Women's History Month: Superintendent continues to reach for goal to make a difference with chi
March 2, 2011
FORT STEWART, Ga. - Once a science teacher and now the superintendent of the South Carolina-Fort Stewart Department of Defense Dependents Schools-Cuba District, Dr. Samantha Ingram, a Mobile, Ala. native, wakes up every day trying to make a difference in the world and most importantly, a difference for our military children.
"Regardless of the circumstances, all children want to learn," said Dr. Ingram.
Although she has been in the education arena for 17 years, she remembers teaching others how to read at the age of seven on the front porch of her mother, Clara Bodie.
Currently, Dr. Ingram is in charge of four installations: Laurel Bay and Fort Jackson, both located in South Carolina; Guantanamo Bay, Cuba; and at Fort Stewart, with a total enrollment of approximately 3500 students. Fort Stewart makes up the largest population of students, with approximately 2,000 on the rolls. Her vision is to make the district a premier school district where students receive an exemplary education.
Doctor Ingram spends her day directly in the schools ensuring that children are in fact receiving the best education possible. Monitoring curriculum and instruction, observing classrooms, meeting with parents and administrators are some of the primary duties of her day to day responsibilities.
"The job as a superintendent entails a lot, but so often people associate the job with someone sitting behind a desk when in reality 95 percent of my time is spent in the schools," said Dr. Ingram. "I want to ensure that our children are receiving the best education and in order to do that I don't want to rely on secondhand information, I need to see if for myself."
She began her career with DoD while stationed in Germany with her Family. While in Germany, she used her degree in pre-med biology and started a career in the child development centers while pursuing a master's in early childhood education.
Doctor Ingram then discovered her love for the field of education. She also obtained a master's in secondary education and from there found herself teaching science in a local high school back in her hometown.
Over the course of her long career in education, she has held several key administrative leadership roles while pursuing her PhD in instructional design and development from the University of South Alabama, which has helped her to design and develop exceptional curriculum for children.
This catalyst for education quickly advanced so much that at one point she was deputy superintendent for the largest school district in the state of Alabama with a population of 60,000 students.
With lots of accomplishments under her belt, she was recruited to become superintendent in South Carolina prior to the position she has now, she does not look back.
"I never lost the passion nor the desire to return to the Department of Defense and now I'm back where I started," said Dr. Ingram.
Rekindling her passion to work with children this time is more special because of the customer she is serving. "I get to make a difference in the lives of our military children and that is an honor for me. I get to serve the children of the people that are fighting for me and this great nation."
She credits her high school chemistry teacher for helping her develop in the field of education. At that time, Dr. Ingram was called upon to assist her substitute when her teacher had to attend a workshop. The experience proved to be valuable and built her confidence at a young age. She recalls her teacher saying, "Teaching has to go on and I want Samantha to teach the class," said Dr. Ingram. She found herself hooked although at every juncture in her career she thought about doing everything else - except teaching.
In her short term as superintendent, she has implemented an after-school program that provides for children who are in need of additional assistance in learning.
She is proud of the initiative because students receive individual attention that is needed so they can catch up. "The research is clear; when students are struggling, you must to extend their learning. You cannot assume they will catch up in the regular hours of the day," said Dr. Ingram.
She personally holds herself and staff accountable while believing that it takes a village to raise children. "The village is not just about people, it's about relationships and resources that go into that village," said Dr. Ingram. "There has to be a relationship with the school, parents and the community and we must all come together to educate children."
Doctor Ingram wants Soldiers and Family Members to know that their children are receiving the same high-quality education that she expects for her own two daughters, Kyra, 19 and Charlotte, 8. "If I don't want my child in a particular classroom, then I must fix that classroom," said Dr. Ingram.
When not at work, she enjoys relaxing on the weekends with her family. She is an advocate both at school and home for education and is pretty knowledgeable about stunts that her own 8 year old may pull to get out of homework.
As an avid reader, in her spare time she catches up on romance novels and curriculum development material for her work as superintendent.
Reading in the backyard with her girls brings her great joy. "Reading is critical because in every academic area your success is determined by your ability to read," said Dr. Ingram.
Her mom, Clara, instilled in her the skills needed for the current role as superintendent. She credits her mom for teaching her a great work ethic and to stand for what you believe in.
"You must lead with passion but you must have the courage to do what is right," said Dr. Ingram. "There will be times when you have to stand alone, but if you are standing for what's right, and what is best for children, and what you believe in, it is okay to stand alone."