Editors note: This is the fifth of a multi-part series of columns on inductees for the 2015 International Educators' Hall of Fame.
Dr. DeVera H. Heard has been an educator and administrator in the Santa Ana Unified School District for 34 years. She attended Whittier and Rockdale Elementary schools in Denver, CO; Walnut Hills High School, College Preparatory School in Cincinnati, OH; and graduated from Polytechnic High School in Long Beach, CA.
She holds numerous degrees and credentials among which are her two Masters of Science degrees in Reading Education and School Management and Administration, both from Pepperdine University; and her doctorate degree in Educational Leadership from the University of LaVern.
Dr. Heard credits her parents for their influence and support in helping her overcome obstacles she confronted and to stay focused to be a success. Moving to California during her high school years was a major turning point. Though she had the opportunity to attend a college preparatory school in Ohio, her parents saw the benefit of moving to Southern California. Dr. Heard overcame obstacles that imposed ceilings for a woman, and especially as an African-American woman. She decided to make sure she acquired the top level of expertise in her field, exceled in education, and managed herself with confidence and strength.
Dr. Heard’s accomplishments as an educator have had tremendous impact for students everywhere; especially in the Santa Ana Unified School District (SAUSD). She developed many helpful programs: one was a pre-Kinder program that grew to be a standard procedure in the SAUSD. The program allowed the new kindergartners together with their parents to work with their teachers for the Fall-- so they could learn support techniques for their success.
She also developed a summer program for 6th – 8th graders, who had fallen behind during the school year due to suspensions and expulsions, to catch up with their class and graduate on time. More than 86% caught up and were able to graduate on time.
Today, Dr. Heard is retired from the SAUSD, and her community involvement continues. Among many organizations, she is active African-American Circle of Promise to improve breast health for African-American women; Delta Days in Orange County; Breast Health, and Domestic Violence; Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc., Orange County Chapter; National Council of Negro Women, Orange County Section; National Coalition of 100 Black Women, Orange County Chapter; Orange County Women Health Project; and Black Educators Association, Santa Ana Chapter.
During the span of her career, she has received numerous acknowledgements and awards for her service: Outstanding Breast Cancer Advocate Award (2015); Exceptional Service Award, City of Santa Ana 2015); Outstanding Volunteer, Spirit of Volunteerism, Orange County Register (2013); Community Building Award (2006); and United Way Employee Campaign Manager of the Year (2003-04).
Dr. Heard’s advice to youth: understand and pay attention to the global picture to ensure that all of humanity remains healthy and sustained, take care of your health and welfare along with immediate family, and strive to acquire an excellent and well-rounded education.
Her favorite quotation is from Mary McLeod Bethune: “We have a powerful potential in our youth and we must have the courage to change old ideas and practices so that we may direct their power toward good ends.”
Dr. Heard is married to Anthony F. Heard, retired telephonic engineer and teacher. They have a daughter, Kristena D. Heard-Szczesny, Manager at Washington State Convention Center; son, Anthony R. Heard, teacher and technology technician; and granddaughter, 4 year-old Tabitha Szczesny. Her mother, Thelma Flanigan, is a retired Microbiologist. Dr. Heard is very proud of her family’s successes in education and their established careers.
Dr. Heard will be inducted into International National Educators' Hall of Fame on Saturday, October 24, 2015 at the Grand Auditorium of the Church of Scientology of Orange County, 505 N. Sycamore Street, Santa Ana at noon.