Meet January #MICharter Hero: Wendie Lewis from Jalen Rose Leadership Academy

Kyra Biscarner
Jan 4, 2023 10:32:26 AM

For Wendie Lewis, working in education was always her dream. As she looked around her community she knew she wanted to be able to give back and help the next generation of educators. At Jalen Rose Leadership Academy in Detroit, she's doing just that.

Wendie Lewis has been an educator for over 16 years, working her way up the ranks from a teacher, to instructional coach, to assistant principal to Principal of the Jalen Rose Leadership Academy, where she has currently been serving for over five years. Wendie said education has always been the path she wanted to go down. 

“To be transparent, I’ve always wanted to be a teacher, even as a child. I remember creating a tutoring club when I was in elementary school and working with other kids in the neighborhood so I knew I always wanted to be a teacher. I went to school to be a teacher and I don’t know why but I just really enjoy education.”

Not only has Wendie Lewis always wanted to be an educator but she knew her dream was to be able to give back to the city and community she grew up in. Wendie said even in difficult times, she always knew she would come back to Detroit. 

“When I started teaching, I knew for sure I wanted to teach in Detroit. I think as I was coming up, it was at a time when people were leaving the city and talent was going to other states, I thought it was really important to stay in Detroit and be the teacher that motivated me. I wanted scholars in the city to have someone like me who I felt like I saw in other teachers as well.” 

As principal at Jalen Rose Leadership Academy, she wants her scholars to see someone like them, who had similar experiences growing up, be successful. Wendie said this was one of the most important things she considered when she started teaching. 

“I think it’s important for scholars in the city of Detroit to see someone who has experienced what they’ve experienced, who is from the city that they’re from, who looks like them and who has high expectations and who has a belief in them that they can succeed through all things.” 

Throughout the school, you’ll find the core values displayed everywhere. Those values being family, respect, excellence and determination. Wendie said these values are what sets her school apart. 

“At other schools I’ve been to throughout my years, there’s values that you see on a placard somewhere and you may hear about them randomly and you never know the values and you never come to understand what they mean and I think here we really do live our values. We reward our staff, our scholars and our families for living those values and they’re important to us.” 

For any school, growth is an important aspect of education. Wendie said this is something vital and something everyone takes seriously at Jalen Rose Leadership Academy. 

“One thing we do really well is we all have a growth mindset. We are open to feedback from our scholars, staff and families and we use that feedback to get better year after year. We’re committed to the experience of being here and I think that is unique and it goes beyond just wanting to educate scholars, it goes into the realm of really wanting them to be whole and wanting them to be well and wanting them to be healthy and education is a part of that.” 

As someone who has always had a passion for education, Wendie is ready to give back to the future educators in the City of Detroit. Her advice to those wanting to go into education? Cherish the lifelong learning education offers. 

“People think that teaching is just giving knowledge to someone else but in so many ways we learn right alongside and we learn how to be better teachers, we learn depth of content and knowledge because you’re teaching it to someone else. We learn how to be an advocate for our community, for our scholars and for our families.” 

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