Haitian Heritage: Profiles in Leadership, Get to Know Banyan Creek's Assistant Principal
Jeannie Placil spent her first seven years in education as a teacher at Del Prado Elementary. She moved into leadership in 2012 by becoming an assistant principal at Coral Sunset Elementary. In 2018, she accepted her current position as an assistant principal at Banyan Creek Elementary.
Placil is a native of Miami and initially attended Florida Atlantic University as a business major to please her parents. However, while working as an after-school counselor, she discovered that she had a passion for helping children and a natural inclination for teaching. As a result, she went on to earn an undergraduate degree in elementary education and a master’s degree in educational leadership.
Family togetherness is a major focus of Jeannie’s life, being from a family of eight. Her parents, who are from Haiti, instilled in her the value of hard work and the importance of family. Growing up, she faced challenges associated with being from a family of immigrants who had difficulty mastering the language and culture of a new environment. She often had to serve as a translator/interpreter for her parents.
“Growing up in the inner city of Miami during the late ´80s and early ´90s as a child of Haitian Immigrants was tough,” Placil said. “I experienced bullying because I was tall for my age and of Haitian descent. I understand what some students experience today. Fortunately, I had great teachers and a supportive family. They helped motivate me to build my confidence and pride so that I could overcome adversity.”
Because of those childhood experiences, Placil can relate to her students and serve as a role model, especially for those in her school who share her Haitian culture and language. This is helped in large part by the fact that she is bilingual, speaking both Haitian Creole and English.
“I use my multicultural background and knowledge to connect more effectively with the diversity in our student population, their families, and the community at large,” she said. “It helps me recognize the different ways of viewing the world; the difference between students’ and parents’ view of our education system and their various approaches to learning.”
Her unique perspective helped Placil to strengthen her ability to adapt to the demands of working in an urban school district, and her experiences have motivated her to strive even higher. In the future, she envisions herself becoming a principal and someday earning a Ph.D. in educational leadership. She also wants to become more involved in her community through volunteering and advocating for linguistically diverse students and families.
“My Haitian American background taught me the value of giving back to the community,” she said. “To me, culture is very important. It helped me build the foundation that I needed within my home to connect with my siblings in identifying who we are, and to maintain my roots while being an American. I want to instill that in my students; to let them know that they can succeed in achieving their goals no matter where they are from despite the stereotypes and challenges they face. Students should be proud of their cultural background.”
Outside of her professional role, Placil enjoys going to the movies, decorating, and running. She is married with two children and values her time with her family. She received the “Above and Beyond Award” from the Delray Beach-based organization Roots and Wings, for her dedication and exceptional contribution to the creation of a positive, supportive school environment at Banyan Creek Elementary.
“My Haitian heritage and the challenges of the environment where I grew up gave me the motivation to succeed and to encourage others to do the same,” Placil said.