2021-2022 Durham Public Schools’ principal of the year Victoria Creamer came out on top despite pandemic challenges
By Elizabeth Poindexter | Photography by John Michael Simpson
Victoria Creamer walked outside of Creekside Elementary School in November 2021 dressed in red to show her support for the #RedForEd movement – designed to advance public education in North Carolina – thinking she would pose for a photo. Instead, her colleagues, family and mentors surprised her with the news that she was named the 2021-2022 Durham Public Schools’ principal of the year, the culmination of a rigorous application process. “It was the highlight of my career, especially during a really hard year,” Victoria says.
Victoria, who spent the first eight years of her teaching tenure as a middle school math teacher, was drawn to leadership opportunities from a young age, like serving as president of her senior class in high school. Now, she’s fostering similar opportunities for her staff, such as collaborating with UNC-Chapel Hill to provide professional development training. “While I very much love being an educator, I think my strength and my passion is with the bigger picture of public education,” Victoria says.
The two-time alumna of UNC pursued her doctor of education degree at the University of Pennsylvania while working as a principal at Ephesus Elementary School in Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools. The promise and enthusiasm of elementary school students led her to pursue the role as Creekside’s principal, which she began in 2018. “Our young learners come to us so excited and proud,” Victoria says. “I give so much credit to the teachers.”
She also recognizes her peers and mentors for allowing her to define her own style of leadership. She’s surrounded herself with people who have a shared vision, including her two assistant principals, Jennifer Aguilar and Lindsay Boykin. “They’re highly talented, well-versed, strong leaders,” Victoria says. “It really is a partnership.”
Victoria goes on to say how she relied on her team when remote learning began at the onset of the pandemic. They provided items like school supplies, textbooks and storybooks from nonprofit Book Harvest to students who needed them. They also ensured students remained digitally connected to their class and had resources – like free and reduced lunch opportunities – available to them.
“It’s great to have the students back,” she says of the return to in-person schooling. “But there are also a lot of unexpected challenges, because we’re back, but the pandemic continues.” She cites the difficulties around tracking children who become sick with COVID-19 and navigating shutting down entire classrooms of students.
Outside of school, she’s completed five marathons and supports The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society’s Team in Training fundraising program in honor of her father, who died of leukemia when she was in high school. She is also a neighborhood coordinator with PORCH Chapel Hill-Carrboro, which provides grassroots hunger relief to children and families. Her ties to the community she serves as well as her family – including her husband, John Creamer, whom she credits with encouraging her to pursue graduate school (twice); daughter, Emma, 18, a first-year student at Appalachian State University; and son, CJ, 17, a junior in high school – keep the New Jersey native firmly rooted in North Carolina.
She encourages those considering Durham Public Schools to vote for political candidates who are strong supporters of public education. She says she’s a public educator because public schools should work for every child. “I need to use my voice at this point in my career to be an advocate,” she says.