Heather Cripps

Location: Oromocto, New Brunswick
School: Gesner Street Elementary School
Grades: Kindergarten to Grade Two
Language: English and French
School Board/District:
Anglophone School District West
Director: Gina Dunnett
Superintendent: Catherine Blaney

Jim Jordan – CAP Central VP, John Leach, Jostens – National Sales Manager, Heather Cripps, Thomas Midbo – CAP President. Photo credit: Simon Blakesley

It is a privilege to work with Heather Cripps. Her expectations are firm and of high standard, yet her compassion and understanding run deep. Although she accepts nothing less than our best, she is always right there with us. She is the principal that goes to the skating rink with students and staff. She is the principal that arrives early to serve breakfast to our students. She is the principal that learns to speak French so she can best support our French Immersion students and teachers. She is the principal that inspires greatness within our Gesner community everyday through her tireless hard work, collegiality and kindness.

Christina Raymond
(Kindergarten Teacher)

To say that Heather goes above and beyond to support staff, students and families is an understatement. She worked tirelessly to fundraise for a kitchen at the school so students could have a healthy breakfasts and lunches. She knows each of the students by name and will refer to their activities, siblings etc. when she greets them. When French Immersion returned to our school, Heather enrolled in a French course so that she could speak and support the teachers and students in French. She has helped me grow in the role of Vice Principal and has been an amazing mentor for me. I can’t think of a Principal more deserving of this award, congratulations Heather!

Noella Owens
(Vice Principal)

Mrs. Cripps inspires greatness every day. Her commitment to student learning is legendary and working with her is an honour. Her support of teachers is unwavering. When I first joined the staff at Gesner Street Elementary, I was new to teaching and unsure about absolutely everything. Mrs. Cripps made sure to notice everything I did right and built me up in the most positive way. More than once she would tell me, “You are here at Gesner for a reason!” Nothing inspired me to work harder to give my students the very best than that simple statement. As well, Mrs. Cripps goes above and beyond to personally support her staff. Make no mistake, her expectations are high, but she is always right beside you; providing encouragement, guidance and the tools needed to make sure that you succeed. She has personally spent countless hours mentoring me, writing detailed evaluation reports, sending supportive emails and placing valuable phone calls to ensure I obtained a permeant contract and placement within her school.

To say the very least, Mrs. Cripps is an inspirational leader and I would follow her anywhere!

Joy Burgess
(Kindergarten Teacher)

Heather and I both started at Gesner at the same time. I had met her previously in her role as Literacy Mentor with our district. I was very excited to join a school that had her as a leader. I came to her early on and said “I think I want to start a drama program with musicals here at Gesner.” Heather wholeheartedly supported my vision and has continued to promote the importance of the fine arts in Education. 10 years later, we are still doing musicals and she enjoys watching the students shine on stage. I am forever grateful for the support she has given (and continues to give) on this path at Gesner. It is an honor to call her a colleague and a friend.

Kari Hall
(Kindergarten Teacher)

I am thrilled that our Principal, Heather Cripps, has won this award. I cannot think of anyone more deserving. Heather is professional and effective in the running of our school and is on top of everything that comes her way. She has ALL of the qualities of a good principal, for sure … but there is SO MUCH MORE to her than that!

Heather Cripps has been a role model to me and I want to express how important that is to me as an Educational Assistant. From day one, Heather has treated me (as she does all EA’s) as a valued and important member of the staff. She includes EA’s in monthly staff meetings and staff celebrations. She asks for, considers and values our opinions and encourages us in our professional growth. She cares about our morale and well-being. Heather makes us feel like part of the Gesner family.

There are so many qualities that I admire about our Principal, Heather Cripps. One quality that always amazes me about Heather is her incredible ability to connect with students. She knows the name of every single child in our school and takes time to speak to them. If a child shares an exciting tidbit of their life with her one day, she remembers that the next day and will ask the student about it. Their little faces light up knowing that their principal remembered and really cares about them. She is sincerely proud of and shares in the celebration of our students’ successes. Whether it is watching the solo of a grade 2 student, enjoying a drama production or listening to a student learn a new phrase with assistive technology or hearing a child read. Her sincere pride in all of her students shines through!

Congratulations Heather, we couldn’t be prouder of you for winning this award!

Cathy Daponte
(Educational Assistant)

I feel that Heather Cripps is very deserving of receiving this award. Both my children have been students at Gesner Elementary School in Oromocto, NB. I first met Heather when my daughter started Kindergarten at her school and then again when my son started at Gesner. Right from the start, she was very involved with the children. When we went to all the Pre- Kindergarten Events, Heather was always so friendly and welcoming to all the families. After that I quickly realized that she makes it her priority to learn all the children’s names and to get to know them all on a personal level. Children need to feel a connection and they all certainly have that with Heather. Once a student has been a Gesner student, they are always one of her children and she truly cares for them all. It is amazing to see the children run to her and show their affection for her. Congratulations Heather! I can’t think of a more deserving person!

Stephanie McCarthy
Mother of Alyanna and Grayson

Congratulations to Heather Cripps, we are all so proud of her! She shows that she values her Educational Support Staff by including us in monthly staff meetings, considering our opinions and encouraging us in our professional growth. She is generous with her praise and cares about our morale and well-being. Heather makes us feel like part of the Gesner family!

Gesner Educational Assistants

I like to hug her when she is outside.

(k student)

She is beautiful.

(k student)

I like when her calls me cutie-pie!

(k student)

Her keeps everyone safe.

(k student)

She keeps us all safe and knows everyone’s name.

(grade 1 student)

We are left handed buddies.

(k student)

She is awesome because she takes care of the school.

(k student)

She says good morning to me in the breakfast room.

(k student)

When I come and put my backpack down, she says I love you.

(k student)

When I come in from the bus, she gives me a hug.

(k student)

Her’s really nice to us.

(k student)

She’s the mayor of our school.

(k student)

Awards & Distinctions:
Kingswood Turnaround Educator Award 2017: This award recognizes an educator who has played a significant role in children’s lives. Heather exemplified the criteria for this award through the interest she shows in each child in her school. She values not just their learning but takes the time to learn their interests as well.

Innovative Learning Fund grant: As Literacy Supervisor, Heather received the ILF grant from the Department of Education and Early Childhood Development. This grant was used to establish a Professional Learning Centre for educators in District 17. She was instrumental in partnering with Pearson to fund this center.

Innovative Learning Fund grant for the implementation of rekenreks to support numeracy outcomes. This grant also provided Gesner with three additional Smart boards.

In School Administrative Committee with the NBTA: Heather is very collegial and many of her fellow admin would lean on her for advice and counsel. She is happy to speak on behalf of her fellow administrators and very helpful to her staff and co-workers.

Developed a K-2 and 3-5 Balance Literacy Look-For Document when she was at District Office

Experiences in the Field of Education:
Heather Cripps has been an educator in the Oromocto area since the 1991-1992 school year and her career in education has seen a range of roles. Her first teaching assignment was in Kindergarten. She later became a Vice Principal of Summerhill/Burton schools and then served as the principal of Geary Elementary School. Heather was recognized for the work she had done with staff and students promoting literacy and was appointed to the position of Literacy Supervisor for School District 17. Her work as Literacy Supervisor centered around the promotion of professional learning and that passion continued in her current role as principal of Gesner Street School.

In her current role as principal, Heather continues to lead by example. She models the importance of making personal connections to the students and can often be found visiting classes and greeting children with her smile. She knows every student’s name and can often be found asking about their siblings, their sport, or anything they may be involved in. They are her children! Heathers lens is framed with the belief that all children can learn and all children will learn. She believes strongly in a focus on the individual needs of the learner. She works tirelessly with school-based student services teams, teachers, educational assistants, families and community partners to support the needs of learners. She will go beyond the walls of the school to find the resources students need to be successful. Heather inspires her staff daily by demonstrating that a caring professional can influence the life of a child by believing in them.

Under Heather’s guidance, Gesner hosted a Kidformation Fair for new parents to inform and connect them with available community services for students and families.

Heather works with staff, students and families to ensure that Gesner is a safe environment. Emergency safety procedures are well documented and practiced. Each classroom is equipped with an “Emergency Go Kit” containing safety procedures, lists, supplies, etc. A video of school procedures is made available for all new staff to watch. All necessary training to meet the individual safety needs for students/staff is provided.

Heather works hard to ensure that the students at Gesner start their day with a nutritious breakfast. She oversaw the remodeling and licensing of our school kitchen and partnered with our Parent Support Group and local food bank to create a Healthy Minds Breakfast program. She arrives at school early each morning to begin breakfast preparation. Our children love to start their day eating breakfast with Mrs. Cripps. Heather also works closely with parent volunteers to ensure the provision of a nutritious hot lunch and milk program. Our Grade 2 students enjoy helping Mrs. Cripps ensure all classrooms have “snack” baskets that are full at all times.

Heather believes strongly in the provision of enrichment opportunities for all students. On any given day our students have the opportunity to participate in a variety of clubs such as: Drama, Choir, Art, Reading, Lego, Connection and Friendship clubs.

Heather takes the lead in the Genser skating program for students. Heather works hard to ensure the availability of extra skates, helmets and skating aids for students who need them. She personally fits students in need with skates and helmets and ensures the delivery and pick up of skating aids to the rink. During the skating program, Heather attends every skating session with every class and can be seen tying skates and listening to choruses of “Watch me, Mrs. Cripps!”.

Heather often rides the bus to help bus drivers solve issues with discipline or special situations with students. A bus list with addresses, medical needs and care providers is given to each bus driver during the first week of school. Our bus drivers have indicated that this is the only school that does so. Drivers are invited to attended training for epi-pen and diabetes information sessions held at the school. Drivers are made aware of all Policy 704 plans for bus students. Our bus drivers are also invited into the school yearly to enjoy coffee, tea and snacks as a thank you for the work they do with our students.

Heather and the staff at Gesner have been flexible, responsive and accessible to the OEC and District staff on numerous staff, report and information requests. Many times, the Centre has called upon Gesner to assist with curricular directions by taking expert staff from the school. Each and every time, the school has supported the request.

With an agreement score of 98.18% agreement, the teaching staff at Gesner feel that the school is a very safe place to learn and work. Since this is a K-2 school, there are no surveys conducted on student feedback in this area but past experience indicates students feeling safe and that bullying is low and normalized. This feeling permeates outside of the classroom with Happy Grams and nice phone calls home.

Heather’s leadership has strongly contributed to the inclusive and supportive school community of Gesner Street School.

Professional Growth:
Heather has a Bed in Early Education and special Education, DAUS in Exceptional Learners and MEd in School Administration all from UNB. She also has her Principal’s Certificate.

Throughout her career Heather has not only valued educational research, but inspired her colleagues to employ current research-based teaching methods in their daily practice.

In her previous role as Literacy Supervisor, Heather provided guidance to principals enabling them to be literacy leaders for their staffs. She coordinated District Grade level meetings and writing marking sessions to support teachers in their literacy instruction. She recieved an Innovative Learning Fund grant and partnered with Pearson publishing company to create a Professional Learning Center for educators. As part of this initiative, Heather saw the need for literacy coaches and created positions for three coaches to work directly with teachers to improve their literacy instruction. She also directed the professional learning of literacy mentors in the district.

In her current role as the Principal of Gesner Street School (K-2), Heather she is constantly reading educational resources in the area of administration to further inform/develop her leadership skills. She also stays abreast of current educational research, resources and initiatives to support the learning of staff and students.

As the educational leader of Gesner, Heather inspires and supports staff participation in on-going professional growth; not limited to the Professional Learning Days in the school calendar. All staff and team meetings contain a component of professional development. This may be in the form of sharing best practise, reading an article or watching a video. Our ESS team often regularly shares strategies for supporting students. Grade level/team based book studies, writing marking sessions, peer-to-peer observations and collaboration are always encouraged/supported. This principal goes to all team meetings unless she is away from the school due to outside meetings which shows personal interest and care in what her staff are working on at any given time.

Heather is a strong supporter of the development of leadership skills among staff within the building. She often shares leadership articles with colleagues and has supported staff members to complete our district leadership program.

With Heather’s support and encouragement, several staff members have completed their Masters. Our Resource teacher has completed the autism training program along with six Educational Assistants.

Heather and the Gesner staff have participated in numerous professional growth activities including:

  • The development of a Writing continuum that we have shared with other schools.
  • Intensive year long First Steps in Math training.
  • Professional growth focusing on the emotional support of children through work with trauma-informed practice and school-wide application of the WITS Program.
  • Balanced literacy throughout all classrooms
  • Be Safe resource – Personal Safety skills
  • Data collection for literacy, behavior, TLC, to begin school wide for Mathematics
  • ESS team – Coaching Conversations book study, currently doing Instructional Coaching
  • Classroom visitation daily ,walkthroughs, written and informal feedback
  • Review of Professional Growth goals
  • ABC boom – Printing program
  • UNB – Early Childhood centre – whole team attended PL session
  • Inclusion PL – shared data questions with each team
  • NBACL review with ESS team and three classroom teachers
  • RTI – tiers
  • PLEP – planning with Tammy Mutch Ketch
  • Report card PL – Webinars, tech mentors
  • Power School – Webinar
  • AESOP – PL for all staff
  • Writing standards
  • Instructional Coaching resource

Heather has attended several conferences including:

  • Reading for the Love of It
  • Developing Successful Schools
  • ASCD
  • CAP conference
  • Solution Tree
  • Behaviour Mapping by Amy Buie
  • Heather just recently received her food safety course to support the license of our school kitchen. She uses the skills learned through this course to serve breakfast to our students daily.

Currently Heather has enrolled herself in a French course so that she can better support the French immersion students at her school and converse with them in the language that they are learning

The Gesner team knows that learning is highly valued in our community for staff, students and parents. The expectations for professional growth are high for all staff and this is an area in which Heather has led by example.

Profile of Community Service:
Community service has been part of Heather’s personal and professional life. As a mother, she provided the model of service for her children by assisting with indoor and outdoor soccer programs at the Fredericton YMCA. Additionally, she was a Sunday School teacher at Nashwaaksis United Church.

In her school community, Heather shows the students the importance of community service by personally serving breakfast to them daily in the school kitchen. She has partnered with a variety of community organizations and individuals to ensure students have a nutritious selection of breakfast foods to start their day off with.

For many years, Heather has been instrumental in support of school donation drives to a variety of community orgainzations such as Christmas donations to the Oromocto Food Bank, Shoeboxes for Homeless (gifts of personal items donated to a homeless shelter) and donations for the Oromocto SPCA. Heather, the students and staff at Gesner take a great deal of pride in their ability to give back to our community through these donations. Items collected for donation are always displayed in our school lobby as a reminder to all of the power of collectively giving.

Fundraising events for Gesner street school and it’s families are part of Heather’s commitment. Heather regularly partners with Riverview Ford to host an annual Gesner Ford Test Drive. She personally sees to the delivery of the vehicles to our school and their return to the dealership. Annual breakfasts with Santa/Winter-wonderlands are highlights of our Christmas season and are an important means of fundraising for our school community. Heather works closely with our Home and School Organization to ensure these events run smoothly. The funds from these events are used to support students experiences at school.

As the principal of a school in a military community, Heather organized several projects to support our troops in Afghanistan, some of whom are part of our Gesner families. These projects included involving students in writing letters to solders, Christmas boxes, Kids for Kandahar, and a Canadian flag of student handprints.

School communication with our students families is frequent, consistent and timely. School newsletters are sent out each and every month and all-important related information can be found in this forum. Mrs. Cripps is proactive in getting essential information out to parents when situations arise for quick communication. She has often consulted with OEC staff to inform of decisions that she has already thought out but seeks support as she moves forward. This includes letters drafted from the PSSC, letters to parents informing of adults of concern in the community and so on. Ms. Cripps prides herself that every parent or community phone call is returned in 24 hours. This effort serves as role modeling for teachers in their communication with parents.

A couple of outstanding elements to communication are Pre K registration in August and the Kidformation program.

Philosophy of Student Learning:
My philosophy of learning for both students and educators is to provide an environment that meets the needs of its members, whether those be primary or secondary needs. In doing so, each individual is given the opportunity to set goals and work toward those goals. The end product is not necessarily the goal; the journey is what allows learners to experience both challenges and success.

Having a caring connection with all school community members is fundamental in building relationships that support and inspire. Establishing an environment that is inclusive, caring and supportive has been my top priority. When this is in place, people work together on common goals. Every student, every staff member, every parent is capable of being their best if given the individual support they need. I have seen this to be true for every learner I have encountered over the past 33 years as a educator. I truly believe in all of our students and staff 100% everyday.

Some programs that we have implemented include fine arts programs such as drama, choir, art. We also enrich with Reading clubs, lego, connection and friendship clubs. We have partnered with our Parent Support Group and local food bank to create a Healthy Minds breakfast program. We have offered a Kidformation fair for new parents where community members host an expo to share the services they provide for students and their families. We have supported our military community by sending school supplies to Khandahar. Our students created a flag of their handprints that proudly flew on the Canadian Military Base in Afghanastan. We have celebrated the greatness of our nation with a Canada 150 Art Expo that highlighted Canadian artists. These of some initiatives that I hope have provided inspiration and longevity to our wonderful community.

It is my privilege to have been a classroom teacher, resource teacher, vice principal, learning specialist and currently school administrator.

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