Former First Lady Michelle Obama said, “Success isn't about how much money you make; it’s about the difference you make in people’s lives.” The Breaking the Mold Series is about highlighting and shining a light on Black female school leaders in Indianapolis who are making a difference. This week, we celebrate Tyneasha Banks, Principal of Indianapolis Lighthouse Charter School East.
Tyneasha Banks is the new Principal at Indianapolis Lighthouse Charter School. Born and raised in Gary, Indiana, she graduated from West Side High School and went on to attend Grambling State University where she majored in Business Administration. After graduating with honors in three years, she went on to graduate school at Indiana University Northwest and received her MBA. After graduating with her MBA, she landed a job with Ford Motor Company as a Production Supervisor at the age of 22, but a few years later it was an experience while visiting her child’s kindergarten class that would change the course of her life forever.
On her off days from Ford, she would visit her son’s kindergarten class as a volunteer. During her visits she noticed one particular student sitting at a back table with a coloring sheet while the other 28 students were receiving direct instruction from the teacher. She asked the teacher why he was not with the class receiving instruction and the teacher responded he was going to be retained. She thought to herself, “How could this be at this young stage in his life? How could he succeed without any interventions?” Later after seeing her own son sitting in the back table with the young man, she knew she needed to be a part of the solution and not on the sideline complaining. She quickly realized it was bigger than just getting her son from the back table. Now, ten years later, she is sharing her story and the advice she was given.
David McGuire: What inspired you to become an educator?
Tyneasha Banks: Wanting to help children reach their fullest potential at high levels… it’s very rewarding when you get to see the light bulb go off in a kid’s head and he/she says, “ Now, I get it!” It’s also rewarding to know that you were responsible for planting the seed of knowledge and watering those seeds. Not all the time educators get to see the fruit of their labor, but it’s a good feeling knowing that you are growing kids.
DM: How has your experience shaped you as a school leader?
TB: Experiences shapes us and molds us. Leaders experiences help create the personal capacity needed to effectively lead. My experiences have shown me the importance of being a servant leader. As educators, we must realize that we are being rated and judged as leaders by the quality of our customer service we deliver to our students and parents - most importantly, the students. Having a servant attitude helps meet the needs of your students effectively.
DM: Why are you so passionate about education?
TB: “The goal of education is not to increase the amount of knowledge but to create the possibilities for a child to invent, and discover, to create men who are capable of doing new things.” – Jean Piaget. I am passionate about education because it opens the door to endless possibilities for students to achieve anything they put their mind and effort to.
DM: This series about is about Black female school leaders. Did you have any Black female school leaders that served as mentors to you while you were a teacher?
TB: Yes, I had my Principal Mrs. Lorna Dill and Dr. Patricia Hoffman. They still serve as one of my many mentors. You need mentors who will listen to you, offer advice, and help grow you as an effective leader.
DM: Why do you feel there is such a lack of Black female high school principals?
TB: I really don’t have a definitive answer for this. I know for me – I shied away from being a high school administrator because for so long it has been male dominated. All through elementary and middle school women served as my principal. It wasn’t until I got to high school, I had a male principal. I believe it could have been that women weren’t seen as somebody that manages the building and deals with discipline - men were seen as being better managers.
DM: What advice do you have for other Black female teachers who hope to be school leaders one day?
TB: I will share what my mentors shared with me:
- Begin to connect and build relationships with experienced administrators that can serve as mentor.
- Learn to delegate - very key!
- Learn to listen more than you talk.
- Learn as much as you can about curriculum inside and outside the school.
- Have as many leadership opportunities before becoming a building principal
- Be a lifelong learner in order to grow both personally and professionally.
- Most importantly, remember you are a servant - you work for the students and the teachers… always put students first!
DM: When you retire what do you want your legacy to be?
TB: I believe we all want to be remembered for something, more than just being ordinary. I want to be known more than just being an ordinary educator – a life changing educator that truly made a positive impact on the educational future of students. I want to be remembered as an educator that unselfishly gave of herself in order to effectively serve, motivate, and meet the needs of students in reaching their highest potential.