Trailblazing teachers

Boyd and Freeman pose for a photo after Boyd receives his award.

Photo provided by RJR PTSA Instagram @rjreynoldsptsa

Boyd and Freeman pose for a photo after Boyd receives his award.

Sofia Domenech & Emelia Merrick, Staff Writer, Editor-In-Chief

   Until six years ago, RJ Reynolds had never had a female principal. Until last year, Reynolds had never had a Black principal, but all that changed with Dr. Alexander and Mr. Freeman. Pushing the status quo, Alexander and Freeman’s role at Reynolds showcase the progress that our school has made and how it will continue to grow. From an all-white high school in the 1920s to the most diverse school in Winston-Salem Forsyth County in 2023, RJR’s diversity is not only attributed to its student body but also the teachers and staff.

    “It needed to be challenged,” Freeman said, “And if it wasn’t me, I’d want it to be someone else. Before I came, we had the first woman principal at Reynolds High School, and we’ve come through that transition over a period of time by honoring the diversity of people who sit in this seat.”

    Freeman accepts all the challenges that come with sitting in the principals’ seat while also recognizing that his success is reflective of the Black community. 

    “I don’t take it lightly, in fact, it is quite burdensome,” Freeman said. “I want to say I work myself to the point where I don’t believe we will fail at anything we do because my failure would have a lot of implications moving forward.”

    As the first Black principal at Reynolds, Freeman believes that his accomplishments, and even failures, for the school will reflect on the Black community as a whole. The implications that may come up from a single mistake motivate him to work to the point where he believes that the school and himself will not fail.

    As the most diverse high school in WSFCS, the student body is a major reflection of that diversity, and while there is Black representation in the staff, Freeman and others believe there needs to be more. 

    “I want staffing to look more representative in our academic core classes,” Freeman said. “In the English department, we have one black teacher. In science, we don’t have anyone. In our electives and CTE classes, we have black representation, and if we can get representation in our core classes, that will speak volumes to who we are. Our staff should mirror our population.”

    Mr. Wiley, one of the two teachers of color in the history department, teaches social studies, specifically Civics and Economics and is pivotal in making sure students at Reynolds get proper education on civil rights. Relating to the diversity of Reynolds, Wiley feels there is a certain disparity between groups. 

In his free-time, Wiley enjoys rock-climbing. (Photo provided by Cristofer Wiley)

    “Reynolds often feels like a number of different schools beneath one roof, so to speak,” Wiley said. “In this way, the feeling of a cohesive and inviting culture often proves elusive.”

    Due to this feeling, Wiley feels it is imperative to address the changes that our high school has made along with the story of Gwendoly Bailey, the first Black student at Reynolds. 

    “Her story is unfortunately relegated to the distant past of our century-old high school,” Wiley said. “More significantly, the persistent lessons from the school’s integration, including the passive and vocal resistance, are overshadowed by the watered-down retelling of “peaceful” integration in comparison to a place like Little Rock, Arkansas. It is worth noting, and addressing, that the resistance to cultural change or cultural redefinition did not wither and die in the sun.”

    Mr. Boyd, a CTE teacher at Reynolds, also believes that there should be more representation and recognition for the Black community. Similarly to Freeman’s point of view he believes that there should be more diversity in the Reynolds staff.

    “There is not enough Black representation at Reynolds,” Boyd said. “Shoot… I was the only Black male teacher in the Main Building until this past January. I am glad to be a part of one of the most diverse departments (CTE), but no, there is not enough Black or Hispanic representation for the new population of students that we serve.”

    Boyd’s phenomenal skills in the CTE department has led him to be nominated and elected for Teacher of the Year at Reynolds. Boyd was honored and proud to receive the award and now has the chance to be awarded teacher of the state (see more on page 1.) 

    From having all-white male principals, to a female principal, and Black principal, Reynolds is taking steps in the right direction. The direction that’s working towards having our entire school, student body, staff, and teachers, represent the diversity that makes Reynolds, Reynolds.