Why This Assistant Principal is Making Memphis Her Home
Damika Pichon is someone we like to call a “Dotter for life,” having been a dedicated Green Dot teacher and educator for more than a decade now. But it’s the story behind those ten years that is truly remarkable, demonstrating her profound commitment to the success of our students and the realization of the Green Dot mission.
When she first started out in the teaching profession, Pichon took a position at her own alma mater in Los Angeles. She felt comforted by the school’s familiarity as she started her journey as an education professional, but soon realized that the students who gravitated toward her the most were from a similar background to her own.
“I realized these are the students I really want to serve,” recalled Pichon. Pichon began to consider whether or not she could have a more profound impact on students in her own neighborhood: Inglewood.
After four years of teaching at her alma mater, Pichon sought out and accepted a position at one of Green Dot Public Schools’ founding schools, Ánimo Inglewood Charter High School.
She felt as though she’d finally found her “teaching home” and a place where she could deliver on her dream of helping all kids achieve. “I was teaching in my own neighborhood, working with students who lived across the street, to the left and to the right of me.”
Memphis: A New Chapter
Pichon’s Green Dot journey began at Ánimo Inglewood Charter High School in Los Angeles where she started as a chemistry and biology teacher. After nine successful years helping kids achieve in California, Pichon decided to move to Memphis and continue her work with Green Dot.
In our inaugural year in Memphis, Pichon took the bold step to move across the country and join the Green Dot Tennessee family, making the leap from teaching at a school three miles from her Los Angeles home, to teaching in a brand new community two thousand miles away. Same commitment, different city.
Green Dot’s Commitment to All Students
“Within my first two weeks of teaching in Memphis and our first year leading Fairley High School, I knew why I needed to be here,” said Pichon. “I normally take half of a class period in the beginning of the year to review some basic math for the Chemistry course I teach, but reviewing these basic concepts ended up taking two and a half weeks. I was teaching 11th and 12th graders basic math, and I got so upset — not at the students, but for them.
I asked the kids where and how they had learned math before, and they said no one had explained to them the point of really knowing and learning the subject. That is why Green Dot needs to be here.” Green Dot was invited to Memphis by the Achievement School District to help transform schools in the bottom five percent statewide, and to help put all students on path to postsecondary success.
Our commitment is the same in Memphis as it is across our network–in Los Angeles, Tacoma, and Seattle: to help families ensure that their children have meaningful pathways to opportunity, paved by the high quality education they receive.
We already know that one’s chances of escaping poverty tumble without a quality post-secondary education. But this vision isn’t achieved without the skill and dedication of educators and leaders like Pichon. “At Green Dot, we truly want to transform education, moreover, we want our students to become productive citizens in their community, learning life skills, going to college, and becoming community leaders,” said Pichon.
“Growing Her Dot”
In Memphis, Pichon has “grown her dot”, and is now an Assistant Principal at Fairley High School. At Green Dot, we have made a serious commitment to support our teachers with professional development and leadership opportunities – meaning they can achieve personal growth as well as expand their ability and service to students
Damika Pichon is proof positive of the incredible growth an educator can make in her career at Green Dot.
“It’s not just me,”said Pichon. “Teachers coming to Green Dot from other districts who have been teaching for 10 or 15 years are learning new things.”
“Teachers coming to Green Dot from other districts who have been teaching for 10 or 15 years are learning new things.”
Pichon will tell you that that while making her move to Memphis and transitioning into her new role as an Assistant Principal, she received “supports from everywhere” — including from her fellow teachers, community members and the parents at Fairley.
In fact, if it wasn’t for the encouragement of one of her fellow Green Dot colleagues, including her new principal, Michael Bates, she may have never considered becoming an Assistant Principal. But it is clear to anyone who has worked with Pichon that she is a true professional who has grown into an education leader in our family of schools.
Now that she has settled into her new role, Pichon is encouraged that she made the right choice in coming cross country: “This is my new home away from home,” says Pichon.
She continues to be encouraged by the opportunities Green Dot provides the Memphis community.
“We’re about lifelong learning here,” she says, and she’s excited to be part of the growing Green Dot community in Tennessee.
From watching the football and volleyball teams bringing home trophies for their stunning victories, to seeing how much her students can grow in just one year’s time, Pichon is happy calling Memphis home. She still looks back and thinks of how far she’s come since she first started teaching, and never doubts she made the right decision in joining Green Dot all those years ago.