A La Porte County Life in the Spotlight: Dr. Barbara Eason-Watkins

By: Kaitlin Edquist Last Updated: June 17, 2015

Students come in all forms; some are naturally bright, some work extremely hard to reach their potential, and some feel that school just is not for them. Students also learn differently; some learn just by listening to the material and memorizing it, some learn best with visual examples, and some need to physically practice something to fully understand it. A common thread that connects all students, however, is what helps them to succeed. What all students need for success is a fighting chance and someone who believes in them.

For Michigan City Area Schools (MCAS), Dr. Barbara Eason-Watkins is just that person to help the local students reach for success. Through her driven personality, her compassion for young people, and her focus on the future, MCAS Superintendent Dr. Eason-Watkins has taken tremendous strides to improve the school district and, ultimately, the region as a whole.

“Michigan City is moving forward with some exciting efforts around redevelopment and economic development,” she shared, “and our schools play a role as these efforts move forward. There is a renewed vibrancy that is evident in Michigan City—in the uptown arts area, the lakefront, Michigan Boulevard, and many other areas. Our city is on the move, and it is an exciting time to live here.”

Born and raised in Detroit, Michigan, and brought up by a mother and grandmother who were both educators, it seemed only fitting for Dr. Eason-Watkins to follow suit in the education field. She, however, did not always dream of being a teacher. Initially interested in the medical field, she did not fully realize her passion for education until she was well into college.

She explained, “My grandfather was the pastor of a local church in Millport, Alabama, where there was no school for black children, so he opened up its sanctuary to the black children to use as a school. The first teacher was my grandmother; she taught my mother, her siblings, and all of her friends to read.

She also taught them that education was a thing of great value and it was going to take them places in the world. My mother passed this important lesson to me, and it is what inspired me to become an educator and to be a passionate advocate of equal access to quality options for all children.”

She went on to receive her Bachelor’s Degree with honors in Elementary Education from the University of Michigan, her Master’s Degree in Educational Administration and Supervision from Chicago State University, and her Doctorate in Education with a specialty in Curriculum and Instruction from Loyola University Chicago.

Dr. Eason-Watkins first started out as a kindergarten teacher in Highland Park, Michigan, and then moved on to become Superintendent of schools for MCAS on July 1, 2010. Since then, she has begun quite a turnaround for the school district. Even with problems such as budget issues, Dr. Eason-Watkins has fought to create many positive changes for the school district.

The big turnaround started with a “listening tour” to analyze district achievement data with community members. Since then, Dr. Eason-Watkins has helped establish a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) education program, standardized test scores have increased dramatically, and school grades have improved according to the state grading system, among many other ground-breaking initiatives and accomplishments.

Michigan City is certainly a city on the rise, and the more the MCAS schools improve, the more the city will improve as a whole. It is crucial for the surrounding community of public schools to support the needs of its children, because children are the future, and the quality of the schools is essential to the overall economic success of the region.

“It truly is a team effort here that has led to recent improvements,” she stated. “I am extremely grateful for the business, industry, parent, and community support and strong partnerships that we have in place for our schools and supporting our students. This is truly making a difference for students, and I am privileged to be superintendent of a very talented team.”

Dr. Eason Watkins has made differences in the lives of many through her endless efforts to improve MCAS, and there is no doubt that she will also be successful in her future endeavors with the district.

“I believe Michigan City Area Schools will continue on its very positive trajectory,” she said. “We have accomplished much in just five years, and we have an extremely talented team working together to continue this improvement. My vision has been and will continue to be threefold: to keep our efforts focused on the instructional core, to offer added educational options for families within our public schools, and ultimately to ensure every child is college and career ready. I want to ensure that every student reaches his or her potential.”