Heidi Deeringhoff has worn many hats in the realm of education: teacher, literacy coach, and now, the new principal at Fairlands Elementary School.
The Board of Trustees appointed Deeringhoff in July to head Pleasanton Unified School District's largest elementary school, where she was already vice principal for the past two years, splitting time also at Mohr Elementary. Despite being thoroughly familiar with the Fairlands community, Deeringhoff told the Weekly that she had to be "strongly encouraged" to seek her new job.
"In all honestly, I wasn't sure if I was quite ready," Deeringhoff said during a recent interview. "I was slated to be full-time at Fairlands next year, and with the encouragement not only from staff but several parents in the community as well ... that were very encouraging, saying they thought I'd be the right person for the job, so that was nice."
Though applying for the position of principal took some nudging, Deeringhoff said she "always knew from the time of being a young girl that I wanted to be a teacher playing school" with her siblings in her hometown of Walla Walla, Wash.
"I'm a middle child. I think mediating between my siblings came very naturally for me, and I seem to connect well with people, all types of different people," she said. "I love getting to know people and seeing what kinds of things they're interested in and how I can connect with them. Especially when I became a teacher, too, that part of education is really important to me."
Deeringhoff started nurturing her interest in teaching at Whitman College before transferring to San Jose State University and then earning her bachelor's degree in child development. Part of the foundation for Deeringhoff's future in school administration was laid when she got her first teaching job at a Montessori School where she eventually became the director.
"I was trying to decide if I wanted to go into administration or not and decided that getting my teaching credential and teaching experience was important first," she said. "I dabbled in that a little bit when I became the director and that's when I went back to school to get my teaching certificate and work in the public schools."
She received both a master's degree and teaching credential at Santa Clara University, then eventually an administrative degree at CSU East Bay several years ago.
Deeringhoff joined PUSD in 1995 after moving to the area with her then-husband, who grew up in Pleasanton, starting first at Lydiksen Elementary before moving to Hearst Elementary in 2000. Over the years, she had come back to Lydiksen, spent time as an English language development specialist at Valley View Elementary, and also served for a period as part-time principal at Mohr. She also took several years off from teaching to focus on raising her two daughters, who are now grown.
But the campus life has always called for Deeringhoff, who said her experience running an education consulting business during her time away from PUSD partly inspired her to seek a position where she could merge her administrative experience and teaching know-how.
"Working more with adults at that time through the consulting ... solidified more of feeling like administration was something where it allowed me an avenue to not only work with kids and impact children, but also support our teachers and parents and the entire community in elevating our students," Deeringhoff said.
Making connections with students is more challenging because she's in the classroom less often, Deeringhoff said, but "that's why being out at lunchtime with them as often as possible to make those connections and getting into classrooms as often as possible is important to me."
"My potential for impact is larger as an administrator," she added. "I try to support teachers and listening to what their needs are to meet their student needs and helping to motivate them for self-growth, as well as the growth of their students."