Center Hill Elementary School Principal Leslie “Sissy” Heyman relates it seems like she has always been in school, noting that her early home in Tate County was, at one time, the old Crockett Elementary School of the 1940s and 50s, now known as the Crockett Community Center.

“My house was right next to the Tate County Bus Shop,” Heyman said. “We have the old Crockett Elementary yearbook and we used to keep that yearbook out because we’d have people who went to school there come and ask if they could walk through the house. I still have that yearbook.”

So education seemed like a natural fit for Heyman, who from living in an old school to now leading an elementary school in the state’s largest school district has become the DeSoto County School District’s Administrator of the Year.

Heyman will now be placed in consideration for the State Administrator of the Year award, which will be announced on April 7 by the state Department of Education. She was recognized during the Monday meeting of the DeSoto County School District Board of Education.

She called receiving the award “very humbling.”

“I feel like I get to be the leader of a truly great school,” Heyman said. “Miss Dearden (former principal Rebecca Dearden) built a great foundation here. It’s like a Ferris wheel. I got to jump along for the ride.”

Along that ride, however, remain challenges, which Heyman said include dealing with the continuing shortage of funding and the requirements of meeting the needs of students.

“We need to be getting the things that we need to educate our kids,” Heyman said. “We need to be good stewards of the money and make sure they are going for instructional purposes in our classrooms.”

Heyman is in her 30th year in education and fourth year as principal at Center Hill Elementary, 13662 Center Hill Road in Olive Branch.

Before coming to Center Hill, she was assistant principal at Overpark Elementary School in Olive Branch.

“School was such a great experience for me,” Heyman said. “I enjoyed going to school every day and I had a great experience with my teachers.”

Today, Heyman said she enjoys seeing compassion for her students from the Center Hill Elementary staff and faculty.

“I see that compassion, especially for our kids that need that extra help and attention,” Heyman said. “I see that compassion every single day and I see a passion for learning.”

Heyman, who noted that she taught many of the parents of students she now oversees as principal at one time in school, said she enjoys watching the work being done in the classroom.

“I love to observe teachers because I go in and watch them grow our kids,” Heyman said. “The best of my day is standing in that (school) rotunda and watching the kids come in every morning, they give you a hug and act like they’re excited to come to school.”

Programs that Heyman has supported at Center Hill Elementary include the Mustang Pride Award, given weekly to promote a positive atmosphere, a reading program that has helped the school be one of the top schools in the district and in Mississippi in that area, and the school’s support of Make-A-Wish, an effort that has helped raised more than $70,000 for the program.

Bob Bakken is Staff Writer and may be reached at 662-429-6397 ext. 240.

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