Q&A with Principal Brandice Heckert

The Observer sat down with Heckert to get her feelings on her new job and learn more about her.

By Sophie Liss, Editor-in-Chief

This year, Brandice Heckert has taken over as CHS principal and has already brought a multitude of new changes to the school, as well as an increase in school spirit.
Heckert was the assistant principal at Bethesda-Chevy Chase (B-CC) High School before being appointed principal of CHS. She was previously a math teacher, Student Government Association (SGA) sponsor, head cheerleading coach and principal intern at Clarksburg High School. The Observer sat down with Heckert to get her feelings about her new job and to learn more about her.

The Observer (O): What was your favorite part of your HS experience?
Heckert (H): I was a very social person, so I would have a hard time picking one thing that was my favorite. I was involved in student government, so I guess if I had to pick one thing it would be that, but I just got to be involved in so many different things that it’s hard for me to pick one thing.

O: What have you seen around other schools that you would want to bring here?
H: Things that aren’t always tangible: just the sense of belonging, which is supposed to be our mission, and that sense of community where everybody is proud to belong at Churchill. So I would not say it is something that I have seen at other schools, just for me as a person I like to hear that voice from everyone. I have also seen people be more open and honest around the school and feel like they have a voice, which is really important.

O: So this next one is about family. It must be a lot to juggle being a mom and a principal. How do you balance your family and work life?
H: It is a really good question, I do not know. My daughter is 3, so it is kind of a good age because she is not overly involved in a million activities yet, so I do not have her going to here, there and everywhere. My husband is also in education, so he gets it and I think that it works for us. We have a lot of friends and family in the area, so if we have a really big conflict, they will help out. I am lucky that I have a daughter that enjoys being around my school. She wants to come and enjoys people too and appreciates what I am doing because I expose her to it, so if I cannot be home one night, she knows where I am and what I am doing.

O: Did you always know you want to work in education? When you came to our class [journalism] you said you also taught math, so did you always know you wanted to be a teacher or work in education?
H: I did. Well, I am sure when I was little I said I wanted to be the doctor or a veterinarian, but my earliest memories about being serious about what I wanted to do was to be a teacher. Both my parents were teachers; they both taught for 40 years and they actually taught in the same school for 40 years, which I do not know how anybody stays in one spot that long. But I have always wanted to be a teacher. I did not realize it would be teaching math until I was inspired by a math teacher in high school. I just loved everything about high school and I always knew I wanted to be back in high school.

O: Do you have a favorite show that you like to binge watch on Netflix or another streaming site?
H: So I used to watch “Bones” a lot and then my girlfriend got me into “Scandal”, so we would watch “Bones” and “Scandal” together. When they aligned together, that was our two hours of TV. I love “Jeopardy”. I say that I watch a lot but I really do not get into a lot of drama shows just because I do not want to feel like I have to stay on track. If you miss a lot you do not know what happens, so I am not a big Netflix binge-watcher. But that is probably part of the balance of work and family—when I am home I watch some “Doc McStuffins” because that is what my daughter is into.

O: What is your favorite book that you would recommend to students?
H: So this will probably come even worse than not watching TV. I am not a big reader. I do not even know what I would recommend. I have a hard time sitting still, so just sitting down and reading is just not something that I like to do just because my mind never just shuts down. I am always thinking about something else and I never really get into a book. So I would just go with the good old Dr. Seuss, “Oh the Places You’ll Go.” It really relates to school and life.

O: If you could travel anywhere where would it be?
H: I have always wanted to go to Australia. I have never been there, but we have some friends that for one reason or another have decided to live outside of the country so I have a lot of upcoming travel. A friend of ours just got a job as a federal agent working for National Fish and Wildlife, so he is in Tanzania, so we will go there in the future. My girlfriend who got me into “Scandal” and “Bones” was a teacher in MCPS but took two years off and is going to teach history in Bulgaria, so I will be going to Bulgaria soon. I have some other friends that are MCPS teachers that taught math, so this will be the second go around in the Dominican Republic. We went to see them when I was pregnant with my daughter and we will go back there some day. I have no one to go see in Australia, but that is where I would most like to go if I could.

O: What is your number one goal for the year and what are you most excited to see at the end of the year progress-wise?
H: Climate is a really important initiative for me and we do have climate data that has not sat well with me that was reported prior to me being here, so that is what I want to improve in both students and staff. I want to see an increase in parent engagement and how they feel welcomed in the building.