Sitting on the highest point of Towson, and located right in the heart of it, is Immaculate Conception School. A Pre-K 3 to 8th grade school that has been recognized as a National Blue Ribbon School, with a Level 5 rated MD EXCELS preschool program. From their windows, you can see all of Towson and beyond. One of their most beloved teachers, administrators, and parents (who can also juggle) is stepping into the role of principal beginning with the 2019/2020 school year.
We sat down with Mrs. Heather Cucuzzella, to learn more about her vision, her dedication to the community and her future plans for Immaculate Conception School.
Meet Heather Cucuzzella, Principal of Immaculate Conception School
How long have you been with ICS? What originally drew you to the school?
I have to say, my cup runneth over. I first came to ICS as a mom. I loved volunteering here, being a room parent and joining in activities within the school community. Since then, I’ve been a teacher, developed curriculum, worked in tandem on the administrative team, and am an involved member of the parish – I’ve been a part of all the aspects of this school, and have loved every minute of it.
I’ve been here for almost 10 years. My two daughters attended ICS and are now in high school and raising my family in this community has been a blessing.
What do you think your greatest challenge will be this upcoming school year? What are you the most excited about?
Though I’ve been here a number of years and have worn many hats, I know that being the principal of the school will be an entirely new experience for me. I am looking forward to the opportunity and don’t take it lightly. Mrs. Meaney (the former principal) was an institution unto herself and brought to fruition many improvements and updates during her time at ICS. My biggest challenge will be to maintain and improve on the great work that has already begun.
Now, what excites me the most? The idea of a fresh, new school year. Being able to start with a clean canvas, reflect on what works, and to bolster what we’re offering.
I look forward to the change in the weather from August to September, the beginning of a new school year and seeing the smiling faces of our families as they walk through the door. To be the one who steers this ship is SO exciting to me! It’s been a dream come true in many ways!
Tell us a little bit about your leadership style. How do you connect with your educators, students, parents and the outside community?
One’s initial thought of leadership is often directive, as if you need to have all of the answers and be the go-to for everything.
The humbling reality is the exact opposite. Effective leadership is collaborative. Conversation is extremely valuable as are relationships and feedback. Listening to the insight of everyone, from parents, teachers, staff members to students, allows us to make informed, open minded decisions for our students and our school community.
What is one thing that might surprise people about you?
Because I’ve been a math teacher, people may have the misconception that I’m the stereotypical math geek. In reality, I’m incredibly approachable and I can be rather silly. I like to laugh and have fun!
One of those rare talents I pull out of my back pocket from time to time is that I am a juggler and I’m pretty good at it, too!
I like to keep my students on their toes; to expect the unexpected. In our school’s spring musical production of Singin’ in the Rain, Jr., I portrayed a movie star from the roaring 20’s. Surprising the students and their families with this cameo appearance was such a great time. The opportunities to connect with the students reach far beyond the walls of the classroom!
ICS is referred to as “not just a school, but a family in the heart of Towson.” Can you tell us more about this?
ICS is literally located in the heart of Towson and this has created so many opportunities for our students within the Towson community. We feel like the great things that are happening on our campus – academically, artistically, socially and spiritually- have truly been embraced beyond our campus. Our doors are open for all to enter and at the same time, we are uniquely situated whereas our students enjoy walking field trips to the Post Office, the Court House, the Fire Station, the Bykota Senior Center and the ACTC. We are not only in the heart of Towson, we are part of it, too.
We have smaller class sizes, 18 to 22 students on average, and from 4th grade to 8th, we have even smaller classes when we break into groups for Math and Reading. Every faculty member knows each student by name and embraces each family in our close-knit community. The involvement of our parents every step of this journey is Inspiring, Committed and Spirited. (Coincidentally ICS)
We’ve infused STREAM (Science, Technology, Religion, Engineering, Art, and Mathematics) into our curriculum which culminates toward the end of the year with our STREAM Fair. It’s an opportunity for our students to share interdisciplinary learning projects with families and friends within and beyond the school community. We also have a Fine Arts Night, showcasing the artistic skills of each child in all different mediums and disciplines. From academics to the arts and sports, we love to share what we’re doing with the community!
If you could recommend one book to parents, and one to students, what would they be and why?
I would recommend anything written by Malcolm Gladwell. He shares what drives success and what it means to overcome struggle. He approaches things from an approachable way. I may not agree with everything that he writes, but I know his books have inspired many great discussions!
For students, I would have to recommend The Three Little Pigs. The number component was probably what initially drew me to the story. However, the one pig’s focus, drive and determination were appealing to me. Even when things were challenging, and the others were taking an easier road, he persisted. Ultimately, he was even able to help the others.
If you had one wish for ICS, what would it be?
My overarching wish would be for every ICS student to not only feel challenged and safe, but to ultimately feel valued and see value in one another. So much can come from the simple appreciation of others and of oneself. To be respectful, responsible and kind is our motto and if I could get every student to embrace that, my work would be complete.
Editor’s Note: This article is sponsored by The Archdiocese of Baltimore. Photos provided by Immaculate Conception School.