New Village Elementary Principal Dr. Heidi Bergener was kind enough to take time out of her day to answer a few questions for me on a professional level. She was also kind enough to do the same on a personal level a few days before school started when I was nearly losing my mind as a parent. On both occasions, I walked away with confidence that Village Elementary is now under leadership that is like none other I have ever seen as a parent of students for 17 years now.
If I am to sum up my takeaway and first impression of Dr. Bergener, she is a servant leader with an empathetic and compassionate heart who was born to help children become the version of who they were born to become.
Her vision as principal is shared as, “Village Elementary is the best school in the universe where children are inspired and aspire to be anything they want. Together as teachers, administrators, parents and a community we make that happen by meeting the needs of our students socially, emotionally and academically.”
When asked what we, as parents, can do to support her vision, her reply was to “continue to ask critical thinking and empathy questions at home.” Questions like, “how do you think…; feel? How was your day? What are you going to do tomorrow to make it better than today?” One question she feels we can ask our children is “Why are you special?” Then listen to their answers, encourage them to expand that answer daily as a way of broadening their confidence and recognizing the importance of their uniqueness and value. And in doing so, strengthen their foundation for life. She believes everyone is a superhero and we all have superpowers to make the world a better place.
Dr. B, as she is affectionately being referred to, emphasizes the importance of social and emotional learning and the adaptation of Sanford Hamm Restorative Practices Circles where there are conversations amongst students every day, in every classroom. Students are given the opportunity to speak and share in groups while buddying up to create relationships built on trust. Strong emotional and social ties have been proven to foster learning and academic progress.
Dr. B visits every classroom daily touching base with every teacher. She shared that she spends an average of twelve hours every school day between ECDE and Village, where she leads 34 teachers and 10 special education teachers. Hands-on is an understatement.
Last Friday, at her first Principal’s Tea in Village Hall, with a room full of parents, along with Superintendent Mueller and CUSD Board President Maria Simon, Dr. Bergener opened the floor to questions from parents. The topics ranged from her desire to problem solve together with parents, her vision and goals with Village, homework or lack thereof in fifth grade (parents don’t worry, homework is on the way!) to traffic safety concerns at pick up and drop off. We also heard from Vice Principal Tanya White as she reinforced open ears, open doors to conversation and solutions for students and parents.
The climate most certainly feels different under the new leadership. Many parents shared this observation in the brief amount of time that Dr. Bergener has been at the helm of Village. If this is the beginning it is my feeling that Village Elementary will indeed become “the best elementary school in the universe.”
Heidi and her family, a husband and two sons who are now attending Coronado schools, are currently seeking their new home in Coronado. Her sons, Blake, 14, a freshman at CHS and Chase, 13, a 7th grader at CMS, enjoy waterskiing, playing tennis and surfing. I asked her what her hobbies are and she said, “my sons.” She loves being their Mom. She also said she is very lucky to have such a supportive husband.
Dr. Heidi Bergener is positive, driven, committed and not only a leader, but a partner in education to the parents and students of Village Elementary.