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Alumni Spotlight: Against the odds, Flood earns a doctorate
by Chuck Gordon

Dr. Christa Flood ’13 (Ed.D.) didn’t know what she didn’t know. She didn’t realize that single teenage mothers from less affluent backgrounds are not supposed to go on and earn an undergraduate degree, much less eventually receive a doctorate. Neither of her parents finished high school, and her father dropped out of school in the second grade to help his family.

But here she was, studying English and history at Winston-Salem State University, bringing her young daughter to campus whenever she could. “I didn’t realize the odds were against me,” she says.

Flood received her bachelor’s degree in 1996, five years after her father died. His illiteracy partially fueled her desire to do well in school and to become a teacher. She had wanted to teach him to read. She also knew enough about the world to know she needed an education.

Christa Flood holding her grandson

“I often share with people that I became one negative statistic, which was to be a teenage mother,” Flood says. “But then I tell them I decided I wasn’t going to become another negative statistic, which meant dropping out of school. This only fueled my fire.”

Flood grew up in the minuscule town of Rich Square in Northampton, one of the poorest counties in North Carolina. She was the product of loving, hard-working parents and caring teachers, and she made it despite some odds.

Now, as director of district and school strategy for Teach for America (TFA) Charlotte-Piedmont Triad, Flood is working to provide caring teachers for other students in low-income areas. TFA recruits college graduates in teaching roles in Title I schools, where positions can be hard to fill and retaining teachers is a challenge. Flood manages the hiring process, negotiates contracts and oversees new-hire onboarding for teachers entering the classrooms. In a typical (i.e. non-Covid) year, TFA Charlotte-Piedmont Triad brings in 60 to 80 new teachers.

Teachers sign up for a two-year commitment, and although some do not stay in the classroom beyond two or three years, often they go on to positions where they can effect change, becoming policymakers, superintendents and education-technology executives.

When she accepted her new role at TFA, Flood was already in her doctoral program at Wingate. She’d been a classroom teacher for six years and worked in several support roles and as an assistant principal for over fifteen years and was always open to learning and growing in her profession. She is always searching for a new challenge, so pursuing a doctoral degree was a natural next step.

“It was rewarding and gratifying to me,” she says. “I’ve been a lifelong learner. If you stop learning, you stop living.”

Flood peppers her speech with such aphorisms. “Teamwork makes the dream work” is a favorite. When someone’s going through a tough stretch, she might tell them: “Every setback is just a setup for a mighty comeback.” She will also often ask: “Are you an asset or a liability?”

During Covid, she compiled 30 of her favorite motivational quotes into a book, 30 Life Changing Quotes: Personal Narratives (available at Amazon and Barnes & Noble online). It was a lifetime in the making.

But what motivates Flood is something more straightforward and less pithy than the quotes found in her book. She never got the chance to teach her father to read, but her mother and other members of her family made sure she finished college by raising her daughter while she finished her degree. As payback, she’s played a part in educating hundreds and hundreds of others.

“I would not change anything about my life,” Flood says. “I am grateful to everybody who has contributed to who I am today. Doors have opened for me because of the education I received. That’s why I strive to give back and help others on my life’s journey. I especially advocate for Black and Brown young people in any way possible.”