RJR’s very own Wonder Woman: Dr. Leslie Alexander

Alexander poses in her portrait for the Reynolds media center.

Photo provided by WSFCS.

Alexander poses in her portrait for the Reynolds media center.

Charlie Stoter & Martha Greco, Features Editor & News Editor

 As RJ Reynolds High School celebrates 100 years of educating amid the pines students have grown as learners, athletes, and community members. However, over this century of school tradition, we relive a time when female students were typically not welcomed or discouraged from enrolling. At the forefront of breaking down the gender barrier was RJ Reynolds High School’s first female principal: Dr. Leslie Alexander.  

 Surprising to some, education was not always Alexander’s plan. Alexander fell into the love of teaching after following the example of her high school English teacher Ms. Settle and her passion for the subject. 

“The plan was to go to law school,” Alexander said. “But after having two of my daughters I started substitute teaching. After teaching and serving as a media coordinator K-12, I love reading, I decided that I wanted to be a principal and then I fell in love with that too.”

Once assuming the role of Reynolds principal in 2015, Alexander quickly made a name for herself as the 2017 Arts Magnet Principal of the Year and the 2018 Winston-Salem Forsyth County Schools Principal of the Year. 

“Being a high school principal is an incredibly demanding job,” Alexander said. “I knew from the start that Reynolds was the only high school where I wanted to be principal and put in that type of dedication.  It is the exact representation of our city. We have so much wonderful diversity and so many opportunities for students regardless of their interests. I always told everyone it was the best high school ever. I still believe that. Once you’re an RJR demon, you are always an RJR demon.” 

During her time as a demon, Alexander dove deep into the history of our school and the individuals that helped shape our school into what it is today. Alexander was writing her own history and leaving behind a new legacy as she embraced the community of RJR. 

I got really into the history of Reynolds,” Alexander said. “I used to walk the halls without turning on the lights, with just the sunlight streaming in the windows and imagine all the people over the years that walked those same halls. It was easy to go back in time. I always wondered what Katherine [Reynolds] would think and if she would be proud of our school and the work we were doing.” 

While taking in the decades of history, Alexander also emersed herself into the Arts Magnet curriculum.

“I love art but had never ever taken an art class before I was principal at Reynolds,” Alexander said. “I loved being around all the creativity at Reynolds. We have such talented students!”

After departing from RJR following the 2020-2021 school year, Alexander continued her influence at the district level. 

“Currently, I am the Chief Human Resource Officer for WS/FCS,” Alexander said. “I also served as Area Superintendent of Leadership Development. Both have been great jobs and I have learned so much. But I would be lying if I said that either are as much fun as being Principal of Reynolds High School.”

As Alexander continues to achieve new accomplishments in the education world, during the month of March we celebrate the trailblazing work she and other women completed to attain equality.  

“It causes me to think about the many amazing things that women have accomplished,” Alexander said. “It also makes me reflect on some of the struggles I have faced as a female leader and to make sure to remember to do what I can to make things a better place for future women leaders. However, it also gives me time to reflect on the opportunities I have had that many women have not. I have had to put in a lot of hard work, but I have also had opportunities. I think that Women’s History Month makes me stop to reflect on if I am doing everything I can to make more opportunities for women, or really any other individuals, who may not have as many opportunities as I have had.”

Not only is Alexander an example for women everywhere, but a role model demon. She left the RJR community better than she found it, with great hope for current and future demons. 

“I am not sure that a simple motto from a single principal qualifies as any type of lasting legacy for a hundred-year-old high school, but I hope that the students that I had the opportunity to serve will remember to do their best and be kind as they approach life,” Alexander said.