schools. I lived on the West Bank. I lived in New Orleans. I lived in Kenner. I lived in Metairie. I lived in Mississippi,” she explains. “I bounced around a lot.”
The schools were different in many ways, but certain elements remained the same.
“I just know that wherever I went, I was placed in advanced classes, and I was one of one or two Black students.”
She knew this wasn’t fair. She had many Black peers; they just weren’t being offered the rigorous classes she was in. If it had not been for her mother, who was a long-time special education paraprofessional and teacher, she may not have had the proper advocacy to be in those classes either.
“In the AP courses, it was all white teachers. In the honors courses, there were no Black teachers. None of the gifted and talented teachers from kindergarten or first grade on, literally none of them were Black,” she explains.
The role models she saw in her curriculum were limited, too.
“I never really learned about Black women in leadership, people of color who own businesses, people of color who are in STEM, people of color who were inventors,” she explained.
Today, Ingram is a leader herself. She studied STEM in college at Louisiana State University (LSU) – first chemistry, then sociology.
One chemistry course had a service learning component, and Ingram found she enjoyed working in schools. She also started leading the campus NAACP and became president of Alpha Kappa Alpha (AKA) Sorority on LSU’s campus. As she prepared to graduate, she wanted to keep making an impact, and she realized teaching was a powerful path. Since she hadn’t taken traditional education courses at LSU, she joined Teach For America.
She taught in the Mississippi Delta, and found she loved it. But she also missed New Orleans.
“I thought, maybe I can go back home and…really give back to my community. So that brought me back to New Orleans back to teaching,” she explains.
She moved back to the city, kept teaching, and earned her Master’s in Educational Leadership at Xavier University of Louisiana. She was one of the first in her program class to earn a leadership role–as principal of Young Audiences Charter School at Lawrence D. Crocker Academy, a preK-8 school.
At Crocker, she’s worked hard to create the environment she didn’t have growing up. She believes it is important for her students, families, staff, and even candidates applying to work at the school.
“When I have candidates coming in for an interview, they’re blown away by how diverse our leadership staff is, and how many women of color are in leadership positions,” she says.
She says new teachers have told her and her leadership team, “thank you for being Black women who are paving the way for us and just representing what success can look like.”
She wants that representation to be the norm. As a staff, she says, so many members of Crocker’s team are “embodying black culture and being that representation,” she says.
She sees her students taking it in.
“It’s mind blowing how much of an impact that can have,” she says. “We really do invest in people who are going to be the face of what these kids can see as hope and opportunity.”
She gives her staff what they need to have long careers at Crocker. She trusts their professionalism and gives them opportunities to grow.
“If there’s an opportunity for autonomy, or for you to take a project you’re passionate about or do that, I definitely give some leverage for that,” she says.
If a staff member has a certain strength or interest, she looks for opportunities for them to develop leadership in that area.
She also makes sure to care for her team as people. “I’m encouraging you to take a day if you need it. I’m big on appreciation, acknowledgement, celebrating love,” she says.
“I genuinely care. Like, if you’re not feeling well, I mean ‘are you doing better?’ Not ‘are you feeling better, so you can come to work?’”
It’s important for her to help her staff feel fulfilled and supported enough to thrive in a job that is undeniably difficult. This past year, educators in New Orleans faced the impact of the pandemic and a hurricane on their own well-being and that of their students.
“It’s really exhausting and high-demand. But I still see the impact and the growth and the transition, and just how much development has happened in the staff and the students. That is really comforting to see, in spite of Hurricane Ida, in spite of the pandemic,” she says.
Ingram has some strong opportunities for her own professional growth through NSNO’s Novice Leader Academy (NLA), which brings together a cohort of seven new principals for coaching, support, development, and camaraderie.
As Ingram puts it, “it’s tangible, concrete support and also just literally emotional support.”
She loves getting to know other NLA principals–all of whom, this year, are Black women–and navigating shared challenges.
She says, “Having the support of them to have context and share, like, ‘What’s working for you? What’s not working for you? What are you guys doing for this? How did you navigate this? How would you navigate that? How can you bring joy to your campus? What’s the system that you’ve implemented?’”
“Everybody has a very different personality and brings something different to the table,” she explains. They also bring something different to the group text thread.
“The group chat is pretty funny,” she explains. “We encourage one another, we laugh…we have the person who sends like the quotes and the positivity, the person who is laughing at the funny memes, you know, just bringing the group together. We like to check in on one another. “
Together, the group shares in learning opportunities and chances to relax and socialize.
“I really appreciate the checkpoints and the good balance between like, ‘Okay, happy hour. Okay, feedback session. Okay, coaching session. Okay, here’s the development around this specific topic. Okay, all of us need some form of therapy right now, so let’s have a therapeutic session, you know?’ I like that. I like that it’s meeting our needs as humans first, as leaders, and just as professionals that can get together.”
Ingram also appreciates working with her personal mentor, Mrs. Alexina Medley, who served as the principal of Warren Easton High School for over a decade.
Ingram says it’s important to her that “someone that you know is rallying behind you. So even if the work feels impossible, even if it gets really difficult, you’ve at least got someone saying, ‘yes, I’ve been there. And yes, this year is the worst. And yes, you can do it. And if you feel like you can’t do it, give me a call. And I’m here for you.’”
As Medley provides this type of encouragement to Ingram, Ingram provides it to her students, teachers, and staff. She believes in them, and if they need her, she’s there.