A Northwest Indiana Life in the Spotlight: Dr. Cheryl Pruitt

Cheryl-PruittDrive, determination, perseverance, spirituality, and hard work were all ingredients in the recipe for success for this week's Northwest Indiana Life in the Spotlight!

Born in Gary, the youngest of four children, Dr. Cheryl Pruitt, Superintendent of the Gary Community School System, attended Douglass Elementary, Beckman Jr. High, and Roosevelt High Schools, graduating in 1981. Her parents, now deceased, moved from Mississippi to Gary many years ago when her father gained employment at the steel mill and her mother, with the Gary Community School Corp. as an educator.

She attended Rust College in Holly Springs, Mississippi for her undergraduate studies in Biology and Chemistry. She decided on Rust College as her family trips to and from Mississippi would pass the college. Although she graduated with a degree in the Sciences, her first job after graduation was with Federal Express where she remained until declaring her major. At this point, she then moved to Memphis, TN and began her science career while working at the trauma center there. She then transitioned to the St. Jude's Research Hospital where she performed seven years of cancer research working with hematology, oncology and radiation. Her research included work with Monoclonal Antibodies, an antibody to given cancer patients to enable them to fight off the cancer and tissue cultures. She also performed research in Pharmacokinetics, the study of the action of drugs within the body.

Following her work at St Jude's, she accepted a position at a performing arts school in Memphis where she taught Biology, Physical Science, Principles of Technology, and Chemistry, while working on her teaching license. During her tenure there, her students were successful in writing a grant which won $20,000 for the school. The funds were used to install new equipment and technology into the classroom. This same class also won a Governor's Award. After her 2 children were born, she decided to move back home to help care for her ailing father. As a single mother, she wanted a job that would allow her to actively participate in all her children's activities, and accepted a position with Roche Bio-Medical Laboratory performing drug testing, working 36 hour weekends to allow her free time during the week to dedicate solely to her children. As her children grew, she wanted a short commute to work and gained employment with the Coors Brewing Company as a chemist. Since this was a job that required supervision 24/7, and her daughter's expression of displeasure of her mother working too much, she made the decision to embark upon a career in Education.

She not only completed her teaching license requirements but completed the requirements for her Master of Arts Degree in teaching. By the time she left Memphis, she had nearly completed her Doctorate. Upon returning to Northwest Indiana, she took a position at her alma mater, Roosevelt, teaching chemistry. She spoke of her time there as a "humbling experience" as she taught in the same classroom she had once been a student. During her time at Roosevelt, she began working on and completed her Principalship License at IUN. She was then recruited for an assistant principal position at a middle school of approximately 850 students in Kankakee, IL. While at Kankakee, she served one term on the school board, but, had a yearning to broaden her horizons, and that she did, as she also began working for Learning Point as an Educational Consultant with schools in New York, California, Illinois, Indiana and the U.S. Virgin Islands. She then completed her doctorate degree in Instruction and Curriculum Leadership, Instructional Design and Technology at the University of Memphis and completed postdoctoral coursework at Lewis University.

Dr. Pruitt is passionate about the education of students in her district and voiced her focus on maintaining a consistency, standard, and preparedness that will allow them to integrate into any school system across the country, working tirelessly to ensure they are educationally prepared for their collegiate careers. As she begins her third year with the Gary Community School System, her efforts have included revamping the technology of the schools where over 3900 computers have been replaced, with the older ones donated to student families in need. She has also implemented new teacher training and collective bargaining agreements. She hopes to eventually integrate the total use of computers, eliminating the need for textbooks. Through the use of this technology, test scores in Algebra have risen from 4% to 56% in one year. She also shared that the graduation rate at Wirt-Emerson Visual and Performing Arts was now higher than the state average and was beaming as she spoke of Gary's state championship track team. Dr. Pruitt most recently escorted a group of students to China, many of whom had never been on a plane, for musical performances in several cities there through the Confucius Institute. As she scrolled through pictures and shared the academic, athletic, and musical accomplishments of many of the students in her district, one would tend to think they are her own children as she spoke of them as only a proud mother would do.

Dr. Pruitt described her role model as happy-go-lucky, never complaining, and a get-it-done attitude, as she spoke about her mother. It only takes a 30 second conversation with Dr. Pruitt to realize that not only did her role model inspire her, but, instilled many wonderful, positive traits that she exhibits today.

In her limited spare time, she enjoys traveling and meeting new people.

As we recognize the many accomplishments and the on-going positive impact on her community, we celebrate and honor Dr. Cheryl Pruitt as a Northwest Indiana Life in the Spotlight!