Alumna is new principal whose doctorate made her a master at keeping all the balls in the air
Newly assigned as the principal at one of HISD’s new education system (NES) campuses, Eliot Elementary, Cortney Richa-Hebert, M.Ed. ’17, Ed.D ’22, is energized and preparing to “keep all the balls in the air.”
Richa-Hebert brings a wealth of successful experience as a classroom teacher, language arts specialist, curriculum coordinator and assistant principal. Add her Ed.D in Ethical Leadership from UST, and she feels well-equipped to empower Eliot Elementary to flourish.
Stepping into Change Agent Role
In her first role as a principal, Richa-Hebert has to serve as an effective change agent. NES campuses are under pressure to improve student outcomes and must implement a new teaching style. Some local news reports on changes in the district have been critical. Richa-Hebert believes the criticism stems from a lack of understanding. She is happy to clarify.
“Our school will still have all our books,” she said. “In addition, the new teaching style will improve on the good things our teachers have already been doing. Teachers will teach for 45 minutes in class, then stop to assess whether the students have learned what was taught. Those who learned the material will go to another space to expand on the topic. Those students who need more foundational attention on the topic will stay and get that instruction. This way, nobody will be missed.”
Qualities of a Successful Principal
The confident leader will draw on all her strengths to help her campus shine.
“Much of what a successful principal does is build relationships with staff, faculty, students, their parents, and the surrounding community,” she explained. “It’s up to the principal to create a positive school climate and culture.”
But in the “new HISD,” Richa-Hebert has even more to her leadership duties. Fortunately, she has the right knowledge and skills to carry her through.
“In the ‘new HISD,’” she continued, “the big focus is going to be on the highest quality instruction, so I will also be in the classrooms to provide coaching while keeping all the other balls in the air. Here is where my Ed.D from UST is so valuable.”
Never too Late to Boost Your Education Career
Richa-Hebert is quick to emphasize the value she continues to realize from the Ed.D she earned at UST. She recounts her journey—how, after 15 years in education, she decided to seek her master’s and a doctorate at the University of St. Thomas-Houston. Her marriage had ended earlier, and she was a single mom to a great son. Life changes happened. She wanted to handle the changes and grow as a leader.
“My Ed.D took me to another personal and professional level. The equity and diversion discussions were so meaningful. Along with the academics and instruction, I built treasured bonds with the people in my cohort community. My dissertation took me out of my comfort zone, and I got tired and stressed, but my doctorate built my character, knowledge and resilience.”
This educator-on-the-rise says she is grateful and glad she did not stop but kept pushing forward. And it led to a discovery.
“I can see how God works in our lives. Things happen. It’s hard. It’s upsetting. It’s not what we wanted. But you press on, walk in faith, and things start to happen.”