When LaKisha Thomas graduated from the University of North Texas in 1999 with a degree in business, she never dreamed of a career in education.
But after a brief stint working in human resources, she realized it wasn’t for her.
Thomas had a thought: She would pursue what she liked enough to do for free as a career.
Growing up as a teen in Longview, she taught Sunday school at her church and tutored children in her spare time. She’s always loved helping youth, she said.
Thomas, 46, now has been in education for 22 years and hasn’t looked back.
Thomas was born and raised in Longview and graduated from Longview High School. She left for college in 1995 and has taught in various school districts in the Dallas area. Thomas’ family still family lives in Longview.
She is the principal at Roosevelt High School in Dallas, and before that, was principal at T.W. Browne Middle School, also in Dallas.
In April 2020, middle school cafeteria manager Yolanda Fischer was featured on the cover of Time magazine. The coverage was picked up by several national news outlets that soon reached out to Thomas, she said.
“During that time was when ‘The Ellen (DeGeneres) Show’ also reached out. ... We started having conversations, and we continued to have on and off conversations for two years,” Thomas said.
Thomas was invited to be on the talk show and was flown earlier this month to California to tape the show. It’s set to air Friday.
While Thomas couldn’t reveal what happened during her episode, she said it’s tied to her career in education. The description of the episode states guest host Stephen Laurel “tWitch” Boss “surprises a high school principal who is a single mother of two and frequently pays out of pocket to provide for her students.”
Thomas said she always has enjoyed helping others and sharing what she has.
“If I can help somebody, that’s what I’m ‘gonna do,” she said. “Even as a kid myself, I loved helping other kids, and now as an adult I have an opportunity to help so many children and their families, too.”
Thomas said her helping spirit is influenced by her mother, Linda Kay Jones. Jones raised Thomas as a single mother and made it a priority to never miss anything her daughter was involved in, Thomas said.
“Even other kids who may not have had a parent that would support them, they borrowed my mom cause they always knew she was gonna be there,” Thomas said.
As an educator, Thomas has seen firsthand the impact that a great parent or family makes on a student, she said. When Jones found out Thomas was going to be on TV, she said she was “excited in all capital letters.”
For Thomas, one of the most rewarding aspects of being an educator is how many of her former students have sought to maintain a relationship with her.
“I am very proud of the fact that I have so many of my former students that find me because they want me at their graduations or at their weddings. ... They’ve shared with me when they get promotions. ... That is the thing that probably brings me the greatest amount of joy,” she said.