D’Andre Weaver: Helping Others Realize Their Dreams

by Tom Hanlon  /   Jun 10, 2019

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College of Education graduate D’Andre Weaver is making his impact on the students who need his help the most.

Note: This article is one in a series that the College of Education is running on alumni who have quickly ascended the ranks of educational leadership and have made a big impact on students in the process.

D’Andre Weaver was born to be a leader in education.

How else can you explain a 13-year-old who was asked to teach typing classes to his Joseph Warren Elementary School teachers on the south side of Chicago and show them how to switch from pen-and-paper gradebooks to computer gradebooks? Or a youngster who was hired to set up his teachers’ home computers and create his school’s website?

While doing all that work on the school’s website, he was missing a lot of algebra classes. Which resulted in his test scores being too low to get into his high school of choice, Morgan Park High School.

“But Caroline Curry, one of my amazing teachers, advocated for me, and the superintendent listened,” Weaver recalls. “So I was able to go to Morgan Park. At that moment I knew I wanted to be a superintendent. I wanted to be in a position to provide the same opportunities for children so they can achieve their dreams.”

Weaver, who has three degrees from the University of Illinois, including both a master’s and a PhD in Educational Leadership and Administration, achieved his own goal in a rather meteoric rise. He was a teacher in Champaign Unit 4 schools from 2006-2011, was assistant principal at Walter Payton College Preparatory High School from 2011-2012 and served as principal at Gwendolyn Brooks College Preparatory Academy from 2012-2016. Then he and his wife, Chyla Weaver—also an Illinois grad in education—moved with their two children to Texas, where Weaver served as assistant superintendent for Spring Branch Independent School District from 2016-2018. In the fall of 2018, Weaver was named superintendent of Desoto Independent School District.

So he made his goal, formed way back in 8th grade, to be superintendent. But his aim really is much higher than that and is captured in a brief statement on his LinkedIn page: “Helping others realize their dreams.”

“It took me a long time to accept the job at Walter Payton Prep because I went into education to help the kids who need help the most,” says Weaver, who notes that the school was ranked #1 in the state when he was there. “But it was one of the best decisions I ever made, because it gave me a different context for what learning could be, and what it should be, at its highest level.”

Brooks Prep Academy was a different story. “The school had so many issues and obstacles when I got there,” Weaver says. “But so many great things happened at that school. It had not been on any lists at all, but now it’s #8 in the state.” He says that while he was there, the school tripled its AP offerings and had the highest ACT score growth in Chicago in one year. “Many kids are now going to Yale, Harvard, Princeton, Northwestern,” Weaver says. “Students got $26 million in scholarship offers the year I left, and it’s been going up ever since.”

Weaver was wooed to Texas by a superintendent who was attempting to do what Weaver had done in Chicago: personalize learning through a competency-based progression where students learn at their own rate. “This superintendent wanted to scale personalization district-wide,” he says, “and that fascinated me. I wanted to learn how you scale innovation across multiple campuses.”

Now, as superintendent of Desoto school district, he is back to where his heart for education always has been: helping others realize their dreams. “We’re at the bottom for performance,” he says. “It needs to be changed, it needs to be addressed. I feel compelled to be a part of that change.”

“I Still Draw from My Experiences at Illinois to This Day”

D’Andre Weaver might have gone a long way, both literally and figuratively, since his days at the College of Education, but he hasn’t forgotten what he gained from his time at the College.

“The professors invested their time, energy, expertise, knowledge, and love in me,” he says. “The content knowledge, working in multicultural environments, learning to plan effectively and be responsive to students—those moments are not lost on me at all. I still draw from my experiences at Illinois to this day.”

The undergraduate level taught him how to effectively teach, he says, and the master’s level taught him how to lead. His doctoral work taught him how to lead complex systems in complex times. Of his getting three degrees from the University of Illinois, he says, “There’s so much expertise at the College of Education, there was no reason for me to look elsewhere. I owe it all to them.”