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Loyola Alumna and Golden Apple Award Recipient Reflects on Her Experience with the School of Education


She exudes a calm confidence that extends into every area of her life. Dr. Terrycita Perry, 2020 recipient of the Golden Apple Award for her work as Principal of Arthur Dixon Elementary, credits the Loyola-sponsored trip to Rome as playing a key role in that. “Rome changed me,” Perry recalled. “It hit me the hardest in the best way possible, and made me a more reflective person. Loyola taught us to stay balanced. In Rome, we were required to keep a diary to reflect on what we were experiencing, and that was the start of a habit I carry with me today.” 

Interestingly enough, Perry came close to missing Loyola’s doctorate program altogether. She had started her doctorate work at another university, but had to take two separate leaves to help out at school while an administrator was sick. In her typically unselfish, others-focused way, she was happy to take one for the team and didn’t mind pausing her education. But her principal at the time minded a lot, and gave her an application for Loyola’s doctoral program, telling her it was time to focus on herself and her education again. “What drew me to Loyola at first, honestly, was the positive energy Dr. Israel and Dr. Fine exuded during the first meeting with all the candidates. They were so uplifting and warm, they just drew me in. I also loved how Loyola catered to the working person. It is very difficult to travel to most universities that typically start at 5:00pm, especially for me being an administrator at a 3:30pm dismissal school. Those 7 PM start times really made the program workable.” The chance to study abroad at the John Felice center was also a huge draw. “Growing up, I never had that opportunity. No one in my high school studied abroad. In fact, I didn’t even know opportunities like that existed.”   
Once she was in the program, she was hooked. “What kept me in the program were the professors and my cohort. The diversity in my cohort was incredible! There was so much knowledge in that group. I love collaboration, because the more I collaborate, the more I grow and the more insight I gain to becoming a better instructional leader. I still have very close relationships with both my cohort members and my professors. The professors were all very professional and hands-on, and did not just focus on theory, but, also the practice of the work. They embraced us like family, in fact. I saw the Jesuit thread through everything in the program, and I like what Loyola stands for,” said Perry. “You know how some people go to church and feel good, or they go to the gym and feel rejuvenated? Loyola during that time was my church and my workout. The environment made me feel so good and happy!”  

Markeda Newell chaired Perry’s dissertation committee and saw Terrycita’s passion for bettering herself so she could in turn better her students and staff. “Terrycita was certainly one of the hardest-working candidates I’ve had the pleasure of knowing,” recalled Newell. “She was critically self-reflective of her decisions and practices as a school leader, and her commitment to her research matched her commitment to her community. She once was a student where she is now a principal, and her dissertation research revolved around how she as an administrator could support and improve practices around helping her school’s Tier 3 students. It was an honor to see her grow during her time in the program.”   

The Jesuit notion of men and women in service to others dovetails beautifully with Perry’s natural bent. She leads Dixon with principles she learned at Loyola—you have to be a reflective person who is focused on people. In her typically humble manner, she said, “I don’t think I do anything extra than other people do. I was shocked when I found out I won the Golden Apple award.” This reflection came after about 15 minutes of discussion around how she leads and her guiding philosophies that are anything but typical. “I don’t have perfect teachers; I have really great teachers I trust. And I try to teach them how to be reflective, too. If they come to me with a challenge they’re having with their students, I ask them to check themselves and ask, ‘In your heart, did you give 100%?’ If you did, then fine. But if in your heart you know you weren’t at 100%, get back in there and try again.” She continued, “As people, not just principals or teachers, we don’t want to own things. We want to point fingers outward for blame. But because my time in Rome made me a more reflective person, I know that to be a good leader, I always need to be asking myself ‘How can I be better?’ It’s like Sergiovanni talks about—leading with your head, hand, and heart.”  Reflecting again on her time at the John Felice Center in Rome, she said, “I didn’t realize how much I needed to understand different people and different ways of doing things until I was immersed in a different culture. Now I encourage my teachers to think that way, and to give students the same opportunity. I’m always telling our Spanish teachers, ‘Take them to Puerto Rico! Take them to the Dominican Republic! Take them to Cuba!’ Our students need to see more, be exposed to more, and experience other cultures, so they can see that there are attainable and endless possibilities in our world just like I did.” 

She ended with a pause and a pensive look in her eyes. “You know, I hadn’t given it much thought until we started talking about it, but I really wouldn’t be where I am today without Loyola,” she mused.  And clearly, the people at the Golden Apple Foundation think Dixon’s staff and students are where they are today because of Perry.