Ms. Lana Cromwell is a true entrepreneur and leader in the education field. She was born and raised in Nova Scotia, Canada, where she completed her undergraduate in Bachelor of Education at the Mount Saint Vincent University. She then came to the University of Ottawa, where she became a specialist in English as a Second Language. She also obtained her Masters in Education at Chicago State University.
During her 30+ years as an educator/English as a Second Language Specialist, she has taught general education as well as ESL in both Canada and the USA, with various rich experiences spanning from teaching from pre-kindergarten to university level. The majority of her teaching experience was spent in schools in low socio-economic areas in Otawa-Carleton District School Board and Atlanta-Fulton County School Board, Atlanta, Georgia with high need students from diverse backgrounds. In the classroom, her main focus was creating a supportive classroom family style environment, including anti-racism and equity strategies.
Lana Cromwell is an instructor at the Malcolm X City College of Chicago and also offers training to administrators and teachers in technology based reading programs throughout the United States. As a founding member of many committees, she recently completed three years as Higher Education Commission Chair of the National Alliance of Black School Educators. Lana continues to be a requested guest speaker for Teacher Candidates in her fields of expertise, social emotional learning and antiracism.
What does entrepreneurship mean to you?
Entrepreneurship means when someone ventures out with a belief in themselves and what they have to offer the world of necessity or common interest. It could be something that has been done before with a new spin or it could be something that is completely new but you, as a self-starter, understands and knows the value of your personal venture.
How are you entrepreneurial?
As an educational entrepreneur, I draw on my background of many years in education and as a lifelong learner continuously growing and learning new concepts. I have mentored educators who have been in the field for a few or many years. However, during the pandemic, I actively sought knowledge and achieved enough technological skills to support students and colleagues to success in the remote learning environment. My heartfelt passion is to mentor and provide support for new teachers on their educational journey with my years of experience and unique classroom family environment which has proven to be successful with my connection from students from over 30 years ago. Presently, I am writing a book based on this unique style of teaching that has stood the test of time and with all ages from Pre- kindergarten to the college level.
Educational advocacy is another area I am cultivating for parents who need support and understanding of the educational process which seems like a simple task, but is not always so. Therefore, I use my expertise and help the parent support their child and navigate the school processes in a way that is tangible and understandable, building a bridge with parent, child and educational professionals.
What responsibilities do businesses and leaders hold to help facilitate the change we need in our communities?
Representation is a huge factor in how we see ourselves and move in the world. While it is important for everyone, it is especially so for young people of colour to see a reflection of themselves in every aspect of society. As keepers of the economic keys, if you will, they determine who is employed, seen, heard, and who is not. It is definitely a responsibility of businesses and leaders to facilitate this change while providing opportunity for all people and breaking the stereotypical, debilitating barriers.
What does Black History Month mean to you?
Black History Month is a time to honour and acknowledge the achievements for people of African descent whose contributions were, at best, minimized and eliminated throughout world recorded history books. This is a special occasion to acknowledge and place people of African descent in their rightful place in history throughout the various fields of medicine (Dr. Charles Drew), education (W. E. Dubois), politics (Dr. Shirley Chisholm) not to mention the enormous amount of inventions (oil lubricating cup, ironing board, traffic light, refrigerated trucks…) that are embedded in our lives which are unknown by most. Early in my career, I was selected as a Trainer-The-Trainer for the former Ottawa Board of Education’s anti-racism initiative in the early 1990s, where we introduced Black History with training and workshops. From that point onward, I created my own materials, thus, taught Black History to PreK to college level integrating it in all subjects throughout the school year. I look forward to the day when black history becomes a part of the world history books, embedded in the curriculum, however, I feel the commemorative month of February shall always be warranted.
When I was a student in school, it would have made a significance difference for students of African descent — actually, all students — if we had been taught about the contributions and achievements of Black people in history class as opposed to the world history that was non-inclusive.
Here is a testimonial from one of Ms. Cromwell’s former students, Jackson Couse, about Black History Month through his eyes and how Ms. Cromwell helped shape his views today.
by Jackson Couse
Black History Month by Jackson
I love February. Oh, it’s cold and hard, but February is also Black History Month! Say what you will about the validity or need of a month devoted to the history of a certain people, I really like Black History Month.
It took me a long time to learn how to read. By the start of grade two I still couldn’t really make heads or tails of words. Lucky me, my poor reading was noticed. I was doubly lucky to go to a school where a specialist was available. I took remedial reading throughout grade two and grade three.
It wasn’t until grade three, Ms. Cromwell’s class, that reading took flight for me. Ms. Cromwell was a young black woman from Nova Scotia. She was, is, a fantastic teacher. With her I learned to love reading. She made reading, and Black History Month, a really big deal. The two were so intricately related, and so exciting, that you couldn’t help but become engrossed in learning. She spared no stops in preparing for February. There was a talent show, special guests, films, and food. Something new happened every day, and a lot of those activities required books. Emancipation from slavery and emancipation from illiteracy are fundamentally intertwined ideas. Ms. Cromwell had a remarkable way of explaining both to 8 year olds. I owe a large debt to her talented and caring teaching.
I went to a very heterogeneous school. Everyone was from everywhere. I was one of only 4 kids in my class who were Canadian-born and white. It was a challenging place to hang on to your identity and connection to history. In Ms. Cromwell’s class, multiculturalism meant more than maintaining disparate and distinct social enclaves. Multiculturalism meant interweaving stories. To Ms. Cromwell, and the rest of my class, living together meant a rich and shared history. Thanks to her, Black History is my history. Ms. Cromwell’s Black History Month said so strongly “there is room for you, your story is important too.” You didn’t have to be black to share in the benefits of Black History Month. Sharing black history was a powerfully binding experience.
So, in honour of Ms. Cromwell, I’ll be celebrating Black History Month this month. And for your edutainment, a song. This performance by Nina Simone gives me the shivers. Enjoy!