Heidi Boardman ’18: A Champion for the Ignored, Afraid and Disconnected

Heidi Boardman ’18 realized at an early age the discrepancies in life experiences based on gender, race, sexuality, religion and other factors. Now, the Principal Fellow is focused on using her School Administration degree to be a champion for those who don’t fall into the majority in public education. 

Name: Heidi Boardman 

Hometown: Grew up in Beaver Falls, N.Y.; Current hometown is Wake Forest, N.C.

Field of Study: School Administration

Activities (Research or Extracurricular): Kiwanis Builders Club and all things Middle School

What’s Next: Pursuing a position as an Assistant Principal

How did the NC State College of Education impact you?
I entered the Masters of School Administration program as a Principal Fellow, ready to learn and to experience everything that I could to prepare to be a school administrator. NC State provided a framework for my studies that is the envy of my peers who attended other college programs. Being able to focus solely on my classes in the first year of the program was a gift, and being able to focus solely on my internship in the second year of the program was an even greater gift. The professors that I had were good to amazing – and the resources and readings that we were given were relevant, timely, and thought-provoking. I have completed this program with a clear understanding of good leadership, what a great school can look like, strategies for all areas of my role as an administrator, and a strong sense of who I am as a leader and as a visionary. One of the most important takeaways that I will carry with me forever is that I can handle issues and changes as they come up, no matter what they entail, and that I can handle whatever issue is in front of me because I have a strong network of peers and mentors that will help me along the way.

Why did you choose your field of study?
I grew up in extreme poverty in a highly dysfunctional family. Four of my siblings are adopted and we are a rainbow family – African American, Hispanic, unknown mixed, and blond haired/blue eyed German. I’ve spent my whole life looking at the differences in life experiences that you get depending on your economic status, your mental health, your ability or disability, your gender, your sexuality, your religion, and especially the color of your skin. My purpose in life is to rectify, at least in some small way, the wrongs that I’ve seen over and over throughout the years. Following that path, I was a teacher at a residential facility for adolescent males for several years, and then I became a regional therapeutic foster parent for even longer before coming back into education and working at a low socio-economic status high school. I have a quote by Nelson Mandela on the door to my office that reads, “The oppressor must be liberated just as surely as the oppressed.” I’ve learned that practices of equity increase outcomes for everyone in the building, including the adults.

I’ve also learned that hearts and minds are hard to change, but not impossible. I’ve learned that my purpose is well-served in education, and that this is where I can make a difference in people’s lives, at least a little bit.

What do you hope to accomplish in your field after graduation?
I hope to continue my education to get my doctorate and at the same time work to become a change agent in education, to be a champion for those students who are ignored, demeaned, demotivated, afraid, and disconnected. I firmly believe that the golden ticket for public education is to be the best choice for those students who do not fall within the majority. We need to flex our resources and our strengths to become the place that parents turn to when their children are struggling, not the place that they turn away from.

Tell us about a faculty member who has influenced you.
Dr. Gregory Hicks has been a great influence on me. Even before becoming a Principal Fellow, Dr. Hicks helped to guide me through the testing and application process for both NC State and Principal Fellows. When I became a Principal Fellow, Dr. Hicks took the time to meet with each person in our cohort personally. He also set up several meetings for our Principal Fellow cohort so that we could get to know each other, as well as the cohorts ahead of us. He has eased our worries and our fears from day one. He has answered our inane questions respectfully, motivated us when he sensed we were down, and pushed us when he knew we were able to do better. Dr. Hicks has been there to remind us to register, to get us technology training when he saw that we needed it, and to check in on us frequently to make sure that we were getting what we needed from the classes we were taking and the program overall. He has been there through our tears and our celebrations, and he is cheerful and optimistic no matter what, no matter where.

Dr. Hicks has taught me that being a good leader means that you always have your people in mind, and that working to help your people to be successful increases the probability of their success exponentially. He’s also shown me that being joyful is a strength in a leader — not a weakness — and that loving your job is a part of loving your life.

What advice do you have for others considering education?
If you are going into education for the time off, or the benefits, or because you like a subject and you want to be the person who knows the most in a room full of students – don’t.

If you are going into education because you have a heart for the work of helping children to learn and grow and you are willing to work harder and for more hours then you’ve ever worked, then you will be happy and successful no matter what your GPA was.

I would suggest examining your belief system and your worldview. These things will be challenged in a classroom where students have vastly different but no less relevant upbringings. What your students know to be true from their experiences will sometimes be radically different from what you know to be true. Your capacity for patience and forgiveness will be stretched beyond what you consider possible now, and it will have to, or you will end up bitter in a job that you hate, instead of joyful in a career that you love. Know that your joy and your care can change the trajectory of a person’s whole life. Many people have stories of that particular teacher who influenced their decisions and changed their outcomes for good. A worthy goal is to be that teacher.