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New CRES principal loves spirit of collaboration in the community

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Heather Cremeans brings 18 years to the job

By Debbie Bruell

Sopris Sun Correspondent

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According to newly-hired CRES principal
Heather Cremeans, one of the most important things she learned while
getting her administrator’s license was the importance of a good
fit between a principal and a school. The more she learned about
Crystal River Elementary School, the more passionate she became that
this school was the perfect fit for her.

In her 18 years of education she has
always enjoyed working with diverse groups of students, including
students from various socioeconomic groups and native
Spanish-speakers — the very population she found at CRES. She loves
working to create a unified sense of community among students from
diverse backgrounds. She speaks Spanish as well.

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Cremeans also appreciated the
team-approach she found at CRES and the district as a whole. “I
love that spirit of collaboration,” Cremeans said. “That’s
where I thrive.” Cremeans said she has worked in many situations
where there was a very “top-down” approach, and that she “can’t
drive in a top-down world — I don’t like being on either end of

Cremeans is a firm believer in the
approach to early literacy instruction employed at CRES.
Specifically, native Spanish-speakers who arrive in kindergarten with
little knowledge of English are given instruction in Spanish when
they are taught the basic concepts of how to read (rather than trying
to teach them a completely new concept in a language they do not yet
understand). After they “crack the code” of how to read, they can
then transfer their skills to English — the new language they have
been in the process of learning since beginning kindergarten.

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A “good fit” for Cremeans also
means coming into a school that is working toward reaching higher
achievement levels. “I have a skill set of being able to manage
resources and support teachers so that they can do their jobs more
effectively — making their jobs easier and creating more learning
for kids,” Cremeans said.

Cremeans is also excited to be part of
the district’s upcoming visioning process, working collaboratively
to create “a whole new and improved district.”

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Goals for CRES

Cremeans said her main goals for the
first three months at CRES are “to establish relationships, learn
policies and procedures and observe.”

She is eager to establish a reputation
with teachers, parents and students as being approachable. “I can
juggle all kinds of stuff,” Cremeans said, “but people come

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She wants parents to feel like they can
always approach her with concerns. Even if parents come to her angry
about something, Cremeans said “I completely value their
perspective and input and I’ll look to collectively solve the
problem with them.” As a parent herself, Cremeans explained, “I
know what it’s like to send your child off to an institution and
then wish for the best.”

One of Cremeans longer-term goals is to
ensure that every child is growing academically — the struggling
learners as well as the advanced learners. Cremeans emphasized that
every child deserves to be challenged and supported so they can grow
to their full potential.

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She also hopes to close all achievement
gaps. “I don’t want to send any child to middle school
unprepared,” she told The Sun.

Cremeans aims to create a shared
leadership model at CRES. She said she has worked with administrators
who won’t listen to her ideas and knows how frustrating that can
be. In contrast, she plans to be very open to teacher input. “Just
because I’m principal doesn’t mean I know everything,” she

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At this point that goal is a struggle
for her because teachers are off on summer break, yet she needs to be
making decisions. “I don’t want to come in and change things and
stress people out,” she said, “yet there are certain areas like
scheduling that we have an opportunity to change before school

Cremeans wants the name CRES to be
revered in the community. “I want people to know what’s going on
in that school and be proud that it’s their local school.”

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Another central goal for Cremeans is to
function as an advocate for teachers. So many administrators “just
don’t get it” when it comes to understanding what it’s like to
work in the classroom these days, Cremeans said. In contrast,
Cremeans said she will “always be a teacher first before anything

In the last five years, Cremeans
explained, there is much more documentation and record-keeping being
required of teachers. “People go into education because they love
kids and they love teaching,” she said, and recent statewide and
nationwide expectations are “ruining the joy of teaching for many
people.” Cremeans’ goal is to uphold those requirements, yet keep
teachers’ workload in mind and create time in teachers’ schedules
for them to work on the things that teachers know matter most to
their effectiveness.

As instructional leader in the school,
Cremeans said she plans to provide specific structures and strategies
to support teachers. “I never gave my students busywork,”
Cremeans said, “and I don’t intend to give adults busywork

She hopes to share in the joy of
learning with the teachers and students as well. When some
breakthrough is happening in a classroom, “I want teachers to call
the office and say, ‘Heather needs to see this!’”


Cremeans has worked in the Eagle County
School District for the past 14 years. She has held a variety of
positions, including classroom teacher (for third, fourth and fifth
grade), music teacher and teacher for the district’s Gifted and
Talented program. Most recently she has worked as Instructional Coach
— she facilitated teacher trainings, helped teachers analyze test
scores, acted as the general “go to” person for teachers and
conducted teacher evaluations.

During her years as a teacher, Cremeans
believed in classroom collaboration and democracy. “Some of my best
teaching experiences came from the ideas of students,” she said.
For example, after doing a lesson on plate tectonics her students
wanted to learn more about the tsunami in Japan. Then her students
decided to organize a fundraiser for children and animals in Japan,
including using a PowerPoint presentation to teach other students
about plate tectonics.

Another important part of her
experience as a teacher was to create a classroom that felt like a
family. “When a new kid came into my classroom,” Cremeans said,
“the other students would welcome that student into the family.”

As a teacher, Cremeans also emphasized
the importance of developing kids’ confidence, self-reliance, work
ethic, perseverance and willingness to take initiative. “Those
skills are critical to every child’s future.”

Cremeans has two daughters, Natalie and
Olivia, ages 13 and 9. Her girls will continue to attend school in
Gypsum this coming year. Her husband Larry Cremeans works in
construction in Eagle, Summit and Garfield counties.

Anyone who would like to meet and chat
with Cremeans can find her at Mountain Fair this year. She’ll be at
the CCAH/CRES Kids’ Art Booth on Friday from noon to 4 p.m., on
Saturday from noon to 3 p.m. and on Sunday from noon to 4 p.m. She
will also do a shift at the CRES Cantina from 3:30 to 9 p.m. on